The Lost Child is the latest Dungeon Crawling RPG from one of my favourite publishers, NIS America. Developed by Kadokawa Games, The Lost Child not only offers a very satisfying Dungeon Crawler experience, but it also contains a lot of strategic elements, a tonne of puzzles, investigations to look into, ‘Pokemon’ style capture and evolve mechanics, and plenty of RPG elements as well. That’s not to mention the Visual Novel style interactions and the quirky Japanese humour throughout the game.
To say “I enjoyed The Lost Child” is a massive understatement as I happily approach 100 hours played in the last seven days. So, what makes it so good? Let’s find out.
The Lost Child opens with our protagonist, Hayato Ibuki, investigating a series of mysterious suicides at a subway station in Shinjuku. Hayato is a reporter for a small occult magazine, so all things paranormal and supernatural are his kind of thing! “Why is a string of suicides cause for an occult magazine writer to look into and not the police” I hear you ask? Simple – because people have seen ghostly figures push the ‘victims’ to their death and then vanish into thin air. Unsurprisingly, whilst investigating this phenomenon, Hayato is also pushed onto the train tracks into the path of a speeding train!
Luckily for him, a mysterious girl, known as Balucia, throws out her arm and catches you just in time. This girl hands you a locked case before telling you “…Please live…” then vanishing into the crowds. This case, as you’ll soon find out, is just the start of your problems! Upon returning to your office, where you begin to calm down, reflect on things and gather your composure, a beautiful, yet annoying and temperamental, scantily-dressed woman appears in front of you. Her name is Lua, a self-proclaimed ‘Angel from God’ who claims you are the ‘Chosen One’. Hayato did what anyone would do who has just had a traumatic experience, he grabs his camera and takes a picture of her to see if he is seeing things or not. Lua doesn’t appear on any of the photos – is his camera broke or is she really an angel? Other people can see her, so it must be the latter…
Lua sticks to Hayato like glue as you travel around the town looking for clues on the investigation and also as you get your camera checked over, to make sure it isn’t broke. Upon your journey, you are attacked by a hooded figure, a figure who unveils himself as a giant fish-like being known as a “Deep One”. Lua commands you to open the case with your blood and retrieve the ‘Gangour’ gun from within. With his camera tripod in one hand and the Gangour gun in the other, he beats the Deep One into submission and then captures its ‘Astral’ within the iPad-like device which came with the Gangour. You summon the captured Deep One to join your team and head out to Akihabara in search of Balucia, who you find out is actually Lua sister, and the main reason she is here on Earth as her sister has been classed in Heaven as a ‘Fallen Angel’.
Throughout The Lost Child, you will travel to six main locations, each with its own Dungeon, which is comprised of many floors and puzzles, each with its own set of unique enemies. You’ll also be required to take on and solve various investigations, map out all of the dungeon maps, level up and train your captured Astrals, all while doing as God commands and searching for Balucia. However, upon meeting Balucia for the first time with Lua as a companion, you may notice a few differences…
So, what is a dungeon crawler, and how does The Lost Child expand upon this genre? If you’ve played games like Etrian Odyssey, Wizardry, Might and Magic, Demon Gaze, or even Ultima, then you’ve played a Dungen Crawler game. The overall premise is that you are placed in a dungeon, with no map, and you must work your way around in first-person whilst you draw out the map as you go. Etrian Odyssey did it differently as it had you literally drawing the map yourself on the 3DS’ lower screen, but the others usually uncover the map as you walkabout. Usually, within these games, you also have the ability to take a group of people along with you to combat the enemies you encounter, sometimes in real-time action and others, like The Lost Child, in a turn-based mechanic which is similar to old Final Fantasy games.
The Lost Child adds its own spin on the genre by introducing Pokemon-like mechanics and lots of puzzles. You have a ‘town’ with various shops you can visit outside of dungeons, there are some RPG elements involved, you can capture the various creatures ala Pokemon-style and use them to fight the enemies with, and you also have progressively getting
annoying harder puzzles. I’ll explain in detail below how each mechanic works, but at the core of it, this is your typical Dungeon Crawler game with a fantastical Japanese setting which feels like Pokemon, Persona, Demon Gaze, and any big-boobed Visual Novel had a baby and called it, The Lost Child… Maybe they gave it up for adoption and that’s why it’s now ‘lost’? Who knows?
Also, if you die whilst playing The Lost Child – If Hayato dies (the others can die and it won’t initiate the end of the game) – then you meet the mysterious Keziah Mason who will allow you to return to the battle from the start if you pay enough gold, or return just before you entered the battle if you have enough Karma. This came in handy a few times as it allows you to retreat and grind a bit more if you have enough Karma to escape. If you don’t, then ‘Hell’ is your only option. Hell basically returns you to the title screen and you lose anything you did since your last save – so save regularly!
Gotta Catch ’em All…
As I mentioned above, one of your objectives along your Heavenly quest, is to capture and ‘tame’ all of the Astrals. This doesn’t mean they will stop appearing in the dungeons for battle, but it does mean you can call upon them for support as you take on their evil companions. Capturing a creature is easy, whilst in battle, you select the option and choose which Gangour bullet to use (you unlock many different types of bullets throughout The Lost Child, all with their own strengths and weaknesses on certain enemies). You don’t even have to have hurt the opponent if your Gangour Meter is at a decent level, just fire away and watch the evil being become captured. Then, once you win the overall battle, Lua will pull out the tablet and you will receive info on the Astral you just captured.
Once you capture an Astral, you can’t use it straight away. You must first purify (tame) it so that it follows your every command. This is simple, you use a small amount of ‘elemental karma’ (which you earn from destroying enemies of that type) and once purified it can be added to your team. The elemental karma is very important as there are four types of experience/karma in the game. Regular experience automatically levels up both Lua and Hayato, Heaven karma is used to manually upgrade Angels, the Mortal karma is to manually upgrade Fallen Angels, and the Underworld karma is used to manually upgrade Demons.
That’s right, Astrals don’t actually level up themselves as you use them. They will, however, unlock new skills the more you use them, but they won’t ever increase their stats. That is unless you goto the Astral menu and manually shove their karma into their face. Now, you can also use other karma on them – for example, Demon karma on an Angel, but you only get half the XP that you would if you used the Heaven one. This is a mechanic I kinda wished wasn’t here, as I would rather have the option of both – everyone gets upgraded in battle and you have XP to level up those not in battle, but overall it works as intended.
Also, the Astrals Evolve! Each Astral has three stages. Each time you hit a ‘level upgrade wall’, you must visit the Priest (below) and he will unlock the new evolution of the creature. This not only resets them back to level one but with higher base stats, but it also changes their appearance and even gives you new skills to use in battle.
Locate and Investigate!
As previously mentioned, The Lost Child revolves around a ‘home base’ of a few ally locations (which I’ll come to later) and the option to travel to six locations. This six becomes eight later on but one is a spoiler and the other is the end-game, which I’ll talk about later, so let’s just say six! Initially, your goal is to work your way through the various floors of each layer and seek out the hidden obelisk which is located on the last floor, guarded by a powerful enemy. However, you will find yourself revisiting a lot of the locations numerous times as you do your day job and investigate various strange things going on in Shinjuku.
Investigations are given to you in the form of memos which are pinned to your corkboard back at your office. My issue with these is that they are very vague sometimes and the game doesn’t keep track of what you actually find out about the investigation. For example, one investigation was regarding a phantom train that had been heard deep underground in one of the locations. You venture there and talk to the people present at the scene (like you do with all of the investigations) and you come to the conclusion that it’s something in the layer (which it always is, if I’m being honest). So, you head in and Lua will give you a hint of what to look for, which is great. You follow the hint and come to another hint, as I did with the train one – she said she felt something and I should keep going to find out what it is. However, I forgot that bit of info and I was looking for about two hours until I finally realised I had to ride the cart to find the enemy.
When playing the main story, you take notes and there is a log of everything you find out, what clues were given and where to go next. Yet when doing the investigations – your actual in-game job – our protagonist lets all the clues and information go in one ear and out the other as he doesn’t note anything down and you had better be paying attention to the clues given as you won’t be getting them a second time. Now, I’m not saying the investigations are hard – I’ve completed 100% of them this morning and got the trophy – but having the game update the investigation with the notes would have been a nice addition which would have lead to less shouting at the TV from myself!
With a little help from my friends.
Shinjuku is populated with various cookie-cutter people as you investigate the strange things, as above, but there are a few rather unique characters who will help you along your way, characters I would like to introduce you to:
This is your official ‘home base’ – it’s here where you can save, stash items and get new investigations. This is also where the Chief Editor, Sarutani resides. He doesn’t really do much in the game at the beginning, but he is here for support and advice if you have any questions regarding your current investigations. However, I found him to be pretty useless as a conversation NPC, he just refills your investigations board while you are gone I suppose.
Gagachi Awashima is the owner of the Maka Spa bathhouse, a bathhouse that not only keeps you clean after fighting all these nasty creatures but also provides buff effects to your next venture into a layer. You can gain access to new baths by bringing her mystical stones which you find upon your investigations, new baths which are more expensive yet bring with them bigger buffs. However, not all buffs are 100% beneficial. You can take a bath to boost item drop rate, yet also increase enemy encounters (which is already very high), gain more XP but have less HP, or just increase both HP and ATT stats if you’re going all-in.
The “Witch House” Book Store:
This is your bog-standard store I guess. You bring all the junk and items you wish to sell and you can also buy various potions and helpful items to help you within your journey. You will find yourself here more than any other location as you can only hold 100 stacks of items and that easily gets filled with stuff you don’t need as the majority of items you pick up are ‘junk’ items which are good for nothing but selling for money. Another reason you’ll be here a lot is for Leon Danta, the proprietor, as he is very knowledgeable and offers you a lot of advice on the investigations and gives you loads of hints and tips on where to go next. Leon also offers a ‘stamp promotion’ as you progress through the game, this allows you to save up stamps as you buy or sell things with him. Some of the high-priced stamp items are pretty cool as well, it made Hayato feel like Ash from the Evil Dead!
Pandemonium Camera Shop:
Yasutaka Banba is a very mysterious person. He’s the owner of the camera shop and has known our protagonist for many years. In his store, you can appraise items you find in the layers (as you can’t equip or sell them until they have been appraised) and you can even synthesis various weapons and armour together in order to make much more powerful ones. However, you don’t synthesis to get new items, it just increases the base stat by a few points, if successful, which is a shame. I would have liked it if combining a few items would have created a brand new thing. There is also another purpose to visit this store, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourself!
Finally, we have Chodenji, a cyber-church which is run by the Cyber Priest. This area is unlocked later on into the game after you reach a certain part. Remember above how I said Astrals will hit a level wall which the Priest must break them from and allow them to evolve – well this is the place. As long as you have enough money and the correct item, you can evolve to the next stage, receive a new skill, and begin to level up once again. You can also swap skills with different Astrals and pay to manually reset an Astral to level one without evolving if you wish. If you do, the base stats are greatly increased as you proceed to level up the Astral once again. The Cyber Priest is also very, very fond of cats – he has them running free all over the place and sitting upon his head!
Riddle me this…
So, we know about the locations, the Astrals, the allies, and the gameplay – is that it? Nope! The Lost Child throws a spanner into the works and gives us
puzzles riddles. Now, I’m in two minds about these – first of all, they can be fun and engaging, they get you to think, and they break up the monotony of fighting over and over again. On the other hand, you must complete them by solving rather cryptic riddles on a map that is initially blank, whilst also getting dragged into fights over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good puzzle – just check out all my other reviews, I can’t get enough! But when a game says:
“Find the room in the unluckiest direction. The entrance is sealed by an illusive wall.”
…then I feel the game is pushing its luck a little here. What’s the ‘unluckiest direction’? How would you spot it when the wall looks real but it isn’t? I basically had to go and headbutt every single wall until I found the spot where I could walk through and progress to the next area. This was by far the worst riddle though, there are others such as a list of animals and their appointed ‘deadly sin’ scattered around the floor. You also find a plaque telling you what order the sins should be in based on their ranking. Then you must find pictures of all of the aforementioned animals and press them in the correct order to open up the way forward.
Remember, this is whilst fighting swarms of enemies and ‘drawing’ out the map at the same time. So it can get rather frustrating at times if I’m being 100% honest – I almost stopped playing at one point because of the above riddle! The first area is free from any kind of riddle or puzzle, but from then on, expect one or more in each layer with the final layer having one on almost every floor. A few more examples are walking around but never looking at the walls, having to reduce your health to a certain amount before you can progress, increase and lower water via valves to open a door, and the common automatically moving floor panels which you can change the direction of via switches.
What would a DRPG be without a massive grind? It would be a joy, that’s what! Unfortunately, The Lost Child has a massive grind if you are aiming for the platinum trophy. First of all, you need to map out all 100% of every floor in every one of the six layers. I only recently found out you can see your percentage found in another option in the menu, but not the in-game map – why?!?! It should be on both! Either way, finding 100% is very tricky, especially when a lot of the maps have ‘illusive’ walls like above, walls that look real and require you to headbutt every single wall to find them. You also need to collect every single Astral, purify them and obtain all of their skills. Some ‘boss’ Astrals require key items to unlock, and it appears you need to possibly level all of them up to their third evolution to get the skills as well as using them in-game to fight with. This is going to take ages.
On top of that, you need to collect every single item, weapon, pieces of armour and accessories. This wouldn’t be ‘too bad’, but it’s all down to RNG at the end of the day. You can find chests within layers and upon beating enemies, these chests are opened via a rather simple minigame. As you open the chest, you either inflict ‘good’ damage or ‘bad’ damage upon it – if the chests ‘good’ meter fills, then it opens – if the chests ‘bad’ meter fills then it springs a trap which can do various things like inflicting damage, make your map invisible for 30 steps or more. You will randomly find unnamed items which Banba must appraise for you. So, finding all the weapons and armour is basically a numbers game and will most likely be the last thing you do within the trophy list.
Other things, which weren’t so bad and I managed within my 95+ hour playthrough so far is finishing the game (which happened at about 85 hours in), completing all the investigations, and defeating certain evil deities. There is a lot to do in this game, especially if you want that platinum. It even has about eight platinum trophies in various regions if you’re that inclined to obtain all of them!
Where do we go from here?
So, you’ve spent 100+ hours in The Lost Child, you’ve done all the investigations, you have a bunch of Astrals, you are fed up with the same six layers, and you want more of a challenge – what can you do next? How does a layer with 99 floors, almost every one of them containing a new puzzle/riddle and a multitude of creatures, as well as the immensely powerful Nyarlathotep on every single floor sound?
This is what awaits you within the R’lyeh Road – one final challenge of strength, commitment, perseverance, and might. Things are a little different here though, you must obtain a sacred stone on each floor, which awakes the evil Nyarlathotep, and make your escape by either avoiding it and getting to the exit or facing it head-on. Any Astrals who are downed within this realm are cursed and must be cleansed by the being at the front gate, and all warp items are disabled – so you can’t warp back to the start or back to your office, you must find the designated warp point if you wish to do that. This final challenge is brutal and unforgiving, yet very satisfying once you take it down on every floor.
One other thing to mention here, The Lost Child also supports Online Play in this area. Well, I say supports… You can ‘register’ your team before you enter the Road so that others may face your Astrals as they progress throughout the 99 floors. Similarly, if you encounter a tree as you progress, you can touch it and fight someone else’s team. Now, I thought this sounded great at first, and then I touched my first tree. Just to be clear – based on the PSN stats, I was the first person to finish the game in this region. Yet, when I touched the tree, I was presented with six level-99 creatures who took me out over and over again with one hit. Basically, it’s using teams from all regions, including Japan where the game has been out for a while (I imagine) – so taking on these enemies is suicide. Since then, I’ve just entered the Road and chose not to allow the network connection. It was a neat feature, but it didn’t really have any benefits to use I’m afraid.
The Lost Child is gorgeous! I know I say that about a lot of games, but I’m really impressed with the visuals within the game. From the high-resolution character avatar assets to the detailed Pokem…Astrals. Each layer has its own distinctive design and feeling from the firey underground of Minakami to the sewer-like area below Umeda. Every single one looks different and comes with its own unique enemies and traps (in some instances). There are anime cutscenes among the Visual Novel style segments as you patrol the various layers either whilst investigating or progressing the story. The design of the allies is also one of the key features (as everyone else looks the same, in regards to humans), with each one looking exactly like their personality portrays them.
Sound-wise, The Lost Child has a very ‘Dynasty Warriors’ feel about it. I dunno what it is, but the music in most of the layers, and the sound effects as you win a battle, sound like it’s come straight from Dynasty Warriors 8 or 9! That’s not a bad thing though – just an observation on my side. You can also choose from a full English or Japanese voice-over track – I chose the English and I wasn’t disappointed with the quality of the voice acting as it was really good and a lot of the actual text was read out in English, which is surprising. I was expecting the main parts, or the cutscenes, to be voiced and everything else would be a simple grunt. But no, almost everything is voiced, which is really cool.
Overall then, I had a great time playing The Lost Child. Yeah, I’ve played it pretty much non-stop for the last 7 days and I’ve put in just over 100 hours now, but I don’t regret one moment. Well, at one point I didn’t save and then I died and couldn’t afford to pay to come back to life so I lost two hours of work – but other than that, I don’t regret any of it. The riddles were frustrating yet satisfying to complete – especially seeing as there is literally no guides or info online so I had to work it all out for myself – and the core mechanics work really well, as it combines the Dungeon Crawling aspect with the JRPG and Pokemon/Persona aspects. I imagine The Lost Child will only appeal to a small niche of people, but I do recommend you to give The Lost Child a chance and keep an eye out for it if any part of my review has made you curious or interested.
The Lost Child is both a great game and a very frustrating one. It does a lot of things really well, the dungeon crawling, the story, the voice acting, the combat, and the puzzles themselves. Yet, it also has issues with the lack of tracking your investigations well, the difficulty spike at certain points, the too-frequent random battles, and the vagueness of some of the riddles. However, as a whole, the game was great to play through as it only got more interesting the more you got into it, and it was very satisfying to both solve the puzzles and unlock 100% of each floor.
If you’re a fan of games like Etrian Odyssey or Demon Gaze and would like to play a great story with awesome music and voice acting whilst solving puzzles/riddles as you work your way through the dungeons – then check it out!
The Lost Child£44.99
- - Gorgeous graphics
- - Very interesting story with a few surprises
- - Very clever puzzles (the solvable ones)
- - Interesting mechanics with capturing the creatures and using them in battle
- - Amazing soundtrack and great voice acting (in both English and Japanese)
- - Some of the puzzle/riddles are very vague and hard to decipher
- - The investigations don't get tracked with new info you learn
- - The random battles are too frequent
- - The RNG trophies will take hours to earn
- - The UI isn't very intuitive, having things like the map percentage on a different screen to your actual map screen for example.