In a world made up of various floating islands, you follow Kalas, a teenager who embarks on a journey to avenge the death of his brother and grandfather. He runs into Zelha, a young woman who is on a journey to stop the Alphard Empire from unsealing the End of Magnus, magical golden cards that seal parts of a dead god’s dismembered body. Kalas, arrogant and selfish, doesn’t want to join her, but it’s a role-playing game – things are never that easy, are they? So, these two travel across five countries to stop Magnus from being unsealed. Throw in a giant magical God-destroying whale and people with wings and you have the perfect JRPG recipe.
Baten Kaitos is an early demonstration of Monolith Soft’s talent for creating unique and unusual worlds full of life and color.
The first thing that distinguishes Baten Kaitos is that you are not play like Kalas, technically. Yes, you move him around the screen, interacting with objects like Kalas, but at the beginning of the game you are asked to name and give birth to the “Guardian Spirit”. This guardian spirit is you, the player, and Kalas (and other characters) refer to you by name several times throughout the game. But why don’t you, Guardian Spirit, know anything about the world? Amnesia! Of course.
However, I can let the amnesia slip because I’ve never seen another game break the fourth wall in this way before, other than this one and the prequel, Baten Kaitos Origins. You, being the Guardian Spirit, ensures that you, the player, is an active character in the story. As Guardian Spirit of Kalas, you must make choices and decisions that increase affinity with your party. Also, the novelty of the characters interacting with you, especially Zelha who has some very sweet conversations with you, never goes away.
The story itself isn’t too special (although it’s written by Masato Kato of Chrono Cross), but Baten Kaitos has arguably one of the most shocking twists in any RPG I’ve ever played. It’s not what I expected and it completely changes the trajectory of the plot. the drama of it is a little muffled by the tinny voice acting, but I loved the over-the-top screaming in that cutscene for a quick giggle. Though a remake could have made this scene delightfully good with better dubbing.
The ace in the deck of Baten Kaitos for me is the world. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is stunning even today. Both it and its prequel use pre-rendered backgrounds to create absolutely gorgeous landscapes and breathtaking locations. Nation maps look like watercolor tapestries, clouds and lights float across the screen, and ships and vehicles float in the background. Interactive landscapes like rubber mud and snow are different from the pretty backgrounds that catch your eye – I still love seeing the snow part as you walk through a snowstorm on your way to the Ice Kingdom. The remake would probably get rid of the pre-rendered backgrounds, which is probably what I would be most worried about.
I could easily go on about the great use of color and how I admire how different the island nations are, but it’s not just about how they look, it’s about how they look. creative they are. Sadal Suud, the first island, seems like a typical “first” RPG location, but it’s rich in forests, flora, and farming villages – and apples. In contrast, Mira is home to an abundance of locations – there’s a village made entirely of confectionery, another that looks like a children’s fairy tale, and a dungeon where you walk upside down. and go through part of Druaga’s Tower to move around.
Baten Kaitos is an early demonstration of Monolith Soft’s talent for creating unique and unusual worlds full of life and color. Each of the island nations has a real sense of place and culture. There are creatures unique to each island that are inspired by real-life animals – Fluffies look a bit like Pomeranians and are pets that assume their owners are posh or have a lot of money, and they hail from Alphard and the city of Mintaka. , while clouded gulls fly around Ferkard on Sadal Suud. Mira even has her own unique music on the map to really make you realize that yes, this island that looks like a broken mirror is really that weird.
Perhaps what I love most in the world is how the core mechanic of the game, the cards, is implemented in every aspect of Baten Kaitos. From lore to items to gameplay, cards called Magnus make up Everybody. He may be best known for his card-based combat system, which wasn’t as common back then (although FromSoftware also has a GameCube card-based RPG called Lost Kingdoms from 2002), but what sets Baten Kaitos apart is that Magnus is an integral part of almost everything you do. I already mentioned End Magnus above, but every item you use, pick up or interact with is a Magnus. To get any of these items, you must either buy a card, pick it up in combat or in a chest (for items, weapons, and armor used in combat), or absorb its essence into a blank card.
As you can imagine, almost every puzzle and side quest revolves around these blank cards, saving items and giving them to other people or places to use. There is one dungeon at the beginning of the game where you need to absorb the essence of the clouds and later use them in a generator to open a path. In another dungeon, you need to transfer the essence of the flame to the torches to activate the block-pushing puzzles. And the side quests can be as simple as bringing water to an injured person or carrying the essence of a family tree with you and getting family members to sign it – both reluctantly and lovingly. Just think of the absurdity of serving someone a glass of water from a piece of paper. And yet, it seems perfectly normal here.
Ordinary items change according to your in-game clock – foods like meat, apples, and milk rot or change, which means their properties change as well. A piece of beef can have an attack power of 40, but after two hours it will rise to 50, then to 60, until it eventually rots – then it has a chance to poison the enemy. What, Did you think you could eat beef? Mattresses break, fire swords burn, and Peach Boy eventually turns into in Miracle MOMO. Because there are so many different things that depend on time, 100% speed up takes almost 340 hours.