The makings of a compelling dungeon crawler

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By Alexander O. Cuaycong
and Anthony L. Cuaycong

THE LOST CHILD is the collaboration of Kadokawa Games and NIS America, and with an outstanding set of games under each company’s belt, it’s hard not to get hyped for it. When the developer of Lunar: Silver Star Story, Yume Nikki, and Kantai Collection teams up with the creative mind behind Disgaea, Phantom Brave, and The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, expectations cannot but be heightened. And, true enough, their brainchild results in a worthy addition to the Japanese role-playing library of the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch.

The Lost Child starts out quite strongly, with an atmospheric opening and an attention to detail and style that are nothing short of immersive. You take control of tabloid journalist Hayato Ibuki, tasked with investigating paranormal activities that happen throughout Japan. Soon, you find yourself embroiled in a war that threatens mankind’s existence. Appointed to roam the countryside and cleanse the Land of the Rising Sun of demons and fallen angels, God sends help by way of the angel Lua and arms you with the weapon/relic Gangour, with the ultimate objective of stopping the end of the world.

Following the grandiose introduction, The Lost Child has your appetite whetted for engrossing gameplay. As a dungeon crawler, it has you engaged in exploration from a first-person point of view, which is all well and good. Unfortunately, while these endeavors essentially serve as its meat, the locations you travel to tend to appear rather uninspired and generic. The environments simply don’t look too entertaining, and try as the game might to shake things up, they aren’t anything beyond sufficient at best. And, needless to say, the deficiencies are more pronounced on the higher-resolution PS4 than on the Switch.

Thankfully, the drawn assets more than make up for the seemingly rudimentary backgrounds. From Hayato to the angels and demons he fights with and against, the character art is collectively superb. Completed with painstaking care and colored beautifully, it stands out in terms of personality and design. The visual-novel segments and cut scenes tend to be as memorable, and more than make up for whatever graphical failings the game has. And when paired with the wonderful music, they lend the appropriate ambience with exquisite timing.

In The Lost Child, you move from area to area investigating the occult and uncovering a slew of legends, myths, and histories that have long been buried and gone unnoticed. Needless to say, the work keeps you occupied and guessing, and your interest is properly piqued. You can’t wait to see what happens next. Traversing “dungeons” in the form of dark alleys and houses and occasionally being attacked by the entities you investigate, you move to uncover the mystery behind each area, beating down foes or even capturing them as needed.

Indeed, The Lost Child has you rounding up Astrals, and through the power of the Gangour, you’re able to bring them over to your side. They have their own relative strengths and weaknesses, and while the game’s combat is fairly simplistic in rock-paper-scissors fashion, the ability to use captured enemies brings some entertainment value, especially when the character design can fluctuate from tame to wild and wacky at a moment’s notice. The gameplay winds up tapping your affinity for first-person dungeon-crawling releases.

That said, The Lost Child’s obvious homage to the best of the genre leaves it vulnerable to the lack of innovation. And because it harks back to previous releases, it becomes he subject of unfair comparisons. You remember such notables as Shin Megami Tensei, Etrian Odyssey, and even Kadokawa’s own Demon Gaze, and you can’t help but draw hasty conclusions. At points in the game, you may think that, when juxtaposed with the genre’s finest, it’s not as difficult, or not as deep, or not as entertaining.

It’s too bad, really, because absent the summary judgments, The Lost Child provides a great experience. While it’s not the best of its genre, and while its supernatural storyline will appeal only to a niche market to begin with, it’s certainly got the makings of a compelling dungeon crawler. It’s able to stand on its own, and while it doesn’t live up to admittedly unrealistic hype, it’s still a title that more than earns its $49.99 price tag. If you’re keen on playing it at home, go for the PS4 version. Otherwise, it’s most conveniently negotiated on the Switch, which allows you to pick it up on the go and make full use of the time you have between real-life pursuits. Either way, it’s highly recommended.