The Remarkable Short Stories Of Lost Odyssey

Lost Odyssey is unique in a lot of ways. It's the rare traditional JRPG on high-definition consoles, for one -- most role-playing games made in Japan today are more experimental, or designed for less costly handheld platforms. Lost Odyssey is also one of the only Japanese games exclusive to the Xbox 360, which never really took off in the East.

What's most interesting about this game, though, seems totally mundane until you get your hands on it: the short stories.

See, as you play Lost Odyssey -- which I do recommend to anyone who enjoys turn-based JRPGs -- you'll gradually unlock a feature called A Thousand Years of Dreams. The premise is that your main character, Kaim, is an immortal who has been around for roughly a millenium. Throughout the game, he remembers bits and pieces from his ridiculously long life, and they're told to you in the form of beautiful short stories written by Kiyoshi Shigematsu (and translated by Harvard professor Jay Rubin, who also translates Murakami novels). They're melancholy stories that touch upon life, death, and the effects that immortality can have on the people of this world.

Check out the game's first story:

Soak it in. The music, the sound effects, the text's gentle fading. The lovely prose, which is light, captivating, and peppered with just the right amount of description. They're gripping.

Here's another stirring one:

I've been replaying Lost Odyssey recently -- more on that in a longer column in the coming weeks -- and these stories really stand out, not just within this game but as a benchmark for writing quality in all video games. More JRPGs should come with short stories, don't you think?

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.


Comments

    They're absolutely amazing material to lightly plagiarize for school-work if you had to do creative writing and short stories in high-school like I did. sadly Lost odyssey came out not that long after I finished school so I could only lament at opportunities lost.

    Out of all the games I haven't finished or stopped playing, this one makes me feel the worst for abandoning it, I'm sorry! It's not you, it's me, I'm a horrible person Lost Odyssey! Please forgive me!

      I also regret abandoning this game. It was NOTHING to do with the game itself, which I really enjoyed, I just put it down one day and one thing led to another and it fell off priorities list. I think this article has just inspired me to start over, and give it another go.

    I thought these stories killed the pacing - if I want to read a book, I'll read the book. If I'm playing a videogame, it means I want to play a videogame.

    They are wonderful stories. There was also a fantastic scene on Disc 2 I believe, which deals with loss in such a way I've never seen done better in another game. Well worth getting, and sad to see it was mostly overlooked. The CG was spectacular I remember.

      I also loved the bit around then where you first meet the kids and intervene. :)

    I found the "dreams" the best part of the entire game. Exceptionally emotive and well translated.

    Those short stories were indeed exceptional, unfortunately it had the negative effect of making the dialogue of the game quite terrible in comparison.

    Lost Odyssey sure had a lot of potential. Unfortunately it's not the classic it wanted to be. Things that annoyed me...
    * Jensen. Eurgh, what a horrible character, and annoying voice acting.
    * The "baddie." Seriously?
    * The costumes. I know Final Fantasy is renowned for its out-there clothing, but at least you can be sure it's done with some style. The costumes in Lost Odyssey are just ugly, absolutely impractical and stupid.
    * The battle system. While it actually works fine, it's sloooooow, and watching the realistically proportioned and rendered characters literally standing still and letting the enemy whack them around was groan inducing. Random battles were an exercise in eye-rolling, since you knew the shortest you'd be in the battle was a minute or two.

    But yes, apart from all this, the completely non-interactive story segments were really, really great. Best thing in the game, IMHO. Which kind of gives me a feeling of guilt, but it's true.

      I really liked Jensen. He genuinely had me laughing a bunch of times.

      The bad guy did suck though.

    The one where Kain is Ina prison underground talking with an old man was my favorite story

    I have so much love for this game. I ended up buying the novel in Japanese. So good. All of the best post-ff jrpgs are mistwalkers. This and last story

    Little nuggets of pure gold, they were, always seem to pop up an inconvenient times for me, but of course you could leave them off, and come back later. Nice way of adding some back story for those who want more, but not making it mandatory for those who want to keep cutting along.

    Mistwalker need to make more games.

    A great game. I really liked the stories. The game would have been perfectly fine without them, but it felt like they really wanted to give an opportunity to flesh out the main character for those who wanted to spend the time to read about him. To me this felt like a decent gesture from the developer, they went beyond what they had to do to entertain and immerse the player, an added touch at the end that most people appreciated.
    I really hope there is a sequel.

    I finished it 14 times

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