Tokyo RPG Factory released I am Setsuna in 2016, which unfortunately built itself up to be more grand than it could deliver upon. While it was a decent game, it suffered from various issues that presented us with an average title that wasn’t terribly memorable. With their second release, Lost Sphear, it is clear that the company is finally stepping in the right direction.
Lost Sphear begins with the young Kanata and his friends experiencing a strange phenomenon where their village is engulfed in a blinding, white light. Soon thereafter, he discovers a strange power within him to dissolve the white light, known as Lost, and return his home back to normal. After the nearby empire begs him to aid them in restoring other areas, Kanata sets out on a journey of self-discovery and learning the truth behind the mysterious Lost.
While the story is nothing groundbreaking, Lost Sphear at least starts off interesting and is an overall delightful experience. Although there are unfortunately a few plot holes that never get filled, the story itself remains coherent until the end. As well, the cast of characters are a pleasant bunch, and by the end you’ll find yourself warming up to even those you didn’t find so pleasant at first.
Lost Sphear is a definite improvement over its predecessor, I am Setsuna. Some positives right away are the difficulty options, which consist of Easy, Normal, and Hard, giving you more control over how you want to experience the game. If you’re looking just to enjoy the story with relatively little challenge, the game gives you this in the Easy option, but also doesn’t insult you by making it a cake walk. Some bosses still require some effort and thought to defeat. If you want something more challenging through and through, Hard will give you just that.
Combat isn’t too different from I am Setsuna. You still have an ATB style system with various skills that you unlock through the use of equipped Spritnite. However, Lost Sphear has improved upon the original system with a few changes. For instance, you have four active members instead of three, and can switch out your standby party member mid battle. Another new addition to this combat system is being able to position yourself before using a skill, therefore guaranteeing you hit as many enemies as possible.
While the Spritnite system is intriguing, there were times in I am Setsuna where the amount available to you almost felt overwhelming. There were so many Spritnite that you could equip but not nearly enough content to make the most out of them. The amount almost made the combat too flexible for how little game there was. Lost Sphear does this a bit better; it doesn’t push out too many too quickly and generally lowers the amount of Spritnite there are in the game while still remaining versatile.
During the game, you can unlock various artifacts at key locations throughout the world. These add an interesting spin to the combat and also give other perks that can be molded to fit your play style. Some are more detailed while others are rather simple. For instance, you can place an artifact that allows you see enemy HP or have a world map in the corner of the screen. While these seem like things that should have just been available from the start, it allows for play style flexibility for those who would rather not have them. Thankfully there are plenty of locations that you can place artifacts on, so by the end of the game you can have a wide range of perks available.
One of the more interesting additions to Lost Sphear is the Vulcosuits. These are basically mechs that your characters can pilot at almost any time while exploring dungeons, changing up the way you do combat. While the idea is interesting, you are unfortunately limited to how much you can do by a point system. Using skills depletes these points until you can no longer use the Vulcosuits. After this, you have to use an item or recover at an inn to use them again. Not only is this a little frustrating, but it felt like the game didn’t give enough places where you really feel like you need to use the Vulcosuits. Aside from a couple of spots here and there, they are largely optional. Rather than giving you freedom to use them whenever, the game should have taken a Xenosaga approach and had sections of the game where they were required, other parts where using them was not an option, and some dungeons that use a hybrid of the two.
Graphically, Lost Sphear doesn’t have much going for it. It’s a seamless transition from the graphical style of I am Setsuna; So much so in fact, some NPCs and other assets were outright reused. However, one thing it does do differently is the variety of locations. Virtually every location in I am Setusna was either snow or ice, giving very little variation and not much done with the lighting. Lost Sphear has numerous types of locales, although ironically none that are snowy. This is probably due to the Lost looking like a large blanket of snow, or it could be Tokyo RPG Factory’s knee-jerk reaction to the negative reception of using too much snow in Setsuna.
One pleasant thing from I am Setsuna that is missing from Lost Sphear is character portraits beside dialogue. It was a touch that I liked in Setsuna that was removed for reasons I’m not certain. The artwork is a lot more front facing in contrast, which might be why it’s delegated to the status menus, but it’s still fairly small. If you purchase this game digitally and don’t look outside the game for artwork, it can be difficult at times to imagine what the characters are supposed to look like based on their 3D models and tiny menu portraits.
The soundtrack for Lost Sphear is one of the shining improvements over I am Setsuna. While Setsuna’s soundtrack was very pretty, it did get bland after awhile of only hearing the same instrument over and over again, proving that too much of a good thing can become stale after awhile. Lost Sphear changes it up by adding more instruments to its compositions and it resulting in an excellent score. The soundtrack is memorable and moving, but it does have a downside, that being that there isn’t more of it. Particular important scenes didn’t feel as enthralling as they could have since a lot of the tracks were recycled for certain situations.
In terms of localization, Lost Sphear’s is about what is expected from companies these days. It’s a little above average, but it’s nothing substantial. It gets the job done in a way that doesn’t impact the gameplay for better or worse. The lack of English voices is somewhat of a downer, depending on your thoughts on dubs. But since the voices are reduced to combat only, it’s doesn’t cause much of an impact for those looking for English voice overs. However, it would have at least been nice to have gotten some subtitles for battle dialogue.
When all is said and done, Lost Sphear is an undeniable improvement over its predecessor. When I originally approached I am Setsuna, I went in with too high of expectations due to the way the game was advertised. This in turn made me very cautious when approaching Lost Sphear, which ended up being a pleasant surprise. Everything I liked about Setsuna was better in Lost Sphear, and the things that I didn’t enjoy were improved upon. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case for everyone, and I still feel like it could be a risky purchase for the cost. If you enjoy older style RPGs but aren’t expecting something to give you the same feeling as the games you grew up with, give Lost Sphear a try. If you’re hoping for a timeless epic, it’s best to look elsewhere. But one thing is for certain; with how improved Lost Sphear is over its predecessor, it only spells good things for Tokyo RPG Factory in the future.
Pros & Cons
+ Improved combat
+ Pleasing soundtrack
– Story isn’t groundbreaking, but also not bad
– Hardly any required implementation of the Vulcosuits
A definite improvement to its predecessor and an overall enjoyable experience, but is still far from a masterpiece.
PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Tokyo RPG Factory