A team of heroes with powers, Someone calling themselves The End and threatening to launch Nukes, and traitors within the team – sounds good to me.
So far as obscure Japanese games that have made their way across to these shores go, Lost Dimension on Vita (also available on PS3) is quite an enjoyable turn-based tactical RPG. Packing in some solid combat, a reasonably interesting group of somewhat stereotypical characters, and a few twists to the formula, Lost Dimension actually manages to stand out among the sea of RPGs coming in from Japan.
The story however, is not one of the games strong points. It starts reasonably well, with the scene being set as a mysterious individual known as The End threatens to launch nuclear weapons upon the world unless some handy heroes manage to make their way through his tower. So it comes down to SEALED, a secret government organisation made up of members with special powers, to save the day. The main character that the player controls is Sho, who has a very special power that will prove invaluable in this particular quest, although the player will find themselves controlling a team of six through the various missions.
The core story tends to jump around a bit, with a fair few twists along the way, resulting in an unsatisfying conclusion. Another, more interesting ending is available, but will require multiple playthroughs. The story feels bolted on as an afterthought to make sense of the mechanics. But all is not lost as the player will be able to uncover the back stories of the other characters during their game, which prove much more interesting and will make what comes next that bit more devastating.
In an interesting twist, there are traitors on your team. To progress, the player will have to try and identify the traitor by using Sho’s ability. But first they will need to listen to the thoughts of the characters after battle to identify the three possible traitors with suspicious thoughts. Once they have made their mind up, they will need to convince the rest of the team as to who the traitor is, as voting out the traitor is a group effort. Being able to convince the other team members comes down to building a relationship with each of them, adding another level of complexity to the game. It is a brilliant twist which raises the paranoia level, especially as the traitors are randomised each playthrough.
But things don’t end there, as it is very possible to accuse the wrong person, or to have your suspicions ignored by the other members, leaving the real traitors on the team. As the player will have to eliminate traitors multiple times through the story, each one that is missed will turn on the player for the final battle, ramping the tension up and making a successful discovery of the traitor all the more important. Fortunately, the indicators are fairly easy to find, but mistakes still happen.
Each member of the team has a different ability that will prove useful during the game. The random nature of the traitors could have resulted in players losing a particularly useful ability, but the game gets around this by allowing the player to re-assign the ability of a lost team member to other members. The abilities are well thought out and can give the player a distinct advantage. But prolonged use can have consequences.
In combat, the characters have a GP gauge which powers their abilities, a Hit Point gauge, and a Sanity gauge. The characters Sanity is slowly chipped away when they are attacked, or when they use their powers. Once this gauge is empty, the character will go berserk, which can be truly impressive. Once berserk, the character’s defense drops but their offense increases, making them much more powerful. This may sound like a good thing, but the character will also not discriminate between friends and enemies when they attack. A berserk character also affects the sanity of the other characters.
The combat itself is fairly standard turn-based tactical stuff, and is quite enjoyable. There are a couple of mechanics set into the system that make it even more interesting. An Assist mechanic means that when characters are grouped closely together a single attack can turn into multiple attacks. Then there is the Defer mechanic which can allow a character to have an extra turn. These, along with the Berserk mechanic and the various abilities, mean that the combat can be as deep as the player wants.
After battle, all of the characters will receive experience which will allow them to eventually level up and increase their stats. They will also earn cash for spending on improved equipment and weapons, and points that can be used to unlock new abilities, some of which prove to be incredibly impressive.
The combat is great, but outside of combat there is a fair amount of repetition. On each floor of the tower, players will have to find a new traitor. They will also have to continue building relationships with the other characters, which can be frustrating when a character you have been building a relationship with turns out to be the traitor for that level, in an attempt to unlock the second ending.
Lost Dimension is a really good turn-based tactical RPG with some great ideas. However, there are also a few missed opportunities, such as the story, that prevent Lost Dimension from being a really great game. Despite this, the game is easily one of the better RPGs on the Vita. Fans of the genre should pick up Lost Dimension and find the traitors.