That's a pretty long title, huh? A cult classic jrpg, Baten Kaitos was a joint production between Monolith Soft and Tri-Crecendo. The game was released on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2003 and was published by Bandai Namco. It's one of the few jrpgs on a console that lacks many entries in the genre.
I own this game only because my sister bought it years ago. I didn't play it back then because I was super young, I liked playing the other gamecube games, and because this game is rated T for teens (and I was not a teen yet.) I finally got around to playing a few years back and I ended up liking it a lot. The world, the story, the aesthetic, it's super interesting so I wanna talk about the game.
Let's watch the intro that plays when you start up the game.
Really cool huh? Well this is the only prerendered "cutscene" in the whole game. Everything else in the game is in-engine. And the voice acting here is wayyy better than the voice acting in-game. The intro details the backstory of the world: Humans used to live on the earth fighting an evil god. After sealing it away, they moved to the skies, which is where the game is set. The world of Baten Kaitos is made up of floating islands and below them is a sea of clouds. Each island has its own unique culture and aesthetic.
When humans moved to the sky they also grew wings called Wings of the Heart. Their appearance varies from character to character. Most npcs have the standard feathered wings, but our party members have more unique designs, which you can see in battle.
Essential to the world of Baten Kaitos are cards called Magnus. They're used to contain the Magna Essence of objects so they can be easily carried around, stored, and used. In-game all the items you carry are contained within Magnus cards. This consists of stuff like food and weapons which can be used in battles. In addition, Magnus cards can change over time. A bottle of milk can age into cheese and later it will rot into mold. It's a really cool concept.
It takes four real life hours for the milk to age into cheese.
In battle, characters use battle magnus from their deck. You pick cards and characters will use them on their targets. There are numbers on the corners of the cards which you can use to make combos in the style of poker hands. You either match numbers to make pairs, or you pick numbers sequentially. If you use certain items together you can create a new item which you collect after battle. I find this part to be a bit tedious though so I don't bother with it. Overall, I think the battles are pretty fun.
Now, about the story... it'll be briefly touched on in the following section.
YouYou, the player, are a Guardian Spirit, a being from another dimension (the real world), who guides the protagonist Kalas throughout the game. At various points in the game Kalas will turn to the screen and talk directly to you. It's a cool way to integrate the player into the story and this fact becomes super important later on in the game. I like it when games do meta stuff like this.
The Main Guy (is he wearing crocs???)
An 18-year-old boy who's seeking revenge against his family's murderer. He's a rebellious guy and is kind of reluctant to help others without your prompting. He uses a sword in battle, y'know the standard protagonist weapon. Kalas has one feathered wing and one mechanical wing (which looks really cool by the way.) My first time playing the game, I didn't really like him too much. He's can be a bit of a jerk at times but he does have moments where he shows his caring side.
A 17-year-old girl who's working to stop the evil machinations that seek to destroy the world. She's our deuteragonist of the story. Within battle, she uses elemental magic to attack. Her wings resembles fairy/insect wings. I thought she was kind of obnoxious at first (mainly because of the shoddy voice acting that plagues the whole game, but also her obnoxiously pink design) but if you take a step back, she's alright (not great, just alright.)
The our two protagonists (and you) work together to collect the End Magnus in order to stop the villain Geldoblame from reviving the evil God of Destruction, Malpercio. (As you can guess, this is one of those jrpgs where you kill god at the end.)
The Team Dad
A 34-year-old fisherman who joins Kalas' party. He's a chill guy and he wacks his enemies with an oar! I'm a huge sucker for characters who use irregular weapons so he's one of my favorite characters in this game just for that reason. His wings resemble what I believe to be fins, fitting since he's a fisherman.
Resident Sad Boy
An 18-year-old boy who's been exiled to Diadem as an ambassador for the Alfard Empire. He turns against the empire and joins Kalas' party. He doesn't have any wings (If I recall correctly, most characters from Alfard lack wings). He utilizes a gun which is actually various brass instruments. Similarly to Gibari, I love this use of irregular weapons. The uh, sad part comes from the fact that a lot of bad things happen to him.
Cool and Mysterious Girl
A 25-year-old silent stoic woman who used to be a mercenary in the Alfard Empire. She's absolutely shrouded in mystery. She uses her fists in battle and she's really fast. Her wings are peacock wings. I think shes really cool. I wanna like her character design but those colors... ugh they're all over the place.
The Great Mizuti
The Great Mizuti
A 14-year-old... with an unknown gender? Their gender is revealed later on in the story but I'll keep referring to them neutrally. They also seek to stop the revival of the evil god. They're another magic user like Xelha but their moveset is slightly different. This design is so distinct from our other party members, it makes Mizuti feel very otherworldly (which is true in a way.)
Left: King Ladekhan Right: Queen Corellia
The allies to our main characters. King Ladekhan rules over Diadem and has a past with Gibari. Queen Corellia rules over Anuenue and she's probably ageless given that she looks the exact same here and in the prequel. I'll be honest, I don't really have an opinion on these two.
From left to right: Geldoblame, Melodia, and Giacomo
The antagonists... well that's actually a spoiler for one of the characters but c'mon. All of them look like villians. Geldoblame is the emperor of Alfard who seeks to revive Malpercio to take over the world. Melodia initially acts friendly towards the group but it seems that she has something sinister planned. Giacomo is Geldoblame's right hand man and acts as Kalas' mortal enemy.
Cute Dolphin Thing
Meemai! He's an animal known as a Graythorne, and graythornes can be found all over the world as pets. These guys look like they were made to sell plushies, but as far as I'm aware, there was never a single official plushie made. Talk about a missed opportunity! Meemai isn't really important but he sticks around with the party for the whole game.
MusicComposed by Motoi Sakuraba, Baten Kaitos contains an incredible soundtrack. Take a listen to the songs (Links to youtube):
The True Mirror
The main battle theme of the game.
Vitriolic a Stroke
Boss battle theme.
Not a battle theme, it plays in a cloudy dungeon.
The theme of the Final Boss.
To The End of The Journey of Shining Stars
This isn't a battle theme but rather a calm song and I absolutely love it. Highly recommend you listen to this one.
After Baten KaitosThis game was followed by a prequel: Baten Kaitos Origins (aka Baten Kaitos 2) which was released in 2006. It takes place 20 years before Baten Kaitos 1. This game was released towards the end of the Gamecube's lifespan and was received positively. A music track from Baten Kaitos Origins ("Valedictory Elegy") made it into the Super Smash Brothers series. I like Baten Kaitos 2, though I have mixed feelings on it when compared to Baten Kaitos 1.
Another game for the Baten Kaitos series was going to be developed on the DS... but development was seemingly canceled around 2005. There was a rumor about a Baten Kaitos game on the 3DS, but nothing came of it.
While not directly related to Baten Kaitos, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, also developed by Monolith Soft, takes place in a sea of clouds and large creatures known as Titans function as landmasses for people to live on. The concept is similar but after watching a let's play of it there aren't any direct references to the Baten Kaitos series nor does it function as a spiritual sequel.
Speaking of Monolith Soft, they featured several Baten Kaitos characters (alongside characters from their other games) in their company's 20th anniversary illustration. (I'd link to their website but they've taken the anniversary page down :( )
A developer and the art director have both stated that in order to bring back the series, fans would have to show Bandai significant support for the Baten Kaitos series. Personally I feel that it's unlikely that it'll come back soon. The original games were released on the Gamecube; they're decades old at this point! In order to garner attention for it there's gotta be a port or an hd remaster for a modern system. But for now, we'll just have to hope that there's a future for the Baten Kaitos series.
And I'm not sure where else to mention it but Baten Kaitos is infamous for having the longest speedrun ever: Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean 100%, which is over 330 hours long???
Official Website for Baten Kaitos [JP]
So uh, I wrote a lot. I hope you found all this interesting in some way. Also sorry for the crispy background pic, I'm not sure if there's a higher quality version online. Well, anyways, thanks for reading!
Buttons I made, feel free to use.
Chibis from the artbook
Further ReadingArt Director Yasuyuki Honne tweeted about a (canceled) Baten Kaitos 3, mentioning that the main character would have been a girl and the game would have a much more expansive adventure.
The character designer's website
The following are from Rebecca Capowski:
An interview from the game's artbook.
A synopsis of a novelization of the game from the perspective of Xelha. Contains major spoilers.