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Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Monolith
Media: GCD/2
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Card Games

Graphics & Sound:

Baten Kaitos is a stunning game visually, even with its blemishes. Backgrounds are pre-rendered and feature some nice details that help to bring the game’s world to life. Each area is brimming with life like flowing water, billowing clouds, and townspeople going about their daily business. The presentation is, however, marred by some small things. Though detailed, the backgrounds can become a little blurry at times, which isn’t too much of problem unless your character is in the far back of the area, making it hard to find little doorways or people to talk to. Lighting can also become something of a minor problem since there are times where the lights rendered into the background images don’t match-up with character models, leaving the game with a “Colorforms” type overlay in which the characters stick out of the environment a little too much. Again, this is a minor thing, so it shouldn’t derail your enjoyment much.

In-game models feature a nice amount of detail which reflect the game’s unique visual style.

Sound does some rather unique things that will either endear you to the game or annoy the hell out of you. Motoi Sakuraba’s music (Shining Force series, Star Ocean) is magnificent. As you enter each area, the game’s music shifts dramatically and really helps to suck you into the game. This is one of those game soundtracks music aficionados should definitely pick out.

With the great soundtrack come some unique things in the vocal department. The voice acting is average and doesn’t stand out, but it’s the filters that come through that are the noticeable part. This is when we get to the “love it” or “hate it” part. Voices are run through a filter that gives them a slight echo, as if they were recorded through cardboard tubes. The effect is supposed to help sell the idea that you, the player, are an active participant in the story (taking the role of a Spirit inside the main character’s head). The idea is that you’re hearing the sound through the main character’s ears. The concept is novel, but I didn’t like it. Others, however, will -- so it’s really up to you.


For the most part, Baten Kaitos is your typical RPG. You and a motley group of strangers go from town to town causing trouble, sticking their noses in other people’s business, and ultimately saving the world from a great evil. Where Baten Kaitos differs is its unique approach to getting the player involved in the story and its card-based battle system.

Baten Kaitos opens a little differently than other games. Instead of jumping right into the adventure at hand, you must first “introduce yourself” to the game’s main protagonist, Kalas. After bonding with Kalas, you become his Guardian Spirit and are treated as part of the game’s cast. Throughout the game, characters will refer to you, and Kalas will even come to you for advice. Sometimes you will even be able to “possess” Kalas and force him to say or do things he normally wouldn’t do. Fostering a good relationship with Kalas is important to gameplay. If you get along with Kalas he’ll be more powerful in battle, whereas a rocky relationship results in an untrusting Kalas who may not be as ready to go along with you.

Much of the game revolves around “Magnus” -- a fancy name for cards. Magnus has a part in both side-quests and the card-based combat system. As you travel around the world, you’ll come across items whose “manga essence” can be trapped within a card. Trapping an essence will allow you to trade that item with people or use it to solve a puzzle.

Deciding who wants which essence provides some puzzle elements to the game. Some people will ask for specific items while others will suggest what they need. Collecting items is a challenge since you only have a limited number of “blank” Magnus to capture items in. Also, essences will decay and change as the game progresses, adding a time frame to some quests. If you collect a fresh flower, it will eventually become a dried flower, so someone who wants a fresh flower won’t accept the dried one.

Combat Magnus are your main source of power in a battle. After entering battle, which is turn based, you will be dealt a hand of cards which include Attack, Defense, and Special cards. Attack cards represent the damage you can deal to enemies and are represented as weapons and spells. These may only be played during your attack turn. Defense cards take the form of armor and can absorb damage from enemy attacks as well as preventing some status attacks (poison, cold, fire...). Defense cards are your main arsenal during your defense turn, but you can also use some Attack cards as a defense, which will take away some of the blow and may even give you a chance to counter attack. Special cards include things like healing items and special attacks.

Combat Magnus have numbers on them that can be combined to produce different results. Playing Magnus in certain orders or in pairs will result in bonuses to attack or defenses. Some combos will also unlock special attacks.

Like the Quest Magnus, some Combat Magnus can evolve through use. As they evolve, the items will take on new attributes, and may even gain new uses. For example, bamboo seedlings can be used as a healing item, but will evolve into young bamboo. Once it reaches this stage, it ceases to be a healing item, but can be used as a powerful weapon.

Two other types of Magnus can be found in the game. Equipment Magnus are items that your characters can equip, which will give them special stat boosts. Each character can only equip one type of Equipment. Another type is a special Quest Magnus that must be found in order for your characters to level up in Class, which will grant them larger deck and hand sizes.


As unique as Baten Kaitos’ card-based combat system is, it does have a few hiccups that can make the game rough on players. For one, finding the right balance of cards in your limited deck is a pain. Players with a background in card games like Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh! will have an easier time finding this balance, but other players may have a difficult time figuring out how to build a flexible deck. Of course, then there’s always the luck factor involved in drawing the right cards at the right time...

Game Mechanics:

Another problem with the system is that it’s not as adaptive to situations as other combat systems are. The problem doesn’t pop up during general combat situations, but when status effects get involved, it can become a big-time problem. States like poison and sleep aren’t easily dealt with and seem to be in constant supply from certain monsters. The system is flexible enough that you can sub in some cards that deal with those states when you know you’ll face them, but that can only be done outside battle. Adding to this problem, status effects don’t wear off once you’re out of battle, instead forcing you to have to wait until a character’s death or getting a lucky draw. Waiting for these conditions brings in a completely new set of headaches that take some fun out of the game.

Some special Combat Magnus -- like healing items -- can be used outside of battle, but with a special catch. When used during combat, the items can be reused (once they are shuffled back into your deck), but outside of battle, the Magnus will disappear from your inventory. Though it adds strategy, it’s still not an adaptive system. While the system is no different from using potions in any other RPG, you also don’t have a set of Healing spells to fall back on as you do in other games.

Though it does have its problems, Baten Kaitos is still a remarkable RPG in its own right and something most RPG, or CCG fans will enjoy. The story is engaging, and the visual presentation is one of the best on the system -- making for one of the better gaming experiences available on the Game Cube.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Nintendo DS Feel the Magic: XY/XX Nintendo GameBoy Advance Golden Sun: The Lost Age

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