Lost Sphear (PlayStation 4) Review

By Thom Compton 18.02.2018

Review for Lost Sphear on PlayStation 4

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then videogames have become borderline sycophantic. They have become so good at imitation that people even have an entire category for it: clones. Zelda clones, Mega Man clones, Metroidvanias; the list goes on. Over the last few years, imitation has even inspired some AAA publishers to try to rip off themselves, seemingly going back to their so called glory days to make gumbo out of their best concepts. Square Enix has done this with its team, Tokyo RPG Factory (the folk behind I Am Setsuna), and the latest Frankenstein's monster, Lost Sphear. Sure, people could all be cynical, laughing at the mundane attempts of the goliaths to recapture their former glory years, like an angry grandparents waxing on about their day. The problem is that, every once in a while, these attempts work out.

Lost Sphear is such a love letter to early '90s RPGs that it takes all of five minutes to feel like this is just a remaster of some title you have never heard of. It tells the story of Kanata, a young man who might be the answer to all the world's problems, and his team, as they attempt to thwart a supernatural evil, all while dealing with the dangerous political faction knocking on the back door. As a serious plight spreads throughout the world, Kanata and company must set out to use Kanata's special ability to stop the plight once and for all.

That plight is that things are being "lost." Inns, stores, towns, PEOPLE! These things are freezing in place, only leaving behind a white silhouette in their place. Kanata has the ability to bring these things back from the abyss they are lost in, and he must move throughout the world and return these various locales and persons back to their former glory. This seems to be the running theme in Lost Sphear - returning things to their former glory, whether it's the lost, the world, or even the RPG genre as a whole.

Screenshot for Lost Sphear on PlayStation 4

Despite the "lost" plot line being moderately interesting, it seems to fall by the wayside under the weight of a pretty stale and cliché government plot line. It interweaves with the "lost" plot line is some smart ways, though, but it can result in some fairly boring cut-scenes and plot lines. Fortunately, everything weaves back together and creates a truly smart story that, while not innovative, manages to be exciting and engaging, nonetheless.

While the story overall is very strong, the characters are not always as enjoyable. Characters like Van have a schtick, and they stick to it to the point where their dialogue can become far too routine. Kanata is the most obvious dip, as he's pretty much the RPG hero. He's a giver, a believer, and an all around nice guy. Say what you will about cynical RPG leads, but an endless stream of optimistic philanthropists leading every RPG can get annoying pretty quickly, and Kanata falls into that category.

Screenshot for Lost Sphear on PlayStation 4

Oh, but the gameplay, it must be good and traditional, right? Well, it's good, but it's not exactly traditional. The gameplay is turn-based, but it also allows for free movement around the battlefield. As you approach a group of enemies, which you can see on the battlefield before stumbling upon them, it switches over into combat mode. Then, as you select moves, it becomes clear that in order to whack that weird bunny, one must traverse said battlefield.

Honestly, this is fantastic. Distance matters, both for the player and the enemy. Enemies need to have the player in their range in order to do damage, and the player must do the same. This becomes evident in an early boss fight where, if you position your fighters on the side of the beast, it seems to fail to do any damage. This also allows for deeper strategy when facing multiple foes. Positioning Van, for instance, can allow him to damage three or more enemies at a time, which makes him a mainstay throughout the adventure. Meanwhile, Kanata is locked into a single enemy, although he can be positioned if enemies are close enough to hit both of them.

There are skills that can be used through the collection and creation of Spritnites. These can be stacked with an additional caveat, allowing the use of a skill to also cure the player or do some sort of elemental damage. The more interesting battle mechanic is Artifacts. On the world map, players can create these permanent buffs. As there are no enemies on the world map, the effects aren't normally noticed right away, with the exception of increased movement. However, build a buff that reduces the enemies attack bar whenever one of their peers is killed in a certain fashion, and it becomes clear these are a brilliant idea. There's a long list of additional Artifacts to create, and multiples can be created to stack the effects.

Screenshot for Lost Sphear on PlayStation 4

This isn't to say that all of the combat is great, though. If this were the Olympics, the battles and the Artifacts would be worthy of a gold medal; the Vulcosuits, however, would be the equivalent of watching someone slip and fall into the pool. They just don't amount to anything that interesting at all. The giant mechanical suits are needed to explore certain parts of the environment, but this adds very little to the game overall. In combat, they seem to boost damage, and add some abilities that allow two fighters to attack together. However, if they were missing from the gameplay altogether, it wouldn't have made any real difference.

The final thing that should be addressed is the world map. The land that encompasses Lost Sphear is vast, but surprisingly safe. There is no combat on the world map, but there are things to explore. Little twinkles signify a bit of treasure, usually a piece of food to use for making a dish in one of the towns. These often lead to side-quests where a cook will ask you to locate something to finish a dish. Beyond these, the world map leads to various forms of transportation, Artifacts, and additional locations to explore. It's an excellent use of the real estate given, and it's a lot of fun just exploring the world map, even if nothing crazy happens on it.

Screenshot for Lost Sphear on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Lost Sphear may be the homage factory it was intended to be, but thanks to mixing elements of yesteryear together in such a smart way, it ends up feeling like its own, unique beast. Inevitably, it falls victim to the age-old argument of "Is it fair to compare this to other games," and because it is designed to imitate those games, it obviously is. Truth be told, while some of it sags, Lost Sphear is one of the best games to come out imitating those highly revered titles, and any fan of those '90s RPGs would be a fool not to give it a chance.

Developer

Tokyo RPG Factory

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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

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