The folks at Tokyo RPG Factory clearly have a passion for recreating what made classics in the genre so appealing. Although they haven't quite got the magic formula down, Lost Sphear is a competent JRPG that can easily consume dozens of hours of your time.
I must admit, around the time that I Am Setsuna debuted; I was extremely busy with stuff so I didn't actually play it. When I heard that Tokyo RPG Factory was at it again with Lost Sphear, I figured it would be a good time to finally try out what they're capable of. Because of this, my review will be from a fresh perspective as I can't compare the two games.
With that out of the way, I was delighted with Lost Sphear's cast of characters and story. Although it thrusts you into its world right off the bat without much exposition, I eventually grew to love each individual character as the intricate plot gradually unfolded. Speaking of which, the story definitely seems very clear cut within the first dozen or so hours but it takes some drastic twists that I was definitely not expecting. Overall, the diverse cast of characters and engaging plot held my interest throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing all the twists and turns along the way.
Of course, Lost Sphear is an RPG so I should discuss its battle system. It's basically a more action-intense version of what you'd find in Chrono Trigger. That's not to say that it's better; it isn't. It's just more involving as you have to perform button presses in time and manage many aspects if you want to emerge victorious. For the unfamiliar, you basically command your party members to unleash attacks and abilities that have the potential to devastate multiple foes in one hit. You have to perform each move quickly if you don't want your enemies to sneak in an attack or two so the key to combat is fast thinking and effective strategizing.
Being able to command your party in battle with proficiency is necessary to overcome Lost Sphear's many bosses. They can be brutally difficult so you'll either have to grind for a while or come up with a winning strategy. Obviously, the latter is far more rewarding and efficient. On the other end of the spectrum, I found the battles with regular enemies to be pretty monotonous as they rarely needed any sort of skill to overcome. I found myself just going through the motions while watching hordes of foes perish as I traversed dungeons which provided little sense of accomplishment. Good thing the bosses more than make up for their underlings' shortcomings.
Now that I've mentioned traversing dungeons, it's a good time to talk about the game world. I found the atmosphere to be captivating with its gentle orchestral melodies and often gorgeous environments. It all comes together to form a game world that definitely stands on its own. However, travelling around this world is another story. For starters, there are no battles on the world map so all you do is collect items and run around. The towns are similar in that stores all look the same and there are rarely any points of interest to detract from the tedium. The dungeons are fairly linear and only feature rudimentary puzzles which makes them almost as monotonous as the overworld and towns. I wish there were more to exploration so the game world could feel adequately engaging and fleshed out.
Although exploration doesn't play a huge role, figuring out what to do next can often be a pain. This is especially true after you put the game down for a bit then pick it up later. Thankfully, you can talk to your own party which provides some hints of what to do next but it isn't always clear. Which artifact am I supposed to make? How am I supposed to remember some insignificant character's name? Where the heck is that continent? It can quickly get incredibly frustrating, especially after wandering around for an hour or so.
Finally, one aspect about Lost Sphear that's one of my personal pet peeves is that the battle system and party customization dynamic rely far too heavily on quantity over quality. By this, I mean that there are tons of mechanics that factor into success instead of just a couple of focused ones. I would much prefer mastering one or two in-depth systems than trying to stay on top of a dozen or so. As a result, much of Lost Sphear's gameplay comes across as superfluous. I certainly hope Tokyo RPG Factory's next game is more focused.
If you're looking for an immersive story in a captivating world then Lost Sphear is certainly an RPG to add to your collection. Just keep in mind that experiencing that story will involve frequent tedium. Plus, its gameplay systems can quite frankly feel like a mess.
- + Varied characters and intriguing story that has a few surprising twists
- + Challenging yet rewarding boss fights
- + Great music and competent game world
- - Traversing the world and fighting regular enemies can be extremely tedious
- - It's easy to be lost after taking a break
- - Many mechanics are superfluous