Atlus, FuRyu and Lancarse delivered one of Vita’s most surprisingly impressive titles which proved that budgets do not need to be inflated as long as the experience is well made and polished.
World-building & Story
Lost Dimension‘s world takes place in an alternate version of modern-day Tokyo (nothing new here then) where a mysterious figure called ‘The End’ seemingly spawns a giant pillar from thin air and threatens nuclear action upon the world’s authorities. From here you’re tasked as the player character to infiltrate this pillar and discover who The End is and what his intentions are. You’re given just enough information to keep you interested in the plot but otherwise you always feel in the dark with the events happening in the game – at least on your first playthrough.
The majority of the title takes place inside this pillar which creates a pretty interesting world – clearly supernatural, you’ll travel floor to floor and each will have a completely difficult graphical design – from deserted city streets to Egyptian-style hieroglyphic rooms, the sheer strangeness of the situation will mean you’ll want to see what’s going on in this world.
The story itself is minimalistic however – you’re given very little while travelling up the pillar, instead spending most of your time interacting with your team-mates. It’s here where Lost Dimension shines – even with bare bones character development, I became genuinely attached to most of my characters – you’ll get specific dialogue and even missions the more you talk to them. With any great bond comes difficultly though, and one of Lost Dimension‘s main ideas is that on each floor one of your team-mates will be a traitor and it’s up to you to uncover, unmask and then vote to erase them – very DanganRonpa-esque and it works extremely well here, especially given the relationship building you’ll do with your team.
It somewhat hurts then, that the traitors are randomly decided each playthrough, meaning you may get the same characters betraying you and you never get chance to see their stories fully through.
To uncover what’s truly happening, you will need to play the game in New Game Plus – one playthrough will leave the game on a rather unsatisfying ending and a number of missions and tips files are hidden away in New Game +, which could be a frustration depending on how you intend to play Lost Dimension.
(The true ending itself is nothing special, but does at least provide a decent level of closure)
Presentation & Sound
Like with so many Japanese-developed games these days, Lost Dimension is a combination of menus; Visual-Novel sections and battle gameplay. Each one of these elements is impressive in their own ways though, meaning the game is one of the more well-rounded packages in terms of presentation I’ve reviewed.
Starting things off with the VN sections, these are a step above what I’m used to seeing. Characters animate various emotions during these scenes better than in similar titles and I found myself sitting and watching the whole thing. It helps that the voice acting – even the English version – is emotive and fits well with each character, though a great deal of the scenes aren’t voiced at all which is somewhat disappointing.
On to the menus, which are a more mixed bag. The main screen which acts as your base of operations is oddly controlled by moving the cursor around the screen – a curious choice for a console game – but it’s on the backdrop of your party waiting to go on their next mission, which is a little touch I found very effective as you watch your squad size dwindle down as your teammates are erased. Other menus – such as the talent tree to upgrade your skills – are sprawling webs which aren’t the easiest to navigate, but half of that comes down to the complexity of the trees themselves. Overall, the menus are functional but could’ve done with some tweaking.
The in-game graphics are more impressive – character models are 3D and well-animated, helped by the fact that each has a different skill which is often shown on screen (such as Agito’s teleport). Attacks and spells are basic but all accurately represent what they are, and enemies are imaginative and many are impressive to see for the first time.
Environments also remain impressive – as previously mentioned each different floor contains a different theme and they’re all interesting to some degree (particularly the first and final floors). Although you’ll see many of the same assets used over and over again per floor, you’ll move on quickly enough that you’ll never get tired of them.
Soundtrack is a particular high point – again, this is based on a floor-by-floor basis, but there’s some killer tracks in there that you’ll honestly want to listen to again and again. Sound effects are basic, much like the spells they represent, but they do a good enough job.
Gameplay & Content
Gameplay is where Lost Dimension really came through for me – I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. It’s worth noting first off that the game is a SRPG in the vein of Valkryia Chronicles for the most part – movement is done from a third-person perspective meaning you only get a limited view of the battle, but you can use an overview map to see what’s going on overall. There are also VN sections for conversations as well as stat-building menus for character progression.
In battle, characters wield a variety of different weapons including pistols, machine guns and daggers throughout battle and each also has a special skill they can use – some of these will be movement skills (such as levitation) while others will be battle skills (such as pyrokinesis). Each character also has an in-depth skill tree which allows a number of different attacks and buffs to be learned, each of which can affect the outcome of the battle if used correctly (for example, the main character Sho can learn a skill which skips the entire enemy phase, but is incredibly costly to use)
As is usual with the genre, you have a limited amount of distance you can move in one turn and once you have moved you can either choose to attack, use a skill or wait. Lost Dimension also introduced the ‘defer’ mechanic – if an ally is within range, you can give up the rest of that character’s go to them allowing the second character to have another turn – in this way positioning is always important as a character who wouldn’t be able to reach a distant enemy may be able to thanks to a defer from an ally.
Another mechanic Lost Dimension introduces is assist attacks – if your ally is within range (which will depend on what type of weapon they use) when you use a normal attack on the enemy, the ally will assist with an attack of their own. This quickly becomes the most effective way to take down enemies quickly and adds another layer of strategy to positioning as you’ll want to position allies with the biggest ranges to be able to assist with multiple foes at once. But beware – during enemy phases they can also make use of the assist mechanic to quickly take down members of your team.
Maps themselves are decent enough with some verticality and gimmicks (i.e. switches; ladders) but are generally pretty tepid in their design, which is a shame when the mechanics allow for more. You will occasionally come across missions which require very specific tactics and these nearly always end up being tonnes of fun as you perfect your strategy.
Aside from battles, the previously-mentioned VN sections provide a nice break from the combat while stat-building, although more difficult than it needs to be thanks to the menus, provides a nice way to fine-tune your characters to your own combat preferences.
Lost Dimension‘s big ‘hook’ that I’ve yet to mention is the traitor mechanic, which is very reminiscent of DanganRonpa. On each new floor, you’re told that one of your team will be a traitor and it’s for you to figure out who. At the end of each mission, Sho will be able to hear the voices of his team-mates and three of them will be ‘suspects’ – by taking different combinations of allies with you on your missions, you can use this to figure out who the three suspects are.
Once you have your suspects, you can use Sho’s special skill to ‘dive’ into their thoughts and figure out whether they’re the true traitor or not. In practice this simply involves chasing them through a dream-like state until they eventually spill the beans on their true allegiance – it’s simplistic, but it provides an interesting new mechanic to the game.
With the traitor figured out, it’s then up to you to convince the rest of your team of their identity. This can be done by leaving the traitor out of your missions (so your team-mates bond with each other and not them), but in reality is done in a more straightforward way – after every mission two of your team will ask you who you think the traitor is (or ask you if you think it’s a specific person), meaning you can influence the outcome fairly easily.
Content-wise, Lost Dimension has a lot to offer – there are five floors to progress through with a good number of main and side missions on each floor. You’ll also unlock character-specific missions as you build bonds with your characters and a second playthrough is almost mandatory as there are extra missions and endings to unlock from this. If you’re looking to experience everything, you’ll need around 15 hours for a first playthrough and a further 10 for a subsequent run.
For DLC, Lost Dimension has the usual cosmetic stuff as well as items to make the game easier, but there are a few pieces of more substantial content. Chief among them is ‘The Beginning of the End’, a set of new missions that provide much-needed additional back-story for all the characters but in particularly the enigmatic bad guy. The missions are all set in a new environment but use recycled enemies, meaning it’s not a completely new experience, but well worth playing for the additional story developments (it almost feels like this content should’ve been included in the base game).
There are also three different packs which provide one new mission per floor at a specific difficulty (easy/normal/hard), but these are just slight tweaks on things you’ll have already done through the story and I didn’t feel were really worth the cost of entry.
Lost Dimension is a real surprise – a solidly-made SRPG with interesting mechanics and enjoyable character development that aside from a few issues with storytelling and recycled content stood out as a high point for Vita in 2015.