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.