But another game just wasn’t in the cards
A lot of very deserving games have never received sequels: Split/Second, Chulip, uhh… Beetle Adventure Racing. I don’t know, everything gets a sequel these days if it’s worthwhile, even ones that have been dormant for decades. Thankfully, Lost Kingdoms is one game that got its sequel, creatively named Lost Kingdoms II.
It’s strange, considering the splash that the first game didn’t make. It would be like if, say, Sin & Punishment got a sequel after the first one sold about as well as cyanide flapjacks, published by Nintendo for their new family-friendly console.
A sequel for Lost Kingdoms was a swell idea. It was a chance for FromSoftware to nail down what worked about the first game and polish the rest. And that’s exactly what they did. Mostly. And then it didn’t even match the first game’s meagre sales.
Lost Kingdoms II picks up countless ages after the first game. The exploits of Princess Katia have fallen to legend, but the heart of the cards still… oh, wait.
You play as Tara Grimface, which is one of those names that you think, “that probably sounds cool to a Japanese speaker,” but then you find out her name is just Riz over there. She was abandoned as a child with the Runestone, which stuck in her craw for some reason and no one ever teaches her manners. She joins up with bandits to stick it to the man, and the story takes off from there.
Lost Kingdoms was a pretty focused story, and Lost Kingdoms II is not that. On the flip side, the dialogue is strangely well written, or at least well translated. There’s not a lot of it, but what’s there carries a lot of character. Even the supporting actors seem to express their own motivations, and it helps make up for the weaker story. Don’t go in expecting a grand narrative, but what’s there is pretty enjoyable.
The voice acting isn’t great, however, but this was the era for bad voice acting.
The improvements are instantly appreciable. The camera, one of my biggest complaints, is no longer locked at an isometric angle, but rather can be freely manipulated. Random encounters have been replaced with enemies roaming the field, which is something I didn’t mention when talking about Lost Kingdoms, but it was a bit of a bee in my bonnet. It may be a preference thing, I just detest random battles.
You can also backtrack. Lost Kingdoms didn’t let you replay levels until the game has been completed, but in the sequel, you can trek however you want to across the world. It opens up a lot of exploration and sidequesting as you dig for better cards to add to your deck. It’s a less restrictive framework and helps the game’s longevity.
As for the game’s balance, yeah, that’s not something that was addressed in Lost Kingdoms II. Core combat hasn’t really changed from the card flinging roots of the first. A few more card types have been added, but nothing particularly groundbreaking. Once again, I didn’t use the independent summons because they’re just as useless as before. I leaned on my trusty attack and summon cards, with my deck gradually losing variety over the course of the game.
New is the ability to spend mana to increase the effectiveness of a card’s attack and combine related cards into one attack. I usually forgot these mechanics even existed and never used them, so take from that what you will.
Speaking of personal preferences, one of the stages in the game is essentially a repeat of one that was in the previous game. You might look at it and see it as recycling, but for whatever reason, I thought it was a neat way to call back to the previous title. You absolutely don’t need to have played the original to get what’s going on in Lost Kingdoms II, but there are small details that will delight some fans.
The tone of the game has also been adjusted, which may bother some fans of the first game. Lost Kingdoms was dismal and dark, and a lot of that atmosphere just isn’t present here. It’s not exactly a 180 into bright and cheerful territory, but it’s definitely more commonplace. The excellent monster designs are still here, but they clash against the more humdrum fantasy setting. It’s not entirely without personality, but it’s not as stark as the original.
It took me about 15 hours to complete Lost Kingdoms II, and it was entirely delightful. The changes to the camera were two ticks off my list of improvements to be made, while the gameplay balancing, well, maybe next time.
But, of course, there wasn’t a next time. Lost Kingdoms II didn’t sell well, and FromSoftware has never revisited it. As far as I can tell, no reference has even been made to these two games since the Gamecube era. I can’t help but wonder how the developers think of the titles, if at all.
At the very least, I enjoyed them. They’re off the beaten path, far from the tourists. The sequel is definitely the better title, but they’re both worthwhile experiences. It would be nice if FromSoftware decided to re-release them in some form, especially considering that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices for Lost Kingdoms II skyrocketed. Back in 2014, I bought both titles together for $34, but now you’re looking at somewhere past $150 for the second one alone.
Is it worth it? Who are we kidding, what game is actually worth $150? Maybe Steel Battalion with its controller or Rock Band with a full set of instruments, but not an obscure 15-hour card RPG.