Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/27/02 | Genre: RPG
GameCube games are getting to be few and far in between and I'm getting a little sick of it. Enter RPG Lost Kingdoms. It saves me from replaying Pro Skater 3 again and it'll hold me over until Eternal Darkness comes out. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. But let's see just how far mediocrity can carry a game.
Lost Kingdoms stars the fashion degenerate Princess Katia of Alanjeh. Apparently, she can't dress herself; it looks like she fell into a hamper and crawled out. What's the deal with the wing-like shawl or the glowing volley ball sized hair piece? Anyway, Ru Paul here is trying to save the land of five independent and isolated kingdoms from an evil black fog. Her only weapon? Old, tattered cards she uses to call upon creatures to help her battle. The cards are definitely not coordinated with her dress, but I think Katia will get along.
The story sound exciting? Then give me your address; I'll mail you about 42 RPGs and see if you're still excited. Graphics are adequate, but are more Dreamcast-ish. The textures aren't too shabby, but character models are blocky. The music is nothing memorable, but does nothing wrong. It seems to fit every situation, as do the sound effects. The play control is clunky when you have to turn Katia sharply, but it's not bad in the least. The camera is rather annoying, but could have been crafted much lazier. The level designs are mundane and uninspired, but I've seen worse. You noticing a trend here? Average. The review ends here: Average.
About the only I can talk about are the play mechanics. First of all, this is not a true RPG. You point and click locations on a world map and you play the level, each having different missions. Once completed, you will earn a ranking based on battles won, monsters defeated, energy lost, cards used and time taken. The higher the ranking, the more cards you may randomly select from a group of five (from 1 to 3). The sucky part is that you cannot replay a mission until you complete the game, so if you missed cool cards along the way, you're pretty screwed. Side-missions are prominent and add some time to this otherwise really short adventure. You can also find and trade Red Fairies for cool cards with some Alexander "scholar" who looks like he's wearing a lampshade for a hat. I swear, these dingle-dorks have really limited wardrobes. Think of the bargain bin at K-Mart.
Now for the cards... the meat of this game and the only part that is above average and well-thought out. There are 105 cards in the game, and are acquired by purchase and upgrade from Gurd, treasure chests, hidden in levels, random drawing at the end of levels, enemy capture and 2-player ante (more on that later). You may only take a custom deck of 30 into a level, and if a card is used in combat, it's gone. You may only add cards into your deck during a level if you earned them during that level. During combat, 4 cards are dealt into you hand. When one is used, a new one is added in its place. You may discard a card, but it cannot be used again during that battle. Cards come in 3 flavors: Weapon, Summon and Independent. Weapon cards, when used, act as though Katia is wielding a weapon as a transparent creature attacks over her. Weapon cards also have the subgroup Spin. These weapons spin around Katia to attack. Next, Summons replace Katia on the field for a moment and act like beefed-up weapons, but are more impressive. Finally, Independents are called upon to help Katia without direction. There is an Independent subgroup, Trap... that... uh... traps. All types of cards also belong to 4 elemental groups that add a bit of strategy, but not much. It's not overly important. All cards also require a certain number of gems to use. Gems can be replenished and collected by attacking enemies and scenery in combat. If you don't have the number of gems, health is subtracted from Katia. There was once a time I used a powerful card to save my butt, but I didn't have enough gems, so my savior card ended up killing me. In short, battles are tons of fun because of the unique and highly customizable battle system.
Added into the mix is a 2-player mode that allows both combatants load their decks and kick the crap out of each other. It involves little skill and more luck, but it gets frantic with scrambles to collect more gems. The battles don't last long, so you can have several matches in just a half hour's time. I've had good experiences with the 2-player battles, but it still seems like an afterthought with little options. Lots of fun, but not groundbreaking. Here's a tip: DO NOT use Summons. You can't get your opponent to stand still long enough to inflict the massive damage. Instead, throw out as many Independent cards that you can... they'll do your dirty work while you keep clear of danger. Most are weak, but if you get a mob going, you could do some heavy hurtin. You can even make matches worth something by gambling selected cards from your respected decks.
The problem with Lost Kingdoms is the "likeability." Either you hate it or love it. Personally, I love it, however, I have to look at the hard facts... almost everything about this game is average. You can take your chances and flat-out buy it, or sample it by renting or borrowing. I just think the amount of customization, the fun and frantic 2-player, and innovative battles are enough to keep me going through the short journey. Give Lost Kingdoms a look-see, and maybe you'll find the same things.