A couple months ago I had a chance to sneak a peek at Tokyo RPG Factory’s latest project, Lost Sphear. A major goal of the studio is to re-create the visual style and gameplay that many of our favorite RPGs of generations past had. Their first attempt, I Am Setsuna, did its best to invoke the spirit of Chrono Trigger, a title that certainly sets a high bar for many RPG fans. Ultimately, the game fell short as the combat was needlessly complicated, characters that failed to make an impact, and a haphazard story that felt rushed far too often. Yet beneath the rough exterior, there were elements of the game that indicated Tokyo RPG Factory might be onto something. Enough so that it largely redeemed its handful of flaws and paved the way for this new title.
Now, with Lost Sphear, they’re hoping to get a second chance. With the demo officially being released a couple days ago, I downloaded it on my Switch and decided to give it a spin.
The general premise is that there’s an unknown force removing people’s memories and creating “lost” artifacts: objects that are surrounded by a strange light that nobody has a memory of. This phenomenon is presumed to be the work of a magical faction known as the Twilighters, though if RPGs have taught me anything it’s that typically if an “empire” is involved, their version of the story should be taken with a handful of salt.
Within your party is a talented individual named Kanata, a soldier of the Empire who has the impressive ability to restore Lost objects. By recovering them, he reveals segments of the map, treasure chests, or obstacles that may be in the way.
Firing up the demo, the first thing I noticed was how it throws you right into the game. It opens on a world map with your fellow characters, giving a brief overview of the “Memory” and “Lost” mechanics that help you reveal segments of the world map while also providing certain buffs for the party. After that, you’re free to roam and tinker with the artifact system.
Doing some wandering, I liked the general look and feel of the world, as limited as it was for the demo. Restoring lost segments and finding memories scattered about reminded me of the Draw mechanic in Final Fantasy VIII.
Making my way into a nearby cave, I began a mission for the Empire to sneak around the enemy line and create an opening from behind. Navigating the cliffside, I eventually came across a large “Lost” object that I needed to restore. It turned out to be a large boulder that prevented us from moving forward. Seeing the general physique of my character, I was fairly confident I wouldn’t be removing this boulder without help. As it turns out, Lost Sphear features a compelling power-armor mechanic called “Vulcosuits”. You can toggle in and out of these suits on the world map, and in combat, and they provide a different range of attacks.
Using skills to clear boulders or defeat enemies consumes “VP” or “Vulcosuit points”, which can be recovered by taking the suits off or using charging items.
Of course, during my mission I encountered a handful of not-so-friendly monsters and humanoids alike. The demo does spotlight quite a bit of combat, and so far I’m pleasantly surprised with the execution.
Enemies are on display when exploring dungeons, and depending on the direction you approach you may have some semblance of a head-start, including a fully pre-emptive attack that gives you a full round of combat for your characters.
Utilizing an active time battle (ATB) system, Lost Sphear certainly doesn’t wait around as the battlefield remains dynamic and fluid. Positioning is key, as your characters basic attacks can hit multiple targets depending on how they’re positioned.
The blue outline shows a preview of your characters movement and placement, and the targeting reticule may select more than one enemy if they’re within your striking range. One of your party members, Van, has a particularly favorable weapon that allows him to hit all enemies in a straight line. Maneuvering him around the battlefield to line up as many enemies as I could allowed me to really appreciate the responsiveness of the attack system.
Of course, the benefits aren’t a one way street. In my battle with the war-maiden (a featured boss of the demo) there were a number of occasions where my characters were foolishly clumped together, which allowed 2 of them to get charmed at once. D’oh!
I appreciate the difficulty and strategy involved, as it took me a few shots to clear the boss. Simply mashing Attack was far from sufficient, as I balanced between my Vulcosuit attacks, healing items and buffs when I could to finally topple my foe. Utilizing “bits” helped with this as well – a series of points that one can charge up and use to unleash devastating attacks.
Overall, I’m pleased to see the direction that Lost Sphear is heading. While it didn’t wow me quite as much as Octopath Traveler did, I’m excited to see such a diverse lineup of games coming to the Switch next year.
If you have a Switch, definitely give this demo a swing!