Mar 18, 2013

Posted by in Games, Writing | 2 Comments

Lost Odyssey – A Review and Exploration on Immortals

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I’ve always wanted to do a review of Lost Odyssey, a game on the Xbox that had a profound effect on me. I just never got around to doing it until I started up this new blog and found the opportunity. Released in 2008, the game was created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who created Final Fantasy. It is a turn-based RPG revolving around the story of a handful of true immortals in a world of normal humans, and their struggle to regain all of the many memories they have suddenly lost.

It’s a great game, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves RPGs. Don’t let the 4 discs scare you. It’s not nearly as long as some of the bigger FiFan games, even if you’re one of those OCD players who has to get 100% completion on every game you play. However, what I want to talk about here is about the subject of immortality and how it is portrayed in the stories we read/watch/play today. In my opinion, in a world where every single story gets it wrong, Lost Odyssey gets it right. Allow me to explain.

The concept of immortality in stories is hardly anything new. From vampires to witches, Voldemort to Wolverine, the Lord Ruler to Lord Sauron, immortality in some way, shape, or form is one of the most commonly used elements in story-telling. It’s something most people today think they would want, and it’s a prize for villains to achieve at any cost, thus providing easy motivation to drive a story forward. But for a very long time, I’ve had trouble with how easily authors misuse the concept of immortality. Or rather, I’ve disliked how little thought is often put into the idea. In fact, I even wedged some of my own contempt for the common misuse into my own books. In Micah and Charlotte, Osiris and Vash are having a conversation about the pursuit of immortality and how it led to a catastrophe in Carnel. Osiris responds, “Whenever I hear of new-fangled attempts to gain immortality, my desire to purge the world of idiots increases.”

My problem is that immortal characters are hardly ever portrayed with the true burden of hundreds or thousands of years. If a normal person – one who loves and hates like a normal person, works toward success like a normal person, and builds interpersonal relationships like a normal person – is never subject to aging, in theory, it should have an enormous effect on him as the years pass, especially when certain events, such as the death of a loved one, happens over and over again. This was briefly addressed in Lord of the Rings, regarding Arwen and Aragorn, but not nearly in the capacity I’m talking about. Because, as anyone can tell, those elves seem to have been operating just fine living thousands of years. I always ask myself, “Wouldn’t someone who lives forever be constantly crushed by all the death they’ve experienced? By the long years of hiding, just to make sure no one knew and turned them into a science experiment? By the mere thought that you will never know the end?”

Perhaps I’ve thought about it too much and I’m missing the fun behind telling stories about immortals, but I was granted a reprieve in Lost Odyssey. In the story, a handful of immortals live in this futuristic, archaic world. But they’ve lost their memories and gaining them back in the key to saving the world. So as a player works through the game, the various lost memories of these characters are retrieved, and the player is treated to thirty or so mini-stories that are retrieved through dreams. And they’re all fantastic! Because they all deal with exactly what I always wanted to see: exploring the true consequences of immortality on a relatively normal person. The stories ranged from watching a person you cared about being born and dying of old age all while you stayed exactly the same, watching as events you started grew to country-changing proportions over a long period of time, and witnessing the changing of the whole world you once knew, even if you didn’t want it to occur.

I’d never experienced anything like it, so I was enamored, and I’ve been telling people about it ever since. The stories are available online, but I think they lose most of their power if people read them without playing the game and earning them over the course of the main storyline. However, they can be found using this link, and there’s still a lot to be garnered by checking them out. If you do, check out the first one, Hannah’s Departure. If it doesn’t make your eyes misty reading it, there’s something wrong with you.

I have long wanted to get that off my chest, and now I’m glad I did. See below a trailer for Lost Odyssey.