E3 07: Lost Odyssey

The world will have to wait until 2008 to see Final Fantasy's first foray onto next-gen systems, but the original founder of that franchise is bringing a serious new competitor to the Xbox 360 before the end of 2007. Can Lost Odyssey beat everyone's favorite RPG series at its own game?

Based on the gameplay demo we just received at E3, we believe it can capture the same fans. Creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's beloved style and imagination are obvious. Fantasy and technology sat side by side in every scene. The first battle took place on top of a speeding cyberpunk locomotive with mechanical monsters, but the group's female mage destroyed them with a glorious meteor shower straight from the heavens. Later, a massive boss made of earth and molten rock towered over our puny heroes, but they defeated him with a well placed gun shot.

We suspect some characters might even be direct homage to older Final Fantasy characters. A crusty old coot fighting desperately to get back to his ship reminded us strongly of airship master Cid. The pale blonde pansy with royal clothing cowering behind the old man could easily be mistaken for Final Fantasy IV's Edward the "spoony bard." A pair of young twin wizards - one male and one female, one in red and one in green - could be the reincarnation of Palom and Porom.

Lost Odyssey isn't a throwback, though. While fighting is turn-based and you watch a loading screen each time you encounter a monster, the combat includes some innovative touches. Every time you launch a physical attack, you engage in a timing minigame to land the perfect hit. The environment can play a role, too. When our party killed that volcanic beast, they did it by consistently shooting away at a nearby crane. When their bullets finally broke through the metal, the crane dropped a load of explosive missiles on the boss's head.