May 13, 2003Written by:
Seeing that the first title, Lost Kingdoms (known as Rune in Japan) garnered some attention by gamers around the world, particularly in the United States, Activision decided to release a part to that continues in the same great fashion as the original. Maybe it was due to the lack of RPGs or maybe the series holds interest by many gamers, but FromSoftware and Activision set out to take LK2 one step beyond that of the original. So you may wonder how did they do this time around, continue reading and I will fill you in with all the details.
Taking place more than 200 years after Lost Kingdom, Katia is remembered as the greatest queen to ever reign. But in Lost Kingdoms 2, you take on the role of Tara Grimface; a young woman who is trying to make ends meet in a world full of evil and corruption, which is traveling with a band of thieves known as the Scorpion guild. But from the get go, her allies, just like the rest of the world, see her as an outcast due to the fact that she can harness the power of the runestones. As soon as you start the game, Tara and her allies are pent against a pompous king and his army of magical, mechanized servants. But similar to the first installment, the plot isn’t fleshed out, leaving gamers wondering if their could have been more to the overall picture to keep their interest going.Features:
- Card battle and collection RPG, set 200 years after its predecessor
- Features over 200 Guardian Creature Cards (100 new ones)
- Draw upon elemental powers, like fire, water, wood, and earth, as well as neutral and mech abilities
- Fight by summoning, sending a beast to fight independently of you, or temporarily morphing
- New card transformational ability lets the main character transform into creatures and use their abilities
- Gain experience points and upgrade the cards
- Trade, buy, and sell cards
- Bet and win cards in two-player versus matches
- Dolby Surround sound support
Though the game plays out in a similar fashion to a third-person action adventure title, it boast some of the strongest RPG elements and collectible-card game features of any title on the Nintendo Gamecube (at the time). Tara has the ability to gain experience with every enemy that she defeats on the battlefield, and even her cards have the ability to gain experience, which is a nice added plus. In total, there are more than 200 cards, half of which were represented in the first installment. But you must admit, this title boast one of the largest creature base of any RPG title out on the market, which creatures coming from settings like Dungeons & Dragons or even Lord of the Rings. All in all, FromSoftware spent a little more time to insure that the depth was a step above the first title, but at the same time keeping familiarities with the first installment.
The way to my home...
But for those who aren’t into random battles, this title is your answer. Unlike the first title, which ran like a “typical console RPG” (walking or running the terrain before randomly being put into a battle), Lost Kingdom 2 allows you to see the creatures ahead time, thus allowing you to decide if you want to battle the foe or not. But there are a few moments where creatures will materialize out of nowhere for a shot at surprising you, but it’s not as often as you think. This big change helps in preventing gamers from getting bored with the title rather quickly, and at the same time, helps with the pacing of the overall story. Beyond this, Lost Kingdoms 2 plays rather similar to Lost Kingdoms, but just with a few reworked or enhanced features.
In LK2, there are more categories for the different types of cards and Tara has the ability to “power up” any card of her choosing, along for double the magic points compared to the normal. There is also the addition of a new category of mechanized creatures, which messes up the whole “pantheon of earth/water/wood/fire-based creatures”. Besides the Independent, weapon, and summon cards, Tara has access to helper cards. These cards are rather similar to the independent cards, but provide a more defensive stance. There is also the addition of transform cards, which allows Tara to transform into that particular monster on the card, thus allowing the gamer to control the mythological beast to certain delight.
As the game goes on, you will come across various cards found in treasure chests, gifts for a hard days work, and when you defeat a particular level. Once you get to a certain level, the game becomes more a strategic battle in the sense that you have to think long and hard about what cards you are going to choose when going into each battle. Just like in the first installment, the more powerful cards you use, the more magic points are required, and when you run out, for every card you summon, your character can take from a little to a lot of damage. The only drawback that would befall the whole magic points system would be if their FromSoftware was a little bit forgiving in the amount of magic points it takes, or how you would collect your points (via inflicting damage on enemies).
What card to buy?
If you compare LK2 to its predecessor, then there is indeed a graphical improvement. But during the release of this title, there were games like Phantasy Star Online: Episode 1 and 2 that raised the bar for what the Nintendo Gamecube was capable of. FromSoftware made sure that Tara was well animated and highly detailed. The framerate also is a lot smoother and stable, thus letting grand battles play out smoothly. But where the graphics take a hit is when it comes to the creatures in heated battles. There are times when you wont be able to distinguish one monster form the next. Another set back is that there are times when you can’t make out the image that is on the card you are about to use, thus sometimes putting you into a situation that you don’t want to be in. Unfortunately, for those gamers who are into the best possible image money can buy (high-def gamers), this game does not support widescreen or 408p modes.
But the biggest improvement for Lost Kingdoms 2, even over the graphics, has to be the audio. During the cinematic cutscenes, FromSoftware did a spectacular job to ensure the voice-overs were on par with what they were trying to portray during the situation. On a kind of sour note, a lot of the sound effect within LK2 are found within LK also, but are reworked to sound better than ever. Unlike LK, the musical score is more distinctive and actually fits the title to the letter ‘T’ through the use for lots and lots of string instruments, predominantly cellos.
As far as the controls are concern, they are pretty responsive and intuitive. The left analog stick is used to control Tara’s movements, while the right one is used to control the camera (which you will be wrestling with at times, especially in sticky situations). During battle sequences, the top four cards out of your deck (30 on all) are mapped to the buttons on the face of the controller. SO when you press ‘A’ or ‘B’, whatever card corresponds to that button will be used on the field. But unlike the first installment, if a card comes up that you don’t need or don’t want to use, instead of discarding the card, you cans end it to the bottom of your deck, thus allowing you to use it at a later point. A overall solid performance by FromSoftware.
I call upon my Blue Eyes Black Dragon!!!
Seeing how there wasn’t that much implemented in the first title, FromSoftware decided to add a little more to the overall package to make gamers play the game over and over again. Besides the usual collection of every single card (including the rare ones), there is an enhanced version of the two-player exploits found in Lost Kingdoms. The enhancements allow you to set the level of both players to balance out the competition, thus not giving your opponent a greater advantage, thus making them relay on strategic planning and movements. There’s also the ability to put cards on the line during your battles, thus upping the ante and the seriousness of the battle. But not stopping there, there are also unlockable characters that you can use in versus-mode. Overall, you can get more out of LK2 that you could with LK. Last, but certainly not the least, depending on what happens to your pals during the game, there are two possible endings to strive for.
If you had to look at Lost Kingdoms 2 in comparison with the first installment, it is indeed an improvement in the right direction for FromSoftware and for RPG followers that game on the Nintendo Gamecube. Though just like the first one in being relatively short (10-15 hours, 5-10 if you are really good) and par gameplay, the title sports some nice voice-over work, improved graphics, better two-player mode, double the amount of cards to add variety, and a more balanced experience. Overall, this game, just like the first one, isn’t meant for everyone, but I would recommend that gamers go out there and rent this title.7.5/
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