There are plenty of wonderful games that the Nintendo GameCube is remembered for housing, but I’d imagine most people immediately jump to Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. For me though the GameCube was where my love of RPGs was truly cemented, with games like Tales of Symphonia, Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door and, of course, Baten Kaitos. When I found out that Japan and America were getting a sequel to one of my favourite RPGs and we weren’t, I was understandably pretty gutted. Well, finally my misery can now be quelled because Baten Kaitos 1 & 2 HD Remaster has all the RPG card battling I could ever need.
As the name suggests, this collection includes both titles in this short-lived RPG series, Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean and Baten Kaitos Origins. These GameCube exclusives made by Xenoblade developers Monolith Soft have been unavailable to play anywhere for decades, so for those who missed out this is the perfect time to play two wonderful JRPGs.
What sets Baten Kaitos apart from other RPGs is the card-based combat, which sees you using weapons with different numbers on them to beat up the enemies that cross your path. Both games start pretty simple, with various different swords that you can choose to slash unsuspecting guards, but before you know it, you’ll have to build a balanced deck with numbers that’ll line up to unleash massive combos with powerful finishing moves.
It’s not easy to build a well-balanced deck for battles, because there’s a whole lot to keep in mind. The numbers on the cards are the obvious thing you need to make sure line up in your hand, but there are also healing potions, armour, and status effect cleansers to fit in too. Having a nice variety of cards in your deck sounds good in theory, but when you just want to stab someone and your hand is full of potions and helmets it’s not exactly ideal.
Cards, or Magnus as they’re called in Baten Kaitos, aren’t just used for fighting in these games. You also use them to store various items in the world. This might be as simple as storing some fire to light a torch, or as complex as storing a magnetic force from a glowing rock to move bridges around. The best dungeons in these two games make use of this interesting mechanic, although I must admit compared to more modern games it takes a little too long and is a bit too fiddly to collect and use these puzzle solving elements.
Although very similar games that are part of the same series, both of the Baten Kaitos games in the collection are pretty much standalone titles. The first game follows Kalas in a quest to collect the all powerful End Magnus that can stop an evil god from being summoned, with a whole lot of characters to meet and twists and turns along the way. Baten Kaitos Origins is set twenty years prior to the events of Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, with main character Sagi trying to prove his innocence when he’s framed for murdering the emperor as part of a political coup. There are locations and characters you’ll meet in both, but you wouldn’t really miss out on much if you played them out of order.
As a teenager I was enthralled by the story and characters of Baten Kaitos, and while nostalgia certainly gave it a boost it’s a little lacking by modern standards. Kalas isn’t a particularly likable protagonist at all, and while Sagi in the sequel is certainly more tolerable he’s not that memorable either. You’ll probably be able to find a party member or two that you like more though, like the mysterious mystic Mizuti or the trumpet-wielding Lyude.
Although the story might not win any awards, the world of Baten Kaitos is absolutely delightful. The floating islands that make up this colourful universe are undeniably cool, and the variety in locations is simply fantastic. There aren’t many games that can pull off featuring villages made entirely of sweets, but Baten Kaitos can.
There are plenty of new features in Baten Kaitos 1 & 2 HD Remaster that make the games more accessible and pleasurable to play. The visual enhancements are nice (if not particularly massive), and the selection of health buffs and infinite damage options available means that the difficulty of the game can be negligible if you just want to see the story play out. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s a nice addition to the package.
There is one huge issue I have with Baten Kaitos 1 & 2 HD Remaster though, and that’s the voice acting. The English voices have been removed entirely for both games, and it affected my enjoyment hugely. The voice acting wasn’t especially great by today’s standards in these games, but I’d have much preferred playing with them than with the Japanese voices and I know others will feel the same.
Baten Kaitos 1 & 2 HD Remaster is a great way to experience two GameCube classics in all their glory. The card-battling combat still feels fresh all these years later, and the setting is a joy to explore on your adventures. The lack of English voices and the story in general isn’t ideal, but it’s a sacrifice I was willing to take to finally get to play Baten Kaitos Origins.
A great way to experience two classic RPGs
The card combat still feels fresh
The setting is wonderful
Some nice accessibility features added
English voices have been removed
The story is a little lacking by modern standards
Using Magnus outside of battle is a bit fiddly