As someone who has trouble getting into JRPG’s, but latches onto a select few like Persona 4 Golden or Fire Emblem Awakening, I wasn’t sure if Lost Dimension was going to be an enjoyable experience for me. Setting out to mix the third-person tactics of Valkyrie Chronicles with the mystery-solving visual novel action of games like Zero Escape or Danganronpa, it seemed like a game too potentially cool to pass up. After spending a lot of time with it, I’m happy to report that I enjoyed my experience immensely.
Developed by Lancarse and published by Atlus, Lost Dimension was released in Japan last year for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita. The premise is simple – the world is about to be destroyed by a villain who goes by the name of The End and world leaders send 11 soldiers to take him down. You control the leader, Sho and fight your way through a mysterious tower. What makes Lost Dimension special is that throughout your journey you’ll have to weed out traitors within your team.
Like I mentioned earlier, the battle system is almost identical to Valkyrie Chronicles’. The story is broken up into main and side missions, and before each one you select a squad of six characters. During your turn you take control of each character, positioning them throughout the map. The characters use guns, swords and special abilities to defeat foes, and they can also work together providing each other with support. On top of that, each one has a unique ability that makes sets them apart from the rest. One character, for example, can burn foes in a fiery blast, and another flies around the battlefield, increasing their range.
One of my biggest pet peeves with JRPGs is how complex they can be right out of the gate, but Lost Dimension’s battle system manages to find a nice middle ground between too shallow and too complex. I did find that after a while the cannon fodder enemies were a little tiresome to fight, and the fact that between turns loading screens would pop up didn’t help them feel any quicker. Being able to effectively choose how a battle was going to play out based on the types of characters I was adding to my team helped remedy the boredom, though.
After every mission, you can initiate a conversation with each team member; however the first two you select will become closer to you, opening up different conversation options. It’s cool to read the dialog at first, but the writing and conversation topics are pretty boring, and I found myself skipping most of them after a couple hours. Luckily, the benefit of deepening character bonds far outweighs the slight annoyance. When you know which characters are close with each other, you can smartly position them together on the battle field. When one takes damage, the other will sometimes step in to protect them which can give you a few extra turns to take down a particularly tough enemy.
Surprisingly, my favorite part of Lost Dimension was figuring out who the traitors were. The first traitor is the same person in everyone’s playthrough, but after that they’re randomized. After every mission, you are shown a short cutscene where Sho can hear some of his companions’ thoughts and when there’s a traitor thinking out loud, Sho will react accordingly. He can only hear thoughts of people he brought into battle, too so this forces you to vary the team you bring into missions. Once you’ve narrowed in on a few strong suspects, you can spend a Vision Point to see whether or not you’re right. Vision Points are extremely rare, so you can’t just use them left and right, keeping tension high throughout.
The real stress comes from the fact that you have to pick a traitor before advancing floors. Even if you pick the right one, the team has to vote on whether or not they think you’re right. The way to get them to sway to your side is by nudging them when they approach you for your opinion after a mission, so you’ll need to start to have an idea of who the traitor is pretty early on. If you don’t utilize this feature, you’ll almost assuredly send someone innocent to their death.
I played Lost Dimension on PS Vita exclusively, and I was met with a few different bugs. There are slight framerate drops while moving your characters around in most battles, and as I mentioned earlier, having to see a loading screen between attacks increased the feeling of turn-based fatigue I started to feel late in the game. Finally, the screen between battles where you select missions, gear and conversations is weirdly optimized to be a touch interface, but forces you to interact with it by using a laggy pointer. Normally I would guess that these issues would be patched out post-launch, but since the game is technically almost a year old, it’s safe to assume they’re not going to be. None of the technical issues necessarily spoiled the experience for me, but if you’re playing on PS Vita you should know about them going in.
Even though it has its fair share of issues, Lost Dimension manages to stay unique and exciting throughout the entire experience. I’m not sure if I’ll be going back and beating it again to achieve the true ending, but I estimate that my first playthrough took about 25 to 27 hours, so there’s not much to complain about there. Overall, it successfully manages to mix a fun, if simple, story with light turn-based tactics and visual novel elements all while staying fun. If you have a PS Vita, Lost Dimension is a no-brainer.