Condemn O.R. Condone – Lost Dimension (PlayStation Vita)

What would you do if you were put in the position to vote for a member of your own team to be killed in order to stop the one who threatens to end all existence? What if that person was secretly a traitor and you were ultimately protecting your comrades? Then again… what if they were innocent?

In the near future the world of Lost Dimension is in ruins after a catastrophic attack kills millions, and amidst all the rubble a mysterious pillar has appeared. A strange man going by the name The End appears on the┬ápillar and claims responsibility for the attack, and now says that if nobody reaches and kills him at the top of the pillar he will finish off the world for good. The surviving members of the human race send in the best that they’ve got to try to get inside, but nobody can get anyone near it before being decimated. Thus, a secret service team called S.E.A.L.E.D. is sent in to do what the others could not: put an end to The End.┬áThe members of S.E.A.L.E.D. are all teenagers with special abilities called Gifts, ranging from conjuring fire or warping metals to attack foes. The member that has the most interesting Gift is our protagonist, Sho Kasugai, who has an ability called Vision that allows him to hear the voices of the other members of S.E.A.L.E.D..

This is very important, because there is a traitor in the group that Sho must discover. The kicker here is that the traitor is randomized on each floor other than on the first playthrough, so no matter how many times you play you’re never going to know who the traitor will be on a particular floor. Nope, you’re going to need to brush up on your detective skills to pinpoint the traitor all on your own, and *then* try and convince your remaining teammates of the traitor’s identity so they join you in voting for them to be “erased” at the end of each floor’s judgment trial. Think Danganronpa, but rather than your teammates being brutally murdered in ways that humiliate them they just get zapped and are never seen again. Also unlike Danganronpa, whether the person who is voted to to be erased is guilty or not doesn’t matter, as that person’s fate is sealed after that point. However, seeing an innocent person act in disbelief as they are about to be executes isn’t a pretty sight, so it’s better for everybody if you get that traitor.

Even though everyone is suspicious of each other being a traitor, the biggest and most satisfying element of Lost Dimension is the relationships you build with your teammates. After each battle you have the opportunity to talk to any of your teammates, and the first few people you talk to will generally result in you raising your camaraderie level with them. This is important for a couple of reasons, as not only will it flesh out the characters and allow you to connect with them more, but it’s also necessary to get the game’s true ending. This game requires you to become close with each and every one of your teammates to get the true ending, and considering that a few will be killed off before you can get to that point it will require a minimum of two playthroughs. Trust me, you’re going to want to play through it twice because the ending that you get on the first playthrough is pretty blah, but the second playthrough reveals a lot more meaningful plot elements not only at the end but throughout the course of the story.

While the main story of Lost Dimension doesn’t involve a whole lot of character development (everyone wants to kill The End to save the world), it’s your personal interactions with the characters that go a long way in making you understand them more. On the surface many of the characters seem pretty one-note, but if you take the time to interact with them it almost always ends with you having a different opinion of them. Some characters who appear mean on the surface have good reason to be so, while the more friendly characters might not be as friendly as you once thought. The writing and voice acting for these characters is always great, making regular interaction with your teammates between battles a consistent joy.

Lost Dimension has a simple gameplay interface and structure, but it actually contains a lot of depth the further into the game you get. In between story and side missions that show up on a list for you to pick you’ll always return to the same room to interact with your teammates, buy new items at the generator, or most importantly, use your vision to figure out who the traitor is. You will make your way through 5 floors of missions that get increasingly more difficult, which means you’ll want to be doing those side missions in order to get more experience points to level up your characters and their Gifts. You will also be graded on each mission at the end, with higher grades getting you better rewards and thus encouraging you to keep coming back for more.

The battles take a tactical RPG approach, where you bring in six of your comrades and choose where you want to place them on the battlefield before the battle commences. The battles themselves are turn-based, though they move back and forth between enemy and player phases. The cool thing about Lost Dimension‘s battle system is that the amount of space between you and your foes is the most crucial element. If you’re near a foe that some of your teammates are also near it will initiate “assist attacks” from your available teammates after your attack to deal out some potentially fatal damage. Even better, if you find that you take a move and can’t quite get to an enemy you can “defer” your move to a teammate who has already taken their turn, allowing them to attack twice and avoid missing out on dealing more damage.

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The crux of the gameplay is that, as you take damage and deal it, you will slowly lose your sanity. There is a sanity meter for each character that you need to keep an eye on, as it can quickly drop to zero if you consistently use your most powerful attacks. What happens if your sanity reaches zero? Your character goes berserk, which loses you control of them for a few turns. During these few turns the character will attack whoever is closest to them, friend or foe, and the damage they deal will be massive. You might be thinking that this is something you want to avoid at all costs, but if you know what you’re doing it can actually be a huge positive as you can deal out massive damage quickly. This is yet another mechanic in Lost Dimension‘s gameplay arsenal that really makes it feel fresh and adds a lot of strategy to each mission.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Lost Dimension had combat that was in real-time and not a series of static images as some of its visual novel contemporaries end up being. The combat animations look great and the accompanying voice acting from your teammates is solid all around. Each characters personality shines through during combat, which often results in some funny situations depending on which character you’re talking about. My personal favorite character in combat is the justice-seeking George, who yells out “EXCELLENT” every time he lands a good attack.

Like any good RPG, each character of Lost Dimension has their own skill tree that is jam packed with new moves for you to learn as you gain Gift points to put towards them. These range from attacks, status buffs and more that will give each character a seriously impressive arsenal of moves to play around with in the later stages of the game (or new game plus). As characters get erased you will also be able to equip that particular character’s materia to one of your surviving members materia slots, which gives you access to even more moves to use in battle. This game gives you tons of options in terms of combat moves, and that’s something I appreciate a lot in a game like this.

Lost Dimension is a game that I have a really hard time coming up with any flaws for, even though it’s not a game that’s flat-out amazing. It’s easy to pick up and play due to its level-based mission structure, but also has depth in both its combat and story that really sucks you into its world. The story doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of the Danganronpa series, but the little cues that it takes from that series are great and really allow this game to be something more than just an average turn-based strategy RPG. I know that I never miss an opportunity to plug the PlayStation Vita and this game will be available for the PlayStation 3, as well, but Lost Dimension is perfect for the Vita and is the next great game to be added to its library.