While many people are busy playing new and shiny JRPGs, a small selection of gamers enjoy diving into retro-inspired titles with a heavy emphasis on nostalgia. Enter Tokyo RPG Factory, the developers of I Am Setsuna under Square Enix, with their newest role-playing game called Lost Sphear. Taking influence from many iconic games in the genre such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV, Lost Sphear has a story and gameplay that would’ve felt right at home during the SNES era of Japanese role-playing classics. But while the nostalgia is abundant throughout most of Lost Sphear’s nearly 30+ hour experience, its dependence on it overshadows everything else.
A very shallow connection to the characters you meet and a slow-starting plot make Lost Sphear feel like a drag to play. Most of the great games it takes inspiration from suffered from similar issues back in the day, but there were more than a few characters or events that gave players a reason to keep going along.
Unfortunately, Lost Sphear seems to lack this. The story is cryptic at the beginning and unravels more as you play, but the payoff isn’t as impactful as one might’ve hoped. It doesn’t help either when the characters you meet, both friend and foe, come across as a checklist to many JRPG tropes, rather than well-designed and complicated characters.
Gameplay is exactly what you would expect if you’ve played Tokyo RPG Factory’s previous game, I Am Setsuna. It uses the Active-Time Battle system that most have come to know from a few other Square Enix classics. And while the implementation here is not bad, it only mildly adds something new to give it a fresh spin in Lost Sphear. As you fight in random battles or skirmishes against bosses, your party members begin to gather Momentum that can be used for stronger attacks or even multiple hits.
Every character that goes in and out of your party can use this ability, with a few extra surprises that happen later in the game. However, gathering Momentum can take a while as battles drag on. You can find a few ways to help speed up the process as you play, but by then you may already find yourself worn down by the dower story.
Later in the game, characters gain the ability to pilot large robots that are similar in concept to the Magitek Armor found in Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VI. While it’s a cool throwback that fans of the genre will recognize, they only mildly change the attacks and abilities you use in battle.
With that said, however, they do open up stronger attacks and give you boosts to your stats when you activate them in combat. Taking on a few boss fights in later parts of the game can make using them an almost a necessary step to coming out victorious, but in most instances, you won’t bother to use them.
Lost Sphear is a game for role-playing enthusiasts that want to get away from modern day blockbusters. The game leans heavily on one’s appreciation for classic games in the genre while almost neglecting what made those classics so impactful to everyone in the first place. The story can feel like a drag to play through and the characters don’t stand out enough to stick with you after you’re done. If you’re able to stick with it for long enough, you may find some enjoyment in Lost Sphear. But if that’s your plan, you may be better off playing one of the games that inspired it.
This review was based on a digital review code for Lost Sphear for the Nintendo Switch, provided by Square Enix.