Play your cards right
Baten Kaitos is a series I had never heard of until recently so hearing about a remaster of two unfamiliar RPG games sparked interest in me. One thing I am familiar with though is the games development team Monolith Soft who has had great success with the Xenoblade Chronicles series, one which I am hugely fond of and slowly chipping away at the series slowly but surely. These games which are remastered in high definition and now on the Switch consoles are games which have gained some success but not enough to warrant widespread knowledge and an everlasting effect amongst RPG fans.
Starting with Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, the game starts out with you playing as Kalas the lead character although the game essentially casts you as some sort of guardian who looks over the cast of main characters and you will decide on everything. You awake in a Village after some backstory, you feel a burning desire to seek revenge on the Empire who has taken everything away including his home and family from Kalas.
I have to say that from the get go I was highly impressed how good the game looks on the Nintendo Switch. I am not aware of how the game looked on the Gamecube when it was first released but it is no exaggeration when I say that Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is easily one if not the best looking games I have seen on the Switch, not only that the performance is incredible. Few too many times have I come across vastly inferior looking games and have been bogged down not only by bad graphics but terrible performance. If Monolith Soft are good at one thing then that is outstanding graphics and performance running on a console that struggles to reach the output that other home consoles do due to its technology, but here Monolith Soft are pushing it to the limit.
The game starts off slow and many normal NPC dialogue cutscenes turn into hefty dialogue induced scenes, which are pretty well done. Once you are outside the Village and on your way the battles come into play and they are very different to what most standard RPG’s offer. You fight with Cards, both offensive and defensive cards can be drawn upon. Cards consist of many objects such as Swords which are used offensively, Helmets which can be used defensively and food items which can also be used defensively to heal and such. It’s a strange concept but I find myself drawn to the games card like battle system and it is relatively easy to get used to. I also find myself addicted to the concept of taking photos during battle. That’s right you don’t simply gain currency after battle, you must take a photo at the most apt opportunity of the enemy and sell the photo. I do love an RPG where monsters aren’t carrying bags of money with them, it makes sense, it adds to the realism.
Battles are turn based and while each card has its uses there are many which will pop up later in the game, as enemies become stronger and elemental affinities come into play the deckbuilding then becomes the biggest aspect of the game and something you will do often.
A big gripe of mine with the game is how the screen fades out in some conversations with NPCs, while they are well done I find the whole fading transition unnecessary and drags out the game, while another game dragging feature is during each attack during battle pops up a damage box which pauses the battle every time you or an enemy attacks. The game fortunately does have a speed boost mode alongside some other helpful features including, disabling enemy encounters altogether and buffing damage.
Baten Kaitos Origins differs in it’s card based gameplay and simplifies it somewhat compared to Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. Each character individually lines up combos based on the cards used. To begin with combos start off relatively slow due to the lack of cards but will increase as you gain access to more powerful cards that have increased numerical value. Building your combos during battle builds a level meter. The level meter allows you to use a spell card of the same value. I honestly felt confused by the games card system or lack of explanation of it at first, once you do it is easy to build a strong and almost unstoppable build.
Baten Kaitos I and II both set a solid foundation in the stories. While the games do not follow traditional RPG tropes when it comes to gameplay there are system in place for those wanting to just blaze through the Story, although I do recommend at least giving the battle system a go, it’s honestly a great concept. Sadly the game falls short in areas due to no English voice dub despite both games having them previously and some systems in the game that ultimately make them feel a little dated.
A Nintendo Switch code was provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment