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Old 04-28-2006, 02:27 AM   #1
vader47
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Vader's Kickass Reviews

Hi everyone,

I haven't made a post in any of the other forums, so it's likely that none of you will read this review. I'd just like to say please do. Because I kick ass.

Well, here goes nothing. Number one post and review...

Baten Kaitos

By Vader

Due to it?s lack of Role Playing Games, many reviewers and gamers alike have dubbed the Gamecube an ?RPG Starved? system. And for good reason as well; aside from a few key titles like Tales of Symphonia and Paper Mario 2, none of the RPGs on Nintendo?s dying console can be considered quality experiences when compared to the massive RPG library of the PS2 juggernaut. But despite how lacking the GCN is in this particular category, threre is always the occasional RPG that releases and receives positive criticism from the gaming world, and manages to achieve something that makes people proud to be owners of the console again. Devloper Monolith Soft?s answer to the Gamecube RPG drought is Baten Kaitos, a stellar title that stands out in sharp contrast to the rest of the system?s unoriginal Role-Playing endeavors.

Ancient lore tells of a time when humans were at war with Malpercio, an evil god of death and destruction. Eventually, the humans won, and some wizards sealed him away for what was thought to be an eternity. This came at a heavy cost, however. The battle left the Earth a barren, desolate landscape completely devoid of life. So the humans took to the skies in order to build a new life.

Kalas, a blue-haired teenage boy, is found unconscious one day in the moonguile forest and is brought to the nearby village of Cebalrai by a creature named Meemai. To find out what had happened, Kalas venture back into the forest and crosses path with a girl that is about the same age as him, named Xelha. Together, they proceed deeper into the wood.
After a while they encounter a massive serpent in a spring. The empire also arrives simultaneously, seeking a mysterious power that the serpent apparently holds. Giacomo, an officer with much power in the empire, is present among imperial group. Giacomo was responsible for slaying Kalas?s only family, so Kalas had made an oath of revenge to never rest until he had killed Giacomo. Unfortunately, Giacomo and the empire take possession of the serpent?s power, which, coupled with other mystical items of the ancient times, could release Malpercio from his seal. The empire?s motive for this course of action is unknown. Though initially you?ll see that Baten Kaitos uses just about every known RPG cliche in the book, the story takes a while to warm up before the plot evolves and takes a few complex twists and turns.

What is of particular interest in the game is that you are not really placed in the role of Kalas. Rather, you are a guardian spirit that is bonded to the protagonist. Often times as the story unfolds, he will turn to you seeking advice or help. Depending on how players answer, the bond between the spirit and Kalas will become stronger or weaker, which positively or negatively impacts the outcome of battles.

Though at first many were disappointed that Baten Kaitos would feature yet another run-of-the-mill card-based battle system, the game has a distinct feel to it thanks to the unique characteristics of the cards in the game, called magnus. The game relies on the fact that every thing in the world has a magna essence, and that this essence can be extracted and put into card form. Throughout the game, there are two types of magnus that you?ll use.

Battle magnus are the more necessary of the two card types. They are the essence of weapons, shields, and healing items that you?ll use to gain the upper hand against the many monsters in the world of Baten Kaitos. These cards each have one of six elements: fire, water, light, dark, wind, and chronos. Some cards are also neutral. The fire and water elements are the weakest, light and darkness based magnus are somewhat stronger, and wind and chronos are the strongest. While playing, most monsters that you will encounter will be predominantly of one element. Using the weapons and items of your opponenents elemental weakness will yield highly desirable results in battle. Depending on just how weak or how strong your adversary is to that certain element, you?ll be able to do more or less damage. Players must be careful, however, to refrain from using magnus of opposite elements while attacking, since this would cancel them out and end up doing minimal damage to your opponent.

Battle magnus also consist of spirit numbers. These numbers will appear in each corner of the card that your are using. Earlier magnus that you obtain will contain only one number, while the later ones will have numbers in all four corners. Using these numbers, you can string together combos in straights and pairs for increased damage. This is a very important element of battle, since having no combo at all versus doing a 1-9 sunrise straight will make a monumental difference in how efficiently you can dispose of your foes. The card battle system that may have at first seemed elementary has a surprising amount of depth, and pulling off the combos while keeping your elements in mind is not always an easy task.

Quest magnus are cards that you can harvest magna essence from during the game to open up sidequests. Most often, you will find someone along your journey who desires a quest magnus that you may have found a long time ago. Say, for example, that while on your adventure you extract the essence of a glass of pristine water. Maybe on your journey, you will find an individual stranded in a desert who needs the water. Most of the time, you will be rewarded with battle magnus that may not have been possible to obtain by just playing through the story. In this way players can take on sidequests whenever they desire, which definitely piles on depth to the game and just makes it more fun to complete.

Another unique aspect of Baten Kaitos is how magnus age. Sometimes it?s just awesome to watch magnus get older. Grapes that you might have acquired in the beginning of the game will turn into vinegar after a certain amount of hours, and then into Japanese Rice Wine. Finally, the Japanese Rice Wine will turn to soy sauce. A huge number of magnus will undergo change over time in Baten Kaitos, and not all of the changes are positive.

Battle is divided into an attack and a defense phase. However combat never takes place at a leisurely pace, since all of your actions are timed. Failure to begin your turn within the set time limit will result in it being skipped. The further you get into the game, the shorter this time will get. Magnus are cycled through in each character?s deck. While some may argue that this is a smidgen too random, a solidly built, well-rounded deck will usually have the magnus you need to be successful, depending on the ratio of attack, defense, and healing magnus you have in your deck. The attack phase of battle is when players unleash all of the best magnus they have on hand on the moment, and top it off with a cool-looking finisher for maximum damage. In the defense phase, players will use their defense magnus to block enemy blows, while attempting to use cards of the opposite element to minimize damage. The combo rules apply here, as well. The sense of urgency created by the timer ensures a more frenetic, fast-paced battle, which in the end is always more fun.

The system isn?t without it?s flaws, of course. Later into the game, battles can get very long and the desire to escape from battle can become increasingly great. But throughout my entire playthrough, I only came across one escape magnus and it never appeared in my hand when I needed it the most. This can get to be kind of a drag since every battle is a battle that you must fight. Obviously, this can make the battle system get older much more quickly, and one of the biggest things that need to happen in order to make the game appealing is that the longevity of the battle system must be preserved. However, it?s usually the fault of the player if battle even occurs in the first place, since there aren?t any annoying random encounters and since foes can be seen and avoided on the map.

Surprisingly, experience gained from battle will not boost levels on the spot. In most major areas of the game, there will be a blue ?save flower? where you can save your game. From here, you can also enter the church, where you will pray to a priest in order to level up. Characters also have something called class level. Placed throughout the game are various items that are required to increase your class. A higher class level will mean a bigger hand, a bigger magnus deck, and more opportunities to draw. However, the higher your class level goes, the less time you get to select a first card from your deck. Though it does do something to mix things up a little, accessing the church in certain parts of the game can be difficult. If you need to get stronger in order to conquer a boss, for example, you might have to venture all the way back to the beginning of the level so that you can get to the blue save flower. After a while, this can get tedious.

Being triumphant in combat will not yield any money for your efforts. Rather, Baten Kaitos requires the player to use camera magnus to capture images of the many creatures in the game that you will see. Photos can be sold at shops located in the bigger cities. Selling an underdevloped photo, however, will fetch a lower price so you are required to wait while the prints finish devloping. The three different camera magnus in the game all have increasingly faster developing times. This unconventional way of getting money really adds on to the fun, since you can take pictures of bosses and bizarre creature as proof that you?ve seen them before and captured them on film.

Any person who?s played the game before will agree that it is gorgeous. In fact, even saying that visuals are beautiful would be an understatement, since it?s difficult to convey just how magical the world of Baten Kaitos really is with plain old words. Most of the environments are just stunning. While on your adventures you will see some of the most breathtaking places that even the immense powers of the imagination would have a difficult time conjuring. One of the small towns that you will see is made of candy. Another is a crystal palace, sculpted entirely out of ice. Others include kingdoms gold, deep purple, and red swirling together to form magical clouds that swirl and glide through the air in a lazy motion. Visiting new locations and even dungeons is always a treat in Baten Kaitos, and this is exactly why it is one of the most visually amazing titles that the Cube has to offer.

The same can be said for spell effects and graphics in battle. Each of the 1,200 magnus in the game are beautifully drawn. All of the spells look great, and every single finisher in the game is truly a spectacle to behold.

Though sound does not quite reach the quality that graphics in the game accomplish, each tune in Baten Kaitos fits in very well. Pieces are composed to describe places, characters, and moods. Problems arise, however, when you get deeper into the game and you find that some of the songs are being recycled and repeated. Though the soundtrack for Baten Kaitos is very good, it just isn?t quite large enough to last you through the whole game.

Voice acting, however, is a complete disaster. Characters literally sound like they are trying to yell at you through a hollow metal tube. Speech is often times over-exaggerated and very cheesy, and there are some characters in particular whose voices alone could make your ears bleed. Though I?ve heard that the ?hollow-barrel? voice effect is to make players feel like they are hearing it through Kalas?s ears(remember, you are a guardian spirit), that just doesn?t change the fact that voiceovers in the game are awful.

As far as replay value goes, Baten Kaitos will keep players content for a long time to come. With over 1,000 magnus in the game, only about 60% of them can be acquired through the normal quest. The many constellation magnus scattered throughout the game can be added to a star map in the church, and turning in constellation fragments will get you some handy battle magnus for your adventure. The completed thing is also quite visually appealing, as well. The age factor is also an important thing to consider for completion freaks, since many of the game?s magnus can?t be obtained until after a certain amount of time. For a few of the magnus, this could mean hundreds of hours. I clocked in at around 61 hours, though I had done a few of the sidequests. But most people will take a minimum of 45-50 hours to beat the game since it is quite a meaty RPG.

At the end of the day, Baten Kaitos proves that the Gamecube is in fact capable of holding at least a few quality RPG titles. An innovative twist on the card battle system, gorgeous visuals, and an epic story to ensure a large amount of replay makes this game a worthy purchase, and a welcome addition to the somewhat bland RPG library that the GCN houses. Tales of Symphonia is no longer the only RPG that Gamecube owners can actually play and enjoy, and Baten Kaitos proves to be not only one of the better games on the Gamecube, but also even one of the more superior RPGs of this console generation.

Gameplay: 8.7
Graphics:10
Audio:7.9
Replay:9.3
Overall: 9.2
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:00 AM   #2
Alucard
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I really need to get around to playing this game. So behind.
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:38 AM   #3
Joe Redifer
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I was about to read the review, but then I saw it was for Baten Kaitos and suddenly I got really bored. All I know is that Motoi Sakuraba needs to take a tremendously long vacation.
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Old 04-28-2006, 11:17 AM   #4
Icarus4578
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Some advice, if I may. This review is too long. You shouldn't resort to the IGN style of "let's describe everything in minute detail," IMO, and concentrate on your opinion of the game itself (making it personal) and how it works (in summary). Otherwise, it's rather boring to read, and reviews are supposed to be interesting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vader47
At the end of the day, Baten Kaitos proves that the Gamecube is in fact capable of holding at least a few quality RPG titles.
The GC could've held a lot more RPGs but developers favored Sony. It's not a fault of the platform or anything.
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Old 04-28-2006, 11:32 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarus4578
Quote:
Originally Posted by vader47
At the end of the day, Baten Kaitos proves that the Gamecube is in fact capable of holding at least a few quality RPG titles.
The GC could've held a lot more RPGs but developers favored Sony. It's not a fault of the platform or anything.
Quoting a random line to make it seem you actually read the review. Nicely done.
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Old 04-28-2006, 11:57 AM   #6
Icarus4578
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I did read the review and I did yawn. It wasn't a kick ass review like Joe's or gearhound's.
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