The Lost Child

"The Lost Child's plot has a lot of potential, but parts of it come across as rushed, and it isn't as thoroughly explored as it could have been."

The Lost Child is the dungeon-crawling successor to the action-adventure game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, set in the same story-verse and complete with some familiar faces. Players take on the role of Hayato Ibuki, an occult journalist called the Chosen One after a mysterious woman saves his life during one of his investigations. Hayato eventually partners up with an angel named Lua, who says she was sent from Heaven to help him on his Chosen One task. They uncover a monumental conspiracy and have to work together to save mankind, even as they're both labeled traitors to Heaven.

El Shaddai fans in particular will be happy to see some familiar faces and storylines show up in The Lost Child. In fact, I believe the game will probably appeal mostly to El Shaddai fans. I'm going to be honest and admit that I loved El Shaddai and its very unique style, so that was my main reason for even giving The Lost Child a look. Unfortunately, I found that the new characters introduced in this game weren't too interesting or original. Beyond the returning El Shaddai cast, Lua ends up being a surprisingly endearing character, even if her outfit is ridiculous and the game sometimes makes her "plot stupid" to try to move the story along. She is pretty much the only original character in The Lost Child that I genuinely felt for, and I enjoyed her overall development.

The shopkeepers, though relatively minor, also have interesting quirks and story notes I wish would have been explored more. Sarutani, Hayato's boss, is a particular standout. Hayato is very much a blank slate protagonist, but the game gives you enough dialogue choices to make you feel as though you have some role to play in the story. Still, while dialogue options are plentiful, they really only affect how other characters view Hayato in a given scene. They do not directly impact The Lost Child's story or ending.

The Lost Child’s plot has a lot of potential, but parts of it come across as rushed, and it isn't as thoroughly explored as it could have been. Still, it is serviceable and will at least provide you with just enough motivation to keep on playing. The ending, while nice enough as far as conclusions go, is a bit of a disappointment, especially if you're an El Shaddai fan hoping for more appearances by Lucifel and Enoch. But that's not to say El Shaddai fans will be totally upset with the plot, as returning characters like Michael get pretty cool reveals and Lucifel and Enoch do still get some screen time.

The Lost Child is often described as Shin Megami Tensei on a budget, and that is honestly a pretty accurate description. While the art and character designs are nice, the presentation of the story scenes and gameplay make it clear that The Lost Child had only modest resources devoted to it. The backgrounds in particular are quite generic. The anime cutscenes, while sparsely used, are very pretty, and so is the overall art direction for the game, even if it is more plain than what was found in El Shaddai. Truth be told, I was not fond of the English voice acting save for the awesomeness of Lucifel, Lua, and Sarutani's voice actors. The music is quite lovely and nicely implemented, although again, I found myself preferring the tracks originally heard in El Shaddai.

Gameplay in The Lost Child is all-around solid. It isn't groundbreaking for the genre by any means, but it also isn't frustrating. Dungeons don't overstay their welcome, save for Tokyo Ziggurat, and I found that the difficulty is pretty balanced if you maintain your party's levels. In fact, I leveled up so much that my party members just had to attack normally and heal on occasion to win even the final boss fights. The Lost Child's gameplay centers around Hayato using the Gangour device to capture Astrals, who can then be purified using Karma points acquired throughout the game in various ways. Captured and purified Astrals can then fight alongside Hayato and Lua in battle. Astrals learn skills using the Fruits of Wisdom system that allows them to gain abilities randomly while attacking. This helps make every Astral relatively unique as the skills they learn will be quite different depending on battle circumstances. Those who fight more actively in battle will learn more varied skills. Karma points also help to strengthen Astrals outside of battle since they don't gain experience like Hayato and Lua, and special items will even allow players to EVILve Astrals (yes, really) into higher versions of themselves when acquired and brought to a specific location in game. Three Astrals can join Hayato and Lua in fights, with up to six others potentially waiting in the wings should players need to switch things up.

Speaking of gameplay, OOPArts are a neat gimmick, but they could also totally break the game. OOPArts are special pieces of equipment the party comes across that need to be identified first before either Hayato or Lua can equip them. However, players can potentially get such high-level equipment from OOPArts that they become overpowered for their current story levels, eliminating any sense of challenge. Also, while I understand The Lost Child's reasoning for the Postal Pawn service, which allows players to sell loot by mailing it from Hayato's desk instead of visiting Leon at his store, I feel like it isn't implemented well and is still rather time consuming.

As a dungeon crawler, The Lost Child really doesn't do anything wrong, but it also clearly never strays too much out of its comfort zone either. El Shaddai fans in particular will no doubt find something to enjoy in The Lost Child, and even diehard dungeon-crawling fans might have a good time. Those without nostalgic fondness for El Shaddai or who aren't quite sold on the genre might be best served giving a series like Shin Megami Tensei a try as their first take on a story-driven dungeon crawler instead.

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