Some games you just know are going to be a hit, others take you by surprise. The Lost Child is a one of the latter. It’s a game that happens to be in a sub-genre which I believed I didn’t particularly like, but wow did this change my mind.
For transparency reasons I believe you should know that I’ve been strongly vocal about my dislike for first person dungeon crawling RPGs. My reason? Well, obviously it’s because I can’t see my characters. These types of games are generally a mix of simple first person gameplay mixed with a bit of visual novel appeal and some turn-based battles. On their own each of those sound like a good idea, but together they just don’t seem to mesh right, well at least for me, or should I say they didn’t. After throwing hours upon hours into The Lost Child it’s clear to me that I’m actually a fan of this genre now. Bring on the Etrian Odyssey!
So what changed my mind? What aspects of this game won me over? The short answer is that it’s a mixture of two things. One is the autopilot system, and the other is the huge amount of high-quality voice acting. These two make what usually seems like a chore become an enjoyable experience.
In this genre players usually spend hours upon hours doing backtracking or grinding in visually unappealing locations. Now I don’t say this as an insult, but rather as a matter of personal taste. First person dungeons, just don’t appeal to me. The bland two dimensional flat tiles pretending to be 3D just look cheap. Add to that having to repeatedly traverse the never ending restrictive corodoors of the dungeons, and you have a recipe for me not being interested.
The autopilot hugely improves this by allowing the player to automatically traverse to locations they’ve got on their map. This is also helped by the fact that the dungeons, or layers as they’re called in this game, are not randomly generated. Most have a set structure, and after you’ve fully mapped them out it’s easy to just set a location and have your characters move to it while you sit back and have a nice cup of tea. Infact I found grinding using this system to be the most appealing form of grinding I’ve ever used.
Just picture it. Autopilot grinding in a JRPG and being free to play PES at the same time… Oh it’s genius. Kodakawa Games, thank you. Thanks for allowing me to play my two favorite genres at the same time.
Now this type of play isn’t possible for the entire game, due to some locations have moving walls, traps or other things that you’ll need to engage with, but for grinding it’s perfect.
The Lost Child’s other redeeming feature, it’s voice acting, is the other reason that I enjoyed playing this game so much. When I started this game I honestly didn’t expect any voice acting. I knew that there would be, but I didn’t expect it. I guess you could say I planned on muting the VA and just power through the experience, oh and I tried to do that, but damn… Kodakawa Games and NIS America be on their A-Game with this one. My switch review setup uses a headset and earbuds for working on reviews. As such if I don’t plan on listening to the audio of a particular game, all I have to do is not put on the headset or earbuds.
So this being a game that was very low on my radar I proceeded to do just that, but for whatever reason this games audio volume is set to extremely high. So what this meant was that I could hear the audio even if I didn’t plan on it, and the more I played the more I was taken aback by the quality of voice work in this title. In the early sections pretty much every conversation is voiced and every actor was at the top of their game. It was like watching an engrossing high-quality animated movie. At first I spent an hour or so of me partially listening to it via leaking sound of the coming from the headset on my desk, and before I knew it I had headset on my head.
What the voice actors, developer and publisher have done with the voice work is exceptional. Both the English and Japanese voices sounded great, and I encourage you to try both if you get the game.
Now it should be noted that this game is not without flaws, but before we get to them let’s cover what this game is about.
The plot is centered around a heaven and hell setting with the main characters, Hayato and the angel Lua being the focal point. Hayato is the chosen one. Chosen by God to wield a legendary weapon called the Gangour. It’s pretty much a gun that allows him to capture demons, angels and fallen angels. Once captured the player must purify them to use in battle. The captured versions are called Astrals. Each can be leveled up using energy gained from battle. This can either be heaven, demon or fallen angel energy. Using the right kind will level up you Astrals quickly, while using the wrong type takes twice as much energy. It’s a pretty simple system that didn’t take long to get the hang of. Once an Astral reaches its max level you’re able to evolve it by visiting a particular location.
In game it’s call this Evilving, yea I know, terrible pun, but not a problem. What matters is that the whole system of Evilving them is actually pretty cool. Similar to the likes of the Pokemon games, they get better when they evolve. Oh and it’s actually quite addicting as you’ll find yourself wanting to know what an Astral could look like in its final form. Each Astral can be Evilved twice with their stats being reset but their max level being raised each them they Evilve. They can also be reset when they reach a certain level. This will cause them to lose all their skills and revert to level 1 of their base form, but with higher base stats. Working this system allows the player to make super powered versions of their favorite Astrals.
The Astrals also have different elements; fire, lightening, wood, water and wind. These elements each have their strengths and weaknesses. For the most part you can ignore them, especially if you grind like I do, but if you’re playing the game by sticking to the main plot then you’re gonna want to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Astrals also learn new skills in battle, but this seemed rather random to me. I never knew when they were gonna get a new skill, because it’s not linked to the leveling system at all, and it happens during battle, interrupting your already set inputs.
Add to that you have a different leveling system for Lua and Hayato compared to the Astrals. Astrals use energy to level, which means their level is totally dependant on you collecting energy to use on them, whereas Hayato and Lua gain exp like a standard JRPG. In battle Hayato has his normal attack, the Gangour and the ability to switch the main to sub Astrals in the party. As for Lua, she has a standard attack and magic attacks.
Because the level system is a mix of two system I highly recommend using the spa before entering layers. I found this tactic to be the most appealing because it adds extra exp. Also can we get a little appreciation for the fanservice in here. Damn the dude lovers must be rejoicing, but worry not my lady appreciators, there is fanservice for you too.
As for the other systems in play; well you have the town maps, the world maps, and a couple locations that you will visit regularly before each layer visit, including the spa. Once a location becomes standard the characters don’t have much voice dialogue in them, but there are always new locations popping up and you can always count on conversations between Lua, Hayato and his boss. You see Hayato is a journalist who covers occult topics, so he’ll constantly be given jobs by his boss. In game you visit the office more regularly than any other location. Think of it like your base. You can save there as well as take on new investigation. A little word of advice, accept every investigation. You’ll complete most of them without noticing, and there rewards are worth it.
The Lost Child Problems…
So all in all a great game right? Well yes, yes it is, but as mentioned before it does have its flaws. Remember how I mentioned that the audio was pre-set at a high volume? Well that includes the music and sound effects, not just the voice work. There is fortunately a quick fix for this. Just lower the volume on both the music and sound effects to about 30% while leaving the voices at 100%. This will prevent you from struggling to hear what characters are saying when the music drowns out their voices during certain sections. The game also suffers from lack of a glossary, an issue that is becoming far too common in modern JRPGs. We need these to allow players to look up information they may have glossed over or just to be informed about certain elements of the game that aren’t quite as clear.
The lack of a glossary and no digital manual is a shame. For this review I spent lots of time on the game’s website for information on things I missed and that still didn’t offer enough for me, so some of it was just trial and error. Lastly, this one is a personal peeve of mine that I’ve brought up numerous times in other reviews I’ve done. Why does my main character suffer from silent protagonist-itice? There is no need for that here, because Hayato is not a created character. He is a character who has has his own, well… character. He should have been given voice work in line with the other characters to bolster an otherwise great package, instead he sucks.
The Lost Child was a great experience for me that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a visually pleasing game with great voice work, along with an interesting plot. The characters excluding Hayato were all great, even the villains, especially the villains. Due to this the game was able to keep me interested throughout. The gameplay, the controls, almost everything is top notch. This is one of the best titles I’ve had the pleasure of playing on the switch and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to any JRPG Fans.
The copy of The Lost Child used for this review was provided by it’s publisher, NIS America.