With all of the JRPG companies firmly backing their home-grown consoles, the 360's been lacking somewhat in a lure for the Final Fantasy crowd. But after the lacklustre Enchanted Arms, and the enjoyable but slightly childish Blue Dragon (a game I indeed like, but frequently refer to as Final Fantasy Junior), we've finally got something to fly the JRPG flag for our lovely Microsoft machines.
Firstly a quick note about several bad reviews I've read slating this as a rubbish action game. Well that's because it's not an action game. If you want action there are 1001 titles out there to pick up, but expecting this to be an action game is like sitting down to watch The Godfather and expecting to see Robocop. This is an epic. This is true storytelling. Frankly, this is gaming in an artform. In fact I may even be pursuaded to go as far as to say it's the best 360 title to date.
The plot is as twisted, convoluted and compelling as any of its Final Fantasy rivals, and indeed it should be, coming from the man who created the series. I won't delve into it as it will take hours to explain and ruin the fun, so I'll mention the gameplay.
If you've played Final Fantasy X for the PS2 then you may find yourself experiencing a little deja vu. Not only the style of the characters and environments are very similar, but the controls, camera angles and even the mini-map in the corner of the screen will feel comfortably familiar. The turn-based battle system also has the FFX feel to it, being slightly more in-depth than the previous titles in the series. As well as your basic Attack/Magic/Item etc. commands, you can switch your equipment to make the most of your armoury. Come across a fire boss with a flame weapon equipped? Not a problem. Switch it for a water one and watch his HP drop off like there's no tomorrow.
Unlike Blue Dragon or the controversial FFXII, you can no longer see your enemies on the field, and instead random encounter battles are back in full. Whilst they can be annoying when you just want to get from point A to point B to advance the story, they are something that all JRPG fans should be used to dealing with, and you'll be grateful for the resultant higher character levels when facing the bosses.
The characters themselves are interesting and deeply involving. Whilst at times you can tell this game is for and American console - mainly with the one-liner-spinning character Jansen - they all have the same depth and tragic pasts which have made our favourite characters in the past so compelling.
To sum up? If you're a fan of JRPG such as Final Fantasy, then this is a game for you. You most certainly won't be disappointed. If you've never tried a JRPG before, then forget Blue Dragon and Enchanted Arms, THIS is the one to go for.
I read one review which ended by saying this game shouldn't have been called Lost Odyssey, it should have been called Final Fantasy XII. Frankly, I don't think there's a better way of putting it.
5 stars, without a shadow of a doubt. And may we only hope this is the start of an epic new series.