From Square Enix's Tokyo RPG Factory comes Lost Sphear, a spiritual successor of sorts to I Am Setsuna, and like its predecessor, Lost Sphear is a nod back to the popular, and often lauded, '90s RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger. This isn't only in style but in substance too, as everything is catered for in varying degrees, like strong characters, the age-old battle of peace versus tyranny, large open worlds to traverse, and dungeons to explore. The battle system is also derived from the classic ATB (Active Time Battle) setup in which each character needs to charge up before taking their move, whether it's an attack, skill or item, and the same also applying to foes.
Lost Sphear is set in a world where memories are being forgotten and whole towns and villages are disappearing into a white mist as rogue monsters start to roam the landscapes. After a vivid dream our young adventurer, Kanata, wakes to find his village missing, and with the aid of his misfit group of friends he discovers that memories, cast into stones, are hidden and that he has the ability to restore the lost memories back into the world.
The game is beautiful to behold as the pastel watercolour palette breathes life into the world, and even from the home screen, which constantly adapts as you play your way through the story, you can see the effort put into making the world feel alive. Lost Sphear runs at 60 FPS on PS4 but is locked to just 30 FPS on the Switch, and while this is slightly noticeable side by side, the gameplay doesn't falter (the turn-based battle system doesn't need all those frames). Lost Sphear sets out to try and recreate the look of those classic SNES and PS1 JRPGs and uses a 3D engine to create a fabulous-looking world that could easily be an HD remake of an older game. Gone are the pixelated characters and clunky controls, but don't be fooled, there are no glorious cutscenes that we have been spoilt with from the like of the Final Fantasy series.
All of Lost Sphear's storytelling is all done through text-based dialogue, and there's still a lot of reading to be done, as we're missing voiceover for the story. In fact, other than a small amount of Japanese spoken during combat, which can be turned off at the start if you wish, there's no audio dialogue at all. While the older fans amongst us may be accustomed to this early style of storytelling, many modern RPG players may find this particular step back a little harder to enjoy. Don't fret though, because if reading vast pages of dialogue isn't your thing, you can speed up the text and even skip whole sections. In the configuration settings there are a number of other time-saving options too, including adjusting event time, difficulty, and even the Active Time Battle system can be adjusted to suit your playing speed. This being said, a lot of time has been spent getting the story right and it would be a shame to skip it and not enjoy the well-written and funny script.
The story is accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack, including an amazing mix of piano and strings that can be wistful, haunting, and at times quite powerful. We have to admit that the main melody has become something of an earworm that we find ourselves humming along to even when not playing the game, so that's when you can tell it's a good tune.
As mentioned, Lost Sphear utilises the ATB system and is very similar to that of I Am Setsuna. One standout feature though is that the actual positioning of the characters in the battle can greatly affect how successfully they fight. With each character comes a different style of combat, as some are close range, others can operate from a distance, and some have huge areas of effect. Take, for example, Van, who's ranged attack will pass through multiple opponents so, if lined up correctly before attacking, he can unleash his barrage on a whole line of baddies maximising damage across your foes. Each character also has a momentum skill, much like the limit breaks in Final Fantasy. This fills up as you battle and when activated with a well-timed button press it can unleash an extra attack.