i’ve started several RPG’s in the past couple of years, but they just take forever to finish and a lot of times there’s just so much extra padding that i find it hard to stay involved. i finally sat down and finished one a couple of weeks ago, baten kaitos on the gamecube. baten kaitos was generally well received when it was released and was noteworthy for being one of the few major RPG exclusives to be released on the system, but the main draw is its unique card-based battle system. RPG battle systems in general seem to have moved away from the old-school turn-based battles, but baten kaitos keeps it fresh w/ a fantastic system that actually grows deeper over time: as you progress through the game you not only get better cards (for attacks, defense, and healing), but you also get to hold more cards in your hand and in your deck which keeps you strategizing all the way to the end of the game. the designers really hit on a great battle system on their first try, and it’s hard to imagine it being improved (and from what i’ve heard about the changes they added to the sequel/prequel, the system may have suffered from people not following the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”). there’s also a combo system in battle where if you play certain cards together you can get a new, more powerful card, but in general the combos are completely obscure and most of the time lead to cards that don’t do anything which feels like a missed opportunity.
along with the great battle system the game’s production values are generally pretty consistently high. the game has a fairly standard sort of RPG plot, but there are enough twists to keep you interested for the most part. although you’re given 6 characters, there’s really no incentive to use more than 3 or 4 since you can only take 3 into battle at one time. the graphics are pretty good in general, w/ creative use of the pseudo 3D perspective. puzzles generally take the form of mazes, although there are some nice twists thrown in, and there isn’t too much level grinding you have to do. the game element that seems to be unanimously derided is the poor voice acting. it didn’t bother me that much although it’s def. substandard. what would have really helped the game would have been to replace all the voice acting (of which there is tons) w/ at least a few FMV’s instead, esp. since the opening FMV is quite great. and as w/ a lot of games these days there are tons of pointless sidequests, but fortunately there aren’t many that you have to do. all in all this is a solid RPG and enjoyable overall, although i’m def. not going to be tracking down the sequel/prequel anytime soon. i’m also going to have to steer clear a bit more from RPG’s in general and limit myself to just a couple a year; like racers, i just can’t seem to stay engaged with them long enough to get to the end. i still have a few RPG’s i’ve delved into though, so i’ll prob. get a couple more done this year.
dealin’ out the links:
– entry at wikipedia
– best walkthrough i’ve come across: on IGN, spoiler free and covers the sidequests
– zillions of great FAQs at neoseeker.com covering everything, including combos, monster drops, etc.
– gamefaqs.com also has a slew of handy FAQs and a good general FAQ
– boss FAQ at IGN
– good review at IGN
– some guy on amazon has posted good reviews of baten kaitos and its sequel/prequel
– official artwork at rpgfan.com