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Lost Sphear Review: Getting Lost Over the Moon

It’s hard not to root for Japanese development studio, Tokyo RPG Factory.

Created under Square Enix’s roof with a sole purpose of paying homage and respect to the classic JRPGs of the past, it sounds exactly like what fans have been wanting. Their first game, I Am Setsuna, was a love letter to beloved games like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. While their latest title, Lost Sphear, tries to tweak some of the gears to make a more perfect machine, it also faces the same missteps as its predecessor. Though, I’m not sure Tokyo RPG Factory even cares.

That may seem like a grim summation of Lost Sphear as a whole, especially if you were disappointed in their last outing, but I can gladly say that I enjoyed my time with the game. Its premise, a world that suddenly begins vanishing into a white aura, can only be restored by memories. The game’s main narrative acts like a manifesto for the studio itself – that there is value in remembering the past, specifically, the cherished games they take their inspirations from.

As I’m sure nearly any RPG fan can attest, the sentiment is shared. Lost Sphear as a love letter is perfectly inoffensive. Playing it felt warm, safe, and comforting. Yet, the game never becomes more than these feelings. It also is a game that is incomparable to many of the very classics it attempts to recreate forcing itself to remain a poor imitation of what’s come before.

Lost Sphear‘s protagonist, Kanata, lives in a small town that is one of the first parts of the world to mysteriously vanish. The cast is admittedly more charming that I Am Setsuna’s sombre party members, but they still fail to ever break out of their moulds. Even worse is that the game’s driving motivation, the quest to revive the parts of the world that have been lost, feels at arm’s length the entire time. Without the ability to get to know the people and places that are lost, Lost Sphear asks us to miss something we never knew of in the first place. While its characters may mourn and grieve, the game’s laboriously lengthy dialogue sequences can make it difficult to care.

Luckily, combat in Lost Sphear is a different story. Taking what worked from I Am Setsuna and improving what didn’t, Lost Sphear features a revamped ATB system that focuses on character placement. When using attacks, you can now choose where in the area you wish your character to attack from, giving the game an almost “tactics”-like approach to combat. With the ability to combine different characters’ skills returning, you’re able to have better control of what you can and can’t do in the battlefield.

Lost Sphear also adds Vulcosuits: large, mech-inspired armour that characters can wear for a short time during battle. With their own separate HP, Vulcosuits are powerful aids that can do plenty of damage when used properly. However, Vulcosuits also use VP, which can’t be restored like other meters like your health or magic. It forces you to treat the Vulcosuits like rare items, never using them unless absolutely necessary. It’s a shame, not just for the fact that they are so much fun to use, but because I wanted to feel like I was thinking hard about the decision to use them or not. Ultimately, it became a matter of simply using them during boss battles and more difficult encounters alone.

Spritnites, the small equippable techniques from I Am Setsuna also make a return. They add another layer of customisation to characters beyond simple weapon and armour equipment that can be some of the most rewarding aspects of the game. Certain skills can enable different effects, sometimes specifically to one character and other times to the entire party at a time, giving plenty of options for players to choose from. Altogether, Lost Sphear‘s combat is a combination of different disciplines that help create a surprisingly customisable experience. If you want to play aggressively, defensively, or somewhere in between, there’s plenty of options for your playstyle of choice.

If Lost Sphear is compared directly to its predecessor, I Am Setsuna — which is a difficult comparison to avoid given the amount of times I’ve referenced it already — I’m not sure if it’s a much better game. Its story didn’t grab me as emotionally as I Am Setsuna’s did and, while most of the tweaks to its combat were welcome changes, I can’t say that they made it an overall better experience. While Lost Sphear does offer many different visual landscapes to explore and a bit more content to run through, it doesn’t feel like a substantial step forward in any direction.

Perhaps even worse is that Lost Sphear doesn’t have much to say, other than how remembering our past is just as important as enjoying the present. I love Tokyo RPG Factory’s admiration of the past, but Lost Sphear offers little for both longtime fans of the genre and casual passersby. If a taste of the past is all you need, however, then it will surely be your companion on that trip down memory road. Just don’t be looking for anything more than that here.

Lost Sphear is available on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. We reviewed the PS4 version.

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