Tokyo RPG Factory has been trying to make games that remind people of past JRPGs. I am Setsuna did its best to channel Chrono Trigger, and now Lost Sphear is doing the same. Yet, at the same time, Lost Sphear is trying to strike out on its own and do something different. This game attempts to pull people in by giving them the power to restore pieces of the world that have disappeared by using memories from those that remain. The result is something that feels fresh, but at the same time still reminds us of the past.
One of the ways you get new memories in Lost Sphear is by talking to people. As you have conversations with different NPCs, you may see a highlighted word. You can then pluck that word from the text box and save it. It becomes a memory, which can then be applied to various blank spaces in the world to restore it. It sounds interesting and new, but it really reminded me of Final Fantasy II.
In case people do not recall, Final Fantasy II had a Word Memory System. As the party talked to certain NPCs, you would sometimes find code words that would open up new conversations or give you access to different things. For example, Hilda tells you the resistance’s password is Wild Rose, and you could learn and say it to other people to unlock opportunities to do new things. While a lot of people point out how Lost Sphear can feel like Chrono Trigger, due to the map and battle system, or Xenogears due to the suits characters can wear, I really appreciated this nod to a classic Final Fantasy game, especially since it was somewhat unexpected and manages to introduce a new concept while feeling familiar.
This connection helps make this entirely new process easier to accept and more interesting. Major memories tend to come from boss fights or seeing certain events. But during day-to-day activities, like battling enemies, you can come across lesser memories that can be just as important. Kanata picks these up in the same way he does monster parts or potions, normalizing something extraordinary. Which is almost sort of nice, as it makes it seem like it is easier to accept his power and mission when things come together in such a way. We have not seen this done, but this implementation helped me feel more comfortable with the concept.
It lends a sense of interactivity with the world. The memory system gives us a place in it in a way I am Setsuna didn’t. Especially since the need to find these memories can occasionally mean learning more people and towns along the way. Not to mention, Artifacts can be altered or changed to influence the area. One of my gripes with I am Setsuna was how the game would ask you to make decisions, but then have those decisions mean nothing. Getting to restore things feels fresh, and knowing that you can change things at your leisure can provide an excuse to keep tampering with the nature of the world.
The idea of spending a whole game basically hunting down memories to restore a rapidly disappearing world is different. We have not seen something like this before. But the way it is executed still manages to tap into nostalgia in the same way so many of Lost Sphear’s other elements do. It feels like Final Fantasy II, where paying attention to conversation mattered and could cause the world to open up when you found the right word or phrase. Though in this case, that literally happens as you collect the memories that make the world whole again.
Lost Sphear is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC.