Use of Tobacco
Platform: Nintendo Switch Release Date: June 19, 2018
No. of Players: 1 player Category: Role-Playing
Publisher: NIS America
The notion of being “The One” in human society is an antique and deeply-ingrained construct of our civil society. From being someone’s soulmate- the one person as a point of romance- to references of being “The Chosen One” in contemporary literature, concepts and structures of “One-ness” as agents of action have a vast reach throughout human culture- each with their own associated triumphs and tribulations. For instance, the notion of being “The One” to someone else- I.e., their soulmate, can become troublesome, as it can cause many a soulmate-seeker to self-sabotage their present relationships. This brings us to the NIS America published and Kadokawa Games developed The Lost Child that is releasing next week on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch. The game revolves around Hayato Ibuki: a journalist for an occult magazine who learns that he is The Chosen One for God. So, while Hayato may be The Chosen One for God, is The Lost Child “The One” for the player, or do they self-sabotage their time with the game believing that “The One” is out there for them?
Make no mistake, the game is heavily influenced and features a similar gameplay loop to the Shin Megami Tensei series of games. With that comes a high bar to meet, let alone surpass. This is especially so with the story, as ATLUS writes spectacular story after spectacular story. The Lost Child, in comparison, has a difficult time getting to a point where it would even be in the same realm of the worst story written by ATLUS. With that said, removing ATLUS comparisons out of the equation showcases the plot in a much better light. In the opening moments of the game as Hayato is investigating the cause of suicides happening in the Subway system, he is presented a mysterious locked case from the Middle Rank Angel Balucia. This kicks off his journey into the war between angels and demons and to meeting Balucia’s “twin” little sister Lua who joins as our hero’s sidekick in the story. This is where the story already has presented some holes to the gamer.
They present Balucia as the older twin sister and Lua as the younger twin sister. Twins are born at the same time and neither would really be classified as older or younger as the game is presenting it. Yes technically one is born first and yes technically the one born first holds it over the other’s head, but the story makes it seem like they were born at separate times, which makes the twin designation puzzling. Nitpicking aside, when compared to the Shin Megami Tensei series’ usually dark plot, this game’s story would be considered a walk in the park on a sunny day. While there is nothing wrong with a lighter story, it is yet another comparison the player will be marking as they play the game. The player will enjoy the change of pace of being a regular joe being thrown into the battle and having to learn everything as opposed to a trained solider who has been filled in already on what to expect in the given situation.
While the story is a mixed bag depending on how the player will look at it in relation to Shin Megami Tensei games, the gameplay is also a jumbled miscellany. One good part of it, especially for those worried how SMT V could show a map or an Etrian Odyssey game could involve map drawing, is that the game is a first-person dungeon crawler that has a map that fills in as you walk over a tile. This semitransparent map can be small in the top right corner, a bit larger in the middle of the screen, or turned off completely. It really shows how both of those more well-known games may be presented gameplay wise when (or, in Etrian Odyssey’s case, if) they are released on the Nintendo Switch. I also love how informative and immersive the opening scene of the game feels, but the presentation looks like a low-budget lyric video from a small local band.
A positive on the quality of life side is that while the text starts super slow, the player can elect to speed it up in the options (just like in a Pokémon game). This is not the only Pokémon comparison as, each Astral (the game’s name for demons) has 3 distinct versions, or evolutions, of itself. While this is refreshing compared to Shin Megami Tensei, I would rather just fuse the demons since The Lost Child has a poor system of getting different skills- mostly magic attacks and healing, but some sword attacks- onto different Astrals. To move a skill, you have to offer one from the receiving Astral as compensation that will be gone forever. I would rather have seen them traded in a compensation system like this. Not only that, since the Astrals do not gain experience, but the player gains karma points to spend on the demons themselves, the evolutions feel like a waste of karma since they get reset to level one.
Speaking of Astrals, when you run into them you will be pulled into battle. This turn-based combat system is very similar to Shin Megami Tensei games with normal attacks via a gun, bow, or blunt object mixed in with the above skills and the usual items. Hayato also has this gun named ‘Gangour’ that can be used to attack, or even capture, Astrals. This means no negotiation in this game, which is such a blessing after playing through Strange Journey Redux! When you capture the demons, they are not pure and you will have to simply purify them before being able to use them. When/if they die, just a quick purification will bring them right back, too. It is a unique, if not a bit dumbed down, system to separate the game from its influences. While the demon designs in the Shin Megami Tensei games are more often than not badass, the designs of Astrals are middle of the road with some being on the horrible side.
There is a lot to like with The Lost Child, including a wonderfully fabulous soundtrack, but there is also a lot to dislike, such as the unnecessary unlocking mini game for chests. With that said, this is the first Shin Megami Tensei-like game that has come to the Nintendo Switch and with no release timeframe for SMT V, this game easily scratches the itch. With a middle-of-the-road story and a gameplay loop that feels similar (with some changes), even if a mixed bag, it is a game a player can easily jump into a relationship with. However, the player will eventually grow weary of the flaws and move on. So enjoy a summer fling with The Lost Child, but know the one is out there…looming….waiting for ATLUS to finish it and unleash it out into the world. (Ryan Williford)
Review Copy provided by NIS America; all games played in handheld mode.