Square Enix has attempted to bring back many of the classic nostalgic JRPGs in recent times and even established a developer for this exact purpose called Tokyo RPG Factory. The first project from this developer was I Am Setsuna, which received a mixed critical reception at launch and failed to stand out among the crowd. Lost Sphear is their next project and not only is it a bigger and more ambitious project this time around, it also attempts to fix some of the issues that exhibited with I Am Setsus and as a result, it feels much more refreshing take on the classic JRPG formula.
Lost Sphear is a complete spiritual successor to I am Setsuna. The first game from Tokyo RPG Factory might have a certain old-school charm, but it also lacked something that is extremely important for an RPG, personality for the characters. Unfortunately Lost Sphear seems to continue the same trend here and while the gameplay is excellent, the story engaging enough that you keep playing the game hoping to find out more, the characters and their personality is still pretty generic which unfortunately does make the game suffer a bit.
The story in Lost Sphear deals with disappearing locations that have to do with memories. Somehow the main character, who is the hero of the story, has the power to bring back these locations by capturing the memories that are associated to them. As a small town hero, he doesn’t really know about it until he decides to go outside of town for catching fish in a nearby pond and returns to find his town disappearing in white smoke. The mystery behind this white smoke and how the hero is able to use memories to remove them, is gradually explained as you progress further in the story. The game will keep throwing new characters, story beats and gameplay elements to keep you engaged and honestly as someone who played I am Setsuna, I found the pacing in Lost Sphear a lot better.
Lost Sphere combat system is basically a mix and match of the classic JRPGs from Square Enix. It combines some elements of Chrono Trigger with its movement in combat and skilled attacks. It features an ATB (Active Time Battle) system which basically means that there is no pause in battle like a standard turn-based RPG, you will have to keep an eye out on the enemy attacks while making sure that any character who have their battle gauge full and ready to use is not sitting idle. The evolution of the battle system from I am Setsuna means you can now freely move around in the battle field and this lets you strategically position your party around the enemies so you can take them down as quickly as possible while receiving the least amount of damage from them.
Battle system revolves around performing a string of attacks or using skills. You will learn skills by equipping a special item called ‘Spritnite’ letting you use a particular skill in battle. You have limited skills here so make sure that you equip them carefully for your characters. If you keep attacking an enemy during battle, your characters will get their momentum gauges charged. They can keep a total of 3 full bars for the momentum gauge that allows you to basically press a button at the right time when attacking an enemy, visualized by a quick flash of lighting during the attacking animation. They will work for both standard attacks and skills and execute far more damage than normal action.
The exploration is pretty fun in the start as you gather memories to clear the world map of the white smoke. You can get a reward like artifact if you restore a lost point which requires you to find memories. They can also be located through exploration and clearing quests and you can use them to either restore a lost point, or combine them to create ‘Spritnite’ for learning some useful skills. The issue with this type of approach is that it tends to get repetitive after the novelty factor wears off, and the characters aren’t exactly memorable enough to keep the journey interesting. The story is actually pretty decent and you can enjoy the battle system, but the rest of the game can end up tedious especially if you are somehow obsessed with clearing the whole map.
Thankfully there are no random battles in Lost Sphear and instead you can see the monsters roaming around on the map. If you can sneak behind them, you will be able to get a surprise attack. The combat works seamless and without any loading screen. Even on the Nintendo Switch, I found the load times fast enough that they never distracted me. The loading only occurs if you enter and exit key points on the world map, which thankfully doesn’t happen much in the game.
Lost Sphear is perfect for portable gaming. It offers quicksave so you will be able to save and load your progress at any point. If you prefer playing it on the big screen, it looks great on it with visuals that seem run at native 1080p, so you aren’t really getting any compromises here. Some of the visual effects are toned down compared to the PS4 and PC but it is essentially the same experience on the Nintendo Switch. If you are looking for a good JRPG, Lost Sphear should be an obvious choice here.
Lost Sphear Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Lost Sphear is a Japanese role-playing video game developed by Tokyo RPG Factory and published by Square Enix. The game is the second to be developed by Tokyo RPG Factory, and considered a spiritual successor to their first title, I Am Setsuna.
If you enjoyed I am Setsuna, there is a good chance that you will have a great time with Lost Sphear. If you didn't, it is hard to say if Lost Sphear will be able to pull you back in, since it works more as a spiritual successor than a brand new game.