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Platform: GameCube
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Monolith Soft
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: mini DVD-ROM
Release: US 11/04
Japan 12/05/03



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If that isn't an ecological means of transportation.
 
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Let's play...cards.
 
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Hello, it's a-me, the cunning, overweight Rodolpho.
 
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Get ouf of my head.
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Chris Winkler
Preview Update
11/17/03
Chris Winkler

Slowly but surely, Monolith Soft has been lifting the curtain standing between one of the most promising GameCube RPGs to date and the public eye. Baten Kaitos - Owaranai Tsubasa to Ushinawareta Umi is an original title, but the fact that it is being assembled by an all-star cast of highly regarded industry veterans was enough to raise many eyebrows; and keep the game from disappearing in the huge shadow of Monolith Soft's flagship series Xenosaga. Judging from the information that has been released to date, Baten Kaitos might just be the kind of title many gamers have been looking for: An original high-profile RPG innovative and at the same time deep and smoothly playable.

With more media becoming available, as the title's Japanese December release draws nearer, what has anticipated from Baten Kaitos looks like a certainty now. The game's visuals, in-game and CG sequences alike, will definitely be among the very best on the GameCube. The lush, colorful environments as well as the characters sport a large amount of details. The graphics engine will run at a solid 30 frames per second throughout the entire game. Neither Monolith Soft nor Namco has released a lot of information on the game's music; players can however look forward to fully voiced event scenes and Dolby Pro Logic support.

The final product will feature a total of five playable characters. Kalas, in whose body the player will reside as a soul and the female lead Xelha will be joined by Gibari, Lyude and Savyna. Gibari is a native of Nashira and a fisherman by profession, and while he may seem aloof from the world he can be quite reasonable if a situation demands it. Savyna is a reticent female hunter of 25 years of age, who barely ever laughs or smiles. The 18-year old Lyude is an officer serving in the army of Alphalut, the most powerful military force in the entire world of Baten Kaitos. On his current post as his kingdom's special envoy to Diadem, the serious young man with a strong sense of justice has little to do. Apart from the five playable characters, the developers have already revealed a number of non-playable characters, which will play key roles during Kalasí quest.

Alphalut's ruler is Geldoblame, a 45-year old dictator who is famous for his cruelty, jealousy, and distrust of others. Despite those less than charming traits, he usually tries to act friendly. In his search for the End Magnus, he relies on his special forces and their commander Giacomo. Equipped with extra ordinary fighting skills, the general has assembled a group of excellent soldiers to support him on his mission. Two of them are the 28-year old female sniper Ayme and the 18-year old warrior Folon; they, and in particular Giacomo, will turn out to be the real foes of Kalas'.

Residing in the ancient city of Pherkad is the king of Diadem, Ladekahn, aka "the white flame". Despite his relatively young age of 32 years, he is well-versed in both arms and arts; therefore his popularity among his own people is anything but surprising. Rodolfo, Lord of Sadal Suud can't boast such popularity ratings, as the cunning man of small size is anything but loved by the people living in the frontier country.

Unlike other locations in the world of Baten Kaitos, the path to the Phantom City of Mira is open only to those capable of walking the Road of the Spirits. The mysteries one will encounter on Mira however are at least equally mind twisting. The city of Reverence for instance, feels and looks like a picture book gone reality. This strange place is ruled by the wise man Calbren. Eventually it is his angel-like granddaughter Miroda, who will support Xelha and the others on their quest to retrieve the End Magnus. On this epic quest, the player will also visit locations like Nekton, the spirit cave, where Kalas and the player meet each other for the first time on Parnasse, a city built of sweets.

Apart from the real-time card battle system centering on the more than 1000 Magnus cards available in the game; Baten Kaitos will feature an in-battle camera allowing the player to take pictures of his or her foes. After acquiring the Light Magnus card, it is also possible to use a flash light for better results, later the snapshots can be sold at various shops. The developers expect the game to take about 50 hours to complete, not counting side quests which will add another 20 hours to the gameplay.

Of course at this point it is too early to pass any judgment on Baten Kaitos, in particular in regard to its story, but one canít help but to look forward to its release. Considering the information that has been released so far, Monolith Soft's first GameCube title shows a lot of potential. Living up to this potential obviously is an entirely different matter, although the premise of an original RPG with innovative elements and an intriguing setting is definitely a good starting point.
Chris Winkler
Preview First Look
9/06/03
Chris Winkler

While news regarding Monolith Soft's secret original GameCube RPG surfaced as early as six months ago, it was not until their July fan event in Tokyo that the anticipation towards the release of Baten Kaitos raised exponentially. The game is being assembled by an all-star cast of developers from various companies besides Monolith Soft's own Yasuyuki Honne and Kiyou Nomura, who will serve as director and producer respectively. The staff also features Chrono series mastermind and former Tecmo and Square Enix writer Masato Katou as scenario writer, Tri-Crescendo's Hiroya Hatsushiba as director, and Nakaba Higurashi as character designer. Composer Motoi Sakuraba of Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile fame joins the team as well as Masataka Kurasawa, who was previously involved in Onimusha and is now working at Robot, as movie producer.

Baten Kaitos features lush environments and character designs, which bear resemblance to their counterparts in Square's 1999 PlayStation classic Chrono Cross. The game will take place on five floating continents; on each a country focusing on one specific skill, such as magic or machinery, has been established. So far Monolith Soft has only revealed two of those continents, Sadal Suud and the cloudy kingdom of Diadem.

The game's protagonist is 17-year old Kalas, a young man seeking to avenge the murder of his foster parents and brother. Unlike most other inhabitants of this floating world, he only sports one wing. Despite this handicap, Kalas possesses another mysterious ability; he is capable of interacting with the souls of the deceased. He is also one of the few people able to allow spirits to enter his body; which when active, connects the real and the other world. In the beginning of Baten Kaitos, Kalas almost gets slaughtered by a monster in the woods near the rural village of Cebalrai on Sadal Suud before being saved by Meemai; the green pet of Baten Kaitos' female lead Xelha. While Kalas is on his quest for revenge, Xelha has her own motive to accompany the one-winged protagonist; attempting to avert the execution of an evil plan.

Unlike most conventional RPG titles, Monolith Soft's first GameCube title does not put the player into the role of Kalas. Instead, he or she assumes the role of a spirit residing within the young lad. From time to time Kalas will talk to the playerís spirit; and depending on your answers, his level of trust will increase which in turn might help our hero in battle. So far, only one more playable character has been unveiled, the fisherman Gibari. Non-playable characters of importance include the king of the cloudy kingdom Diadem, Ladekahn, and the lord of frontier country Sadal Suud, Rodolfo. The 32-year old Ladekahn is an ideal king, trusted by his people and lauded for his literary and military skills alike. The 51-year old timid, yet cunning Rodolpho on the other hand, lacks such popularity entirely.

Unlike Sonic Team's latest offering, Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution; Baten Kaitos' battle system, despite being card-centered, operates in real-time. To perform everything from standard attacks, item usage, or a special attack, players have to rely on cards referred to as Magnus which are powered by a mysterious force known as Magna Essence. Depending on his or her timing, a player will also be able to unleash powerful combos and deathblow techniques. The execution of these very effective moves also has a welcome side-effect; they allow you to create more than 1000 different items. Magnus cards can be obtained in battle and through exploration.

Baten Kaitos will be available in Japan sometime in December 2003. While Namco Hometek has yet to comment on the possibility of a domestic release, this original title would be a more than welcome addition to every GameCube owner's RPG collection.



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