Baten Kaitos review


I bought this game the day it was at my EB, choosing it over Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Viewtiful Joe 2. Well, I'm not disappointed.

When I first started playing this game I noticed a lot of little things. The menu's background shows a screen shot from your previous fight or how your items change over time. It's the little things that bring this game together, as well as the fresh combat system.

The game starts off with the main character, Kalas a brash self-centered 19-year old looking for revenge, waking up in a small village after being attacked by rock cats, which are supposed to be herbivores. In the town he meets a mysterious girl who heads to find some ancient ruins, and Kalas decides to follow. The ensuing chaos has Kalas saving the girl, named Xelha, breaking the seal containing part of an ancient malevolent god, losing Xelha and the seal to am Empire and probably one of the more hilarious scenes showing how much of a jerk Kalas is. Nothing highly original, but it gets the job done.

The world consists of floating continents in the sky with each island having a different style to them. While Sadal Suud has more of a medieval look to it, Diadem is covered in clouds and one of the areas has you navigating on them. One thing that will tip a few people off balance at the start of the game is the magnus cards and the combat. For anyone who has played Septerra Core, you will notice some similarities between these two games. The worlds are done in the same way (floating continents), the main characters (both orphaned with blue hair) and the race to to stop a nation from one of the islands from unleashing a god.

Magnus cards are used to hold the 'magna essence' of items. Basically, you can carry everything from water and clouds to swords and armor in cards and still be able to use them. Your given a few blank cards at the beginning and you use them to get items to solve problems or help people. Give a woman milk from the stables or complete a cloud bridge with a piece of cloud.

When it comes to fighting with these cards, well....this is the fun part of the game. Each character has a deck of magnus ranging from weapons, armor and curative items, as well as other items that are for combining (more on this later). During a fight, your dealt a certain amount of cards. From here you pick the cards you want to use during your offensive or defensive turn. Your offensive turn happens as your turn would in most other turn based RPGs but your defensive turn happens when that character is being attacked, if your quick enough you can defend against using defensive magnus. This is where I get calling this game a turn-based twitch RPG. Once you start an attack or when you get attacked, you have little time to react and plan out your moves, even less time later in the game. Especially when your trying to pull out a combo. Each magnus card in your deck has one or more numbers on it. Using these numbers you can pull off poker style hands to boost your damage, such as straights, pairs or full houses. The better it is, the more of a damage bonus you get, which is called the prize. So, for example, a straight of 3,4,5,6 will get you somewhere around a 28% prize. This also works for defending, so you can lower the amount of damage you receive.
However since your deck is limited you will run out of cards, mainly boss fights. What happens is that your deck is shuffled up and your offensive turn skipped. however, this also applies to enemies.
After a few fights or so you'll notice you don't level-up. An odd part of this game is that in order to level up, you need to find a blue flower (large red and blue flowers act like save points) which will give you the option to go to the church, where you will pray for level-ups and class-ups. Class-ups are similar to level-ups but instead of boosting your stats, class-ups allow your characters to hold more cards in their deck, hand and make longer combos, but gives you less time to act on your first card during your offensive turns.

One thing I love about this game is the music. The songs played ranged from classical to techno to rock, and they all either fit the atmosphere or pump you up for fights. An added bonus is that once you hear a song in game, it's unlocked for you to listen to under the 'Gathering' menu option.

The graphics are exceptional although there are times when it gets annoying. A few areas are fairly large or dark so you don't know where your going or where to go. Other areas seem unnecessarily large, for instance the church.

I've only had 2 minor annoyances with this game. The first being the voice acting. It's alright, but Namco decided to add in an affect that made them sound like they have a cardboard tube shoved down their throat. It's supposed to be like this because you, Kalas' guardian spirit, are hearing everyone from through a dimensional shift...or something like that. It's not just the tube sound but some of the voices will grate on you. Some voices sound off as well, having the pitch of their voice moving up and down while other voice overs are done with random obscure villagers wondering why they bothered putting them in, instead of doing more for dialogue with the main characters.
The other annoyance comes with the card combat. Given it's nature of randomly dealing you cards, you are often given no weapons or no defensive items at given times and your only way out is using a card for no offensive/defensive effect, wasting the card and hoping your dealt something better. A few times, mostly during boss battles, I someone on their offensive turn with nothing usable. Even with a balanced deck it will happen. It would've been nice to have an option to give up your hand for another.

This game is a welcomed RPG to a system that needs it, and to the genre in general, it holds fresh and inventive gameplay while having lacking voice overs and a hackneyed plot.

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