Lost Magic (DS) review
"Coming up with RPGs for the DS must be tricky. Sure, your staff can come up with all sorts of cliched stories and generic heroes to go with them. Thereís also plenty of leeway with regards to the leveling and combat systems. Hell, even the DSís graphical capabilities can work a few small wonders. But the real problem lies with the Touch Screen; itís one of the systemís most celebrated features, yet finding new and inventive ways to utilize it must be quite a task. All things considered, itís lit..."
Coming up with RPGs for the DS must be tricky. Sure, your staff can come up with all sorts of cliched stories and generic heroes to go with them. Thereís also plenty of leeway with regards to the leveling and combat systems. Hell, even the DSís graphical capabilities can work a few small wonders. But the real problem lies with the Touch Screen; itís one of the systemís most celebrated features, yet finding new and inventive ways to utilize it must be quite a task. All things considered, itís little wonder that many of the RPGs for the DS use the screen for the exact same purpose: drawing little random doodles that somehow translate into magical spells. While it seems a little creative at first, it tends to get old after a while. Especially when the same basic system is used for all the cool RPGs youíre interested in. Until the game designers get off their asses and come up with something new, gamers will have to sit back, be patient, and hopefully enjoy whatís being given to them. Thankfully, Lost Magic isnít too shabby.
Meet Isaac. Heís the typical young RPG hero/child prodigy that you will get to know over course of the adventure. At the beginning of the story, heís nothing more than a naive errand boy, slowly developing under his surrogate grandmotherís strict regimen of hard work and spell casting drills. Issac isnít your typical farm boy; heís the son of the Sage of Light, some sort of mystical guardian of the Earth (or something equally important). While having a supernatural being for a father may be beneficial, things arenít so good when daddyís work starts spilling over into the familyís private life. The Diva of the Twilight has gone insane with ambition, stealing all of the other sagesí magic wands and the powers held within them. Out of pure desperation, the Sage of Light left his wand to his son, hoping to stall enough time before the Janet Jackson wannabe literally took the world by storm. Now with nothing standing in her way, the evil Diva is on the hunt for Issac and the wand he carries. Itís up to our hero to harness the power of his dadís wand, set foot into a world of evil and set things right again.
Oh. How original.
Okay, so itís not exactly the deepest plot youíll ever come across. Generic characters, plot twists and a few brief cutscenes aside, the majority of Lost Magic takes place across the vast area that makes up Isaacís homeland. However, you wonít get to see very much of this place. Instead of being able to freely roam on a world map, youíll have to tap a few icons on the screen to walk along the paths that connect the various battlegrounds. Once youíve found the next location on your little quest, youíll occasionally be treated to a little dialogue or a tutorial of some kind. However, the bulk of the gameplay in Lost Magic revolves around battling. Once a level starts up, youíll find yourself hopelessly outnumbered by monsters, wolves, beasts, evil wizard guys, and everything in between. Youíll have to satisfy a certain goal before successfully completing the mission, such as protecting villagers, activating beacons, destroying every enemy within a time limit, vanquishing an evil wizard dude, etc.
Considering how much youíll have to take on even in the earlier battles, things might seem pretty daunting at first. Thankfully, youíve got the one thing that will send even the worst baddies packing: the magic wand. With a simple press of the shoulder button, youíll conjure up a miniature Pentagram knockoff that conveniently covers the entire Touch Screen. Use the stylus to draw a few simple symbols, and watch as your foes burn into charred carcasses, get blown away by wind gusts, crushed by rocks, drowned in a deluge of water, and die in some of the most violent-yet-non-gory ways possible. Once youíve got the basics down, youíll eventually be able to combine certain spells for different status effects, level up and develop your powers for more effective spells, and a few other nifty features that can only be discovered by experimenting with all the different spells youíll come across. Once youíve found one of the hundreds of different symbols, theyíll be neatly tucked away in a massive spell book hidden in the depths of the gameís user-friendly menus.
Thatís assuming, of course, that Isaac doesnít die before he gets the chance to sling some magic around. Though youíll spend plenty of time fumbling with the stylus and the Touch Screen in the midst of battle (and dealing with the inevitable hand cramps), the game stays true to its RTS-style gameplay; enemies can still whittle down your health as you try to create that all-too-important spell for your survival. You canít be too wand-happy with your powers either; given the horribly limited amount of magic points (the energy required to perform spells) at your disposal, youíll find yourself frequently burned out with nowhere run, waiting for the energy gauge to refill as your enemies take free shots at you. Luckily, you donít have to face the endless hordes of baddies all by yourself. Should you utilize certain spells, youíll be able to capture certain monsters, arrange them into teams, and unleash them upon their monstrous brethren. In order to command them throughout the battle, youíll have to tap on a monster, and then tap where you want it to go. Thus, you have the choice of spreading out your forces individually or sending them to their untimely deaths en masse. All of these creatures come with certain attacks, elemental magic affinities, strengths and weaknesses to be exploited during battles. Youíll even be able to level up your monsters through the battles and equip them with items to enhance their offensive and defensive capabilities.
I know what youíre thinking. Though the mechanics of Lost Magic revolve around real time strategy, this game takes a few pages (hell, it takes whole chapters) from of the Pokemon seriesí playbook. However, this game places much more emphasis on learning and using different spells in any given situation; the monster team building system is fairly underdeveloped. However, it does have its uses aside from helping you brutally slaughter the gameís decent AI. Should you feel the need to show off your mighty army and mad magic skills, you can use the gameís multiplayer capabilities to slug it out with a friend in battles of epic handheld proportions. But if you donít have anyone nearby to test your new-acquired spell on, you can use the gameís Wifi Connection to take on gamers around the world. Online play is a great idea; you get to see tons of spells and monsters that you might not normally see, observe other gamersí strategies and learn from them, and just get more out of what you could from the main Story Mode. Unfortunately, the gameplay is marred by some utterly nasty lag and connection slowdown; while playing other people is far more interesting than the adventureís battles, the whole experience so slowed to an aggravating crawl.
The game doesnít look very impressive at first glance, either. Sure, youíll get to wander through dark forests, traverse sandblasted deserts, freeze in artic wastelands, and explore plenty of other interesting locales, but thereís nothing about these places that seems very eye-catching. Many of these graphics can be implemented (and occasionally done better) on the GBA, which suggests that the game designers spent too much time developing the Touch Screen features and neglecting the DSís other capabilities. Luckily, not everything looks too mediocre. Isaacís scruffy blond hair will stand out almost anywhere against the muted colors of the levels. Also, many of the monsters come with a fair amount of detail, like a wolfís shaggy green mane, a Wyvernís leathery wings, or a Misty Mushís signature mushroom sombrero. While many of these monsters will never hold a candle from their not-so distant Pokemon cousins, their designs arenít solely there for looks; the bright colors and shapes makes identifying them a casual affair, even in the thickest of battles. Throw in a few generic RPG characters, mix them uninteresting dialogue and a forgettable soundtrack, and add in a completely unnecessary bird mutant/ Pokemon/ Digimon as Isaacís sidekick, and youíve got game that falls just short of being a truly epic experience.
Look, Lost Magic is not a bad game. Sure, itís got one of the most horribly cliched and overused plots in existence, but itís saved by a wonderfully implemented spell casting system that will leave you experimenting and developing your characterís capabilities long after the Story Mode has gone stale. For all you Pokemon enthusiasts that canít wait to get your hands on Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, the gameís monster capturing and leveling systems ought to satisfy your appetite. Gamers that love indulging in Nintendoís Wifi service can be a double-edged sword; while playing online can be a great experience, the frequent slowdowns can ruin it for those of us that lack patience. No, Lost Magic is not a bad game. It just comes off as a work that came so close, but never realized itís full potential. Nevertheless, the game has magic, lost or otherwise.
Community review by disco (June 10, 2006)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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