In the GameCube's infancy, the original Lost Kingdoms served to fill the desperate need for an RPG on the console. While the game was short and the graphics were most definitely dated, it managed to garner a fairly positive response amongst GameCube owners looking for an RPG to play. However, now that the system has had some time for its software library to grow, and has yielded quality RPGs like Skies of Arcadia Legends and Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II, will gamers still be satisfied with Lost Kingdoms II's familiar card-based gameplay?
Lost Kingdoms II's battle system will seem quite atypical at first, especially to those who have never played the game's prequel. Rather than the usual action-RPG setup, Lost Kingdoms II is based around card collecting. Similar to playing a collectible card game in real life, the player will collect cards and assemble them into decks. Creating decks to deal with enemies appropriately is an integral part of gameplay. If you find yourself amongst a difficult group of enemies and don't have the right cards with you, the encounter will likely be troubling. Before entering an area of the game's world, you can view which elements the enemies inhabiting area use. For instance, if you see that the enemies of an upcoming area are mostly fire-based, you could create a deck of water-based cards in order to counter their strengths. Properly assembling these decks is half the fun of Lost Kingdoms II, but is only a small part of the overall experience.
When it comes time to do battle with your foes, you will find that the combat in Lost Kingdoms II is quite frantic and somewhat sloppy. This is in stark contrast to the methodical deck building portion of the game. Each of the four main face buttons on the GameCube's controller correspond to whatever cards are randomly pulled from the top of your deck. You can choose either to use one of these cards, or move it to the bottom of your deck and draw another. When a card you want to use appears on the screen, you must press the corresponding face button to activate it. Depending on the type of card, the ensuing results can differ greatly. "Independent" cards summon a creature with a set amount of hitpoints and a time limit on how long it stays in battle. "Summon" cards allow you to call upon a powerful monster to deliver a special attack. "Transform" cards allow you to change your character into a monster, giving her new abilities and allowing her to directly enter combat. This type of card is used to solve the few puzzles the game presents as well. "Weapon" cards allow your character to perform an attack directly, usually of the melee variety. And finally, there are "helper" cards, which are used for a variety of purposes, such as healing your character, distracting enemies, or inflicting status ailments on foes. For cards that you throw, such as the independents, you can control the direction and distance of the throw, allowing for more precise aim. Unfortunately, battles often become overly hectic, and end up with your character running in circles to avoid enemies as she tosses out whatever cards may appear at the top of her deck. What really takes away from the fun is the fact that almost all battles are easily won by using this same technique, even when against some bosses. Battles are enjoyable, but not as strategic as they could have been.
Graphically, Lost Kingdoms II appears quite dated when compared to recent GameCube games like the Wind Waker and Resident Evil Zero. In fact, it looks more like a nice Dreamcast game than a new GameCube release. That is not to say that Lost Kingdoms II looks horrible, however. While the graphics may not be as detailed as technologically possible, and the character models seem a bit blocky for such a recent game, graphics are not necessarily blatantly ugly. Overall, the visuals are nothing that will impress you, but will likely not instantly turn you off either.
Like the graphics, the sound in Lost Kingdoms II is nothing to get excited about. Every piece of music in the game is almost instantly forgettable and quite generic. There is not a very large selection of music either, and several pieces are reused consistently. The voice acting, while abundant, does not fare much better. It is poorly done and generally only manages to induce laughter. It will not take more than a couple of hours for the average person to hit the mute button on the TV and listen to something else while playing.
For a game that revolves heavily around maneuvering to avoid enemy attacks, having responsive and intuitive controls is quite vital. Luckily, Lost Kingdoms II succeeds in this area. Each of the four main buttons on the controller are used to toss cards, while the analog stick is used to move your character. The C-stick is responsible for controlling the camera. The only flaw in this scheme is that the analog stick does not always respond as quickly as one might like. This is not a major complaint, but is one worth mentioning. Other than this slight problem, the game controls are quite smooth.
The story in Lost Kingdoms II serves mainly to provide a loose explanation as to why your character is tossing around magical trading cards, but does not really go much further than that. The story attempts to explore the background of the main character, but is nowhere close to being compelling enough to keep the average person's attention for more than just a few hours. This works out, though, as the game is easily finished in less than 10 hours of playtime.
All in all, Lost Kingdoms II is a quick and enjoyable RPG for GameCube owners to play if they have already finished the better games available for the system. Nothing particular about the game stands out against its competition, but it is a solid effort out of which most RPG players will find some entertainment.
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