Do you remember PS3 game El Shaddai? It was as niche as niche could be and The Lost Child is a spin-off tackling a new genre – first-person dungeon-crawling – and it focuses on a primarily new cast, although a couple of familiar faces return.
Having not played El Shaddai, I’m glad that it seems unimportant to this game’s story which is standalone. The Lost Child follows Hayato Ibuki, a journalist for a small occult magazine company, who is investigating a string of mysterious suicides at Shinjuku Station. After being almost thrown on the train tracks by an aggressive shadow, Hayato is saved by a girl named Balucia and given Pandora’s Box.
That’s not the strangest thing to happen to him though because a girl named Lua, who claims to be an angel, tells him he’s the chosen one and introduces him to a world of monsters, and one where he’ll play a vital role in the war between angels and demons.
The narrative is reminiscent of Shin Megami Tensei games, although not quite as engaging. Enemies are based on myth and angels and demons – order and chaos – are themes that run in the Shin Megami Tensei games, and they’re here although you don’t have sway on how the story progresses.
I like most of the characters and they’re certainly unique, for better or worse, but I wasn’t enamoured by them. The Lost Child is more gameplay-focused than narrative, but as far as it goes this has a better story than many other first-person dungeon-crawlers I’ve played.
Gameplay-wise The Lost Child will thrill those who enjoy the genre, but do very little for those who don’t. I’ve enjoyed my time with it – more so when I realised you could change the settings to walk faster in dungeons – and capturing monsters and tweaking your party line-up is addictive fun. You and Lua take up two of the five spaces of your party, and you’ll need to capture the rest.
Each monster has its own abilities, strengths and weaknesses and so, just like you would in Shin Megami Tensei, you’ll play around to see which would be best for which enemies. You can strengthen your Astrals and evolve them, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I picked most of my team based on their designs! Luckily, you later learn how to transfer skills from one Astral to another, so you’re free to do this and have the most stylish team around.
As Hayato, you have the Gungaur which allows you to capture monsters. It unleashes a powerful attack combining the attacks of all of your equipped Astrals and if it defeats the enemy, they’ll be captured. Each Astral can evolve up to two times, but first you must purify them so you can use them. This is quickly done via an in-game menu, and playing around with your Astrals is quick and easy.
Outside of battles, your gameplay is split between investigating – you are a journalist, after all – and navigating dungeons (which are called Layers). Investigating is as simple as your boss giving you missions, and you then walking around to different areas and talking to people. Despite them usually not having a lot of very good information, Lua pulls out her tablet and works something out so you can clear a mission. Talking to people can be fun and a nice break from battling and dungeon-crawling though, although a lot of the character portraits are reused.
Your goal in a dungeon is to find stairs until you reach the bottom, and then usually you’ll come face to face with a boss. You’ll have to play with switches and valves, etc, to open up blocked doorways, and ride trolleys to enter other parts of a dungeon, but the map makes it easy to remember where everything is. You can change difficulty on the fly too in case you feel like a dungeon might be too challenging for you, and you just want to get on with the story.
The Lost Child has a distinct art style and I quite like it, although the way mouths move in conversation can seem rather stiff. I like the character designs and how Lua resembles a witch, although she’s very scantily-clad for someone who wishes to pass off as an ordinary human being. The demons are inspired by mythology and legend which is great.
Some characters look better than others, and it’s a shame that portraits for NPCs are reused often, but overall I enjoy this art style a lot. Environments look fantastic but, as is standard for a first-person dungeon-crawler, dungeons can become quickly repetitive and lack the detail that its 2D counterparts share. There’s an English dub with many of the main cast’s lines being brilliantly voiced, and the soundtrack makes for a decent accompaniment to your adventure.
The Lost Child may be linked to El Shaddai, but you don’t need to know a thing about it to enjoy it. It features a standalone story and cast but those who don’t enjoy the genre won’t enjoy this. I wish there was more to investigating and that so many assets weren’t being reused so often, but The Lost Child is a solid first-person dungeon-crawler with an addicting capture mechanic and an engaging enough story to keep you wondering how it’ll end.
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