As promised, I did say at the beginning of this series that my list was going to be the result of intense research and Gamecube experience. As you have seen already, my list is a good mix of classics and curveballs, but this next game just hits a homerun like no other game does. Though it may not be my number 1 game of all time, it is definitely the first game I would recommend to anyone looking to play something that would make you think "how the hell has no one ever heard of this before?!" And that game is Lost Kingdoms 2.
Never heard of it...
Ill try to be concise- In Lost Kingdoms 2, you play as an attractive young rebel named Tara. Tara is part of a nomadic group of freedom fighters who basically just drift. Tara is in possession of a runestone. A runestone is a mystical device that allows it's user to bring the images of monsters printed on magical decks of cards to life. Once these creatures are brought to life, they only obey the owner of the runestone by which they were summoned. Each creature has a different ability and capability to defend Tara from the threats of wild monsters or other runestone holders. In Lost Kingdoms 1, the type of runestone that Tara has could be found more commonly, but by the time that Lost Kingdoms 2 occurs (approximately 100 years after LK1), "original" runestones, like Tara's, were almost extinct. The runestones found most commonly in LK2 are man-made and are admittedly pretty shitty, as they are unable to control monsters flawlessly. So what happens when you have a beautiful young lady in possession of a weapon that almost everyone wants? You have a damn good video game on your hands, that's what.
Anyway, with this hub map in mind, I will explain the adventure/RPG elements of the game.
Essentially, the entire point of the game is to navigate each level entirely. Each level is shaped like a small open world with relatively simple puzzles that you must solve in order to continue on. However, during your navigation, you are very often attacked by large collections of wild monsters who stand between you and your to-be-solved puzzles or between you and the end of the level. So how do you fight them? With monsters of your own! Tara's weapon of choice in Lost Kingdoms 2 is a collection of up to 30 monsters that she can use to solve puzzles, navigate levels, and fight other monsters. These monsters are contained within a deck of cards. Tara has the power to release monsters sealed within her deck of cards in order to defend herself against really almost anything. This is the appeal of the game. What makes this game different from other adventure games- your weapon, the deck.
So I said that Tara wields a deck of cards during the game. Did I mention that you get to build her deck yourself? That's right, in order to play this game successfully, YOU, the player, need to assemble a deck of 30 cards. You get to choose from hundreds of different cards, all with different strengths and attributes and effects during battle. This customizability to a fan of adventure games is equivalent to you being able to choose not only your sword in a game, but it's length, width, weight, grip, color, material, bust size, favorite food, flavor, and favorite Super Smash Bros. character.
Customizability is something that a lot of adventure games really lack, and the way Lost Kingdoms 2 counters this issue within the genre is by giving you a weapon that REQUIRES customization. You make the deck your own as you become familiar and in love with the cards that YOU chose to use. You can also make up to 10 different decks, and change from deck to deck between levels. Getting bored of using the same cards? Switch them up for an entirely different style of playing! As each card is used during the level, it gains experience. Collecting experience for cards grants you several different opportunities. The first thing you can do with an "experienced" card, is make a copy of it. Do you really love 1 card specifically? Well how much do you think you're going to love TWO of them? Moreover, you can exchange experience collected on a card in order to upgrade that card to an even stronger card. Love your Baby Dragon card? Well with enough experience, that Baby Dragon can be upgraded to a fully realized Zombie Dragon! The upgrading system is also completely optional, although it is encouraged. Just like any other game, you will be demanded to keep your weapons strong enough to handle the enemies being thrown at you. Your weak monsters that may have cut it in the beginning of the game won't necessarily be as effective towards the end, but as you use your cards, they can either be replaced by buying better cards at the Card Shop, or upgraded to stronger cards for free. As you may have realized, the ability to customize your very weapon makes for completely unique gaming experiences. The near limitless ability to customize your shit establishes the guarantee that no two play-throughs will ever be the same.
I love side quests. I think they separate those who play a game from those who are hardcore fans of the game. Have you ever heard of a Legend of Zelda fan "casually" get the Biggeron's Sword? NO! Lost Kingdoms has 6 different hidden levels. These levels are uncovered by completing optional tasks throughout the main, required levels. For example, defeating a hidden boss in the Forest level, without being asked to, will unlock the Sacred Battle Arena. The completion of these hidden levels either unlocks new and powerful cards for you to harness, or dark opportunities for you to enhance your gaming experience. You see, I don't want to give anything anyway, but if you complete the difficult level known as "Sacred Battle Arena 1" and "Sacred Battle Arena 2", then you will be given the (literally) once in a life-time chance to upload every card you've collected in Lost Kingdoms 1 into Lost Kingdoms 2. A game-to-game copying and gaining of cards EXCLUSIVE to the original game? Incredible. Just damn incredible, and MUCH cooler than getting an "Achievement" on the XBOX 360.
In order to beat it completely, this game took me about 16 hours of playing. Not bad, especially
nowadays. The length of the game combines with the game's difficulty level in order to assure that no hardcore gamer is able to just blast through this title in 2 hours. You see, Tara can only summon monsters if she has a sufficient supply of magic power stored up. If your magic meter has 8 magic in it, and you summon a monster that requires 6 magic, then you have 2 magic left over for your next monster. However, if you have 6 magic and you summon a monster that requires 10, then your magic reserves will be depleted, and the rest will come out of your health. Magic stones restore your supply of magic, but they are usually only found of you strike another enemy (Imagine Coin Battle in Super Smash Bros. Melee). So in order to collect magic stones to refill your magic meter, you must use a combination of monsters that require small amounts of magic and monsters who require large amounts of magic. Typically, the stronger the monster, the more magic it requires, so it is up to you to build a deck that always has an ample supply of magic at hand because if you run out of magic, each monster you summon will take a chunk out of your health. This feature sets the difficulty level of this game at about a 3.5/5.
TL,DR- Lost Kingdoms 2 is a refreshing spin on the classic adventure game. You will spend hours customizing your "weapon" and even more time using it to explore levels and fight other monsters. It's fun and takes strategy, and even a little bit of time in order to beat this game. It has very high replay value, and I will recommend it until the day I die.