In most video games we play the role of restorer. The world we enter is broken in some way, and we must piece it together again. In Chrono Trigger, perhaps the greatest of all the 16-bit era Japanese RPGs, this work is carried out along generational lines. A town mayor ruins the lives of his townspeople through greed and avarice. Travel back in time, locate one of his ancestral mothers and offer her a life-changing gift and she vows to always bring up her children to promote kindness and generosity. Return to the future and you find the mayor is transformed into a philanthropist. Order is restored.
Lost Sphear, the second game from Tokyo RPG Factory, a Japanese team founded to make games that rekindle the spirit and scale of the Super Nintendo classics, has no such ingenuity, and abandons all metaphor. Here, parts of the world have literally dropped off the map: where there was once a town, a forest or a mountain, now there is nothing but a white void, as if the related Unity asset had been accidentally dropped into a hapless programmer’s recycling bin. You play as Kanata, a “low born” orphan who, with the support of his friends – the affable Lumina, the optimistic Locke, the gruffly rude Van and, later, a few others – must put the world back together, by turning memories into tectonic jigsaw pieces that fill the gaps.
These memories must be collected with the usual sticky-fingered zeal of the JRPG protagonist (here, as in so many early examples of the genre, you freely plunder from any treasure chests left lying about unlocked in a townsperson’s home, often while they look-on, unfussed), either looted from chests, collected from monsters or, in one of the game’s stronger novelties, carefully carved from written lines of NPC dialogue. Collect the correct cocktail and the missing asset can be alchemised and restored, allowing you to enter the resurrected building, or to progress across a previously vanished section of the map.
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