After years of speculation and rumors, Nintendo finally announced, during its Direct last February, the return of the Monolith Soft license. This announcement aroused both enthusiasm but also, already, disappointment. Indeed, Bandai Namco has chosen to make some graphical and ergonomic improvements to the two games without offering a French translation for Baten Kaitos Origins, yet highly anticipated. Finally, we are entitled to wonder: this remaster, sold at price of €49.99is it worth buying, despite a partial translation ?
Two exceptional games
It’s hard not to rejoice at the arrival of Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean And Baten Kaitos Origins on Switch as these two nuggets are full of qualities. First of all, it must be remembered that the graphics are of exceptional quality for the time. The environments, very detailed, are of singular beauty. The original band (Motoi Sakuraba), simply sumptuous, also marked the minds of the players who had the opportunity to discover the universe of Baten Kaitos on Gamecube.
It is above all the originality of the gameplay that allowed the license to stand out from other RPGs. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean has been able to innovate, whether in its exploration phases but also (and above all) through its unique combat system. These take place turn-based but rather than choosing an attack from a list of abilities, the player must use a deck of cards, called “Magnus”, which represent weapons, spells or various objects.
This deck-building dimension is quite exciting and brings a real feeling of freshness: you have to manage your deck carefully, modify it according to needs and search the environments to find new Magnus. Certain cards can also evolve over time and see their effects modified. Thus, a “milk” card becomes “yogurt” if it is not used quickly. In addition, certain combos allow you to create new cards. For example, combining the cards “Sushi Rice”, “Rotten Fish” and “Wasabi Deluxe” creates “Poisoned Sushi”, with rather interesting attack statistics. In total, the game has more than 1000 different Magnuses and 140 combos to discover. In short, there is plenty to keep you busy.
It is true that the fights of Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean suffer from a certain slowness but Baten Kaitos Origins made changes to the gameplay to make them more dynamic without betraying the legacy of the first game. The two games each offer a rich adventure with a well-paced main quest, full of twists and turns and crossed by mature questions. The characters benefited from real writing work: they all have their own character and identity which makes them endearing. The player is given the role of a guardian angel and the main protagonists, Kalas and Sagi, regularly seek to interact with him. By breaking this boundary between reality and fiction, Baten Kaitos establishes a strong relationship between the player and the character. The feeling of immersion is even more powerful.
What about improvements?
License Baten Kaitos, failing to benefit from a sequel, fully deserves this remaster, but are the improvements brought by this Switch version sufficient? The main contribution is the appearance of a new menu with the following parameters (modifiable at any time outside of combat):
- No meeting: Yes/No
- Immediate KO: Yes/No
- Game speed: 100/200/300%
- Combat speed: 100/200/300%
- Simplified round results: Yes/No (only for Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean)
- Auto-combat: Yes/No
Most of the options offered aim to streamline the gaming experience, mainly during combat. Thus, it is now possible to deactivate meetings altogether. This is the perfect option if you don’t feel like stopping every five meters to fight. The character at the head of the group is given a dotted texture with a dubious aesthetic but devilishly effective to avoid all unwanted encounters.
It is also possible to increase the speed of the game (note that the entire game is accelerated and not just the avatar’s movements) and that of the combat. It is true that these could already seem long at the time. Unfortunately, acceleration can only be done in X2 or X3. Something in between (X1.5 for example) would have been nice. Indeed, the fights are practically unplayable in X2 because the game is too fast. The only solution to take advantage of this option is to activate automatic combat (an option which also makes farming less tedious). The immediate KO and the removal of simplified results per round are in our eyes the most relevant improvements because they really improve the comfort of the game; the fights gain harmony.
Choices that are difficult to understand
The addition of the aforementioned options does not justify a selling price of €49.99. We expected more from this HD Remaster. So, of course, the environments and the main characters have benefited from a little facelift and the introductory cinematic has been completely reworked for a prettier rendering. As long as we limit ourselves to the portable mode of the Switch, the graphics remain clean and it is with pleasure that we rediscover the artistic direction of the license.
The transition to 16:9 format must have been a challenge for the team of developers but the work does not seem to have been completed: the store screen is surrounded on both sides by black bands. It may be a detail, but it’s hard not to notice. On a purely technical level, the remaster struggles to convince: framerate drops are common, transitions between screens are regularly jerky and some attacks are buggy. We are therefore firmly awaiting a patch that will resolve these problems.
Several difficult to understand choices were made. We have already cited the absence of French translation for the second opus and we can add the disappearance of the English dubbing, although available in the European version of Baten Kaitos: The Eternal Wings and the Ocean lost. Only the Japanese dubbing remains.
At the end of the day, Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster is part of the line of remasters currently flourishing in the video game landscape. Publishers capitalize on a game’s success or fame, but too often they limit themselves to the bare minimum, leaving a bitter feeling of disappointment. The interest of this Switch version lies in its accessibility. On the one hand, it is no longer necessary to resort to an emulator or to pay hundreds of euros to buy the original games. On the other hand, the new options make progression in the adventure a little easier. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to judge whether this justifies the purchase of Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster.