Lost Sphear has finally been released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC. A successor of sorts to developer Tokyo RPG Factory’s fantastic I Am Setsuna, while it’s not all bad, its hard not to feel like Lost Sphear has lost the things that made Setsuna special.
Quick bit of time travel. The 90’s were a simpler time. Video games were still figuring themselves out, still not quite the household name they have themselves today. One of the biggest JRPG franchises of the era was the Final Fantasy series and its classic 2D, 8- and 16-bit titles that had amazing stories, awesome gameplay and turn based combat we hadn’t quite seen anywhere before. For me. the height of this was Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation and every game since has tried mastering that look and feel.
We moved on, became happier with the advancement in graphics and characters and gameplay and now we’re going backwards, graphics isn’t everything (it sure helps), sidescrollers of old (and new) are being ported across all platforms. Far removed from the time when the term JRPG meant instant hit, comes Lost Sphear.
Lost Sphear follows Kanata, a young adventurer who awakens to discover a mysterious white fog that’s slowly making everything — people, towns and wildlife — disappear. Kanata’s ability to gain monsters or peoples lost memories and use them as a weapon to rid the fog is about as predictable as an RPG can be. We’ve seen it done a million times before, and the big letdown for me was the lack of any real story outside of this basic hook. We don’t get any amazing animations or cinematics that set up the overall plot, we have nothing to sink our teeth into, nothing to make us think to ourselves, “wow, I can’t wait to see how this turns out!”. You set up this big bright and colourful world for us to inhabit and explore (and exploring is all you will be doing for 90% of the game) but give it little to no backstory to go along with it. Its draining, its long and its not until 7 plus hours in that you finally start to have a little fun. By this time, I was about done with it.
Some nifty features do pop up throughout, however, including the game’s seamless transition between combat and exploration, with barely a second in-between fighting an enemy and back to exploring. The days of waiting for a stat screen and completion music after every fight are long gone and, from what I played, loading times were almost completely absent.
These are the positives and for every one of those, there seems to be a negative. Vibrant world! Grinding music that hurt my ears. Customising abilities with the Spiritnite you collect from combat and exploration is pretty cool, and the the Vulcosuits were exciting on first inspection but in practice felt lazy and brought nothing of value to the gameplay.
Lost Sphear is an RPG that’s hard to recommend. With mixed and unbalanced gameplay, and the bare bones plot to go with it, only the most hardcore of JRPG fans need apply. There will of course be those fans that will argue in favour of this till they are blue in the face. Wait for the sales for sure.
Score: 5.0 out of 10
Highlights: Beautiful world; Combat is quite fun; Customization is awesome
Lowlights: Music grates; Story is bad; So many fetch quests
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 with retail code provided by the publisher.