After the deluge of fantastic games that launched last year, it was up in the air as to whether or not 2018 would be able to keep up the pace. Well, good news: the first batch of new releases for the year have proven to be pretty solid all around. For instance, JRPG fans should absolutely check out Lost Sphear, the latest in a sort of retro-revival series from Square Enix.
Kanata’s world gets both flipped and turned upside-down when he returns after a fishing expedition with some friends only to find his hometown has disappeared. All that’s left is a white outline where buildings, roads and even people used to be. There’s no explanation for this occurrence and the situation seems dire, but a prophetic dream reveals that Kanata has the power to bring the world back. By condensing memories of the places and people who had been Lost, he can restore them to existence, and so it’s up to Kanata and his crew to figure out what’s going on and solve the problem.
Lost Sphear is a spiritual successor to 2016 JRPG cryfest I Am Setsuna, a game that even pierced my cold, dark heart, and it shows in the way Sphear looks and plays. The overall aesthetic is somewhat reminiscent of the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV, showcasing a sort of chibi character design. Sphear definitely manages to look and feel like a classic title brought into the modern age.
Gameplay-wise we’ve got a revision on the Active Time Battle system that plays out somewhat like Setsuna’s take on the concept; that game was, in turn, inspired by how Chrono Trigger played. Before combat, you’ll gear up your characters by equipping special gems that enable them to use skills as well as the usual weapons and armor. When a scuffle starts, characters are now able to move around the battlefield on command, allowing you to arrange your party to avoid enemy attacks and to catch as many foes as possible in your own area-effect assaults. Other quirks include limited-use mech suits and momentum points that build up over time, allowing for enhanced abilities in a pinch.
The combat and other gameplay-focused additions to the formula make Sphear feel like more of a complete game than Setstuna, which had a tendency to come off like more of a visual novel that just so happened to have combat and dungeon-crawling. I generally found myself preferring this entry in the pseudo-series as a result, even if the plot has a little less punch behind it. As mentioned, Lost Sphear’s presentation is on point as well if you’re looking for a classic title; a younger me would have adored this one.
One thing worth noting: the PC version of Lost Sphear is just as fussy as the PC version of Setsuna, so beware of crashes that can be traced to odd technical quirks like the sample rate of your sound device. Consider the Switch version instead.
It’s interesting that the most common complaint I’ve seen leveled at both this game and I Am Setsuna has been that they’re a little TOO retro. I’d consider that a plus, myself; Lost Sphear is a great callback to the classic JRPGs of old and it’s bound to evoke a little nostalgia in players who remember those days. In particular, if you can look back fondly on games like Lunar and Grandia – two series that clearly inspired Lost Sphear’s direction – then you’re certain to enjoy this one