The Place I’ll Return to Someday
It’s been years since I’ve dove into a classic JRPG like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy IX. The diverse and unique cast of characters, the compelling plot, and a world that’s just begging to be explored all sit fondly in my memories. Sadly, I never got around to playing I Am Setsuna, but I was eager to try out Lost Sphear.
I Once Was Lost
Lost Sphear tells the tale of a young boy named Kanata, who has been having strange dreams about the past. Together with his two friends, Lumina and Locke, they find themselves on the wrong side of calamity when their town disappears. As they try to discover what happened, they find that this phenomenon has been occurring across the entire world. It’s up to the three friends to figure out what’s going on and bring the world back.
This is a very basic summary of Lost Sphear‘s story. To tell you anymore would be spoil-worthy all on its own. Like the RPGs that it clearly takes inspiration from, Lost Sphear has a story that has painfully sad moments, jaw dropping twists, and exciting characters that are easy to get invested in.
As Kanata, Lumina, and Locke make their way across the world, they’ll fight with Imperial armies, talk with miners that have no luck, and even meet demons who protect innocent villagers. There was a lot of anticipation to see what was around next corner, even if the payoff isn’t always fantastic.
That said, the story isn’t perfect. Like most JRPGs, Lost Sphear takes a while to pick up. There are also some moments that seem to come out of nowhere; they took me out of the experience a little. Despite that, the good things about the story heavily outweigh the bad.
Execute the Plan
When it comes to playing the game, Lost Sphear builds on the foundation set by I Am Setsuna. Even going as far to reuse some of the same enemy designs, it’s clear that Tokyo RPG Factory was trying to perfect the wheel rather than reinvent it. That said, there are a lot of welcome additions to the mix that make the game feel more dynamic.
Positioning is a big aspect of each battle. You can clump your characters around one enemy to keep dealing out quick hits, or you can keep them spread out so that you’re better prepared to deal with bigger attacks. While the positioning of each character isn’t as crucial as I would’ve appreciated (it’s mostly the ranged party members that benefit from it the most), it was a nice spin on traditional combat where enemies are lined up in front of you.
Where Lost Sphear sets itself apart is by having Spritnite and Momentum. Spritnite can be used to create skills/abilities that your party members can use in combat. While they function like regular magic attacks, they can individually be upgraded and switched out with the use of Spritnite you find in the game as well as some special shops.
Momentum is entirely combat-focused. As your characters battle, a little meter around their portraits will move. When it goes all the way around, you get a Momentum Charge. What this means is that your character’s next attack will have a small quick time event that, if you hit correctly, will allow you to deal extra damage. It’s a nice way of keeping the player engaged.
That’s not all that Lost Sphear has to offer, either. There are also Vulcosuits that are thrown into the mix. Every party member can hop in one of these mechsuits during and outside of battle. They vastly increase their damage output, but if you’re not equipped with the right amount of VP, then they can be more of a hindrance.
Already, that’s a lot of mechanics to keep in mind when battling, and when you’ve got several party members to manage at a time, it can be kind of difficult. Unfortunately, Lost Sphear isn’t quite long enough to allow you to get the full hang of these mechanics. While nothing felt foreign to me, there were certain abilities that I never used in favor of keeping battles easier to manage.
Searching Far and Wide
The world of Lost Sphear is an interesting one to explore. While the overworld itself won’t be causing you to lose your mind, it’s the content that makes it stand out. There are various spots across the world where you can place certain artifacts that give you bonuses for the rest of the game (some of them even stack). If you want to get the most out of your battles, then it’s almost entirely necessary that you explore the world. It’s that integration of exploration and combat that I appreciated very much about this game.
As I stated before, though, the visuals won’t impress you. Lost Sphear takes on a similar, albeit more refined, visual style to I Am Setsuna. Everything looks fine for what it is, but it can be a bit bland at times. It’s a shame too, as some of the art direction for the locations would’ve benefited from more graphical power.
That brings me to the music of the game. Lost Sphear is a very somber game, and the soundtrack is filled with minor chords, subtle pianos, and the world’s smallest violin (just kidding about that last one). The music, on its own, is pure harmony to my ears. When I listen to the soundtrack, it feels like a warm cascade of notes are subtly swallowing me. Where I take issue is that the music doesn’t always completely represent what’s happening in Lost Sphear. Sometimes it feels like the soundtrack is at odds with the scenery, which is a darn shame.
A Touch of Effort
The last complaint I want to address is in terms of the game’s price. Lost Sphear currently retails for $50, and I think that’s a bit too much. The game will give around 20-30 hours, and there isn’t anything revolutionary about the title that justifies its price point. Fans of classic JRPGs probably won’t care (more power to you), but people on the fence may want to wait until a sale comes.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of Lost Sphear for this review.