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Baten Kaitos Origins

by Michael Cole - October 10, 2006, 6:17 pm PDT
Total comments: 17

8

Reprise your role as a guardian spirit in the long-awaited prequel to Baten Kaitos!

In the emerging world of Final Fantasy spin-offs and Mega Man Battle Network parades, RPG fans found an abode of originality in 2003's Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. Monolith Software and tri-Crescendo's card-based RPG presented a fresh and challenging battle system and an above-average story. It had its setbacks, though—the battle system was too complex and its clever item combinations proved troublesome. Baten Kaitos Origins admirably retains its predecessor's spirit while mending some of its faults, providing an engaging and lengthy adventure.

Baten Kaitos Origins takes place in the same world as Baten Kaitos, roughly 60 years before the first game's events. In the world of Baten Kaitos, humans are largely confined to a handful of self-governing islands floating above the clouds. Magnus cards, a staple tool for this world, can store the essence (a.k.a. magnus) of anything from swords to smoke. Humans here also have "wings of the heart," somewhat vestigial appendages that reflect the power and kindness of one's heart.

The world is largely presented through pre-rendered, animated backgrounds and contains its fair share of outlandish locales and critters. For example, people ride on a living, breathing shark ship to commute among continents. Those new to the world will more fully enjoy the world's crazier moments, since the game reuses many of Baten Kaitos' settings, although players familiar with Baten Kaitos will also enjoy revisiting the earlier era and its inhabitants.

Those same veterans will also be caught off guard by the prequel's revamped battle system. During battles in the original, players had to avoid clashing elements, construct poker hands for bonuses, actively block enemy attacks, and combine magnus to make new cards. While the battle system's difficulty was ultimately rewarding, the cards' random nature often caused grief. For BKO, Monolith Software and tri-Crescendo wisely distilled the "magnus" of these gameplay elements into something far more approachable. The party now shares a single deck and hand, and many cards may be used by all characters. During a character's turn, cards are played from low to high, and no number may be used twice. Type 0 cards are usually equipment (weapon, armor or accessory), and a character may only equip one at a time. Card types 1 through 3 are generic attacks (weak, medium strong), and 4 and above are special techniques. If a character uses at least one special attack during his turn, the player may continue the combo chain using the next ready character by starting with a 1 card. Long combos charge the party's magnus power more quickly, which is spent on special techniques and certain items. The more extravagant the attack, the more time a character will also need to recover before his next turn. Cards without a number, such as healing items, must be used alone. The player may also use a turn to discard multiple magnus or pass.

Pretty much anything can be stored as magnus—those used outside of battle are stored in blank magnus cards called quest magnus. Since magnus is the essence of pretty much anything, quest magnus can even contain intangibles such as fun and exhaustion. Some quest magnus also ages over time, so players must keep an eye out for rotten food and other undesirables. What's more, simply carrying quest magnus can augment or weaken the party's statistics: grab some water to improve fire defense or collect a shiny stone to raise holy attacks.

Baten Kaitos Origins moves magnus mixing outside of battle, where it really belongs. Quest magnus are combined using special cards called magna mixers; magnus recipes scattered about the game provide guidance. While combinations of attacks in battle do result in flashy combo attacks, they are no longer how you obtain more potent magnus cards. Instead, stores can upgrade battle magnus by infusing quest magnus into a battle card. And since you aren't expected to cook your own cards any more, BKO is also much better about providing incrementally better cards. So whereas mixing magnus was a vague and tedious chore in Baten Kaitos, it is a fun hobby and diversion in this prequel.

The story in Origins is adequately amusing. An adventuresome but unsure young teen named Sagi must lead a group of friends to save the world from the Alfard Empire and its efforts to infiltrate neighboring island-nations through the forceful introduction of their technology. What's more, this so-called promachination is mysteriously linked to giant, unnatural beasts starting to appear on the continents, which have a mysterious link to a thousand-year-old legend. Like Kalas from Baten Kaitos, Sagi is a spiriter, meaning he shares his body and consults with a wise and powerful guardian spirit—you!

At its core BKO shares the same save-the-world plot found in almost every Japanese RPG, but Origins' personalized take is plausible enough as to not feel forced. The game's dungeons, if you can call them that, are small and fairly well incorporated in the plot: Sagi usually has a better reason for his ventures than the retrieval of some artifact. Political overtones also spark interest—promachination and political espionage has generated unrest within Alfard, too, and a few hours into the story you must investigate a terrorist bombing. Well into the game a few interesting plot twists surface, but I wouldn't want to spoil those.

The game's storytelling does have some familiar faults. BKO relies far too heavily on scripted boss battles you must lose—after surviving to inflict enough damage, mind you. And while the magnus descriptions are often enjoyably silly (or downright insane), the prose can sometimes obscure a magnus card's usefulness. At times the writing feels a bit stiff, but this is understandable given the quantity of text. Less forgivable are the voices, which unfortunately are no less abysmal than the first game's. The voices bear few traces of direction: lines are delivered with little concern for situational context, and only a few characters sound anything less than cheesy. Fortunately voices can be safely stored in the off position, save for the relatively benign battle exclamations.

Baten Kaitos Origins is a worthwhile addition to the first game's saga. Baten Kaitos Origins will not sway dissidents of turn-based RPGs, but the peculiar aura and lively battles are commendable, and its plot is strong in spite of its clichés. If you're looking to give your GameCube a final farewell, I could think of far worse send-offs than Baten Kaitos Origins.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
7 8 7 8.5 9 8
Graphics
7

Baten Kaitos Origins holds some creative scenery, but neither the pre-rendered backgrounds nor the muddy rendered overlays are technological feats. The character models are more detailed and fluidly animated than in the first game, and the character art accompanying text is more aesthetically pleasing.

Sound
8

Motoi Sakuraba's majestic and catchy melodies, which incorporate both orchestral and synthesized instruments, are a perfect fit for the Baten Kaitos series. Players will enjoy both the game's original music and rearrangements from Baten Kaitos. Unfortunately, the English voices lack any sort of cohesion, defacing this excellent soundtrack.

Control
7

Sagi controls comfortably outside of battle, and the light wing dash is a welcome addition. The menu system is somewhat bulky, though—especially for editing magnus decks. Battle controls are never properly explained within the game, and I got well into the game without understanding some of battle system's finer points, so reading the manual is strongly recommended.

Gameplay
8.5

The upbeat battles provide adequate challenge, though they can grow tiresome over longer playing sessions. Knowing when to discard is a key survival skill, and exploiting elemental affiliations can be vital to victory. Some of the fetch quests are annoying, but the mandatory ones are never terribly long.

Lastability
9

Between optional quests such as the coliseum and personal favors, and the variety of quest magnus to experiment with, Baten Kaitos Origins should easily live up to its promise of 60+ hours.

Final
8

Baten Kaitos Origins is perfect for those who passed on the first one or backed away from its intimidating battle system. Hardened guardian spirits should also appreciate BKO's revamped battle system, though they may prefer the original's complexity. Although it would be misleading to call Baten Kaitos Origins entirely new, its decent story and enjoyable battles certainly make it worthwhile.

Summary

Pros
  • Far better magnus mixing/upgrade system
  • Simplified but still engaging card battle system
  • Well-integrated plot with interesting twists
  • You can turn off the voices
Cons
  • Blurry textures
  • More terrible voice acting
  • No in-game introduction to the battle system
  • Sometimes unclear how to progress
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

Viewtiful marioOctober 10, 2006

I strongly disagree about the voice acting, you can't put it in the same league as the original because this time it sounds as if it were directed. The only complaint in voices is that some people sound pritty annoying but they still show cohension. I especcially liked how well the "Pollolo the 2nd" character did his lines so great.

Quote

So whereas mixing magnus was a vague and tedious chore in Baten Kaitos, it is a fun hobby and diversion in this prequel

Amen to that!

I will say some voices sounded decent, but not enough of them for me to want voices turned on. Every time I turned on the voice acting to give it another chance I turned them back off after the very first cutscene. So maybe I didn't listen long enough to hear the cohesion. Considering I was laughing at the brief flash-back FMVs (that always have voices), though, I have my doubts.

CalibanOctober 10, 2006

So how long would a straight-forward finish of this game be? 40 hours?

AcefonduOctober 10, 2006

Finally, this game gets a credible review. My usual cycle of video game sites didn't give this game the time of day to review! I bought this day one irregardless but haven't touched it since I haven't beat Eternal Wings yet...10 hours in and I'm a comin' Origins!

BloodworthDaniel Bloodworth, Staff AlumnusOctober 10, 2006

Don't listen to Karl. That pirate's been shooting his blunderbuss too close to his ears.

ArbokOctober 10, 2006

I am sooo getting this game with my Wii.

Can anyone comment on the overall difficulty of the game versus the first though? Gamespot complained that the bosses were too hard, but I thought the first was way too easy near the end so I actually hope that the challenge has been ramped up for this one.

Quote

Originally posted by: Bloodworth
Don't listen to Karl. That pirate's been shooting his blunderbuss too close to his ears.


Eh? What did I do now?

Myxtika1 AznOctober 10, 2006

LOL. I be that Bloodworth mistaken Viewtiful Mario with ViewtifulGamer.

I still haven't finished the first game yet. I was pretty into the game, too. Once I bought Phoenix Wright, though, I haven't been able to get back into BK. I tried, but I've forgotten where I was at and what my next objective was. face-icon-small-sad.gif

BloodworthDaniel Bloodworth, Staff AlumnusOctober 10, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Myxtika1 Azn
LOL. I be that Bloodworth mistaken Viewtiful Mario with ViewtifulGamer.


d'oh

NotRimmerOctober 11, 2006

It's funny because the game takes place 20 years before the original, not 60. Also, comparing the voice acting to the original is absolutely ridiculous. I liked the voice acting in the first because of the "so bad it's good" kinda charm it added, but I can clearly see the huge improvement they made with it in Origins.

This review is full of misinformation and downright untruths!

Viewtiful marioOctober 11, 2006

Quote

LOL. I be that Bloodworth mistaken Viewtiful Mario with ViewtifulGamer.

well I chose this name because I've used it in every forum I'm a member in. I didn't even know about viewtiful gamer when I thought of the name. And besides, our avitars are different enough for you to be able to tell us apart.

Quote

but I can clearly see the huge improvement they made with it in Origins.

Amen to that.

ArbokOctober 11, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Viewtiful mario
And besides, our avitars are different enough for you to be able to tell us apart.


I don't know about anyone else, but your avatar doesn't even show up for me. I assume it's because the site half-life-2.narod.ru has some kind of anti-hotlinking script in place.

IceColdOctober 11, 2006

I don't see it either..

Look, I couldn't find a year difference in the documention (maybe I failed) but I don't think it's a big deal. And I think I've made it clear I made my decision to hate the voice acting very quickly. I don't care if it's only mediocre instead of terrible. I still don't want to hear it.

I see Viewtiful mario's avatr...

Oh, ant TYP has just convinced me not to get Baiten Kaitos Origins. I can't STAND mediocre animes/rpgs/blah.

~Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com

Athrun ZalaOctober 11, 2006

Quote

Originally posted by: Kairon
I see Viewtiful mario's avatr...

Oh, ant TYP has just convinced me not to get Baiten Kaitos Origins. I can't STAND mediocre animes/rpgs/blah.

~Carmine M. Red
Kairon@aol.com
probably you wouldn't have gotten it even if it was GC's greatest RPG face-icon-small-tongue.gif

Sorry, I didn't see your difficulty question, Arbok. I honestly think that the game is easier if only becuase the battle system is less convoluted. However, the boss battles (and even some regular battles) can be very tough. I haven't quite reached the end yet, so I can't comment on BKO's difficulty throughout the game, but the last few bosses have been a little easier in my opinion....

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Genre RPG
Developer Monolith Software Inc.
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Baten Kaitos Origins
Release Sep 25, 2006
PublisherNintendo
jpn: Baten Kaitos II: Hajimari no Tsubasa to Kamigami no Shishi
Release Feb 23, 2006
PublisherNintendo
Rating12+

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