After JRPG fans, including myself, complained that there aren’t enough games like the old days, Square Enix finally listened.
With some success on the 3DS, Square put together Tokyo RPG factory to make classic styled JRPGs, and out came I Am Setsuna. Again, this was embraced with open arms by fans, and so Square has kept its momentum going, with the new JRPG, Lost Sphear.
The story of Lost Sphear, is a funny one, as it ticks most of the JRPG trope boxes, which is interesting enough to follow, but not ground breaking.
The story follows Kanata, who can find things that have gone missing. Kanata is an orphan, and when him and his orphan friends go exploring one day, they return to find the village has disappeared. Then his adventure takes him to having his powers wanted by the government, and he wants to unlock the mysteries of his lineage.
If this is starting to sound like a bunch of JRPGs rammed together, it’s because that is what it feels like. For better and worse.
The gameplay itself is classic JRPG. Exploring around the world has the fixed camera 3D plane, like games such as Final Fantasy 7, and the battles are a bigger nostalgia trip. The battles use an ATB (Active Time Battle) system, which is classic Square. Fans of the Final Fantasy series won’t recognise its ability for you to move your character around before attacking, and using the ground area for some attacks splash damage.
The real strategy kicks in when you need to make sure your characters are placed in positions after an attack. This is because leaving yourself in the wrong place, means enemies can hit more of your characters with less attacks. The other kicker is getting the hang of momentum attacks, which open as a fight progresses but must be used in that battle, so using them frequently is a must.
My nostalgia bone was twinging at its hardest with the use of blue text boxes reminding me of the days of PlayStation One JRPGs. Mixed in with classic menu styles and sounds, took me back to my teens.
This gameplay is interesting enough, but thanks to the game’s length, I started to find it a bit boring. When this was a revolutionary game design, it was fine to grind out excessive game times, but as a throwback, I would have preferred it be more concise, and beatable in 10ish hours.
Outside of the combat, there are two things I would hope an original Square JRPG would knock out of the park, its art and its music, and they nailed it.
The music was composed by Tomoki Miyoshi, who also did I am Setsuna, so unsurprisingly it is gorgeous. Then comes the art work. The art work fuses modern with classic, by having gorgeously designed backdrops, but instead of jarring 3D characters on top of it, they made them look good too. The whole game is a treat to look at.
Lost Sphere is a fun enough game. I found the story too boring to care about at times, skipping chunks, but the gameplay is fun. It is a fun way to sit back and relax with some nostalgic JPRG action, but it’s a harder sell for too much more than that.
Released: February 2018
Platforms: PlayStation 4, also on Nintendo Switch, PC (Windows 10)
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix