The Lost Child
Beginning in a Japanese subway station, main character Hayato is found researching an occult phenomenon that has been claiming the lives of innocent pedestrians. Bystanders are jumping in front of trains, to most it seems like suicide, but others claim that there is a more sinister motive. When a demon seizes Hayato and thrusts him in front of a train, he is saved by a mysterious woman who hands him a briefcase and runs off. From here the adventure begins that puts Hayato, the chosen one, in the midst of Heaven, Hell and fallen angels.
Developed by Kadokawa games and being released simultaneously for Switch, VITA and PS4, The Lost Child is a game that can best be described as positively old school. It’s a JRPG with first person dungeons, turn based combat and a whole bunch of “astrals” to capture and recruit to fight for you. However, whilst there is a certain appeal to these mechanics, are some things best left in the past?
Gameplay – The World
Set in Japan, The Lost Child‘s overworld is navigated entirely through menus. Shops, locations and people are all just a click of a button away and found on a drop down menu. The approach works perfectly well and is nice when you need to visit multiple shops before heading back into a dungeon. However where I did find it to lack was when the player is tasked with a side quest. Some must be completed with in a dungeon, but others that require you to talk to people in Japan just seem pointless. The lack of exploration certainly hurt this part of the game.
Named “Layers” in The Lost Child, the dungeons are all first person and grid based. Those familiar with Etrian Odyssey or Persona Q will be familiar with this system. As you progress your map is filled in for you and like any JRPG you need to make it through the dungeon, whist fighting monsters and clearing puzzles.
I found the layers to be a bit of a mixed bag. The puzzles on offer worked well and exploring felt rewarding and not linear like some titles, but some also felt far too big and began to out stay their welcome. Fatigue certainly set in towards the end of a few. Another factor that didn’t help was that the ones that felt too long also had hidden holes in the floor you could easily fall through. A poor design choice if you ask me.
Then of course each dungeon is finished by taking on a boss and some even have bosses midway. Each fight felt like a decent challenge on normal difficulty, so make sure you are at full health when you take them on.
Assisted by the Angel Lua on your team is a total of 5 combatants. Hayato, Lua and three astrals you have captured. Fights are what you’d expect from a turn based system. Attack, defend, special skills and run, but there are a few differences. One strange decision was made with Hayato. Equipped with an item called the “Gangour” he can use this to capture astrals and attack, but to do a strong attack the Gangour needs to charge, apart from this all he can do is attack normally. It seemed like an odd choice and in battles against astrals you already had he literally felt like a fifth wheel.
Another aspect of combat that felt quite bizarre was how your astrals attain new skills. Astrals don’t gain new skills by leveling up, but rather they randomly receive them during battle. It is baffling design choice, especially when they will use the new attack instead of the one you chose for them.
Finally another major aspect of the gameplay are the astrals you capture. Similar to titles like Shin Megami Tensei or Pokemon these creatures will join you in battle and fight on your behalf. There is a great selection on offer and when you enter a new layer you will find a bunch to try and capture.
Astrals don’t level up the same way that Hayato and Lua do though. Instead after each battle you receive a certain amount of karma. Karma comes in three types; good, bad and neutral. Each astral likes a specific type and will level up faster by taking that type. It’s a good system and cuts out a lot of grinding. As the dungeons are long, you will find yourself swapping other astrals in and out and being able to level them up at will means you never feel like you are grinding for the sake of it. Also once they reach a certain level you can evolve your astral to make it even stronger.
Certainly one of the most disappointing aspects of the game is its story. The premise of the game seems to take inspiration from Shin Megami Tensei games, set in the real world, angels, demons and all that are involved. Not only that it also brought in Cthulu as the leader of the bad guys. Mix these elements together and you’d expect to have a story that is quite gritty and dark, but ultimately it feels fairly standard. Of course a story doesn’t have to be gritty to be good, but when combined with some lackluster character development and plot beats you can see from a mile away if you’ve ever played a JRPG and you got a story that might interest you in the short term, but in the long run will be forgotten.
Another mixed bag which seems to be a recurring theme for the game is the presentation. The illustrations and character designs are great. The different designs for the astrals are great as well, some grotesque and others more sinister. The voice acting was great and I never felt like any delivery was bad, but surprisingly good for a game this size. The music was pretty generic and most of all the actual graphics a bit lackluster. I don’t go into a JRPG like this expecting anything amazing, but what you get is pretty poor and it isn’t helped that the actual aesthetic design of the dungeons are lousy.
Finally, The Lost Child also offers a massive dungeon to explore for those who want something else to do once they’ve beaten the main game. Containing a whopping 99 floors. Good thing is you can warp to the any floor once you’ve reached it. So there is plenty of content to tackle. Also another feature I forgot to mention were the chests. You don’t simply open a chest, but enter a sort of mini game where you have skills to use to try and open it. Each skill has chance of either opening it or setting off a trap and once one of the gauges is full that is what will happen. It’s an odd choice and that certainly is common in The Lost Child. I can’t say it is bad, but I am totally baffled about why it was included.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for The Lost Child was provided by NIS America.