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  • Game Narrative Review: Lost Odyssey

    [08.27.09]
    - Bryant Wood

  • Breakdown

    The narrative of Lost Odyssey is a must-experience work. The narrative path is nodal, with one main storyline that includes multiple side stories that can be explored, all winding back to the main plot. The climax of the story comes when the characters are deliberately attacked by Gongora on the experimental precursor to the Grand Staff. The cast is knocked out during the self-destruction sequence of the Experimental Staff, saved only through Mack and Cooke's awakening by the spirit of their dead mother.

    The player's protagonist, Kaim, does not follow the traditional Hero's Journey, but rather a path of a hero's return. Kaim begins the game as a hero, both in nature and ability, and progresses throughout the story to remember his true identity and to reestablish the love for his family that he lost. Kaim's small incremental triumphs are based on his relationships with Sarah, Cooke, and Mack, rather than getting closer to foiling Gongora's plan, such as saving Sarah from her magic-wrought depression and rescuing Cooke and Mack from traveling to see their dead mother in an aurora borealis-like display. In fact, stopping Gongora acts as more of a small triumph in Kaim's greater journey to find himself in a world to which he doesn't belong.

    The main narrative of Lost Odyssey has no direct interaction with the player. There is no chance for the player to change the structure or any outcome of the story. Any taken multiple paths bring you back to where you were before venturing down the new path, your reward being exposition. The player's only true role is to move the story along, to reach the next cut scene or dream sequence. While this removes potential from Lost Odyssey, the story has been designed in a nostalgic style accepting of this non-interaction of the player. Cutscenes have been designed to leave the player wanting to know more of the tale, rather than wanting the player to take control of the story. The game play is reflective of this in the beauty of its battles, as they do little to progress characters or the story. Much of the game play consists of exploring the environment through a mostly linear path, representative of the nodal path of the narrative. Due to the effectiveness of Lost Odyssey's narrative it would have been a great immersive experience were the player able to affect the story, but Lost Odyssey puts forth a respectable effort to work around this obstacle.


    One of the highlights of game play working together with the narrative in Lost Odyssey comes during Lirum's funeral. After the cut scene of Lirum's death, the player must gather materials and act out the funeral ceremonies. While the game play for the beginning of this section is a repetitive search for branches and flowers, the focus of the funeral section includes the characters acting out the unique funeral ceremony of the burning of the ties. The player takes control of each character, and after following the on screen commands, sets fire to a cloth band tied between the casket and a pole, representing the release of the Lirum's bonds to the mortal world. At the end of the burning, another cut scene is viewed in which Lirum's casket floats off into the ocean while her children Cooke and Mack rush to the water's edge, crying for their mother.

    Lost Odyssey relies heavily on exposition, as the main story is used as a tool to bring forth and emphasize the emotional elements of the past. While this is a point of caution for interactive media writers, Lost Odyssey's reliance on exposition succeeds due to the beauty of its visual side, and the skill of its written side. Cutscenes and dream sequences aren't created to just present images containing information to the player they have been specifically and effectively designed to convey more emotion than story.

    A special exposition element of Lost Odyssey is the inclusion of the "Thousand Years of Dreams" short stories. These are lengthy stories, complete with their own background music and short piano sound effects. The stories appear after certain cutscenes but can be skipped and later reviewed through the main menu. Each story takes around 30 minutes to read and at first seems to stutter the flow of the game and add unnecessary pileup. But upon reading the "Thousand Years of Dreams", one is immediately immersed in their great detail and emotional responses are drawn from the reader.

    The reason these long pieces of exposition succeed is due to their quality. The "Thousand Years of Dreams" succeed as great short stories beyond their inclusion in Lost Odyssey. This is important as their addition to Lost Odyssey emphasizes and improves the emotion and overall theme of the game. Stories which are developed as part of a game tend to be unstable outside the game environment and therefore fail in their attempt to reinforce game aspects. "Thousand Years of Dreams" is a perfect addition to Lost Odyssey and is a must read for those who have played the game.

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