RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Feb 19th 2009 at 11:24:07 AM by (Crabmaster2000)
Posted under Gamecube, Unloved, Review, Baten Kaitos, RPG

The Gamecube was definately not known for its robust RPG library last generation. The PS2 did a good job of blowing both other systems (combined) out of the water in that category (I don't know enough about the Dreamcast to confindently add it to that remark). That said the Gamecube still has a surprisingly strong showing in the RPG arena if you look closely. Games like: Fire Emblem, Tales of Symphonia, Skies of Arcadia Legends, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Phantasy Star Online, X-Men Legends and Harvest Moon lead the pack. There are still a few other Cube RPGs that fell under the radar of most gamers.



Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (henceforth known as BK) deserves a lot more attention then it gets. Lets take a closer look at its strengths and weaknesses, shall we?

STRENGHTS:

Story

This is "THE" most important factor of any RPG in my opinion. In most genres I'd say gameplay is key, but RPGs are the exception. If your going to be investing 20-40 hours of your life into a game it had better be darn interesting.

The game starts off with Kalas waking up in a small town after getting beaten up in the woods. After he regains his composure and figures out where he is he remembers his goal. Kill Giacomo the man who killed his family and burned his home down.

As you progress you find that the Empire is trying to ressurect the power of an ancient god that swalled the entire ocean leaving only a few islands left on the planet. Kalas eventually meets some others that join his party that are out to stop the emperor from suceeding in his plan. Kalas is reluctant to join, but because Giacomo is a higher up in the Empire he joins because their mission because it may eventually lead him to get the revenge he desires.

Visuals



This is by far my favorite looking game on the Cube. While some games may be more graphically impressive such as Resident Evil 4 the art sytle of BK game really shines above. The entire world and all the characters in it are very bright and vibrant and full of life. The world really seems to be alive as you explore it. Simple things such as running through some bushes and spooking some birds to see them take off in a large group gives an extra amount of depth to the islands you explore.

Each Island you explore in this game has its own unique visual identity, wheather it be a lush green forest like enviroment or a hazy mountain top covered in clouds each place you visit is vastly different from the last.

Battle

This is another area in which this game really shines. At first the game just throws you into battle without much explanation and you slowly learn some tricks to help increase your skills over the next couple hours of game play through both experimentation and NPC tutorials.

You fight using a card based battle system. Each card belongs to an element and has at least 1 spirit number assigned to it. At first you can only attack with a couple cards, but as you level up and progress throughout the game the amount of cards you can lay down during battle increases.

Each Element type obviously damages enemies of opposite types more than those of the same time (such as Water hurts Fire based Enemies more than Dark would). But if you use a water based attack and a fire based attack in the same turn they partially cancel each other out (attack for 10 water and 6 fire in the same turn would result in a final attack of 4 water). This keeps you on your toes and quite aware of what cards to use and when to use them. It also involves quick thinking on your part because after you use your first card you have a very limited time to use your next few cards.



As I mentioned above each card also has a spirit number. These numbers range from 1 to 8 and cards can have multiple numbers on them. If you manage to attack an enemy with a straight sequence of cards (such as 5-6-7) then a bonus percentage of damage is added to you final attack. As you become capable of playing more cards during battle later in the game you find more and more combinations become available to you (such as 2-2-2-3-3 or a full house) that will add more depth to your fights as you may choose to play less cards than you are capable of in order to receive a prize bonus to your final attack.

One more interesting note about battle combinations is that you can combine seemingly useless items (or useful items too) by using them together to create more helpful items. For example you can attack with a pot, some uncooked rice and charcoal to create a healing item of cooked rice.

Overworld Exploration

This is pretty standard as far as RPGs go, but if its not broken dont fix it right?

You explore the world as your main character Kalas (other party members only appear during non-playable areas such as cut sceens or NPC interactions). To enter a battle you simply touch an on screen enemy to initiate the battle.

Lots of items are hidden in ordinary scenery so make sure to check everything you come accross during your journey to collect a lot of helpful items and cards.

Puzzling

This is another one of my favorite parts of the game. Most of the puzzles in this game are not necessary to further the story so if you not all that into puzzling just skip most of them. You'll be out a few items that may help, but you can always grind your levels up a bit to make up for it if you prefer.

Throughout the game you get a limited number of Blank Magnus (Magnus is just a fancy name for cards). With these you can turn items, such as fire, into a card so that you can carry it to another location. So while your in town and you see someone has a roaring fire in their home you can take some of that flame with you into the forest and burn down a tree to gain access to a treasure chest.

Time Mechanic

This is something that is really cool to play around with and also a little frusterating at times. Lots of items change with time in BK.

For instance if you originally find a bunch of Bananas they might be Green Bananas. These are not good to eat yet and will function more as a weak weapon than anything else. After some time though they will ripen and become a useful healing item. After more time has passed then will rot and once again become a weapon.

This same mechanic has a few other functions such as puzzle solving. If an NPC is looking for a specific item such as yogurt or cheese and you only have access to milk, you simply have to wait until your milk has aged enough to turn into either item, just dont wait to long or it may not be they wanted when you get it to them!

One last fucntion the time mechanic plays is in gaining money. Instead of selling items in BK you take pictures of enemies during battle and sell those pictures to card shops. The pictures develop like a polaroid would. To get the most money for your picture you need to wait long enough for it to delevop properly, but dont wait to long or they will become damaged from your travels and the price you'll fetch will fall considerably.

Levelling up

Nothing ground breaking just something that I found quite unique and interesting.

Instead of simply gaining a level for a certain amount of experience, you hold onto that experience until you are able to visit a special "church". Once you are there you must pray in order to refect upon your past battles and only then can you increase in strength.

Along with this is the class increase which is treated much the same way as the level increase with the exception that a speical item is given to your character that you must pray with to unlock its potential. By increasing your class you are able to have more cards in your deck and increases the amount of cards you can use for each attack.

WEAKNESSES:

Characters

With the exception of Kalas I find the playable characters in this game quite annoying and stereotypical. Fortunately Kalas is the main character so it does oddly enough balance out. The reason for my annoyance isnt so much the characters themselves as it is the dialouge and voice acting.

I do however find Kalas interesting, as unlike most main characters, he isnt interested in doing any good. He just wants his revenge and could care less who dies or what nation falls in the process. He often voices his objection to joining his teammates and is reluctantly dragged along for a large portion of the story.

Dialouge/Voice Acting

Some of the worst I've heard. The old characters (70 years +) sound like a 13 year old is trying to make their voice raspy. The main characters that speak the most (Kalas and Xelha) both have shrill annoying voices and poorly written dialouge that often just sounds weird.



FINAL THOUGHTS:

BK is a great game for any RPG fan. The battles are a lot less boring than your typical grindfest because of the random element and depth added by the card based battle system. This game can also appeal to someone who loves puzzles/side quests or to someone who just loves an interesting story. It is also (in my opinion) one of the best looking Gamecube games. This game can easily be found for under $15 and I would highly recommend anyone interested in a new adventure to check it out if possible.

FINAL SCORE - 6.5/10


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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