Also On: PS3
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
There's very little in Lost Dimension that could accurately be described as unique or new. Gameplay-wise, the first thing that springs to mind is Valkyria Chronicles, what with the strategy and the turn-based combat. From a social perspective, if the way each chapter ends with a "judgment" sequence doesn't make you think of Danganronpa, then the fact the characters are a collection of archetypes and stock characters probably will. And, of course, the whole plot is built around the standard "students battling an invading demon from another galaxy" trope, which brings to mind seemingly every Japanese RPG of every stripe in existence. Basically, if Lost Dimension were being graded on its originality, its outlook would be pretty bleak.
Of course, what matters isn't what ingredients go into a game, but what the game does with them once it has them all assembled. And on that front…well, to be honest, Lost Dimension doesn't really transcend its influences, either. It basically takes what other games have done better, puts the bare amount of effort into adapting them to a slightly different environment, and calls it a day.
And yet, despite that laziness, I'll be darned if I didn't find myself enjoying Lost Dimension. Of course, this may just be residual affection for the games from which Lost Dimension borrowed so heavily. I mean, I don't hold any special place in my heart for turn-based combat, but even I know that Valkyria Chronicles did it exceptionally well, so it stands to reason that a game that replicates it almost exactly should at least be competent. Likewise, having such a large cast of characters means that you actually have options for the make-up of your party right from the beginning of the game — which, I have to say, makes juggling party members a lot more enjoyable than I've ever previously found it.
There's a limit to how much I enjoyed, though. While the characters are fine in combat, they're a lot more annoying when you have to endure them in the game's social situations. And seeing as a big chunk of Lost Dimension is building camaraderie with your squadmates and trying to determine which of them is a traitor, that means enduring a whole lot of annoying whining about who could possibly be evil enough to be a traitor to the cause. Danganronpa got away with all that because it balanced out the whining with a strong dose of black humour; here, by contrast, it's all presented in a pretty straightforward manner.
(And apropos of nothing, I have to say that I raised an eyebrow when I saw the make-up of the squad that's been assembled to save the world: out of the eleven young people gathered together by the U.N., there's precisely one who isn't pasty white, and his skin is only dark-coloured when compared to the others. He's also, hopefully coincidentally, the angry one of the group. Danganronpa got away with a lack of racial diversity by explicitly being about Japanese students at a Japanese school; seeing as, again, the squad in Lost Dimension was supposed to have been assembled by the UN, I'm not sure what this game's excuse is.)
As rote and standard issue as a lot of Lost Dimension is, however, I have to give it up for some aspects of the game's presentation. While the dialogue and battlefield sequences look pretty much as you'd expect them to look, the cutscenes are pretty impressive. They look like they've been lifted straight out of some long-forgotten '80s anime cartoon — and I say that in the most complimentary way possible. There's a real care and attention that's gone into creating those scenes that seems pretty much absent from the rest of the game.
Which is why it's hard to say that it's really worth playing Lost Dimension. Yes, it looks pretty nice at points, and yes, its (shamelessly borrowed) combat is executed very well. But the end result is that you're left wanting to consume the media it recalls, rather than feeling compelled to keep playing your way through the game. And if it comes down to playing Valkyria Chronicles and Danganronpa, and watching '80s cartoons, or playing Lost Dimension…well, I know which of those I'm going to pick.