Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster Review – Nostalgia Meets Modernity
The announcement of Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster by Bandai Namco came as a pleasant surprise, especially for Nintendo Switch users. This collection revitalizes two games originally launched on the Nintendo GameCube, offering remastered graphics while largely preserving the original gameplay and presentation. Given that the original titles were released nearly two decades ago, this approach of subtle enhancement rather than a complete remake seems well-judged, presenting both advantages and disadvantages.
As someone who had not experienced the Baten Kaitos series on the Nintendo GameCube, this remastered collection served as my introduction to these cult-favorite RPGs. Despite the PlayStation 2’s soaring popularity at the time of its original release, these games remained exclusive to the Nintendo ecosystem. While certain aspects of the games may feel dated, they retain a compelling playability that stands the test of time.
The narrative of the Baten Kaitos series is intriguing, albeit somewhat unconventional. The story revolves around magical cards known as Magnus, which also play a central role in the game’s combat system. The first installment focuses on the aftermath of the devastation wrought by an evil deity named Malpercio, forcing humanity to inhabit floating continents in the sky. Over time, humans adapt to these new conditions, developing wings that enable limited flight. Uniquely, the game positions the player as a “guardian spirit,” allowing for interactive engagement with the main protagonist, Kalas. The central quest of the storyline involves End Magnus, a set of five powerful cards used to seal away the malevolent Malpercio.
In the world of Baten Kaitos, Magnus cards serve as the essence of all living things. These collectible cards are not only integral to the game’s combat system but also function as everyday items within the game’s quests. Players are encouraged to build a deck of these cards for combat scenarios. Once the deck is depleted, which applies to both the player and the enemy, it must be reshuffled. While the versatility of the Magnus cards allows for creative gameplay, it can also be somewhat overwhelming due to the myriad of options available.
It’s worth mentioning that the pacing of these games can be somewhat slow, particularly in the combat sequences, which can feel protracted. However, perseverance pays off as the game gradually unveils more customization options and becomes increasingly engaging. This slow start may deter newcomers, as initial battles can feel repetitive and the narrative takes time to gain momentum. Despite its serious undertones, the story often leans into familiar JRPG tropes, making it occasionally challenging to fully engage with the narrative.
The bundle also includes Baten Kaitos Origins, a prequel that offers a more balanced pace and a refined combat system. This installment places greater emphasis on strategy, requiring players to use Magnus cards in specific sequences to maximize damage. The characters in this prequel are more nuanced, with the new protagonist, Sagi, navigating the complexities of a political conspiracy. His more relaxed demeanor offers a contrast to the high-stakes scenarios he finds himself in, adding depth to the game’s narrative.
Bandai Namco has introduced several quality-of-life enhancements in this remastered collection, although they may not fully meet the expectations of some players. The speed of regular battles can now be increased, making grinding less tedious. Additionally, the difficulty settings can be adjusted to make enemies easier to defeat. Auto-battles and the option to disable random encounters are also available. While these modifications do contribute to a smoother gameplay experience, the first installment remains a bit of a grind until its concluding chapters. The prequel, Baten Kaitos Origins, offers its own set of improvements, but it is not without minor imperfections.
For those who have played Final Fantasy XV, the level-up system in Baten Kaitos will seem familiar. Players are required to visit a save point to allocate the experience points earned in combat. This mechanic may require some adjustment for fans of traditional JRPGs, but it offers a rewarding experience, particularly after completing a challenging dungeon.
Visually, the game is a pleasant surprise. Despite the pre-rendered opening cinematic, which may appear somewhat dated, the main game boasts sharp, high-definition graphics. This is largely attributable to the original art direction, which has aged exceptionally well. Given that the original version was not designed for high-definition screens, the user interface has been redrawn to suit the enhanced resolution. For those who fondly remember the game from its GameCube era, this remastered edition will resonate as both a nostalgic and fresh experience.
Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster Game Information
- Price: $49.99
- Publisher: Bandai Namco
- Developer: Logicalbeat
- Platform: Switch (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher