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  • Game Narrative Review: Lost Odyssey

    [08.27.09]
    - Bryant Wood

  • Critical Reception

    Reviews of Lost Odyssey's narrative tend to point out the story as the strongest aspect of the game. "Edge Magazine", often known for their full use of the 1-10 rating scale and harsh criticisms, rated Lost Odyssey a 7/10, stating "Lost Odyssey contains some of the most tender writing ever committed to a videogame," and "Kaim emerges as a deep and interesting lead character, lending additional weight and sincerity to some of the game's standout moments, which include what is surely the most affecting death yet seen in an RPG." "GameTrailers.com" follows the same suit in their 8.8 scoring of Lost Odyssey, of which the story was given a sub rating of 9.6, saying "Above heart-pounding battles lies an emphasis on heartfelt moments through liberal use of cutscenes and unlockable text-based novellas with the game's thousand year's dream feature."

    On the flipside, "GameSpy.com", in their 2.5 rating of Lost Odyssey by Patrick Joynt, critique Lost Odyssey's narrative with "...every element of the story feels as if it was dredged from another source and recklessly thrust into Lost Odyssey," and "Key emotional moments are often handled through exposition, whether in cut-scenes or 'dreams.'"

    All reviews have stated the effectiveness of the "Thousand Years of Dreams" and applaud their presentation of text with audio specific to the story as means to evoke emotion. In GameSpy's review, the critiques of characters were of their stereotypical nature, being swordsmen or magicians, and similarities to roles of other characters rather than their depth or progression. In Edge Magazine and GameTrailers.com's reviews, Kaim is noted for his deep past and the recollection of the flaws of humanity he has missed. Lost Odyssey's reviews have mostly praised the story, especially the "Thousand Years of Dreams", but cite Lost Odyssey's similarities to other RPGs.


    Lessons

    The most avoided aspects of a video game can be used to create a memorable game experience. The "Thousand Years of Dreams" in Lost Odyssey is a collection of short stories, telling what the characters have been through over their thousand years in the world. These stories are long for video game inclusion and have their own respective music. It may seem too much to expect gamers to sit and read these stories, especially when they may be skipped. The "Thousand Years of Dreams" counters this because they succeed as short stories, even if you have no knowledge of Lost Odyssey. Thus, when featured as part of the game, these stories help to greatly emphasize the theme of Lost Odyssey, and upon reading of one, a player becomes encouraged to read the rest.

    If a character's role seems to only take them along for the ride, leave them that way. This is in reference to the characters Jansen and Ming, whose storyline has been discussed as a weak element. These characters should not have been given a story to give them more emotional appeal in Lost Odyssey, they worked better as characters who were helpers but not central.

    Summation

    Lost Odyssey is a beautiful example of storytelling in a video game. The breadth of the characters and skillful emphasis of loneliness make it a very enjoyable narrative experience. While the plot appears to be simple and familiar it incorporates the needed smaller details to create a depth rarely seen before in a video game. The inclusion of the "Thousand Years of Dreams" does an incredible job filling in what we don't know about the characters, even through its tell rather than show of exposition. This creates emotion in the players, without which Lost Odyssey would be little more than a mediocre RPG.

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