A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Lost Sphear is a downloadable Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) with mild fantasy violence. Small, cartoonish characters with big heads fight each other using swords, bows, and magic, but there's no blood or gore, and defeated enemies simply disappear. Playable characters have a mix of personality traits, but all of them demonstrate the qualities of good friends and share the noble goals of helping others and doing the right thing, even at personal expense. Mature content is limited to sparing use of the words "hell" and "damn" in text dialogue and the appearance of wine and liquor bottles (which players can't interact with) in taverns.
What's it about?
LOST SPHEAR imagines a world in which people and places are fading into a white fog -- becoming "lost" -- with potential to disappear completely and permanently. Players take control of a young hero, a parentless boy named Kanata, who has the ability to find and restore things that are lost by using memory stones he collects by defeating monsters terrorizing people. With help from friends, he journeys around the world in an effort to understand what's happening and restore what's missing. Along the way, he meets new allies and uncovers secret plots within the military that's supposed to be protecting people, and is forced to make some hard decisions in order to do what he believes is right. His adventure involves investigating towns, talking to non-player characters, exploring labyrinthine dungeons, and getting into fights with monsters. Battles are turn-based, but characters move in real time and can be strategically positioned to damage multiple foes with a single attack. As the game progresses, the main characters earn more powerful skills and countermoves, as well as special armor called "vulcosuits," which make them much more formidable in battle and provide abilities that let them access new areas while exploring dungeons.
Is it any good?
It may not appeal much to players obsessed with the latest graphics and innovative play mechanics, but anyone who pines for classic '90s role-playing games will have a lot of fun with this one. Lost Sphear leverages timeworn but proven JRPG design ideas. Players move about an overworld map by foot and ship and riddle out simple navigational puzzles in mazelike dungeons, then take breaks in towns and cities, chatting with non-player characters in taverns and houses to further the story and get a better sense of the culture and history of this fantastical world. While players are free to roam and explore as they like, they're rarely bogged down with more than one objective at a time, and all you need do to figure out where to go next is talk to one of Kanata's companions. It's a blissfully linear, focused, minimalist experience -- refreshing in an era of sometimes overly sophisticated games that can leave players struggling to work out how to play.
But this simple design does risk some dull moments. Combat involves strategy in terms of choosing the proper abilities and positioning on the battlefield, but it can become a bit repetitive as players use the same tactics to defeat similar enemies time and again. Plus, the weapon and armor system is a bit too rudimentary to satisfy. And while the main characters are distinct and likable, they don't shine quite as brightly as true icons of the genre. For example, it takes too long to dig into Kanata's backstory, and the main characters never establish the sort of emotional bonds required to make us really care about their relationships with one another. Even with these minor letdowns, though, there's something undeniably alluring about Lost Sphear -- at least for those with a taste for old-school JRPGs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. In a long game like Lost Sphear, which can take more than 30 hours to complete, what's the best way to space out play time?
Talk about friendship. When you become friends with someone, does it change how you view yourself and your personal responsibilities?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.