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by Ethos

Riddles’ Relapse Part 4 – Lost Odyssey

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Lost OdysseyAnd now we come to the current-gen iteration of my JRPG Relapse: Lost Odyssey. With names like Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu behind it, the game must be something amazing, right? Well, it is… and yet… it’s not. I’ll explain.

Let me preface this rant by saying that I really do love Lost Odyssey. It’s the best console Japanese RPG of this generation (which really isn’t saying much, I know) and it has a some truly stirring moments that I’ll never forget. The game is very, very good at what it does: emulate a traditional old-school JRPG experience on a modern console.

However, therein lies the problem. Lost Odyssey is the same experience you had back in 1991 with Final Fantasy IV, decked out in 3D graphics on the Unreal engine. Everything from random encounters to cumbersome, unattractive menu systems. Everything annoyance short of blowing dust out of the cartridge is back, in pristine form.

Lost Odyssey begins with a long, flashy FMV sequence showing an incredible battle between two massive armies. The camera eventually cuts to the protagonist Kaim, and we watch as Kaim lays waste to  literally hundreds of men. It looks like something straight out of, say, Dynasty Warriors.

But then the game transitions to an actual battle, and we’re ┬áback in 1991. It’s quite comical, really; or it was to me. The first thought that struck me was: “this would instantly turn away anyone who doesn’t already love JRPGs.”

In other words, there is no market for a game like Lost Odyssey in todays world, with the exception of us – the ones who’ve been fighting with menus for years or decades now.

And honestly, I doubt we comprise a large percentage of today’s videogame market. Sad but true.

But again, I like Lost Odyssey. I like it a lot, and here’s why: it does what it sets out to do very well. It’s an extremely solid RPG, and anyone with a pre-existing love for the genre – such as myself – will probably enjoy it. The story is fairly predictable, but it’s told well and has a strong cast of characters. The “1000 Years of Dreams” stories are a great as well. The game tries pretty hard to tear-jerk, and to its credit, it can succeed at times.

And it’s worth saying yet again: Nobuo Uematsu is a literal god amongst men. Lost Odyssey sounds very different from any previous work, and because of that, I consider it one of his best efforts to date. The theme music that plays as Kaim rides the into the city of Uhra for the first time is absolutely beautiful, and makes the scene itself unforgettable.

It’s also worth noting that Kaim really does look girly. I had forgotten. Or… didn’t notice the first time. Not sure.

It’s an interesting thing that the two most similar RPGs I played this week were the first and the last – Final Fantasy VI and Lost Odyssey.

It almost makes like this… y’know, statement or somethin’, y’know?

But I’m not really sure what it is, so I’ll just let it speak for itself. I plan to write more about Japanese RPGs before the week is over though. So don’t get too comfortable.

Concerning Voice Acting…

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Okay, well it’s confession time here at Riddlethos.com: we’ve failed hardcore at Cheesy Voice Acting week. My apologies to our legions of disappointed fans, but me and Ethos are only human. Or, at least, I’m only human. Ethos can speak for himself.

See, this happens when we don’t employ foreplay foresight while dreaming up theme weeks. I’ve spent the entire week trying to dream up SOMETHING relevant to write about Cheesy Voice Acting, but needless to say, I’ve been drawing blanks. So now I’m just… rambling. Rambling away. Let’s run with it, shall we?

Barf.

Barf.

Just how important IS voice acting to a game, anyway? In my opinion, the gaming industry must strive to achieve competence across the board when it comes to voicework, if it ever hopes to be treated with the same respect as the film industry. And I think we can all agree that, as a whole, the voice acting we hear today trumps what we had even five years ago. In fact, I can’t think of a single game I’ve played this generation that featured truly poor voice acting.

Wait. Strike that. I forgot about a certain Blue Dragon.

Anyway. Regardless, for every Blue Dragon we have a Lost Odyssey. And a BioShock. And an Uncharted. And a Mass Effect. And to be fair, there were more than a few last-gen releases that are noteable for their voicework. Sure, we had the Baten Kaitos’ and the Devil May Crys and the endless stream of licensed games with shitty imitation voice acting, (that stream is still running today, sadly) but we also had greatness in the form of Final Fantasy XII, Xenosaga, Dragon Quest VIII, and surely more that escape my mind at the moment.

Good voice acting is worth the money and time that developers put into it. Would Uncharted be the same without Nolan North’s fantastic portrayal of protagonist Nathan Drake? Can you imagine simply READING the dialogue in Final Fantasy XII? I can, and lemme tell ya, it’s a frightening concept. And on that note, why don’t I hit you with a list made off the top of my head. Here are five of my all-time favorite videogame voice roles.

Major Hottie.

Major Hottie.

Balthier – Final Fantasy XII

Well this one’s a no-brainer. Balthier was easily the most interesting character among FFXII’s (rather bland) lineup, and this is largely due to the fantastic voicework provided by Gideon Emery. Emery himself has a pretty impressive resume, appearing in a number of videogames including Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed 2. In addition to that, he’s appeared in several popular TV shows such as 24, Burn Notice, and CSI. Final Fantasy XII is one of the last generation’s most well-acted titles, and Balthier stands apart from the rest.

Jansen – Lost Odyssey

Seriously, who didn’t love this guy? Jansen is a perfect example of comic relief done correctly. He’s funny and goofy, yes, but never over the top, and he actually has some decent backstory to his character. Of course, Lost Odyssey’s cast of characters is one of the best in recent memory, which is just part of what makes it my personal favorite RPG of this generation. Jansen was voice by an apparent nobody named Michael McGaharn. By “nobody,” I mean to say that his Wikipedia page is a stub. Other voicework includes… Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic Adventure, and Lead Phoenix in Burning Rangers. Mean anything to you? Yeah, me neither. Ah well, hopefully we’ll get to hear him again in Lost Odyssey 2, which is currently being developed in the little dream world I visit at night.

The Prince of Persia – Sands of Time/Two Thrones

He's more soft-spoken than he looks.

He's more soft-spoken than he looks.

Perhaps you’ve heard me express my fanboyism for Yuri Lowenthal in the past. If not, then you’re about to. Anyone who’s played the original Prince of Persia trilogy knows what a fantastic job he did voicing the titular Prince, at least in the first and third installments. I love Robin Atkin Downes as well, but his gravelly Wolverine-ish performance as the Prince was just one of the many things wrong with Warrior Within. Lowenthal has been in a ton of games, including Tales of the Abyss, Persona 3, Persona 4, and Xenosaga Episode III. He can also be found in a number of animes (including one of my personal favorites, Ergo Proxy) and a some scattered live-action roles.

King Trode – Dragon Quest VIII

This is fast becoming a very RPG-centric list. But like I said, I’m just going off the top of my head here, so live with it. King Trode was one of the best things about Dragon Quest VIII, and that’s saying a lot, because… Dragon Quest VIII was awesome. To this day I’m not quite sure why I loved it so much, since I’m generally turned off by grindy, ultra-traditional RPGs. Maybe it’s because among the last generation’s RPG offerings, Dragon Quest VIII’s presentation and production qualites are rivalled only by Final Fantasy XII. Among those sharp production qualities is a shockingly stellar voice cast, composed mostly of nobodies. But as good as they all are, Jon Glover’s performance as a quirky king-turned-Toad tops them all.

Albedo – Xenosaga Trilogy

This list is in no particular order, but I can safely say that among the five I’ve mentioned here, Crispin Freeman’s performance as the psychotic Albedo is my personal favorite. My love for the Xenosaga series is well-known, but I don’t think I’ve ever discussed just how much I love Albedo. He is, without question, my favorite videogame villain of all time. He’s truly insane, he’s sickeningly brutal, he has no regard for human life, and he laughs a lot. Take Kefka, merge him with Heath Ledger’s Joker, and you get Albedo. Unlike the two of them, though, Albedo actually has a backstory, which is slowly (and disturbingly) revealed throughout the course of the three games. We see everything, from his childhood to the current day, that turned him into what he is. Freeman is another one of my favorite voice actors of all time, having appeared in dozens of games including Tales of Symphonia, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and the upcoming God of War III. His performance in the Xenosaga games is undoubtedly his best work, at least from what I’ve seen. Albedo would still be a fantastic villain without him, but Freeman’s performance is why I still have so many of his insane quips and rans burned into my brain.
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Lists are fun. I like lists. Did you like this list? Do you have a list of your own, perchance? COMMENT BELOW, FOOLS.
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This list is in no particular order, but I can safely say that among the five I’ve mentioned here, Crispin Freeman’s performance as the psychotic Albedo is my personal favorite. My love for the Xenosaga series is well-known, but I don’t think I’ve ever discussed just how much I love Albedo. He is, without question, my favorite videogame villain of all time. He’s truly insane, he’s sickeningly brutal, he has no regard for human life, and he laughs a lot. Take Kefka, merge him with Heath Ledger’s Joker, and you get Albedo. Unlike the two of them, though, Albedo actually has a backstory, which is slowly (and disturbingly) revealed throughout the course of the three games. We see everything, from his childhood to the current day, that turned him into what he is. Freeman is another one of my favorite voice actors of all time, having appeared in dozens of games including Tales of Symphonia, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, and the upcoming God of War III. His performance in the Xenosaga games is undoubtedly his best work, at least from what I’ve seen. Albedo would still be a fantastic villain without him, but Freeman’s performance is why I still have so many of his insane quips and rans burned into my brain.

Lists are fun. I like lists. Did you like this list? Do you have a list of your own, perchance? COMMENT BELOW, FOOLS.