Baten Kaitos Origins
|Baten Kaitos Origins|
North American cover art
Baten Kaitos Origins [a] is a role-playing video game developed by Monolith Soft and Tri-Crescendo for the Gamecube video game console. The game is a prequel to Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. Unlike the first game, which was published by then-Monolith Soft owner Namco, Origins was published by Nintendo, and was not released in Europe. It was released on February 23, 2006 in Japan, and in North America on September 25, 2006.
The game plays very similarly to the first Baten Kaitos game, albeit with some changes and adjustments. Unlike typical role-playing games, the Baten Kaitos series uses a mechanism where everything in the game is stored on magical Magnus cards. Rather than equipping characters with weapons and armor, these are drawn from the deck during battles and equipped only temporarily. Hence, equipment and even attack types exist as cards, rather than as statistics associated with the characters. Because of this, many of the game's quests provide new Magnus cards as rewards, which can then be incorporated into decks as needed.
The combat system is substantially different when compared to that of the original Baten Kaitos. Instead of each character having their own deck of Magnus cards, all characters use cards from a single deck and play from a single hand. Since most armor, weapons, and special attacks are specific to a given character, there are frequently times when one or two of the characters have only a very limited number of options. Because of this streamlining, the game focuses primarily on increasingly numbered card combos, instead of some of the more elaborate combinations that were possible in Baten Kaitos. Nonetheless, it is possible for one to maintain separate decks (such as a fire-based deck, a heal-heavy deck, etc.) and to then switch to the appropriate deck as needed between fights. Combat is more speed driven, and the player does not need to use a turn to 'reshuffle' their deck, as cards are automatically recycled as they're disposed.
As before, the game uses a separate Quest Magnus mechanism which allows various key items to be stored on blank cards. This is expanded from the first game, giving the player a much larger amount of blank Magnus (nearly 3 times as many as the first game), and a much larger variety of magnus, which can provide bonuses or negative effects. These items can be used at the appropriate time, or can be combined using a Magnus Mixer. In many cases, the quest Magnus cards age and decay over time. For example, pristine water slowly becomes drinking water, which then becomes stale water. Battle Magnus can be "upgraded" by being combined with proper Quest Magnus. For example, the battle magnus "Saber", can be combined with the Quest Magnus "Blaze" to create a stronger Battle Magnus, "Flame sword". In contrast to the previous game, the Battle Magnus cards which make up the combat decks do not decay or change over time.
The game also features several new locales, such as Sedna, a town that looks like it's made of childish clay sculptures, and Hassaleh, a new continent that did not appear in the first game. Sedna is composed of different Magnus pieces which, as the player discovers and returns with the appropriate Magnus cards, spontaneously appear. As the town grows, the player can then interact with the new inhabitants.
Settings and characters
The game takes place twenty years prior to the events of the first title, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, and features younger versions of many characters from the prior entry, though none of the same playable characters. The overall theme is that of a struggle between "pro-magnation" (the power of hearts, wings of the heart, and magic) and "pro-machination" (mechanical) forces.
Baten Kaitos Origins takes place 20 years prior to the events of the original Baten Kaitos. The main character, Sagi, works for the Alfard Empire in an elite unit, the Dark Service, that reports directly to a powerful politician, Lord Baelheit. He is joined by Guillo, who, while resembling a mechanized puppet, is actually sentient and animated by magic. At the start of the game, the unit is given a dubious assignment to assassinate Emperor Olgan, although the ultimate source of the order is unclear. Before the two have a chance to actually carry out or reflect on the morality of this act, Olgan is killed by a third party. Blamed for the murder, Sagi and Guillo are then forced to flee. During their escape, they encounter a giant beast called an Umbra, which Guillo has been mysteriously programmed to defeat. While trying to leave the city, they meet up with the third member of the party, a young woman named Milly. The three of them must work to clear Sagi's name while trying to uncover the nature of the threat caused by the maneuvering of Alfard's various power-hungry politicians, as they work under Alfard's Quaestor Verus.
The main enemy in Baten Kaitos Origins eventually turns out to be a being named Wiseman, a sorcerer with a thirst to turn every being in the world into pure Magnus. As Sagi, Milly and Guillo go back and forth between the present and a "dream world", they eventually discover the reason why the evil god Malpercio was created. Near the end of the game, it is revealed that the spirit which the player actually plays is connected to that world, and that Sagi is not a spiriter at all, but is instead part of the Empire's malideiter project. This came about as a result of experiments which Lord Baelheit was ordered to perform on behalf of Emperor Olgan in an effort to create artificial spiriters, rivaling their power with Malpercio's afterlings. Although the experiments were ultimately abandoned after a mishap, the test subjects were released still containing pieces of Malpercio. Years later, while stopping the maniacal plots of the politicians, Sagi learns of his true nature and must attempt to reach equilibrium with the being inside him or risk certain death.
Slightly later in the tale, Milly's true intentions are revealed, as well as her past, and connection to Baelheit. Near the ending, Baelheit also reveals that Milly is half-Machina; when she was just a child, a failed experiment (along the lines of the one which created Sagi's "spirit") tore her in half and killed her mother. With the help of his own guardian spirit, Baelheit managed to revive Milly using Machina.
Perhaps one of the greatest obstacles encountered during the quest is the Machina Vanguard, consisting of three high-ranking Mintaken officers, Valara, Heughes and Nasca (who is Heughes' younger brother), who report to Lord Balheit. They hold the power of Machina Armas, the strongest weapons in Machina warfare, and thwart the plans of Sagi and his comrades several times over the course of the adventure. However, after joining powers with the force inside him, Sagi acquires immense strength. With this strength, he is finally able to defeat the Machina Vanguard that were pro-machinating each of the floating continents. He then sets off to defeat Baelheit once and for all. In the interim, though, Baelheit finishes construction on a huge flying fortress built completely out of machina called Tarazed. He orders that everyone move onto the fortress, as he intends to destroy the continents. Verus orders Sagi to stop Baelheit, and although Sagi does so, Verus reveals he has been pulling the strings and using the group for his own ends. The group defeats him, but Wiseman, who had possessed Verus, attacks the group. With the aid of the members of Malpercio, Sagi is able to defeat Wiseman, but this leads to Tarazed's collapse.
Sagi, Milly and Guillo flee, aided by previously defeated villains, Nasca, Heughes and Valara. Guillo sacrifices itself to save Sagi. Sagi and Milly return to Alfard, happily reunite with family and friends, and eventually decide to elope and move to Mira. Verus's prior assistant, Geldoblame returns to Alfard and becomes the new emperor and instructs people under him to locate the five "End Magnus", setting up the premise of the first Baten Kaitos game. The game's last screen features an image of a baby with only one wing apparent, largely implied to be a character from the sequel, who would be an adult by that time.
Development and release
The existence of the second Baten Kaitos game was first mentioned in Famitsū as one of the titles to be unveiled at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show. Originally planned for release in December of that year, it actually didn't see store shelves until several months later, in February. The game was released in Japan and North America, but not in Europe, unlike the original entry, which released in all three regions. Unlike a number GameCube titles developed late in its lifespan, development of Baten Kaitos Origins was not transitioned to Nintendo's then-upcoming hardware, the Wii, which was scheduled for release just months after Origins. Producer Hirohide Sugiura explained that this was because they didn't feel it was worth the cost to port it, nor was it suited for the system's very different motion control-based controller system. They decided to just release it as it was on the Gamecube, and then start up a new project more suited for the Wii as their next project, which eventually led to the creation and release of action game Disaster: Day of Crisis in 2008.
Unlike the first Baten Katios game, which was published by Namco, Origins was published by Nintendo, and translated and localized by 8-4. The game had a brief instance of censorship in its North American release - the character "Sagi", at one point, is crucified on a cross in the Japanese version of the game; in the North American version, he's merely placed on a golden cube.
The Baten Kaitos Origins Original Soundtrack is a three CD album containing the music from the game. It was composed and arranged by Motoi Sakuraba, who was in charge of all musical composition in Origins. A total of 61 individual tracks of music are included within the game.
Released towards the end of the GameCube's life cycle, Baten Kaitos Origins had few other major titles to compete with, particularly within the role-playing genre. IGN described it as "one of the last great gems" on the system, naming it the "Game of the Month" for September 2006.
Review scores were generally positive with reviewers enjoying the game overall, despite complaints over specific elements. While the card battles were noted to be a satisfying test of skill, the need to micromanage decks and the difficulty of some boss battles were faulted. Visuals were described as impressive, with pre-rendered artwork serving as the backdrop against which characters move.
Baten Kaitos Origins debuted at number 15 on the weekly games sales charts in Japan, with roughly 14,000 units sold in the first week.
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- Baten Kaitos Origins (バテン・カイトスII 始まりの翼と神々の嗣子 Baten Kaitosu II: Hajimari no Tsubasa to Kamigami no Shishi, Baten Kaitos II: Beginning of the Wings and the Heir of the Gods)
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- Official website (in Japanese)