Ally or Betray.
If ever there was going to be an RPG based on the cult hit visual novel 999, or its sequel Virtue’s Last Reward, I imagine it would be a lot like Lost Dimension. This eccentric JRPG on the PS3 and PS Vita may seem a lot like a traditional, by the numbers JRPG, but just a little time with it makes it abundantly clear that the game comes with a few twists of its own, which make it otherwise stand out, and an easy recommendation for inclusion in your library if you like JRPGs.
It’s fairly hard to take the game seriously, at least at first- it has a run of the mill plot about someone from an alternate dimension threatening to end the world, and its populated by characters that, at first glance, seem to be over the top anime tropes. The entire story seems to be presented in a way that recalls the worst of anime too, with exaggerated delivery and hyperbolic situations.
Indeed, at first, what keeps you invested in the game is its battle system. Lost Dimension is a tactical RPG, and it presents players with a very deep and nuanced combat system, which, when paired with the sheer wealth of customization options available to you, keeps your attention even as the narrative seems to come across as nothing special.
"Like with Fire Emblem Awakening, Lost Dimensions also features a fairly extensive social simulation system on the side"
The combat itself plays a lot like a more ‘3D take’ on other games in the genre- indeed, if you are a fan of Fire Emblem Awakening on the Nintendo 3DS, you will know what to expect, even though it can look fairly different. You can move characters in a limited area of movement, you can team up and combine attacks, you can flank enemies, you can try to retreat and lure the enemy into a location on the map that is more advantageous to you, and you also sometimes interact with objects on the map.
Like with Fire Emblem Awakening, Lost Dimensions also features a fairly extensive social simulation system on the side, which results in a lot of benefits that you earn in battle, from assists and coordinated attacks to just better performance on the field if you are friendly with your team members.
The social simulation has another use too, one that directly ties into the story, and this is when the story of the game actually begins to shed its earlier trappings and deliver something that begins to approach being compelling and engaging. You see, much like in 999 or Virtue’s Last Reward, in Lost Dimension, your party has a traitor in its midst- and much like in those games, eventually you are asked to pick out who this traitor might be, by means of a reality TV-esque vote. To understand who checks out and who doesn’t, you need to get closer to them, and interact with them more- and then make an informed choice.
The interesting thing here is that unlike other games which make a central mechanic of something similar, such as the aforementioned 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, or the excellent DanganRonpa games on the PS Vita, Lost Dimension lets you choose wrong. And if you do, you need to live with your choice. However, the game does at least try to ensure you don’t choose wrong- and sometimes goes a bit too hard in the other direction in its attempt to compensate.
You accumulate vision points over time, and before each round of voting, you are allowed to use them, to delve into the psyches of other characters and see if you can catch the mole. This turns out to be more than enough to easily figure out who it is you are looking for (although you are capped to three such insights), meaning that the system is in many ways wasted. It’s a shame too, because the few times that there are genuine stakes presented to you, it’s nail biting, easily providing for the best moments in the game.
What is also ingenious is how well this entire system ties into the battles. Once again, that owes itself to the confluence of social simulation and tactical battling in the game. For example, the game poses the very natural question to you as to whether you even want to take someone into battle with you whom you don’t fully trust. If that doctor with the mysterious past is the traitor in this case, do you really want to risk having him on your team in a crucial battle?
"Unlike other similar games which make a central mechanic of something similar, such as the aforementioned 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, or the excellent DanganRonpa games on the PS Vita, Lost Dimension lets you choose wrong. And if you do, you need to live with your choice."
Then there is the other big wrinkle thrown in to confound players- you see, in battle, the protagonist, Sho, can hear the thoughts of his teammates, which can sometimes be the the final push in knowing just who the traitor might be. This encourages you to keep rotating your roster, and not just focus on a few characters (who may not even make it to the next round, if you think about it), and it also adds a battle system rendition of the story’s central theme.
The game begins to drag near the end, with a story that perhaps begins to outstay its welcome. Making matters worse is the fact that the battles near the back half of the game are the most offensive kinds of JRPG battles, presenting players with not a genuine challenge, but just overwhelming them, leading for the necessity to grind copiously. It also does not help that the writing in the game – never too great to begin with (which also definitely hurts the character interactions, even as the characters themselves begin to be fleshed out beyond their initial tropey nature) – gets even worse by the end, reaching a crescendo of groans induced by the time the coda comes around.
But Lost Dimension is still a game I would recommend, if only because of just how different it is than other games in its genre. It has a unique premise, and a slew of unique gameplay mechanics and features, which tie in well with the story as well. It has some great ideas, and if it doesn’t execute them all that well, it still deserves credit just for coming up with them, and for trying something new, in the first place. Lost Dimension is not the best game on the market, and it’s certainly not even special, but it’s different, it’s new, and it’s compelling enough to keep your attention. Sometimes that’s all that matters.
This game was reviewed on PS Vita.
Out of the box, creative mechanics, implemented largely well, leading to a unique confluence of narrative and gameplay; thoroughly deep combat system
Awful writing that relies a lot on tropes, poor pacing near the end of the game, some trivialization of its own mechanics
Lost Dimension is not the best game on the market, and it's certainly not even special, but it's different, it's new, and it's compelling enough to keep your attention. Sometimes