GAMECUBE REVIEW: BATEN KAITOS: ETERNAL WING AND THE LOST OCEAN

Playing Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is a monumental undertaking. It's a two-disk, RPG that could take up to 100 hours to complete. Weekend warriors could, in all likelihood, drag this game out for a year. But is it worth investing all those hours?

Baten Kaitos is not much different than your classic RPG. It features a team of heroes in a quest to avenge all that is good while killing enemies, dungeon crawling, leveling-up and acquiring all kinds of inventory from health to weapons. However, the delivery is different. The atmosphere is unique and the story is bound to captivate you. It's not that Baten Kaitos covers any new ground, it just kind of feels like it does.

This is an enchanting story of a world that exists high above where we used to. Let me explain: Floating islands, high in sky, are populated with people that have evolved wings to get them around. These wings are inextricably linked to each person's persona and spirit of the heart. Our adventure begins as we follow a young man by the name of Kalas. He's only got one wing but his grandfather has crafted a matching, mechanical one.

You don't actually play as Kalas, you basically follow him around like Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. As his guardian spirit you consult, confer, argue and reason with him based on the situation at hand. The more you agree with each other the closer the bond. This is an interesting perspective to play with. It's similar in concept to Mega Man as an avatar which is essentially controlled by a third party. Eventually you become linked to Kalas the point that you're basically controlling him in the first person.

Battles are card based. Not all battles are random, there are ways to avoid some of them. Audio clues will help you make decisions such as when a party member says that a situation looks like trouble you would be well advised to avoid a confrontation.

Magnus is the essence of the cards which enables you to embed things into the cards almost like an inventory system. You can store weapons, armor, health and other items that will assist you in battle such as spell and elementals. Other non-combat items can also be stored such as food and drink and other essential tools and items which may be traded or sold. When you hold on to some of these items they will begin to age. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. For instance, milk will spoil and grapes can become poisonous. But if you keep the grapes a bit longer they will turn to wine and eventually vinegar. Battle items can become stronger or more effective over time. It's fun to hold on to something just to see what you might end up with.

Battle cards are used for both defensive and offensive moves. There are elemental affiliations which can be used strategically against certain foes. Be careful when laying out multiple cards because playing two cards of polarized elementals will cancel out both of their effects. Each time you play a card you will receive new ones. Cards you play always return to your deck, they don't disappear. The cards you receive are shuffled at random and it's entirely possible to end up with lots of similar cards resulting in an overall useless hand.

The interface isn't really much help as later in the game the battles become more fast and frenzied. You don't get much of a chance to react considering that you'd like to examine each party members' stats to see who needs the most attention. You will have to pay attention to the audio sounds which indicate if it's your turn to attack or you're being attacked. Often you will be under attack before you know it so it's a good idea to keep your cards defaulted for defense just in case.

Finishing moves are very powerful cards. It's advisable to use at least two or more in a row if you want to turn the tide of battle in your favor. It's just unfortunate that the battle can be decided on the luck of the draw, which means your opponent can whip your ass by being dealt a mitt full of these awesome cards. Keep in mind that these cards will always remain in your opponent's deck.

Characters have to be leveled-up in the town church. This means that you'll have to do some backtracking to get there, often encountering enemies along the way.

Dungeon crawling is a great way to amass items. You can store them in the cards or take them to the market where you can sell or trade them for more useful things.

The pre-rendered backgrounds are amazingly detailed but they are only two dimensional and not interactive. All of the towns and cities have their own unique architecture and culture. The sense of wonderment and discovery is unrivaled. There are lots of voiceovers in which you'll learn about these unique characters as well as the characters in your party which unfortunately we never seem to learn as much as we would like to about them. The character models take a backseat to the environments which dwarfs them at times by it sheer size. Otherwise they animate fairly well and are capable of displaying a range of emotions through their facial animation.

It's the balance of gameplay elements that make Baten Kaitos an interesting game to play. It's not particularly memorable but it does capture you in the moment. For a game of such length not to feel repetitive is truly an accomplishment. Predictable maybe, but not repetitive. Enjoy.

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System: GameCube
Dev: Monolith Soft
Pub: Namco
Release: Nov 2004
Players: 1
Review by Shelby
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
3.0
MUSIC/FX
4.0
VALUE
4.0