Although the PlayStation Vita hasn’t been the success story Sony hoped for, it’s hardly the wasteland skeptics portray it as. This is particularly true of JRPGs, and Atlus’ Lost Dimension, which is also available for the PlayStation 3, looks to be another notch in the Vita’s belt.
Turn-based combat is the name of the game in Lost Dimension, as you’ll guide a six-person squad into battle against multiple foes. Each of your six members gets an opportunity to act, then it switches over to allow enemy units to respond and so on, until victory conditions are met (usually eliminating all foes, but sometimes a specific unit) or everyone on your side is defeated.
While that’s hardly unusual for an RPG, there’s a tremendous focus on positioning that I can’t recall seeing in another game. That’s because if a unit is within range of an enemy being attacked they will piggyback onto it and assist with an attack of their own, regardless of whether or not they’ve already had their turn. Surround a tough foe and watch your team reduce them to remnants with a six-strike combo. It’s a very interesting formula.
Beyond standard ranged and melee attacks, all 11 characters (six are deployed at a time) have a unique “gift” that can be used to bring down enemies or heal/buff comrades. Gifts are used at the expense of both GP (gift points) and sanity, and that adds another layer of strategy — exhaust your sanity, which also drops when taking damage, and you’ll go berserk, rendering that character uncontrollable. It’s a nice twist, as is the ability to defer a character’s turn and transfer it to another.
Theoretically, characters that don’t trust each other won’t assist with attacks, but in all my hours with the game that covered dozens of battles with all different combinations of team members I never saw anyone refuse to help. That was a little disappointing given you’re constantly working with a traitor in your midst (more on that later). Also, the “deep vision” mini game is dull.
Offering a blend of anime-style cut scenes and last-gen graphics, Lost Dimension never really clicks on a visual level. That being said, enemy variety and gift effects are at least respectable with a pleasant mix of colors and animations. Even that comes at a price, however, as there’s no fluidity to combat with load screens literally interrupting every action — you attack, load, your teammate assists, load, the enemy counters, load… Granted, they’re brief, but they shouldn’t exist at all.
Lost Dimension could’ve really elevated the emotional side of its traitor reveals with better character development, starting with the voice acting and dialogue. Unfortunately, neither of those elements is well done, and the soundtrack eventually becomes gratingly repetitive. That the game succeeds as much as it does in the face of such subpar presentation is a testament to its other areas.
A crazed villain known simply as The End has promised to destroy the world, and the only hope for humanity is an 11-member S.E.A.L.E.D. team that has infiltrated The End’s tower. Now they must ascend to stop The End from making good on his threat. There are two major problems you’ll need to deal with before that confrontation takes place: first, you’ll need to sacrifice one of your own teammates to reach a new floor, and second, there are traitors in your midst.
That’s right, multiple members of your squad have their own agendas, and it’s up to you as Sho Kasugai to utilize your psychic powers to locate them. It’s a very cool concept that suffers somewhat in its execution. The basic setup is that there are three potential traitors per floor, and you identify them by deploying different groupings of agents. After each battle, Sho will read thoughts and let you know if there is a potential traitor among your five current squad mates.
What hurts Lost Dimension is the fact that you can replay old quests as often as you’d like, and once you level up you can clear Floor 1 missions in about a minute. This allows you to identify the candidates quickly, and then using Vision Points (earned by clearing main battles) to positively identify which one is the real traitor. It’s worth noting that the character that turns is random, so you can replay the game for a different experience.
It’s still pretty cool, but more could’ve been done with it. Things like behavior in battle or subtle dialogue variations to help steer you a certain way, making the psychic angle only part of what’s needed to uncover the traitor’s identity. Maybe reduce the number of Vision Points so that you can only examine one per floor. That way, if you’re wrong, you have to use other means to figure out which of the two candidates it is. As it stands, it’s a little too cut and dry.
Each mission is scored on a ranking system, and, as noted, you’re free to replay them as often as you’d like. Floors feature a blend of main (storyline) missions and sub quests, and later on you’ll be able to unlock a number of character-specific quests if you build up enough camaraderie. There’s little deviation in any of them, but I still found reasons to play them all and revisit some to chase “S” ranks.
There are some problems that hold Lost Dimension back — ambivalence toward (and sometimes legitimate dislike of) your teammates, slow moving Enemy Turn segments, the aforementioned load times, etc. — but there’s nothing here that dissuaded me as the hours piled up.
As much as I enjoyed Lost Dimension, I’m left to ponder what could’ve been with better character development, improved presentation and a more diverse traitor identification system. Still, what’s there is well worth your time if you hold any affection for tactical RPGs.