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Lost Kingdoms (GameCube) artwork

Lost Kingdoms (GameCube) review

"Entitled Rune in Japan, Lost Kingdoms was Gamecube's first true RPG. While it was a welcomed addition to the Gamecube's games library, it didn't sell very well, but that didn't prevent it from getting a sequel. Now that better RPGs came out on Gamecube, The Lost Kingdoms series quickly faded into gamers' memory. Can't blame them though, as Lost Kingdoms is a very forgettable game. Its short length, shallow storyline and non-intriguing quest give a bad first impression of it. It's clearly obvious..."

Entitled Rune in Japan, Lost Kingdoms was Gamecube's first true RPG. While it was a welcomed addition to the Gamecube's games library, it didn't sell very well, but that didn't prevent it from getting a sequel. Now that better RPGs came out on Gamecube, The Lost Kingdoms series quickly faded into gamers' memory. Can't blame them though, as Lost Kingdoms is a very forgettable game. Its short length, shallow storyline and non-intriguing quest give a bad first impression of it. It's clearly obvious that the developers placed their efforts into creating an interesting battle system, and it works, regardless of the rest.

Lost Kingdoms' story won't blow you away, but had it been refined a bit, it had the potential to be great. The story follows Princess Katia of the Alanjeh Kingdom as she journeys through the land to find her father and save the kingdom from an ancient evil awakened. You're not told much more than this, so it feels a bit awkward when you start. The story doesn't really expand more until the end of the game. You do meet some other characters during the quest, but they don't add much to the storyline.

While Lost Kingdoms is lacking in graphics and length departments, it features a very solid gameplay that makes the game worth playing for that alone. It's far from perfect, but solid nonetheless. The game starts in Katia's castle where you find the Runestone, a sacred stone that allows you to use magical cards. By now you've probably understood it, Lost Kingdoms is a card RPG. Outside of battles, it basically plays like any other RPG, but battles are fought with the help of cards. Lost Kingdoms is a simplified form of RPG. It does feature the basics of RPGs, but don't expect Lost Kingdoms to blow you away with terrific FMVs and a deep storyline. Nor with a lengthy quest or clever puzzles. Katia also fights alone, she has no party members whatsoever and the game isn't filled with towns and fetch quests. Now you may think that the game must be boring then. Well, no. What Lost Kingdoms offers as an RPG experience isn't a lot, but it certainly is enough to hold the game together and make it enjoyable. Of course, it could have been improved in so many ways, but in some cases, simplicity is very effective too.

After leaving Katia's castle, you'll be brought to the world map, from where you'll be able to access all levels, simply by moving the cursor around to select a level. The game features 24 levels, which 9 of them are optional to the quest. There's also two shops, where you'll be able to buy and sell cards and trade fairies for cards. You must do the levels in order as the adventure progresses, but once the game is beaten, you can replay the levels in the order you wish. The levels are fairly simple, they consist of various different locations Katia ventures into during the quest, like castles, abandoned villages, mountains, volcanoes, temples, lakes... the areas aren't very large and they're pretty straight forward, but they're fun to explore and hide many secrets like treasure chests and hidden fairies.

The interesting aspects of Lost Kingdoms are the hidden chests and cards you can find throughout the adventure. In some levels, in some occasions, you'll need to look in bushes and examine every suspicious objects like rocks and mushrooms to find hidden cards or fairies. You'll also need to use the cards you carry on you to find some other cards. For example, you may see obstacles blocking your way to a chest like tree trunks or fences, but you can use your attack cards to break those during battles so you can then access the chest. You'll also encounter random fights during the levels which are fought in real-time with your deck of cards. You can put as many cards in your deck as you wish, up to 30 and you can manage it as you wish between levels. During the fights, you can move Katia as you want around the battlefield to avoid the enemies' attacks and once you get an opening, it's the right time to select a card to attack the enemy.

There are several types of cards, like summons, healing, independent creatures, boosts and attack/defense cards. Each card has an attribute, either fire, water, wood, earth or normal. Obviously, you'll want to try and use a water card against a fire enemy or a fire card against a wood enemy. You can't always decide though, as the cards are chosen randomly from the available cards in your deck. You have the choice between 4 cards, and once you use one, it will be replaced by another one. You can also skip cards if you're not happy with the 4 random ones. Your cards can also be used to capture monsters that'll become cards in your deck.

Summoning monsters and using cards will cost you Magic Points, so you'll constantly have to run around the battlefield to pick up Magic Stones the enemies drop. The battle system works pretty well for the most part, it's really a lot of fun since you have to know very well the effects of each card to rapidly think of a strategy with the random cards you get. The main flaw is that once you run out of cards in your deck, you're left with nothing to attack, so you'll need to abort the level as you'll need to keep some cards for the boss. At the end of each fight, your cards will get experience points. With EXP, you can transform your cards into more powerful ones or duplicate your best cards or rare ones.

The game features 105 cards to collect and 100 fairies to find, so although the main quest is over too quickly, completionists will extend the quest to about 30 hours to collect all there is to. There's also a star rating system on each level depending on your score for the level, so you may want to get 5 stars on each level, although it's a hard task.

Graphically, Lost Kingdoms barely looks like a Dreamcast game, let alone a gamecube game. Character models look bland, lifeless and inexpressive. The environments are filled with fog to hide the draw distance, they also look uninspired, dull and unattractive. The game lacks any kind of uniqueness to its graphics. However, the game's charm resides in its atmosphere. The adventure feel of Lost Kingdoms is amplified by its realistic presentation and gloomy tone. The atmosphere make you feel like exploring and you can adjust the camera near your character or far from it.

The music in Lost Kingdoms is rather calm and atmospheric, sometimes barely noticeable, but when you actually stop to listen at it, it's pretty nice. The music is charming and well composed. Sounds are very nice too, each monster has its own sounds and characters all have their respective voice sample. Too bad there's no voice-acting though.

While the game isn't mind blowing, its pace and atmospheric areas will drag you in. The exploration feeling is nice and all the fun lies within the cards. It's a shame it's so short though. Obviously, the game could have been a lot better and suffers from a lack of any compelling quests, but old school RPG gamers will find in Lost Kingdoms something to like.

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Community review by wishingtikal (September 28, 2005)

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