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Lost Kingdoms II Review
game: Lost Kingdoms II
three star
posted by: Eric Qualls
publisher: Activision
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Jul 6th, 2003
last revision: 03:18 PM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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Beggars can\'t be choosers and right now GameCube owners are begging for more RPGs. Lost Kingdoms II from developer From Software uses the same card combat themed gameplay as the original Lost Kingdoms, but provides a much better overall experience. It still isn\'t really up to the standard of some of the RPGs on other platforms, but GC owners who are hardcore RPG gamers or love trading card games like Magic will find a lot to like in Lost Kingdoms II.

The story in Lost Kingdoms II takes place two centuries after the original game. Katia, from the first game, is long gone and is now remembered as a great queen. The heroine in this game is known as Tara Grimface, a young woman armed with a rune stone and a deck of magical cards that is trying to learn about her past. After the opening cinema sequence, however, the story takes a backseat to the card-battling gameplay. There are a few surprises along the way, but overall the story is pretty forgettable.

The real stars of the show in Lost Kingdoms II are the magical cards that you can use to call on monsters to fight for you. There are over two hundred different cards separated into different elemental alignments and card types. Because of the elemental differences, there is a rock-paper-scissors way of balancing the gameplay. Earth beats water, water beats fire, fire beats wood, and wood beats earth. There are also neutral and mech cards that aren\'t weak against anything.

On top of all this, the cards are also categorized depending on their function. Weapon cards call up a monster that makes a single attack directly in front of Tara. Independent cards call up monsters that roam freely around the battlefield and fight any enemies they can find. Summon cards call down powerful and lengthy attacks. Helper cards produce monsters that focus on defending Tara. A new card-type, transform, causes Tara to take the form of a monster that you can control directly. All of these cards gain experience and become more powerful over time.

Battling enemies isn\'t as easy as just throwing down your most powerful cards, however. Each card uses up magic points and the only way to replenish them is to collect gems that defeated enemies leave behind. Some cards use up ridiculous amounts of magic points, though, and a lot of the game consists of you limping from one battle to the next on a very limited amount of magic. Once you run out of magic points, Tara will take damage whenever you use a card. This could have been a good way to add strategy to the game, but comes across as simply annoying as your magic points are instantly depleted no matter what card you use.

Each card in your 30-card deck can only be used once, and when you use up all of your cards it is game over. This can happen quite often as you learn the layout of each level and learn what type of enemies to expect. The game is pretty forgiving, however, as you are able to keep any cards you found or experience you gained before you died. Once you learn what you are up against, you can build custom decks that will greatly improve your chances for success on any given level.

Lost Kingdoms II isn\'t just about the cards, however. Unlike the first game, which utilized random battles, all of the fighting in LKII is done in real time. You can see all of the enemies and you can choose when and how you want to attack them. This keeps the gameplay flowing at a fast pace and doesn\'t feel repetitive like RPGs with random battles can after a while. The rest of the gameplay consists of exploring towns and all of that traditional RPG stuff.

Controlling the game is very easy. Moving Tara around the battlefield is smooth and easy with the left analog stick. The four face buttons are assigned a card and using a card is as simple as pressing the corresponding button. You can also send cards to the bottom of your deck that you don\'t need at the moment by pressing the left shoulder button and then the button of the card you want to replace.

The graphics in Lost Kingdoms II are good enough to get the job done, but are nothing to brag about. Tara is well animated and the character model is suitably detailed, but everything else is sort of bland and uninspired. The enemies you face and the monsters you unleash look pretty good, but the animation is stiff. The sound is nicely done, however. There is a lot of voice work during the cinema sequences and the music, though subdued, does a great job of setting the atmosphere and mood of the game. Even though the graphics are a little behind the curve, the overall presentation of the game is great.

Something that needs to be addressed is the absolutely horrible camera. The battles always seemed to be taking place just off screen and I found myself having to constantly adjust the camera in order to see anything. Simply moving around and trying to keep Tara away from enemies was made much more difficult because you have to waste time babysitting the camera. I spent more time fighting the camera than I did watching my orcs club enemies and that is definitely a bad thing.

Overall, Lost Kingdoms II is a vast improvement on the first game, but still has a long way to go before it can stand among the RPG elite. It is basically a collectible trading card game attached to a thin story. That wouldn\'t be so bad, but the gameplay still needs a bit of tweaking. The cards themselves are detailed and interesting, but the way you use them needs to be fine-tuned. One thing that I\'m not particularly fond of is the complete reliance on your cards in battle. I would have liked to at least have had a short sword so I could take some swings and defend myself, even if it didn\'t do much damage. Fans of card games such as Magic: The Gathering will love building new decks and battling with their friends in the versus mode. Hardcore RPG fans will be able to blast through Lost Kingdoms II in a weekend, so it is hard to recommend it as a purchase. The best thing you could do if you are interested in LKII is to try it before you buy it so you don\'t get burned.