With the last exciting titles for the dying GameCube now being transported to Wii (Super Paper Mario, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess), Nintendo seems to be forcing their fans to consider just one option: buy a new console. These days, there just aren't that many games for GameCube-owning Nintendoholics to look forward to. Except one - Baten Kaitos Origins, an RPG sequel that plays its cards right by not only delighting fans of the first quest, but also welcoming newcomers with its robust battle system and original story that anyone can enjoy.
The original Baten Kaitos was a good game that could hold its own. The hit-or-miss factor for many was its card-based battle mechanics. Baten Kaitos Origins simplifies that system, making fights go faster and letting you have a lot more fun with them. Unlike the original, all three characters have the same card deck once you enter battles. While this might not seem important, it makes a world of difference with how quickly and strategically battles flow. They now have a "replay" option too, which basically enables combos if timed and planned out well enough. We expected a grown-up battle system, but instead got a simpler, yet more rapid and intense, rehash of the original's combat structure. It works fantastically, and it's definitely the best thing going for Origins.
Even outside the battles, the game knows how to holds its cards... if only in the same way the original did. Dungeons keep your mind active, but they're short; puzzles are pretty creative, but sometimes aggravating. An improvement over the original, however, is how you get through these areas. Fusing quest cards - something new to the series - opens more options for conquering dungeons, but never gets so complicated that you'll wish for simple A-to-B, follow-the-yellow-brick-road paths.
One of the biggest complaints people had with the original was that, well... the characters sucked. To put it bluntly, personality was illegal, and having one was treated like some sort of crime. What a miracle, then, that Origins offers a very likable cast of characters that can be fun and and even funny. The story, likewise, is something you want to dig into and learn more about right from the beginning. While the plot isn't heavy on twists, it's actually more surprising than the first Baten Kaitos - which is ironic, since this installment occurs before the major events in the original.
No, that's not your eyes playing tricks on you... Origins often plays exactly like the same game as two years ago. Unfortunately, there are a lot of recycled backgrounds, which makes some areas feel very been there and done that. (Perhaps because you have been there and done that, if you played the original.) Good voice and a pretty good musical score (especially for battles) help, though.
Baten Kaitos Origins is fun. You might be suspicious of this whole "card" thing, but we still think you should give it a go. While it may look awfully similar to the first, don't be fooled: Origins tests negative for sequelitis.