Review by: Matthew Dujnic
Published: July 27, 2002
The first action / RPG on the GameCube. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Nintendo’s biggest console, companies can still boldly claim to be the first on the block with their software. Activision’s Lost Kingdoms is certainly a first, as there is very little in the line of lengthy medieval adventures for the platform. Not only is it first, but Cubists also have themselves some platform exclusive software to boot. There are some fresh ideas promised from this game, including the card-based battle system. Now, let’s see if this “genre first” can also deliver the genre goods.
A dark fog is slowly consuming the five kingdoms of Argwyll; no one knows where it came from, or how to defeat it (however, an ageless evil is suspected). Katia, young daughter of King Feobane of Alanjeh, stumbles into a position of great responsibility, and naturally, you must guide her through a dangerous quest. King Feobane has already ventured into the fog with an army of men; and they have not been heard from since, so now the task falls to Katia. Luckily, though she’s just a young princess, she has that “fated chosen one” vibe about her. With the kingdom’s Runestone, a deck of tattered cards, and the help of the old witch, Gurd, she gathers her courage and sets off to save the world.
Lost Kingdoms may bear the phrase “role-playing game” in its genre classification, but its resemblance to those three little words is only cursory. A more accurate description would be, “deep action adventure.” The action comes from the numerous real-time battles where you use magical cards as weapons. The adventure is found in the ongoing story, which unfolds as you progress from mission to mission. Most aspects of a standard RPG are absent, though the pseudo-medieval setting, world-threatening evil, and mythical creatures are all accounted for. Instead of a free-roaming world to walk through, Lost Kingdoms presents you with a parchment map. This map doesn’t act as an exploration tool, but rather as a mission select system. After you play through a mission, your score is tallied, bonuses are given, and the next mission appears on the map. You proceed through the game in a linear fashion.
Gameplay is a mixture of equal parts familiar and unique. You’ll explore castles, cross great bridges, brave fiery magma pits, and battle on lush green plains. As you, controlling Katia, traverse each stage, you’ll come upon objects to investigate, chests to open, and the occasional injured solider. There are tiny puzzles, consisting of some pattern matching and hidden-switch manipulation: All of these actions are accomplished with just a single button; things don’t get complicated until you engage in battle.