Lost Sphear is the second game from Square Enix’s Tokyo RPG Factory whose début title, 2016’s I Am Setsuna, scratched an itch that many gamers have been having in recent years with the decline of console JRPGs. Both I Am Setsuna and its follow-up Lost Sphear are heavily inspired by games from the 16-bit console era, also referred to as the “Golden Age” of the JRPG by the developers. Lost Sphear looks like it shares a lot with its sombre and snowbound predecessor but also has a lot that sets it apart.
Lost Sphear looks stylistically similar to I Am Setsuna, which should come as no surprise given that they run on the same engine, but there are a lot of changes between the two, both audio and visual. To begin with, while the piano is certainly present the soundtrack isn’t almost entirely piano based. That alone immediately stands to give the game a more upbeat tone than its predecessor. The music we’ve heard so far is both familiar and distinct and I’m excited to hear more of it. I loved I Am Setsuna’s soundtrack and I’m eager to hear what composer Tomoki Miyoshi can do beyond sobering piano pieces.
One change that’s been made that I am most certainly not a fan of are the character portraits. There’s nothing wrong with them per se’ but it’s pretty generic anime fare. Gone completely are the gorgeous Amano-esque portraits seen in I Am Setsuna, and that’s a damn shame.
Speaking of things that are gone completely in Lost Sphear, there is no snow to be seen anywhere in any trailers or screenshots released so far. We’ve seen locales like grassy fields, forests, Victorian looking towns, and a cavernous ship graveyard, all devoid of any wintry trappings. This is a huge and very welcome change from I Am Setsuna, whose beautiful yet melancholy world was entirely entombed by the fluffy white stuff. The snowy world was the perfect backdrop for Setsuna’s bleak and mournful story but it did wear a bit thin by the game’s end. The more varied environments and cultures we are set to encounter in Lost Sphear should stave off that fatiguing feeling. Which is great because according to Tokyo RPG Factory Lost Sphear is slated to be a longer game than their initial outing.
Lost Sphear’s story is centered around the idea that objects and places in the world have their own memories. These memories are mysteriously vanishing, taking the objects, places, and even people they are tied to with them and leaving only a white mist in their stead. The moon is somehow connected to this phenomenon as is the spelling of the titular “Sphear”. The game begins with the hometown of Kanata, the game’s primary protagonist, vanishing into the mist setting in motion the party’s adventure to find out what is causing things to vanish, and hopefully restore them.
While parts of the game (i.e. The battle system) still look heavily inspired by Chrono Trigger, some of the locations shown seem to borrow a little more from Final Fantasy VI. The trailers and demos we’ve seen so far show a lot of mechanical and steampunk-ish enemies and environments, reminiscent of the Magi-tek from FFVI. There’s even a character named Locke! Sadly, odds are he’s not a sticky fingered “Treasure Hunter”. Nothing really has been said about the characters other than a few names and fighting styles – Kanata appears to be the typical swordsman archetype, Lumina is a female martial artist, Locke fights with a mechanical crossbow and Van appears to be a mage of some sort who fights using crystalline “bits” to fire energy based attacks. There’s not even a character section on the game’s official website yet but this is likely to change as we get closer to the game’s early 2018 release window.
Lost Sphear looks to use a very similar battle system to I Am Setsuna but seems to be making a few big changes which should help to give the game its own identity and also to address many people’s largest complaint about I Am Setsuna, which is that its fighting borrowed just a tad too heavily from Chrono Trigger. The first change that is immediately noticeable in Lost Sphear is the increased battle party size. You can now have four combatants on the field rather than three. The next, and possibly biggest change, is the ability to move your characters around freely on the battlefield prior to taking action, almost like a “lite” tactical RPG. This will allow you to more efficiently use “line of sight” and “area of effect” attacks and spells to make sure they hit the maximum amount of targets or excluding certain targets, etc. I’m hoping that they run with this idea and try to expand on it. Forcing players to attack from certain angles to hit a chink in a boss’s armour or bringing spacing or formation into using multi-person techs could serve to make battles a bit less of a walk in the park and require a little more forethought.
Another large change is the inclusion of some sort of “Armoured” transformation the characters can undergo both in and out of battle. The developers haven’t really said anything about this transformation mechanic, and even the menu option to trigger it is labelled ”???” in any shown footage, but based on gameplay demos seen at E3 it appears to be available to all party members and is a prerequisite for using multi-person techs like “Xstrike”. It’s unknown at this point if the mechanic is tied into the returning “momentum” system from I Am Setsuna but seeing as the characters can be seen navigating the environment outside of battles in the armour would suggest that it isn’t. The fact that they’ve remained mum on the subject of the transformation mechanic suggests that it is tied into the story in a fairly significant way and I’m very keen to find out more.
While we haven’t been given a ton of information right off the hop about Lost Sphear, it is more than enough to have me looking forward to 2018. I Am Setsuna was a solid title but Lost Sphear seems poised to be bigger and better in nearly every way and I for one am eager to dive in.
Don’t forget to sound off in the comments below and let us know what your thoughts are and if I *gasp* missed anything.
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