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Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (GameCube) Review

It hasn't been a good time for Nintendo fans lately with regards to Namco. Hopes of a cross platform release for Tekken 5 have been dashed, Nintendo's exclusivity deal on Tales of Symphonia was only a timed exclusive and is already on the PS2, the next in the sequel already pencilled in as a PSP release and now against all logic, Namco tries to boost sales of Soul Calibur 3 by making it a Sony exclusive (even though it sold best on Nintendo systems). But there's still a glimmer of hope, Baten Kaitos is still only available on the GameCube but sadly there's a very good reason why.

Baten Kaitos is the latest RPG from Namco, the company behind the release of the quite amazing Tales of Symphonia. The story goes, according to Namco: "The world of Baten Kaitos exists in an era where lands float in the sky and the once-vast oceans are mere legend. With your help, Kalas and Xelha must struggle to reveal the mystery of the lost ocean and destroy the corruption that threatens their world". Not the most original or inventive of plot lines and it doesn't get any better than that. This game treats us to about forty hours of rehashed story and plotlines that we have seen in RPG games for the past decade or so, evil gods, forgotten prophecies, corrupt leaders more than obvious plot twists the lot yet instead of improving on them it makes them worse.

This game's worst failing is its forgetability, Baten Kaitos's plot and characters are almost carbon copies of every other game on the market but show less emotional depth and likeability. The main character Kalas is bereft of any redeemable features even going as far as to abandon those that would help him so that he can satisfy his desire for revenge.

Screenshot for Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Baten Kaitos tries to change certain game play aspects while keeping them the same. To level up you need to get experience and like other games this is done through defeating enemies but unlike other games you don't just need to level up you need to class up which allows you to use more cards, this is done through items that are often rewards from defeating bosses. Where Baten Kaitos really differs though is on how you level and class up, it's not instantaneous. To progress you have to find a special coloured save point that will transport you to a Church where upon a priest will take your experience and items and let you class and level up. What is the point in that? You go through an entire dungeon and potentially gain enough experience points to go up three levels and get an item to class up, yet you have to leave the dungeon and work your way back to a village so you can use the special save point because the one in the dungeon is only a standard save point. This method provides no improved game play, in fact it brings annoyance and tedium because you either have to face a boss underpowered or work your way back through a dungeon to fight the boss.

Now the most integral, important and creative aspect of Baten Kaitos is the Magnus system and every bit like marmite you'll either love it or hate it. We hate it. On paper the Magnus system is excellent, cards that age and change over time, a real-time card based combat system, card based quests and even a card based plot but put into practice and its something entirely different.

There are only a handful of items in the game; everything else is done exclusively through Magnus cards. Magnus change over time, they evolve and de-evolve, certain items get better others get worse; this comes with the problem that you don't know when. In the first city there are a few timed Magnus quests but each one has a different timer. Without looking at a guide beforehand you'll need to reload the game quite often as you find out that while waiting for one Magnus to change to allow you to complete a quest, a reward from a different quest necessary for the next city has now degraded and you've failed a quest before you've even started it which can get extremely frustrating.

The same applies to normal Magnus. It is quite often you can go into a boss battle to find out that in the two minutes it has taken you to walk from one encounter into this one all the food your characters have been holding has now gone rotten and can only be used as mediocre weapons leaving you with no way of healing your characters. It is possible to get an item that will tell you when your items have changed but it isn't a pick-up item it's an item that's obtained through the Magnus SP combo list.

Screenshot for Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

What is the Magnus SP combo list? It is a list of Magnus that can be obtained by using specific Magnus in question. These can be the fairly obvious such as a Frozen Tangerine which requires an orange and an ice cube or they can be the down right weird such as the Tongue Twister rouge, which requires wheat, uncooked rice and an egg Magnus, because we all know that's what goes into making lipstick...Luckily though hints are located in the descriptions for certain Magnus, it is a good diversion trying out various different recipes to find the one that will grant you that brand new Magnus.

The Magnus system though really shows its bad side when it comes to the combat sequences. There are plenty of great ideas hidden within the combat system but they just don't gel well, the combos, the effects of opposing elements in particular are great ideas and add a healthy tactical aspect to battles that aren't seen in other RPG titles, but due to the random nature of the cards and the time limits imposed on them their benefits are quickly taken away.

The combat system is worsened when you and your enemies are playing with completely different rules. You are constrained to a deck of cards built up outside of fighting, you are then dealt random cards and must use those in battle, if you are dealt just defence cards you have to waste them until you are dealt an attack card with which to go on the offence with and the same applies for defence when you only get offensive cards. Your opponent on the other hand seems to have a less random deck, they'll always have assault cards in the attack phase and they'll have a few block cards for the defence phase and will always get their finishing moves as they get low on health. This creates a greatly unfair scenario where most of your game over screens are caused by bad luck more than bad strategy and makes the game more annoying than enjoyable.

Screenshot for Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean on GameCube - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Even with the number of Magnus to find, a lack of mini games and side quests which can be completed without diverting from the path the game leads you on cannot prolong the length of Baten Kaitos and makes it firmly a game that won't be played again once completed.

Normally we get graphics and sound out of the way first but in this case we've left them till last because good or bad they don't impact on the game. In fact they follow the same trend, something potentially great marred by some obvious flaws. You've all seen the screenshots, this game is beautiful yet the feeling is hollow. While gorgeous there is little appeal to them, the areas are small with little going on, the camera is quite distant and static preventing you from seeing the finer details and obscuring the more important ones. The world map is purely a 2D effect and the character models are extremely wooden and badly animated. While technically inferior the graphics for Final Fantasy 7 had a more immersive feel and compared to the 3D worlds of LoTR: The Third Age and Star Ocean on the PS2, Baten Kaitos seems to be stuck somewhere between this generation and the last.

Ignoring the obviously appalling voice acting the sound is the best aspect of this game. What we have is a deeply emotive soundtrack which inspires the gamer far more than any other part of this game.

While this game has its moments they are few and far between. For the best part this game is decidedly average with nothing to warrant a purchase over any other rpgs for the GameCube and definitely not deserving of its hefty price tag.

Screenshot for Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean on GameCube- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

A firmly average game with nothing that screams at you to play it, and the numerous flaws make a tedious and aggravating experience.

Graphics

If this game was released on the Dreamcast or before Final Fantasy X then this game would have been one of the best looking, but time has moved on and things have changed leaving this game looking pretty but not stunning.

Sound

Forgiving the atrocious voice recording which still plagues many games and can be switched off this has one of the best musical scores ever heard on a game.

Value

By their very nature RPGs have a longer lifespan than other games but compared to other games in its genre this falls way far too short of the starting line.

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Mediocre

About this score

No matter how good the sound or the visuals they cannot compensate for the rest of the game, and while this game is not bad it's by no definition good. Give it a rent or pick it up in a bargain bin but there are far better games more deserving of your money.

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31.03.2005

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Developer

Monolith

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (33 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

*Awaits barrage of flaming*

The score seems to reflect the games errors, which is really dissapointing as this one looked to be quite a title. Good review though Matt, told me all I need to think twice before I buy this one when it hits Europe.

< Edited by tempo On 2005/3/31 18:04 >

Trying to think of a witty signature after 'Hacker-gate'...

Prehaps a little explanation of the scoring is due as well.

After reading many of your posts over the past few months there were quite a few members that felt that game scoring was unnaturally high. For example a completely average game could easily score 75% which for many of you didn't reflect the game's averageness. I'm going along with that side of thinking and having my middle mark set at 50%.

If it helps think of this game as scoring about 60-65% under other review methods.

I know that my opinion greatly differs from most of those on the net so in an effort to generate debate without cluttering up the review, we the Cubed-3 staff present you:

The Official Cubed3 Baten Kaitos Debate Thread.

This is open to all members and your best way of getting your opinions and questions not just heard but answered (I won't be doing it here). So if you're a signed up member than get posting, if you aren't its a free membership.

< Edited by Gastrian On 2005/3/31 18:19 >

Matthew Evans < Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread > As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

I'm really glad I waited for a review of this; I was prepared to buy this because I'd heard it was good. Surprising review result, but well explained. Nice one.

And there goes the 'big' RPG

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Remember folks, that this comes out on tomorrow, on Friday 1st April, 2005...looks like this is Namco's little joke :sarcy: Anyway, nice review Matt - I'll be giving this a C3-2-1 no doubt! Smilie :Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I disagree

Well, I don't know. Kirby&The Amazing mirror scored a 9.7 on here, although it was reviewed by another person.
So many reviews on the net contradict this review, so I'm going to give this game the benefit of the doubt and buy this game tomorrow morning, I can always return it the next day if it really is a (below) average game.

I agree with you wholeheartedly on the music though, which is really excellent and possibly Sakuraba's best work to date!

I'd be wary of some of the reviews for Baten Kaitos, there's a good few which focus more on the presentation than the gameplay which is essentially pointless for an RPG.

Read through the other reviews on the internet but only focus and listen to those that talk about (positive or negative) gamplay and story/characters over graphics and sound.

There will still be those that disagree with me but you'll get a better view of what you are buying that way.

< Edited by Gastrian On 2005/3/31 18:48 >

Matthew Evans < Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread > As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

I only got about half way through this review before deciding the game seems boring and not for me. Symphonia is all the RPG action I need!

Now on twitter, predicting celebrity death headlines! @thedaytheydie
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Bartholomeus, that Kirby review was done by me...and whilst over time that game's score might have dipped somewhat in my mind, it'd still be about 9.3, so I stand by my initial impressions that it's one of the best platformers on the GBA and definitely the best Kirby to date :Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Its not really a good idea trying to compare the scores of an RPG to a Platformer as its like comapring apple and pears.

Kirby scored highly because Raz felt it was one of the bets platformer games.
Baten Kaitos got rated this low because I felt it was one of the weakest RPGs on the cube.

Matthew Evans < Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread > As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

Well this is one of the best titles I've played on the Cube. Still it gets lower than average.

I'll name my favourite titles:
Resident Evil 4, Eternal Darkness, Metroid Prime, Zelda Wind Waker, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Baten Kaitos

I haven't played Tales of Symphonia, but my guess it'll come on this list too.

Baten Kaitos has in my oppinion:
* Fast paced battlesystem a bit flawed but still alot nicer than most turn based battlesystems.
* Best music to date in a rpg. ~ yes there are games with better music, ghost recon for example
* Really nice graphics outside battles ~ the best graphics in a rpg to date.
* pretty boring story ~ I don't know the whole story since I haven't played very far in the game. (only 5 hours)
* strange characters/character-design ~ like most other rpgs
* bad voice acting ~ ffs!! keep the japanese voice-acting and add subtitles!


that's about it Smilie
I'd give it 8/10 due to the beautiful graphics and music.

Good review nevertheless

shame you cannot edit your comments.. anyhow.

I wanted to add... I'm buying this game as soon as I get money..
This, Resident Evil 4 and Tales of Symphonia are the next games I will get!

No other games are of interest. take note that the last gcgame I bought was zelda:four swords
last gbagame I bought was sword of mana

there, do I have bad taste? *comment please

hmmm, im sad this game isnt as good as it could be, which is a shame, especially when the cover is soooo kool :-D

I think this game is the realistic RPG us GameCube have alll been waiting for.

The GameCube Final Fantasy X indeed.

Thanks Namco! :Smilie

FINAL FANTASY VII
Most probably the best story in any RPG ever made.
FINAL FANTASY VII: ADVENT CHILDREN is out on APRIL 24th!

Shame on the low score, i was about to buy it.

i will ignore this score. rudiculous i think.

I thought this game looked extremly promising.
I'll still pick it up though.

Seems like a really low score, is this some kind of April fools joke?

Once in a lifetime.

I would have to say I disagree with almost your whole review. I have had the U.S. version of this game since Christmas and have beaten it to its full extent.

First of all, the different save points in the game are nothing BUT tedious. There is a blue save point (the ones you use to level up) in practically every single town throughout this game so that is no problem. There is a red save point in practically every dungeon which you encounter throughout the same also. You would have to skip almost every battle in the game to have trouble with the bosses in this game. There is only one point in the game where you would probably have any trouble in the game with a boss and nearly everyone does. Trust me, I visit a game forum frequently and have seen various complaints about this particular boss and its difficulty.

I do not see your problem with the magnus card system either. It is a nice, new little system that gives you a little change from other RPGs like this. This system gives a unique way to play the game where it's a mystery whether the magnus you are keeping will change in a positive or negative way. Plus, you have room to carry 1000 magnus so that would not be a problem where you do not have room to keep hold of a magnus to find out if it turns out positive or negative.

The magnus combo system also gives you a way to experiment with all the different card combos, some of which can be very useful. This also gives you a different way to play your game with the possibility of figuring out a card combo by accident or trying to on purpose. The assembling of your cards outside of the battle shouldn't make the game more difficult for anyone. This gives you a chance to change your deck in accordance with the types of enemies that you're facing in that particular area. If you are going against enemies in an area where they are immune to fire, then it is only logical to fill your decks with ice magnus in order to damage them excessively.

The randomness of the cards you will get should be no complaint by anybody either. This gives a certain amount of surprise and fast-reacting in order to damage your enemies the most effective way possible in that turn. You should also never have the trouble of starting from your last save point due to the fact that you have too many defense magnus or a major lack of them. There are enough defense and offense magnus in this game that you will be able to balance your deck with them and the occasional healing magnus without much trouble during battles.

Your final remarks on the scores past with the length of the game should not be as they are either. This game gave me at least fifty hours of gameplay even if this game was lacking in the sidequests portion of everything. I would not base your purchase of this game solely on this review if I was you. Check out some of the many other reviews available on the internet such as the one on Gamespot.com before deciding on your purchase as they give this game much more justice.

I have to disagree as well, although all the cons were logically thought out and explained. This game really isn't a bad game, it is an awesome game IMO and the score really shouldn't deter potential buyers, rent it and see for yourself. Not the best RPG but a good one for sure

Please don't put this signature back up. Other members have requested it to be left out. Thanks.

http://www.cubed3.com/modules/newbb/viewtopic.php?topic_id=11038&post_id=194811&order=0&viewmode=thread&pid=0&forum=9#194811

If you would like to debate this, Gastrian did start a thread for it, so I'm sure if you repost yoru news comment there he will debate it with you.

Surpisingly, alot of the cons I had heard before, and I still think it looks like quite a cool little RPG.

Fuck. Now I'm worried.

I didn't like it. The Combat System really bored me. Any game with Cards in the combat usually does.

Tottally agree with the new 50% is average rule. Really starting to piss me off when above average games were getting high eighties.
Got this, not played it so can't comment (yet) too busy with SH : Covenant which btw is fookin brilliant.

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