Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
Reviewed by Anna Slado
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-06-15 GameCube RPG T (Teen) Namco

When I first heard of Baten Kaitos, I was very skeptical. The images I had seen showed a battle system using cards and I wondered if that system would work well and not annoy the player. In addition, I was not too attracted to the game's character design, which was more American than Japanese style.

I also wondered how a game - with a Japanese title you hardly know how to pronounce - would sell. Now that I have played the game I also know that Baten Kaitos is just a title that has nothing to do with the game itself. However, the subheader - "Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean" - has a very good connection to the game's story.

Anyway, it was an RPG and that's why I bought it. I was really curious to see what would come out of it, so I had to start playing right away. The first thing that strikes you when you start the game is that Namco is behind it. We all know that Namco stands for quality by now, right? But they have also cooperated with Monolith Soft (Xenosaga) and tri-Crescendo. In other words, this game has potential.

The second thing is the graphics, which are some of the most enchanting and imaginative I have ever seen. The team has really gone all out and it makes you want to progress in the game to see what else they have come up with, in terms of cities and worlds. At the same time you want to return to all those magical places that you have already been to. You simply cannot get enough of these graphical fireworks that Baten Kaitos offers. All the different islands and the world map itself are blossoming with fantastical colors; the dungeons are all unique and as luck will have it, they are not too hard, nor too easy.

Now onto the battles - how do the cards work? Allow me to outburst: it works so freaking well! I enjoyed every battle. The deck is always shuffled differently for each battle, which results in tactics and luck both being important. Amazing. This is the first time I have played an RPG with no menus within battles. It works so well, the battles start and develop quickly, and Namco has once again made excellent use of the controller, just as they did in Tales of Symphonia. For example, you can choose cards with either the C-stick or the A-button. The C-stick makes it easier to form pairs or straights which results in you dealing greater damage to the enemy.

The cards, called Magnus, are all like tiny pieces of art. No card is the same as another and it is always exciting to receive a new one. Some cards change over time, for example fruit can rot and a card that usually is used for healing purposes can eventually deal poison effect to the enemy. Some Magnus are quest-cards that you can use to help people with different things and in return get new battle-Magnus. There are a few fun side quests in this game, some easier than others. My advice is to try and complete as many as you can, since the longer you get to stay in this world the better.

The score is done by one of my favorite composers - Motoi Sakuraba. He has been busy lately: Star Ocean Till the End of Time, Tales of Symphonia and Baten Kaitos in a short period of time. The soundtrack to Baten Kaitos is one of the best he has ever done. His music is grand as usual; he has used strings and wind instruments to create some of the most memorable pieces of music I have ever heard, for example the piece To the End of the Journey of Glittering Stars. If you are not touched by it, you lack in humanity.

Unfortunately Baten Kaitos is a victim of something so many other RPGs have faced: bad voice acting. Some characters talk so incredibly slowly and snotty that it becomes embarrassing and weird, and you can really tell that people have stood in a booth recording their manuscript one by one without ever interacting with the other actors. That is a shame, because if people interacted, their voice-overs would probably have been much better. Luckily, you can turn off the voices in the menu if you wish to do so.

The story is very good in my opinion. I have actually never played an RPG that has kept huge secrets until its last breath. I have never seen anything so complex and full of intrigues. It was really interesting to follow the characters' development and I was surprised in more than one occasion.

But, bad voice acting aside, I do not think I will play a better game than Baten Kaitos for a long time. Over 60 hours of game play, 2 discs packed with ear and eye candy, lots of puzzles, difficult bosses, and plenty to discover. If you only buy one RPG for the Game Cube this year, let it be Baten Kaitos.