With a doomsday timer set on the world, the villain known as The End summons 11 gifted members known as S.E.A.L.E.D. team to the Pillar – a mysterious structure that's appeared out of nowhere – in order to defeat him. However, he's planted traitors among the group. It's up to protagonist Sho Kasugai and his allies to determine who he can trust and who must be illuminated in order to reach the top of the Pillar. Sure, it's not the most unique or exotic story, but does Lost Dimension have what it takes to shine through the growing pile of JRPGs on the PlayStation Vita?
Often compared to Valkyria Chronicles, this game features a turn based combat system that allows you to issue a series of commands before being attacked by an enemy. Contrary to most turn based systems, the title is deeply rooted in movement and proximity interactions, because distance between friends and foes will drastically change the flow of a fight. If you're too far from an enemy you'll likely miss, but get too close and they'll counter attack. Standing close to allies will sometimes trigger a teammate assist, but the same goes for enemies as bundled up foes will also support each other. It's a complex and difficult combat system to learn, and while the tutorial does a decent job of explaining everything, it will take some time to fully appreciate the complexity of it all.
Each character is limited to one preset weapon and unique abilities known as gifts. When it's their turn they can attack with their weapon, use their gift, defer their gift to a nearby teammate, use an item, or wait. Since gifts are often the most powerful option and offer the most utility, it'd be easy to just spam them over and over – but that's where the sanity system comes into play. Using gifts depletes the character's sanity, and if you're unwise enough to completely drain the sanity meter, that same hero will go berserk and become uncontrollable. It can be a gamble at times, but generally it's best to avoid this outcome altogether.
Considering the incredibly deep combat system, it can be easy to forget that a traitor lies within your ranks. Because character interactions are so important, it's critical to use each and every character in battle per floor in order to get the most information. This also means that it's imperative to equally balance each and everyone because your favourite maxed out characters could be voted off during judgement on any floor.
The main character also has a few tricks up his sleeve. Sho possesses a unique power to hear thoughts after each battle helping him to narrow down the traitor among the group. Once you have a rough idea of who might be the traitor, Vision Points can be used to essentially read their mind and provide a more clear answer as to whether or not they are guilty.
These Vision Points are limited to three per floor, and only show you a few seconds of dialogue and thoughts from the various characters to try and hint at the true traitor. The vision only lasts a few seconds without enough details and cannot be replayed. This leads into the judgement system. Being such a rare commodity, Vision Points seem like they should be more useful at providing valuable clues as to who the traitor is, but blink and you'll be ill prepared for the final vote.
During this judgement phase, you and your team must vote someone as the traitor. That character is completely removed from the rest of the game but can pass down their gift to another person. Due to the well written and likable cast, this can sometimes be a difficult decision to make. To add complexity to this, it's also important to interact with the other characters to help build trust because if the others don't trust you, they'll sometimes ignore your findings completely and vote off a person you know is innocent.
Graphically, the cinematics are beautifully drawn with fantastic animation. The stylized world and characters all look great most of the time, but during combat the framerate can often feel sluggish and jarring. Luckily, the framerate drops don't have much of an effect on gameplay as there's no reaction-based content in battle. The problem is that there's not enough variety in the assets, which can make the world start to feel very samey.
This isn't true of the music mind, which makes the transition between the hectic combat and the more stoic story very smoothly. Meanwhile, the voice acting adds depth and personality to each character. A lot of the dialogue is text only, but generally flows well with added sound effects and spoken lines.
The story is relatively short for the genre, only taking 20-30 hours to complete. The value in this game is that after the first completion, each additional playthrough will be randomised with different traitors and endings. Since only money carries over, each additional play will still be quite challenging, too.
Lost Dimension isn't a game for the impatient. Learning the combat system and paying attention to each and every line of dialogue requires a large amount of focus but can feel massively rewarding when you get it just right. Those willing to invest will find that the loveable characters and attractive art style provide more than enough incentive to replay the game multiple times, but the generic story and often frustrating judgement system prove to be traitors at times.