One day, while examining the shelves of a local sell-all conglomerate superstore, my eyes came across LostMagic for Nintendo’s DS. The cover art looked good, and I had heard positive things about the title overall. Though I am not quick to shell out cash for games, I went against my better judgment and whipped out the debit card.
It was the best irresponsible decision I’ve made in years.
Developed by Taito and published by Ubisoft, LostMagic is the first RPG for DS to make decent use of the touch screen. The game makes frequent use of the stylus as its primary means of control. Add to the mix a compelling story with multiple endings, a “new game plus” option, multiplayer capability, and over 400 spells to discover, and what you have is quite possibly the best DS RPG to date.
The game opens with a simple retelling of the world’s mythology. The Creator made the world, then decided to separate his power into seven wands that were entrusted to seven sages. From time to time, people attempted to abuse the power of magic and even created monsters to fight their wars. After awhile, one of the seven sages, the “Diva of the Twilight”, who holds the wand of balance, was getting sick of all the problems humans caused. She decides to go against the will of the other sages and forsook her duty of protecting humans; indeed, she begins a quest to destroy humanity and rebuild the world with her as the new Creator.
You play Isaac, the 14-year-old son of the Sage of Light. Your father, Russell, disappears one day and leaves you in the care of an old woman in the woods that you affectionately call “granny.” He also leaves you an item: The wand of light.
The plot kicks off with a bang: you are confronted by the Diva of the Twilight who tries to kill you. Your “granny” takes the fall for you and you escape to begin your quest: To stop the Diva of the Twilight from destroying the world.
If you think the story sounds cliché, you may be right, but there’s enough charm in the characters you meet to make up for it. You befriend Leonard, who teaches you how to capture monsters. There’s Trista, a girl who literally fell from the sky. And then there are the various sages who need your help to free them from the Diva’s spell and assist you on your quest.
The game spans five “chapters”, with the last chapter having a different story arc and title depending upon the choices you make. The game has a total of four endings (with the best ending requiring you to answer questions properly throughout the entire game), and each is as interesting as the last. The “bad” endings are wholly melancholy, while the “good” endings leave you with a sense of satisfaction. With three save slots, players will be able to see the majority of the endings by keeping a save at the end of chapter four.
Though some revelations are predictable, there were some revealed secrets that really surprised me. Taito did a great job in planning the story for this short (10-15 hour) RPG. Also, if you want to enjoy it a second or third time through, there is a New Game Plus option.
My only complaint for story is the lack of character development for some of the smaller roles. I would’ve liked more subquests with the minor characters (there are two subquests at the end of the game, but there could have been plenty more with some careful planning on Taito’s part).
LostMagic is a grand tale for such a small game, and I was definitely intrigued by it. Ubisoft did great with the translation as well, so I have no complaints there. The game earns a decent 85% in the story department.
We all know that graphics aren’t the star feature of any handheld title. LostMagic does a decent job at keeping the world looking vibrant and lively, but there was certainly plenty of room for improvement.
There are three things I’d like to specifically comment upon. First are the hand-drawn environmental backgrounds and characters. They are simple, but beautiful. I wouldn’t call the style anime per se, but a strong Japanese influence is still present. The characters are never animated; rather, the still image will be panned across the screen in various ways to show characters entering and exiting the scene.
Spell animations are fluid and sharp. Sometimes I found myself casting spells just because I liked the way they appeared on the field. I was especially pleased with the look of the fire and wind spells; the earth spells (especially the “pillars”) looked a little blocky, likely because they appear on the field.
You see, the field graphics, which account for the majority of the graphics in the game, are nothing special. They “get the job done,” but it’s not much better-looking than an SNES title. Little sprites walk about the field attacking and casting magic. I didn’t have to strain my eyes to see them, but without the ability to zoom in or out, sometimes I didn’t know what it was I was looking at.
So, even with the beautiful hand-drawn characters and backgrounds, I can barely give graphics a B-level grade. I award LostMagic’s graphics an 82%.
As RPGFan’s soundtracks editor, I always keep a keen ear open for some good, new videogame music. Unfortunately, LostMagic didn’t have much of that.
(Actually, I’ve found thus far that the DS does not sport a very impressive sound chip. That said…)
Everywhere I went with this game, I found that I had to keep the sound turned down because people were simply annoyed by the music and sound effects. I can’t blame them. Very few of the songs were worthy of reaching the ears of passersby. Some battle themes were catchy, but most music that plays during key events and dialogues are borderline atrocious. Also, when your pet bird Parakeru speaks up, the sound effect that plays could kill a man.
The sound quality could have been vastly improved. But if you put on headphones so you don’t have to listen through the DS speakers, sometimes you’ll catch a good melody, especially at some of the near-end battles. This redeeming feature nets the sound of LostMagic a 79%.
LostMagic is kind of an action RPG, but it’s sort of an RTS, with a few puzzle and strategy RPG elements thrown in the mix. It broke down such genre barriers with the power of the stylus. That’s why it’s such a great title.
You are primarily in control of Isaac, and you also direct a host of monsters that you capture and then add to your ranks based on a “unit points” system. Both you and the monsters will gain experience points for defeating enemies. How you defeat them is up to you.
Depending on whether you’re left or right handed, you will use either the L or R button to call up the rune screen to enter a rune to cast magic. There a total of 18 runes (3 levels of runes for 6 elements) that you learn throughout the game. Mid-way through the game you’ll be able to combine any two runes for a unique spell using the Duo Rune feature. And, if you take the “good ending” path, you will even be able to execute a limited number of Trio Runes. Yeah, the magic system is hot.
During battles, the top screen shows all information along with a zoomed out map. The bottom screen is the field where the action takes place. Using the stylus, you can cast magic, move you and your monsters around, and check the stats of enemy units.
Battles may have one of any number of objectives, including the standard “kill your enemies” or “kill the big boss.” There are also “escape from the battle” and “purify the crystals” (sort of a “king of the hill” objective). Every single battle (even random encounters) comes with a time limit (usually five minutes, sometimes three or ten minutes). Even if you’re an expert at all the genres of gameplay represented, I promise you this game will be a challenge. Plan on losing more often than winning.
The reason for the number of exceedingly high losses is that you really need to learn and master spells, as well as plan a decent strategy, before taking on any serious battle. I found that area-based explosions were very helpful most of the time, but they alone cannot do the trick when it comes to taking down rival magicians. You’ll also need to discover for yourself the various forms of healing magic, enhancing magic, and enfeebling magic. There is no in-game guide; you learn the spells by experimenting and then reading the description for the attempted spell.
HP and MP are also a significant factor in gameplay. MP regenerates when you stand around not casting magic. MP will regenerate faster if you purify crystals and stand near said crystals. This definitely adds to the strategy factor.
My sole complaint for gameplay is in regards to your monster’s intelligence. Frankly, these creatures are dumb as a brick. Within the parameters of the story, that would make sense; however, the frustration of having to constantly redirect your team in straight lines so they don’t get stuck against a wall is tedious, to say the least.
Throw in a decent competitive multiplayer option for kicks, and LostMagic is a clear victor for DS RPGs. I had so much fun with this title, and it challenged me in so many ways, I simply have to recommend it for its gameplay if for nothing else. I stand by my generous grade of 92% for gameplay.
As I just said in the gameplay section, this is the first DS RPG to actually make full use of the handheld’s innovative features (i.e. – the touch screen). Serious brownie points are awarded for this.
Rune recognition is the only arena in which I struggled. Maybe it’s because I’m a bad artist, but for some reason every time I would attempt to draw the level one water rune, the game would think it’s either the dark rune or the wind rune. Whatever the case, you probably won’t do too well at this game if you don’t have nerves of steel and very stable hands.
90%. Eat it.
LostMagic was an unexpected treat. I’m terribly grateful to Ubisoft for bringing it to the US and Europe in such a timely manner. In my opinion, all DS owners ought to at least try this one out, if not buy it. Until Final Fantasy III is released, I doubt any DS RPGs will dethrone this one for me.
If there is a sequel, a few touch-ups and a new music composer is all this game needs. LostMagic gets a 90% from me.