Between demons and angels, one unassuming human chosen by the heavens prepares for a conflict of cataclysmic proportions.
Title: The Lost Child
Genre: Dungeon RPG
Developer: Kadokawa Games
System: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Length: 45-60 hours
As someone who has played and conquered every dungeon RPG that I have come across, I always find myself in a quandary when it comes to recommendations for newcomers. Often or not, the titles either get too complicated with obtuse mechanics or too easy with other choices that execute the ideas much better. In the case of The Lost Child, developer Crim’s follow-up to the 2011 action game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron falls right outside the two extremes to make itself a fair and acceptable choice for dungeon crawling neophytes. Sure, the whole average Joe protagonist (journalist Hayato Ibuki in this case) becoming a chosen savior by God to fight against demons won’t be winning any narrative awards, yet serviceable for what it presents and for the twist that it does contain, keeps the journey engaging throughout the duration. With this being related to El Shaddai in name only and only containing a few references and characters between them, players are perfectly fine without having to go through it in order to enjoy this experience.
Compared to a vast majority of dungeon RPG’s that exist, The Lost Child will undoubtedly feel familiar to most veterans and even newcomers for its adherence to many classic staples and similarity to other popular titles. The actual dungeon crawling is a fine example that can be aptly compared to the Shin Megami Tensei or Pokémon series thanks to Hayato’s ability to capture Astrals, beings inspired by various mythological creatures and can either be your best friends or bothersome foes. With Hayato and his angelic guide Lua already taking up two party member slots, the other three will be filled by Astrals that come with their own special ways of assisting in combat. However, in order to use them, a currency called Karma has to be used to purify them that can either be obtain by defeating enemies or choices made during various story segments in the game. If anything, the Karma mechanic is the most important and engaging one since it is used for everything from leveling up Astrals to avoiding a game over upon the main character dying. Yes, just like Persona/Shin Megami Tensei games, if the main character dies…that is it. And trust me, you don’t want to see Kaziah. Depending on how far along you are, the money or Karma she wants might be more than what you can muster. Plus, she is really creepy so that should be more than enough.
As many comparisons as I can draw from other titles, The Lost Child does have its share of unique systems other than Karma that makes it both a pleasure and minor pain to get through. One of those simultaneous joys and sorrows would be in how characters learn skills. While you can influence stat growth for both Lua and Hayato, Lua and the other Astrals can only learn new abilities in combat based on random chance. This great since characters can learn almost any skill, but a pain with some fights often coming down to waiting or trying to perform a specific action and the skill that activates turns out to be something else. If you do get skills you want on another Astral, the Cyber Priest can offer his services (among others like evolving Astrals once they get enough Karma) to move them to a better candidate at the cost of losing one or more skills of equivalent value. Besides that, The Lost Child does a great job at making the game feel accessible to new players while not alienating veterans. From being able to sell items in storage without going to the shop to even buying items that will literally transport you to any place on the map you explored before or reached in a dungeon, the quality of life changes that most games of the genre lack certainly show that this one does think outside the box and tries to respect the time most players will spend.
Whether it be on the PlayStation 4 or hybrid style of the Nintendo Switch, or pure handheld experience of the PlayStation Vita, visuals are certainly not lacking. During most dungeon expeditions, the environments can look a little drab, yet thanks to Sawaki Takeyasu, same the cannot be attributed to the character designs or that of the Astrals. The music composition falls short of what I was hoping for, but most of the town tracks like that of the item refinement shop slightly make up for it. Having spent the majority of the time with the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch versions, I experienced no technical issues that hampered performance or prevented me from playing all the way from start to completing the game.
Despite going against the conventional wisdom of most dungeon crawlers, yet adding its own special twist on things, The Lost Child manages to feel like a fresh experience for an otherwise abiding genre. It might not have enough to sway the most ardent fans or satisfy the hunger of an extreme challenge (unless you count the postgame dungeon), yet not at all a bad entry for beginners and those seeking a break from the usual thoroughfare. Having to already contend with favorites that capture the genre well such as: Mary Skelter: Nightmares, Demon Gaze, and Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal, I can say that The Lost Child does not fit the bill, yet certainly earns a spot along with the best of them.
Pros: Karma system, 100+ Astrals to capture and train with their own unique roles, many amusing and non-consequential callbacks to El Shaddai, quality of life changes make the game more approachable and less time-consuming.
Cons: Learning skills through random chance, finding needed items for Astrals to evolve through the chain takes some time and grinding.
Final Verdict: Whether you are a newcomer, harden veteran, or don’t even like the genre, The Lost Child an excellent choice to start with. Not providing anything too interesting the narrative department, the overall atmosphere and developments do that happen makes it enough to press forward. Add in the many Astrals to capture, items to collect, and somewhat cool boss fights and you have a product that will surely give you what you paid for – a standard dungeon crawler with not so standard approach.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by NIS America.