Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean was a 2003 role-playing game by tri-Crescendo and Monolith Soft for the Nintendo Gamecube. I really loved Tales of Symphonia. When I heard Namco was publishing another role-playing game, I was excited to play. I thought it would be another role-playing game that would occupy me for hours. Unfortunately, Baten Kaitos didn’t turn out how I expected.
The story was about a world in the skies. An evil god in the past had depleted the world of its oceans, leaving only continents in the sky. He was defeated by five heroes, who split his elements up into five pieces and hid them around the world. Many years later, the power hungry Empire was on the hunt for them, hoping all five pieces would grant them power over the whole world. In reality, this would actually re-form the evil god, causing the struggles of the past to be had all over again. A reluctant hero named Kalas got wrapped up in the whole conflict. He had to recover all the pieces of the dead god before the Empire.
I really liked the background of this story. I thought it was cool to have a world in the sky. I also liked how people in this world had developed wings to navigate the lands. The game had an interesting mix of natural, magical, and mechanical things. A constant subtle conflict between these three things was evident. The game got off to the good start but went downhill to me. It was the gameplay.
Unlike Tales of Symphonia, Baten Kaitos was pretty rigid in what the player could do. The story took the player from location to location. Once getting to a new location, I could not go back to the previous one. If I missed anything there, it was pretty much gone for good. Enemies were limited too. The developers wanted the player to have a certain amount of strength at each point in the game. Once a group of enemies had been defeated, they never reappeared. Since defeating enemies was the primary way to get money and items, the game could get too hard if the player made a bad purchase or wasted too many items.
I liked the idea of the combat system. It was based on a card system. The player got cards as they progressed. Almost the entire character advancement came from cards. Cards functioned as equipment but also were used for weapon attacks and magic attacks. I hated the randomness though. Each battle, characters would get a random hand from their deck. There were some really cool combos if the player used cards in the proper order, but a lot of times being able to pull off a good combo required having a lot of luck. I just hated being at the mercy of random cards.
These things really killed Baten Kaitos to me. My favorite games always made me want to explore every aspect, but in Baten Kaitos I felt like I was punished for exploring. I was always afraid of going too far one way and not being able to go back to where I was. It was too easy to waste items or money. The randomness of battles just made me want to get them over as soon as possible.
I’m sure some players really loved these things about the game. It was probably a really good game for anyone that likes a really linear high quality story. I think the story was great, but the surrounding gameplay has to be good for me to enjoy a game. To this day I’ve never beaten this game. Maybe I will some day, but so far I’ve always held off when I remembered the things I didn’t like about it.