The Lost Child is a first-person dungeon-crawler with turn-based battles that offers an odd approach to leveling up. When it comes to the the characters who are not Hayato or Lua, improving characters gets complicated. The growth system ties into the visual novel element, offering more immediate consequences to actions. The karma you earn as you play does not only influence characters’ responses to Hayato and reactions, but can alter the course of your recruited Astral characters. Likewise, other decisions you make as you play alter the party in major ways.
First, let’s go over how karma works. There are three kinds. Each one can be earned from a conversation, depending on how you respond to people. But even though they are billed as good, evil and dual, the responses lean more toward lawful, chaotic and neutral. Let’s use an early conversation as an example. Banda asks Hayato to see the case holding the Gangour. You can decline, show it to him or ask if he knows what it is. Someone being lawful and compliant may agree, while those who are chaotic could say no. You get a few hundred karma for the response. But, you also get karma for defeating creatures. In the first dungeon in Akihabara, you only face demons, and get the red “evil” karma as a result. But later, when coming across fallen angels, you get good karma from vanquishing them. Actions are always having consequences, accruing this currency in Hayato’s tablet.
While most games with visual novel elements do not start paying off until later in specific routes or even until the very end, The Lost Child begins putting karma into effect almost immediately. The creatures Hayato recruits do not level and improve in a traditional manner. Karma is expended to level (levhell) up. The creature’s nature determines which is most effective. Let’s use Enoch, of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron fame, as an example. He is considered a demon here and is given to the player by Lucifel. This means using the red karma will give you a 10 for 10 experience exchange rate, while the blue and purple will only give you five experience for every 10 karma. It is absolutely possible to have a party made up of characters from any possible background, but people who find themselves accruing more red karma from making chaotic decisions or level grinding against demons will have a much easier time making characters like Enoch a suitable party member than an angel like Amaterasu.
Practical usage also applies. The Lost Child may end up compared to Pokemon a bit, due to Hayato capturing Astrals by placing the active ones in his party into the Gangour and firing it at a hostile Astral and each character having three stages of evolution (EVILution). But, the game also has elements of SaGa in it. Like the Spark system present in, say, Romancing SaGa 2, this system means the three characters you have in your active party may occasionally have a burst of inspiration that has them immediately acquire a helpful skill. This does not happen from leveling up. Just purifying an Astral and pumping karma into it is not going to give you an amazing fighting machine. You have to also use it in the field. You have to have them take action to become worthwhile.
The final sort of influence comes from the decisions you make when developing the characters in your party. We have talked about The Lost Child’s Pokemon and SaGa sorts of segments, but it also can be quite like entries in the Shin Megami Tensei series. If you visit Chodenji with Astrals who have learned helpful skills from the Fruits of Wisdom system or have hit their level caps via karma infusion, you can head to the temple to have the Cyber Priest work his magic. Here, you can evolve and alter. Evolution happens when level caps are hit, the right items acquired from battles, like Darwin’s Branch and a sum of yen is paid. The Spirit Scale brings up a process that lets you swap skills between two characters. Again, choices you make here completely alter strategies.
The Lost Child has players constantly taking actions that will influence their strategies. The choices you make in the visual novel segments lead to more karma that can be used to purify and level characters. Where you level grind does too. Using people in battle may not traditionally increase their power, but it can make them more adept. And, once you have done enough work, you can go to a temple to evolve and alter movesets. Everything you do has further implications.
The Lost Child is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.