Sawaki Takeyasu finally created a follow-up to his stylish 2011 action game but it's not quite what you'd expect. The Lost Child is a first-person dungeon crawler but does it do enough to stand out in this somewhat crowded genre?
That's right; The Lost Child is a successor to El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron so if you played that back in the day then you'll meet some familiar characters and become reacquainted with similar themes here. The story involves Hayato who works at a supernatural investigative agency which I thought was cool because that's a lot like Ghosted, one of my favourite TV shows. Anyway, he meets an angel named Lua at the beginning of the campaign and decides to have her tag along as he investigates abnormalities across Japan. Unfortunately, the story moves quickly and doesn't give the characters much of a chance to grow so it'll likely leave the player in the dust without much to hold on to. Personally, I stopped caring around chapter 2 because I found it hard to keep up with the assortment of goofballs that kept getting introduced.
Although the poorly paced plot is disappointing, The Lost Child's sights and sounds are mostly competent. For starters, I enjoyed the character art and the enemy designs are quite imaginative. On the other hand, the dungeons are unimpressive with their repetitive visuals that don't do much to stand out. When it comes to sound, the music is fairly generic but seems to fit the mood very well. Meanwhile, the sound effects are surprisingly gratifying. Finally, you can play with either Japanese or English voices. I chose English and the voice cast does a great job of fleshing out each character and I was impressed just how much voice acting there is. Lua will even chime in during battles which is a welcome inclusion that adds a layer of personality to each battle.
The Lost Child features some of the best designed dungeons that I've ever played through and I'm a huge fan of first-person dungeon crawlers. First of all, the dungeons are enormous and consist of multiple floors. Slowly uncovering the maps is great fun and one mechanic that makes it even more rewarding is the fact that there are tons of clever shortcuts within each dungeon that make further exploration much easier. For example, you might unlock a few doors or activate mine carts that make traversal a breeze. Additionally, you'll even have to backtrack from time to time and entering a new layer via a previously locked door is very satisfying. Last but not least, you'll come across plenty of puzzles that are never super-tough to figure out but they require some thought and thorough exploration.
The battle system in The Lost Child is what you'd expect from a first-person dungeon crawler. What makes it cool is that your party can contain up to three recruited monsters (known as Astrals). You can recruit any monster that you battle, level them up then have them evolve at certain level thresholds, and even exchange their abilities. Considering there are hundreds of monsters that you can recruit, this highly customizable system is fantastic. My only complaint is that earning new abilities is completely random. There might be some rhyme or reason to when monsters earn new abilities but it's definitely hidden. Within the home ward of Shinjuku, you can buy and sell items, go to a spa to receive a temporary boost, customize your Astrals, and visit a camera shop in order to appraise and combine equipment. The amount of customization options is incredible which makes setting up your party a satisfying endeavor.
Although The Lost Child is a far cry from El Shaddai, Sawaki Takeyasu clearly crafted something special here. If you're a fan of first-person dungeon crawlers then you surely won't be disappointed with this fulfilling monster-recruiting adventure.
- + Incredibly satisfying dungeons with cleverly designed puzzles and shortcuts
- + Rewarding customization mechanics
- + Loads of monsters to recruit
- - Story is poorly paced and lacks satisfying character development
- - Dungeon visuals are pretty bland
- - Learning new skills is random