Lost Kingdoms


Review by Christopher Coleman



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 8

Lost Kingdoms is a role-playing game with a twist. Instead of your character performing direct attacks, she has a deck of cards, and each of these cards represents a monster she can summon to perform an attack for her. Sound interesting? Keep reading then.

You play the role of a Princess of the Kingdom of (cough). A dark mist is enveloping the (yawn), and you must help to fight it back by taking on the responsibility of bearing a runestone, and.. (zzzzzzzzz) OK, even I'm bored reading this. The plot is ordinary, but it rarely is in most role-playing games out there, unfortunately. Consider this game very similar in most respects to a Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance style of hack and slash with basic puzzles, and you'll be on the right track.

Cards? Summoning? What? The way the card system works is that you have a number of cards in your collection, and can use these cards to assemble a deck of up to 60 cards. In the course of a battle, you have access to four cards at a time (assigned to X, Y, A and B). The cards can take the form of summonable creatures, which are persistent on the battlefield (until killed, or the battle is won), attacks that come from within you (when you use the card, it appears as if the creature is springing out of you - so make sure you're facing the bad guy), fairies which top up your health, or other types of creature, such as the sand golem. It doesn't attack your foes, but wanders around the battlefield and distracts all other enemies, stopping them from killing you.

These cards also have attributes - earth, fire, wind and water - which can grant bonuses or penalties to attacks on certain types of character. Using a water creature against a fire creature causes greater damage, for example. In addition, cards can gain experience - with this experience, you can visit the apothecary to transform the card to a different type of card, which may be stronger or have different capabilities. You can also buy, sell and copy cards at said apothecary - that's a shop to you unedumacated types.

What's the bad news with this card system? Within a battle, you discard cards as you use them, so they should be used wisely - and each card uses a certain amount of power. If you don't have this power, it comes off your personal life counter. Card power can be regenerated by picking up the stones dropped by baddies, by using a deck point, or catching one of the blue fairies buzzing around each stage. Speaking of fairies, you encounter a scholar in one of the earlier levels who offers to trade you cards for red fairies. The red fairies scattered throughout levels also provide valuable hints for puzzles and the like when you discover or encounter them.

The system in practice is straightforward to use - I occasionally found myself wasting attacks by not being close enough to the enemy when using the card. Be sure to check what kind of card it is you're about to use before you use it! Also, pay careful attention to the amount of power a card uses. Experimentation with the cards in a deck is all part of the fun, and dying within a level doesn't penalize you in any way - you keep all the cards and fairies you had collected before dying, and are simply deposited on the world map, ready to try again.

Control of your character herself is very simple... raised isometric view, fully rotatable with the C stick. If you've played one of the games based on the Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance engine for various consoles, then you'll be right at home here. Battles occur randomly - that is, you can't see what's about to attack you. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an option to flee battles, but the game isn't that hard, and as stated, losing isn't penalized too badly.

There's also a two player head to head mode, but I didn't have the ability to try it.

The graphics are very nice - some of the creature designs are quite imaginative and attractive, and the animation is gorgeous in some areas. Sound effects are functional enough, but it's the music that really shines - one of the few games I've played where I wish I had a soundtrack CD. Talking to individual characters and fairies provides a somewhat random (and often amusing) kind of grunt - similar to the way speech is dealt with in Mario Sunshine, for example.


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Last updated: Saturday, July 23, 2005 08:44 AM