Baten Kaitos First Impressions
Nothing sticks out about the story thus far, but I'm barely an hour in.
The battle system was confusing at first, but I think I've mostly got the hang of it now... still not sure it's actually a good thing, but hey. Rather than having Fight, Magic, Item, whatever, you have a deck of cards. Your deck consists of spells, weapons, armors, healing items, maybe other things. It shuffles these up and you're presented with several; I believe the selection at any given time will increase as the game goes on. Anyway, when it's the "attack" part of battle you want to pick out several weapons or spells which will go together to your combo to an enemy. If you do something like a Fire spell and a Water spell together, though, they'll cancel each other out. If your hand doesn't have a proper attack item (or healing item for yourself), you're pretty much screwed. When it's defense you similarly pick out shields, helms, or even some weapons which have a defensive value. Battle cards seem to be able to be used infinitely. Once you've used a card, a new one will be drawn, with your whole deck reshuffled if you've gone through the whole thing. Sometimes you'll want to use a defense item during the attack phase, which will do nothing, just on the chance of drawing a true offensive card which you could use to finish off the combo.
Another weird thing is that you don't get money from battles. You do, however, get cards which you could sell for money. Or you can take pictures in battle and sell them... it says that the better a picture you take the more money you can get, but I've really not figured this all out yet.
Graphically, the game impresses. The polygon/real-time mix is very much like the PS1 Final Fantasy games, only with fewer of the drawbacks. Rather than a still image, the background is usually a short looping video clip. Real-time effects like water, and just plain the number of people and objects on screen at once, are much more abundant.
My favorite improvement compared to this style of game on PS1, though, is the lack of loading time. Entering one screen from another feels manages to feel like it's just a fade-out and fade-in, rather than loading. Battles load up similarly quickly. Whereas in a PS1 game you'd usually see some sort of weird effect on the whole screen, followed by blackness, followed by the environment appearing, followed by the characters appearing, all in the span of 15 seconds... here there's a ripple, with the full battle view there as the ripple dies out. 3 seconds, maybe? A very very good thing for an RPG.
My least favorite improvement compared to this style of game on PS1 is the voice. It's technically nice that there seems to be so much of it... but damn, none of it sounds real. So so fake and stilted. There is one non-acting aspect that I find interesting, though. At the beginning you put in your name, and from then on it seems the player is a sort of spirit character that the characters will sometimes communicate with or refer to. When they do this, the input name will show up in the text, but just be an empty space in the sentence, which is amusing. Especially if it should be Joshua's, but instead they just say 's.