Video Game Review: Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

baten_kaitosI can’t recall ever having done a video game review, but I figured that for the amount of time, effort, frustration, and energy I put into Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, that I should write up a review.

“The world of Baten Kaitos exists in an era where lands float in the sky and the once-vast oceans are mere legend. With your help, Kalas and Xelha must struggle to reveal the mystery of the lost ocean and destroy the corruption that threatens their world. It is a time when the existence of Ocean and Earth has been regarded as a mere fairytale – past down for generations. Kalas is a rebellious youth seeking revenge for the murder of his grandfather and brother. Xelha is a young woman out to save the world from a brewing crisis. Our two main characters cross paths and the story unfolds in a world of massive islands, floating high up in the sky. Rife with emotion, deceit, and faith, a tale of the world’s destruction and rebirth begins.”

The main reason I chose this game to play was because a friend of mine, who is an avid video gamer (who also reviewed the game), showed interest in this game and we decided to play the game together. Now, this game was originally released by Namco on GameCube in 2003 and I only picked up a used copy of this game while I was looking for something else in a used book, video, and game store sometime in 2016. When I purchased the game, I mentioned it to my avid video gamer friend who suggested we could attempt to play the game at the same time. While this is not an online game and it is not a multi-player game, we could (and did) progress through the game at about the same rate, sometimes waiting several days for the other person to catch up if one of us got too far ahead, and sometimes playing the exact same sections at near-close to real time. We maintained an open chat within our chosen social media platform throughout the course of the game, often providing amusement or reactions to information or character arcs as they arose. Had it not been for this style of joint game play, I have reasonable doubts as to whether or not I would have finished the game. We made a determined push to get through the game before the Kingdom Hearts release for the PlayStation 4 later this month and finished it Sunday.

This is by far one of the most creative games I’ve ever played. The world was unique in every way, and even each island was unique in every way. All of the enemies within the game were so different that I sometimes wondered how those specific enemies were designed and created and who thought of them. As the game progressed, the worlds became even more unique and the enemies even more challenging. There’s a floating island that looks a lot like a crystal skull and it has a city made of sugar and an entire city that looks like it came straight out of a picture-book. The game has puzzles and really interesting, movie-like cutscenes, as well as jungles and deserts. The level of detail in all of the playable areas amazed me in a lot of ways. The detail on the towns, cities, jungles, lights, costumes, were all beyond amazing. I think it’s fair to say this is an absolutely gorgeous and creative game with fantastic and in-depth world-building, especially considering it came out in 2003. Would I judge it the same if I based my opinion on modern video game technology and graphics? Perhaps. But this is the first time I’ve ever played this game, it’s currently 2017, and I am still impressed by the level of detail and care involved in creating this game.

baten_kaitos_charactersThe characters in this came are also extremely unique (I’m looking at you, The Great Mizuti). “The journey unfolds quickly around Kalas, Xelha, and you, a Guardian Spirit. Along the way you will run into many obstacles, but also many people who will help you on your journey.”

“Kalas: A young man out for revenge against the killer of his brother and grandfather. born with only one ‘Wing of the Heart,’ Kalas wears a mechanical wings, or ‘Winglet,’ to suffice. Although his careless attitude and recklessness are what set him out on this dangerous adventures, he has the wits and spiritual power to protect him on the way.”

“Xelha: A kindhearted girl out to stop an evil plot. She finds Kalas in Cebalrai Village, and they join forces soon after. Somehow, she seems different from other girls, and you will have to unravel the mysteries behind her true identity.”

“You, the player: You are a Guardian Spirit who has bonded with Kalas. At the beginning of the game, you will have the ability to select your gender and name as a Guardian Spirit. You must provide guidance and moral support to the characters on their journey. How strong your bond of trust is will greatly affect the frequency of Spiritual Attacks during battle and also affect the ending of the game.”

One of the most interesting parts about the characters and the story telling in this game is that the player is often addressed. This game acknowledges and breaks the fourth wall in a very creative manner. The characters will often turn to the “camera” and ask you, the player, what you think of what’s going on or what you think the characters should do about certain situations. At the end of the game, the characters even say thank you and wave goodbye to you. I thought it was a very interesting way of acknowledging that this was a game and yet also giving the player something of an eerie experience with playing the game. Especially since the storyline has some nasty surprises in store for the player. The story on the game has some very tricky moments where the player actually could get very upset with the game, but in case you haven’t played it and don’t want spoilers, I’m not going to tell you anything about it.

So why the comment about frustration and potentially not wanting to finish the game?

In short? The battle style. This was my first experience with turn-based combat and it didn’t go very well for me. I am used to games where my ability to mash buttons in a proper sequence will usually do something instantly gratifying and very impressive. Here, my abilities to impact the battle were based on strategy and how quickly I could find cards matching the numbers I was already using, or how well I could develop long-term patterns quickly. It took me almost to the very end of the game to get comfortable enough with the battle-style to be able to survive major boss battles, let alone excel at defeating the major bosses without losing at least one or more of my characters. It took me a long time to figure out how to properly stack each character’s deck and to remember to pay attention to the cards right before a major battle to ensure that nothing spoiled or changed while I wasn’t paying attention. So many times, most of my cards would be grayed out because they were defensive cards only and it was my turn to attack or my cards were offensive cards only and it was the enemy’s turn to attack. This style of video game combat is not ideal for me, and it certainly wasn’t satisfying for me when I came home from a rough day and wanted nothing more than to mash buttons and kill monsters. I will admit that some of the card combinations were very cool, some of the voice clips amused me greatly, and a lot of the character’s finishing moves were pretty epic to watch.

Overall, I think I would actually rate this video game as a three on my rating scale. It was not my favorite game by any stretch of the imagination but now that I’m more familiar with the combat style and the way the game works, I might actually be inclined to replay it again at some point far, far, far in the future. The story was interesting, engaging, and had several very unexpected turns. The characters were well-developed with solid stories and realistic personalities.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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