Baten Kaitos Review
Well, first off we all need to take in a big breath to say the following title: Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. There. One thing that must be said is that this is a very long title...makes you wonder if the developers get paid by the word. Anyway, BK, as it will be know from here on out, is a hybrid type of RPG for the GameCube brought to us from Namco. I say hybrid because this game takes some elements of a traditional RPG and smashes it together with a card game. Sound like a good idea? Let's find out...
BK, hybrid or not, is one of the few RPG games for the GameCube (although there have been a couple released recently) and has a great team of collaborators including members from the Chrono series and Tales of Symphonia which was released earlier in the summer of 2004. Yet this is certainly not the regular RPG that most of us would expect. The biggest difference between “normal” RPGs and BK is the use of “cards.” I kind of panicked when I first saw that! I am not a big fan of card games...never got into Magic: The Gathering or the tons of similar style games that it spawned. However I do enjoy a good RPG so I was willing to cast aside my fear of card games and what I found was that the way they are used in BK actually makes for a surprisingly good game.
In BK you play as Kalas, a young man who is looking for those responsible for the death of his father so that he can have his revenge. Well, technically you play as Kalas' guardian spirit. This means that you can influence Kalas's decisions, but not necessarily dictate them. There are even times when Kalas, and others, will look at the screen to talk to you. It is interesting that as the “spirit” you need to keep a good bond with Kalas and through different selections in dialogs your bond will get stronger or weaker. By having a strong bond you will unlock special attacks. While traveling to find the bad guys Kalas meets a young girl named Xelha who just happens to be hunting the same bunch of goons in order to save the world from destruction. The world in question is a place where everyone now lives on giant floating islands-the-the-sky land masses. Because of this unique living situation humans have developed wings in order to get around. Kalas only has one full wing and the other is kind of a winglet...at least that's what the townspeople call it. Kalas and Xelha both end up going against The Empire (no not THAT Empire), a mega organization that rules the five islands.
The story itself is not groundbreaking for the world of RPGs. Actually a weakness of the game is the depth of the characters. I never found myself getting very attached or concerned for any of the main characters. Kalas is kind of cold-hearted and that makes it hard to really have much empathy for him. What also doesn't help drag you into the story and characters is the voice acting. Every time I start to think that developers are finally taking this seriously along come some very laughable voice acting. It would be funnier if it didn't take away from the enjoyment of the game, but in this case it does...if just a little. The game basically follows a straight path with a few sidequests, mostly near the beginning. There are some quests that will take just about all the game to complete as you can't complete them until you visit a bunch of different places. Further into the game the linear style seems to open up a bit, but even when you choose a different path in the story line you will still end up in the same situation sooner or later.