Lost Dimension is a game that blends the realms of the tactical-RPG and visual novel, set in a world where a villain known as The End has given civilisation thirteen days to defeat him, or nuclear missiles will rain down upon every major city. Faced with such a huge threat the UN sends in the SEALED team, made up of people with unique abilities, to try and do just that. To be honest, it’s not the story, but the journey along the way that is the central draw.
Lost Dimension begins with the eleven members of SEALED finding themselves in a tower and all suffering from a bout of amnesia. A common device in video games, it’s usually restricted to a single main protagonist, but here it means there are eleven characters without memories of one another who must learn to work together and trust one another. That trust becomes a major issue within the game once it is revealed there are traitors within this group, and these traitors change with each playthrough, leaving you uncertain of who is trustworthy and who is not.
The main protagonist is Sho Kasugai, who fortunately has the power of premonition and the ability to delve into people’s minds. This power isn’t limitless though, requiring Vision Points to be able to explore someone’s mind. These are earned through the course of Lost Dimension and can be used at any time. After each mission Sho has a glimpse of the thoughts of the characters that were part of that battle, and if a traitor is among them then Sho will comment on it, gradually allowing you to build up a picture of which person is planning on defying the rest of SEALED. These judgements need to be made carefully as the traitor will face you eventually, and you may find you’ve levelled them up into a rather strong opponent.
It is in this trust system where Lost Dimension is at its best. As members of SEALED get eliminated through the game, with the choice being made through votes by you and the other members. It hard to lose your favourite characters, but there are others who are simply useful in a fight, and you’re always having to weigh up who to sacrifice and if it’s worth possibly keeping a traitor in the mix.
At least those that you lose are transformed into Materia, which allows you to preserve their abilities. Equipping a different character with the fallen character’s Materia gives them access to their powers which helps considerably as battles shift and you face enemies with various strengths and weaknesses. It opens up the door to use a variety of tactics with some being more effective than others.
Battles are a turn-based affair, with character movement limited to a certain distance each turn and this in turn having an affect on their attack range. Some characters, like Mana, will have to get up close to deal damage, while Nagi can levitate and attack from range. You’ll only be able to take a party of six into battle, with Sho a mandatory character and the occasional character specific mission within the optional side quests. Before a mission you can also view which enemies will be present allowing you to plan your approach.
The missions all have a star rating which denotes difficulty, but I found these ratings to be a bit hit and miss. Some levels that were shown as very hard turned out to be pretty easy, while other easier stages took some time to beat. Generally you can ignore those ratings, as the stages gradually build up in difficulty and you should never find yourself ill equipped to deal with them.
You have standard and special attacks at your disposal, with the latter costing sanity to prevent you from abusing powerful moves over and over. There’s a fine line to walk, but if you dip below it and a character’s sanity reaches zero, they go berserk, gaining super strength as they are wrest from your control. They will attack anyone they can, which can drastically alter your plans if you find Mana punching Sho in the back a few times.
However, you can also incorporate a character going berserk into your battle plans. Later levels stack the odds against you with tough enemies moving quickly to surround your party. Having one of those party members isolate themselves and then go berserk to clear a enemy or two can really help.
If members of SEALED have a good relationship with each other then they will assist each other in missions and carry out automatic secondary attacks on a target, provided they are in range. There doesn’t appear to be a limit on the number of assists that can be carried out in one go, as in one scenario three assists occurred after my initial attack, with the potential to speed up battles quite considerably. Then again, you still have to deal with some moves triggering loading screens for a few seconds, which break the flow of combat and should have been hidden much better.
The visual novel side of the game all plays out within a central hub area, where you can speak to the party members and try to build up camaraderie. However, this only builds with the first two characters you speak to after a mission, and a second playthrough is required to reach full camaraderie with all characters for the true ending. Unfortunately, I encountered a bug where the same conversation would keep playing out when talking to Nagi, preventing me from unlocking her character mission.
The voice acting is professionally done, though some characters sound a lot more emotional and engaging than others. For example, Genji’s angry tone grates at first, but it’s clear that a lot of effort has been put in and it grows on you, while Mana’s faux Queen’s English accent is annoying all the way through. The background music is good, meanwhile, but ultimately forgettable outside of the opening cinematic and the final mission, as it repeats the small selection of tracks on a loop.
The hub is also where you can acquire new weapons and skills, with a fairly straight forward skill tree. Some later skills need a character to be equipped with specific Materia, while character are granted hidden powers at certain points, when you acquire specific abilities. Of course, you’ll also have upgrade your weapons and items far beyond the starting pistol, of you’ll deal next to no damage to more powerful enemies.
It’s a shame that Lost Dimension’s story feels rather weak and has little payoff at the end. The randomised traitor is great from a gameplay standpoint but terrible from a narrative perspective, and this is because you never truly learn their motivation for turning on you, just who they are. Admittedly, by the end of my initial playthrough the story was the last thing on my mind, with the gameplay taking precedence.
The graphics on PS Vita are a bit of a mixed bag. The character art and models are decent as are the visualisations of the attacks, but while the different environments within the game contrast well against each other, there’s a clash between the rather drab and dreary grey ruins shifting and the great looking golden halls elsehwere. These clashes are deliberate for the narrative’s sake, but they can range from the boring to feeling quite imaginative.
Lost Dimension is a well thought out tactical RPG, but it’s the traitor system which is the star of the game. It constantly makes you second guess your choices as you progress, but it comes at the cost of a compelling story. If you’re looking for a tactical RPG on PS3 or Vita then Lost Dimension is worth a go, but don’t expect it to blow you away.
Version tested: PS Vita