Game Title: Lost Sphear
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory, Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download (Retail Version Sold Out from SE’s Website)
Battery Life: 4 – 5.5 hours
Download: 2.4 GB
The world of RPGs has been working towards bigger, more action-based games for several years now. Final Fantasy XV extended that franchise’s dive into Action RPG gameplay. Fallout quickly turned from turn-based combat to Action-based Shooter RPGs once Fallout 3 happened. Etc.
The days of retro turn-based combat aren’t completely gone, though. A few years ago, Tokyo RPG Factory, along with publisher Square Enix, brought back gameplay from the likes of Chrono Trigger in the form of I am Setsuna, which was a launch title for the Nintendo Switch and further cemented that platform as a new RPG Handheld after the Vita version of the same game never came to the West.
This year, the same developer tried their hand at another game of the genre. Going off of the groundwork that I am Setsuna created for it, here is my review for the Nintendo Switch version of Lost Sphear!
In Lost Sphear, the world is slowly disappearing from existence. People, places, animals, and more are becoming “Lost”, misty remnants of what they once were. With more of the world becoming Lost, the various countries of the world seek the source to put a stop to it and restore Peace.
You play as Kanata, a young boy with the strange ability to manifest Memories and restore the Lost back into the world, undoing the damage being done around the globe. Heralded as a Beacon of Hope, Kanata is recruited by the local country and goes on a journey to restore the rest of the world and find the source of the “Lost Phenomenon”.
The plot of Lost Sphear is one of its best qualities, as the idea of things becoming Lost and being restored to life is an interesting plot point. The only thing I don’t like about the plot is its pacing. The first 10-12 hours proceeds like a normal JRPG, and then almost at random, the main villain appears, the story completely shifts away from what you were doing and goes straight to a quick backstory for them and throws you at the “Final” battle.
The story does redeem itself afterwards with a False Ending and a complete Third Act that has better pacing, more twists in the story, and a more proper final confrontation, but the way they treat the 2nd part of the story just gives you a strange, rushed feeling before that Third Act starts up.
Lost Sphear is a turn-based RPG, much in the vein of games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV-VI, and even has a little bit of Xenogears thrown into the mix as well. You traverse an overworld map, explore towns and dungeons, fight in turn-based battles, ride in Ships and Airships, and everything else that was a staple back in those days.
Main progression in Lost Sphear is similar to I am Setsuna, with you traveling across a World Map and advancing the story as you reach new towns, dungeons, and locations all with their own Story Arcs and Boss Fights that are put in your way.
What makes Lost Sphear unique are its different gameplay mechanics, some of which are enhanced from those in I am Setsuna and others that are similar to both newer and older RPGs. The system that returns from Setsuna is the Spritnite System, where you exchange materials for Spritnit Orbs that let your characters equip new skills.
The new systems are where the more uniqueness is, though. On the World Map, you are able to restore “Lost” areas of the world by creating Artifacts from Memories dropped from Monsters. These Artifacts then have Battle Effects that aid you in combat, like support damage at the start of battle, being able to see enemy HP gauges, or providing higher critical hit rates under certain conditions. These becoime essential later on when you have access to the whole map and can create multiple to stack effects.
The other new systems are through combat, the Angle System as well as the Momentum and Vulcosuit systems. The way attacks work in Lost Sphear remind me of the standard combat system in the Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth games. Your attacks have ranges and you can freely walk around the map when you attack to get as many different targets in your range as possible, making essentially anyone capable of using AoE attacks just when launching a standard physical attack.
As you fight, you build up Momentum and, when a character’s Momentum Gauge is full, you can initiate Momentum Mode with a real-time button input when using an attack or skill for more damage or equipped skill effects. Then we have Vulcosuits, which are reminiscent of Xenogears. At any time in combat, you can equip large Mech Armor Suits that increase your stats as well as giving you the ability to perform special Multi-Character Finishing Attacks. All of your skills are different, depending on what character you do the attack with and many of these abilities can be found and unlocked as you traverse the World Map.
The only thing about gameplay I didn’t really care for was the lack of use in the Vulcosuit System. You’re introduced to it and you are given ability upon ability for it as you explore the game’s world, but story scenes are the only times these suits are actually “needed”. Even in Boss Fights that tell you that you have to use the Vulcosuits to win, the moment you start the battle, I found myself performing significantly better by switching them off and using the normal Momentum system. It just felt like the concept was there, but lacked any sort of push to actually use it.
One thing we definitely want to cover before closing this section is length. I am Setsuna was criticized by many for being a short RPG, barely exceeding 15-20 hours of total length. When I was nearing the end of the Second Act and got the “False Ending” after only around 16 hours, I was worried that Lost Sphear would suffer from the same length problem. Thankfully, the story easily lasted me 14 more hours before I finally managed to beat the Final Boss on the Normal Difficulty Setting.
So, if you’re worried about overall Play-Time, not counting the Post-Game Dungeons that unlock special bosses and equipment, Lost Sphear should last you at least 30 hours on the Normal Difficulty Setting.
Controls for this game aren’t that much different form I am Setsuna, outside of features that are available here that weren’t there in Tokyo RPG Factory’s last game.
Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and the Arrow Buttons / D-Pad is used for navigating menus. The L button is used for equipping your Vulcosuits, and R is used for bringing up Party Chats that remind you of where your next Story Objective is.
The rest is done with the face buttons. A selects targets and talks to NPCs, B cancels options, X pulls up the menu, and Y gives you various menu and Airship options as you progress through the game, which I won’t specify to avoid Story Spoilers.
Graphically, they improved the visuals. In I am Setsuna, it was extremely difficult to see details on the character models outside of Handheld Mode, but the graphics remain unchanged between the two game modes in Lost Sphear, giving you the same ease of details in both Docked and Undocked Modes.
The performance I have no problems with, either. The frame-rate is a steady 30 fps and I have experienced no glitches, crashes, freezes, or any other performance issues for the 30+ hours I’ve spent with the game.
Battery Life is also something Tokyo RPG Factory has improved upon. I am Setsuna had a Battery Range of about 3h46m to around 5h20m. For Lost Sphear, here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 06 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 15 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 16 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 31 minutes
This isn’t a huge increase, but 10-15 minutes of extra battery does show that the developer has improved a little on Switch optimization since Launch Day.
In conclusion, Lost Sphear takes what I am Setsuna started and brings handheld gamers a retro RPG with an interesting story and gameplay that feels like it was taken from many great old-school games. Although I disliked the story's rushed pacing in its 2nd Act and the lack of push for the Vulcosuit System, it remains a good and fun JRPG for fans of the genre to enjoy on the go.