Lost Sphear is a new game from Tokyo RPG Factory that can sometimes feel a little too similar to what’s come before, and whilst this adherence to the past occasionally hamstrings some of its fresher ideas it still delivers a fun title for RPG fans.
Lost Sphear is a story about a hero trying to restore life and memory to a world that has seemingly forgotten itself. Empty white voids make up much of the world, and it’s your job to restore meaning and purpose to this amnesia-riddled world. It’s a neat twist on the JRPG convention of your hero having forgotten everything, and filling in these blank spaces feels satisfying as you make your way through Lost Sphear’s twenty hour campaign.
That’s not to say your hero Kanata and his party are entirely lucid, however. They’re orphans (of course) and seem to be suffering from a hazy memory much like the rest of the world. It’s these kinds of JRPG clichés that make up both the nostalgic tug and the annoyance of narrative hooks that should be left in the past. Luckily Kanata and his hodgepodge crew are enjoyable to get to know and make up a likeable cast, one that I found myself eager to shepherd through to the final cutscene.
Gameplay suffers from the same strange relationship, made up entirely of familiar mechanics I was thrilled to be reacquainted whilst also wondering if they should have ever been resurrected in the first place.
There’s two types of gamer who will get the most out of Lost Sphear. Much like the previous game by Tokyo RPG Factory, I Am Setsuna, Lost Sphear is trying to rekindle the wonder of and joy Japanese RPGs brought to many of us growing up. For the super fans of games like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger and any number of the Dragon Quest games, a lot of Lost Sphear is ripe with the kind of nostalgia you may have been looking for. That experience has even been condensed into a shorter game that will suit the new lives of the adults who grew up playing these games (kids who had far too much time on their hands and stacks of 100 hour RPGS)
This type of game simply isn’t made anymore, so the existence of both these games really warms my heart as someone who misses the PS1 days. Other people who might really dig it will be those who have never played a JRPG like this, brand new potential fans who won’t be put off by the almost shameless riffing on past ideas. Unfortunately for anyone in between, this obsessive homage may feel a little too tried-and-tested for their tastes.
There are moments of fresh intuition, such as relics you can earn and place in zones that have wide-reaching affects such as getting extra items or increasing your power, but for every fresh idea such as these ones we have a whole host of all too familiar mechanics such as the active-time battle bars that constantly fill to dictate turn order. This set up can create some extremely tense battles – with some exceptional boss scraps that had me strategizing on the fly – but also means I spent a lot of time simply waiting for my go. I had the same problem with last year’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (though to a lesser extent), and would have loved to see a fresh take on this somewhat aging system housed within this museum of memories. Paying homage to something shouldn’t necessarily mean enshrining their shortcomings as well.
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