Lost Sphear Preview: Reliving Memories

Lost Sphear is the latest effort by Square Enix’s aptly named Tokyo RPG Factory which first graced us with I Am Setsuna in 2016. Tokyo RPG Factory is aiding in keeping the old-school, timeless tradition of JRPGs alive, and Lost Sphear is another step in that direction. Lost Sphear at first glance looks like yet another retro JRPG, but it features some very intriguing gameplay elements that make it feel fresh.

Yes, it’s still turn-based and plays a lot like I Am Setsuna, but what separates it is a mechanic called Memory, which allows the player to seemingly restore and remix parts of the world that have been lost. In Lost Sphear, you play a young boy who wakes up from a dream only to find his hometown vanishing before his eyes. It’s up to you to use the power of Memory to bring it all back and defeat the ominous force that is orchestrating all of this destruction. The story looks to be as engaging as I Am Setsuna, and your party is full of colorful personalities.

The Memory system in the game is very intriguing. Essentially, you gather parts or items from the world you explore, and with a sort of recipe, you rebuild a structure or a piece of land which you can then enter and explore further. There are these zones on the overworld that look obviously missing from the map, and with your Memory materials you craft a new path for your journey. It’s a neat idea, and while I’m not clear on the limits of this mechanic, I find it refreshing and incentivizing deeper exploration.

As a fan of old-school JRPGs, I felt very comfortable diving into this world, digging through my inventory, and speaking to NPCs. However, the battle system is painfully slow, and this is coming from someone who likes these slower paced games. The ATB battle gauge takes way too long to refill and there were instances when my entire party and the enemies were just standing around and hanging out. It could be that there’s an item or setting that decreases the cooldown, but it sure felt like a chore to fight.

Once you get into the rhythm, you’ll find that the combat looks cool and the flashier moves that do a lot of damage feel good when executing them properly. Everything else worked for me, the graphics, the Memory system, the little bits of the story, and the music, but the sluggish battles really held it a bit back for me.

Still, there’s no denying this is a true to form old-school JRPG, and it shines in that regard. You can’t knock it for doing what it’s trying to do, and so far it’s doing it pretty well.

Lost Sphear is slated for a 2018 release for PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.