Baten Kaitos Origins

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 95/100

Baten Kaitos Origins Review
Published by: Namco
Developed by: Monolith Soft
Format Reviewed: Gamecube
Review by: Wencke Schuncken

If you wonder which game had the honor to be the last game to end my gamecube era, it was Baten Kaitos Origins. And what an adventure it was… again. Just like the first part, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, it’s a brilliant Role Playing Game. You’re going to wish that it is a never ending story. I was so thrilled when the sequel was announced and even more of course when I placed the game in the gamecube, perhaps for the very last time…

When you hear about a sequel, you automatically suggest that it’s going to take place in the future, at least in a later stage than the previous edition. Well, surprise, surprise! The developer thought it would be a good idea to go back in time and let the gamer discover the beginning of the Baten Kaitos universe. Here’s the global story introduction; Long ago, before the age when people lived the skies, there was an evil god named Malpercio who summoned the dark Brethren and destroyed the other gods. The world lay in ruin and the land itself was poisoned. But now, 1,000 years after the wars of the gods, people have fled to several different floating islands in the sky-where most lead modest, yet peaceful, lives. But the ruler of one such island – the Emperor Olgan – is attempting to use his country’s scientific advances to force his machinization policy on neighboring lands and gain control of all the islands. Meanwhile, a young Spiriter, or “spirit-born,” known as Sagi has entered the empire’s Dark Service with thoughts of revenge in his heart. You're going to be Sagi's spirit and advse / help him. One day, he is given a secret mission to assassinate the emperor. Sagi takes the mission without thinking twice, chalking the assignment up to good fortune. But in truth, it is simply part of a twisted and fearsome plot.

Baten Kaitos Review

Baten Kaitos Origins is a prequel to the original game and not only do you control Sagi but you’ll also play a part in the game as his spirit. You’re going to explore the varied world of Baten Kaitos, island by island, bit by bit. You’ll meet lots of different people, either with good or bad intentions. Some will ask you to do a favor (side quests) and some make sure that you’ll progress to reveal the whole story (main quests). There are a lot of side quests to do, sometimes there are too many but you can always consult the quests menu. This provides a good quests’ overview of what needs to be done or already has been fulfilled plus all the additional required information. An example of a side quest is to accept a field guide from a doc. While you are hunting down monsters, these will be listed in the guide with detailed information. This information can be used to stack your Magnus card deck (more about that later) accordingly to defeat the monsters, but if you gathered enough information and show it to the doc, you’ll be rewarded with a special item for sure! An example of a main quest can be that your airship crashed. To move forward in the game it’s necessary that you’ll find the right person with the right items or tools to fix the ship, otherwise you’re not able to fly to another island. The environments and story are varied and it certainly won’t get boring. Besides talking to most of the people you meet, it’s necessary to scan each environment. Everywhere cards, recipes, essences and clues are hidden, waiting to be found. Besides talking and exploring, the biggest part of the game contains of fighting enemies.

In the world of Baten Kaitos, items called Magnus or better stated Magnus cards can absorb the essence of almost anything, including weapons, magic and lots of different items. You will use these Magnus cards during battle and in other specific situations during your quests. Therefore two types of Magnus will be at your command: Quest Magnus and Battle Magnus. Quest Magnus are comprised of the essence of the natural world but in rare instances, Sagi can even capture more esoteric essences. Quest Magnus can even be mixed to create new Magnus. Example of Quest Magnus are water, salt, fire but also a book of death or a mirror, and can be used to fulfill easy jobs such as extinguishing fire and creating clouds. All things could be important in a certain degree to progress in the game. When you investigate places and things, you may have the opportunity to absorb their Magna essence but only when you have a blank Magnus card in your inventory.

Baten Kaitos Review

The world of Baten kaitos is dangerous and enemies of all kinds are simply everywhere. Each island presenting new threats to survive and with the right mix of Battle Magnus, you can defend yourself and defeat any enemy. Shop, find them in houses hidden in different places (bed, closet) or get these Battle Magnus cards by solving a side quest. The first Baten Kaitos game had a revolutionized turn based combat system with the unique use of cards to represent attack, defense, effects and other moves. Now it even has been improved with a fast-paced combo system and an all-inclusive deck used by all characters. ALL characters? Yes, Sagi will get some help when Guillo and Milly join the party! Up to 50- 60 Battle Magnus cards can be assigned to one single deck instead of each character haven his / her own deck as in the original Baten Kaitos. A negative aspect though is that some cards are character specific and when that person goes down during the fight, the other characters can’t use these specific cards. Either you’re going to waste one turn with throwing away unusable cards (discard function) or try to revive the fallen character. Maybe it makes more sense to create a common deck with useable cards for all participants. Creating a killer Battle Magnus deck is half the fun of baten Kaitos Origins, but it’ll take practice to get just the right assortment. Each enemy has different weaknesses, but in an Arena you can battle all kinds of enemies. This is also useful to learn the power and impact of the different Magnus cards.

Your heart is going to be touched by the different kind of emotional situations during the game and your eyes are going to be pleased with breathtaking styled environments. While traveling in the Baten Kaitos world, you’ll explore new islands as well as places you’ve been before (if you played the original Baten Kaitos of course). Have you ever experienced that wonderful feeling when you visited a place for the second time that brings back good memories? Well, that’s exactly the feeling I experienced during the game. But I also was pleasantly surprised by some new islands and their specific style. It’s all very detailed designed, the characters and environments. Some houses are like real homes with lots of stuff, a kitchen, a bed and lots of other small items for decoration or usage. There are multiple movies to watch between different story driven scenarios which are very entertainable as well beautifully created. Regarding the gameplay, it’s nice to have a good working menu with for example the side quests overview. Also whenever you’re close to an essence or clue, an exclamation mark will pop up above your character to get your attention. The battles are marvelous when you can play some high leveled Magnus cards; neon lights flashing on your screen with glowing arrows targeting on your opponents or lightning blue splattering ice blocks damaging the enemies. It’s incredible and it just motivates you to keep on making combo’s to produce more splashing “firework” on screen.

The sound, well, I guess we can argue on that, especially regarding the voice acting as some find them too childish or too overdone. As the characters are youngsters, it makes sense to hear young / childish voices. Most of the voice actors / actresses delivered solid contributions to the whole experience. A character called Guillo (more about her later) even has a two-layered recording with a male and female voice talking simultaneously, most of the time. As she is a humanoid automaton, it just perfectly fits with the character although they could have chosen for the typical filtered robotically "voice". But the voice combo gives a more human personality, even when they don’t line up sometimes. The main background music contains some beautiful symphonic tunes and some more intriguing and exciting sounds can be heard while entering or being in the battle zone. Overall it’s a kind of classic and modern instrumental music, without any vocals. Whatever tune was played, it didn’t bother me, but I do must confess that the original Baten Kaitos had a stronger musical impact on me.

Baten Kaitos Review

From a female point of view there are a couple of prominent female characters. Sagi teams up with two powerful ladies, although ladies. Guillo may look like a lady but she’s not human but a strange automaton. Nevertheless she possesses the capacity for speech, thoughts and emotion. Sagi places great trust in Guillo’s cool-headed reason and powerful magic. Guillo has no memories of life prior to meeting Sagi and so it seeks the reason for its own creation and the purpose of existence. She’s the first one who is going to help Sagi during battles. Later on Milliarde, nickname Milly, is going to join the party. She is a young girl with a strong will and speaks with the confidence and grace of those born to the upper class, but can also sense the mood of those around her and go with the flow. Although she and Guillo seem to have a personal “fight” over Sagi’s attention and calling each other dingbat and wench. Come on girls, even more female characters are going to fall for Sagi’s charm so get a grip on your jealous feelings! And I’m not talking about Sagi’s mum or Valara, a female soldier in Baehlheit’s army. She believes and respects the power of machine. In her eyes, machine will secure the power over the island nations, a power of which she will assuredly reap the benefits. Thusly, she bears no love for spiriters like Sagi. One comment remains though; as a female gamer I found it very strange that the characters refered to me as a he and not a she. You need to enter your name in the beginning, why not included a gender option?

Baten Kaitos Origins may be a sequel, but it’s not necessary to have played the first part. Both games can be played as separate games although there are multiple similarities such as the basic Magnus usage, you as a spirit and some of the islands creations. As an “experienced” Baten Kaitos gamer, I truly missed some places that I visited in the original part, but there was this one place that knocked me of my feet. It was a kind of childish clayed town, with clayed flowers, houses and other items. It looked very funny and could expand by delivering special town Magnus cards. While “building” the town, more and more inhabitants come and you can interact with them. It was one of my favorite side quests for sure! The story is (once again) very good visualized and contains multiple unexpected situations for a lot of characters and you of course. Thanks to the battle system and mainly the re-use of original islands made me feel very comfortable but it also seemed easier; a lower difficulty level and an easier battle system. But most importantly; It felt good to be back…