Producer: Tadashi Nomura - previous work on Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy
Director: Hiroya Hatsushiba - previous work on Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile
Director: Yasuyuki Honne - previous work on Chrono Cross and Xenosaga
Movie Producer: Mikitaka Kurasawa - previous work on Onimusha and Resident Evil
Scenario: Masato Kato - previous work on Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross
Music: Motoi Sakuraba - previous work on Star Ocean 3
Gamers.com: Making an exclusive RPG for the Gamecube these days may not be the most logical choice for a Japanese developer, but Monolith Soft has never proven itself constrained by the bounds of logic before. Xenogears, after all, the game that made most of its staff famous, is one of the most profoundly bizarre pieces of work in the history of the RPG genre.
So it's not much of a leap from there to Baten Kaitos, due for the Gamecube and the Gamecube only in Japan this December. A fantasy RPG with an unusual card-driven gameplay system, it looks to be a very distinct change from what we've grown used to on Nintendo's system, and perhaps a game RPG fans might want to go out of their way for
Though Monolith Soft is the name most readily attached to the project, Baten Kaitos is actually a joint effort between two developers. Monolith Soft is partially in charge, but direction, programming, sound, and battle planning are handled by Tri-Crescendo, a comparatively new company founded by Motoi Sakuraba, formerly famous as the composer for many of tri-Ace's games (Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, and others). Sakuraba is co-directing Baten Kaitos, and this is the first time his company has taken charge of an area outside sound design.
Which promises, if nothing else, a fine score to accompany things, and perhaps also a fresh perspective on game design. Kaitos looks somewhat like a card battle game in the vein of Rune or Konami's various Yu-Gi-Oh efforts, but it's apparently meant to be a much faster, real-time experience.
The game world is suffused with an energy called "Magna," which is manifested in the form of cards that the player can collect and use to perform nearly any required action in the game. Cards attack, defend, heal, and support -- there's apparently even a card for escaping a battle. And as one would expect, it's possible to mix and match cards to create combination effects, using like cards to supplement each other or a contrasting card to counter another's attack. More than 1,000 card combinations will be available in the finished game.
From whence all this power comes is perhaps one of the secrets that will be revealed along the way. Baten Kaitos takes place in a world of floating continents, each divided up into various petty kingdoms and city-states. Around this world travel our two heroes, a boy named Kalas and a girl, Xelha, who both possess an unusual power. In Japanese it's called "kokoro no tsubasa," which translates to something like "wings of the spirit," or "wings of the heart." In moments of concentration or tension, they can raise ethereal wings from their back, gaining magical powers in the process.
Kalas, meanwhile, has another unusual ability: a knack for speaking with the dead. In a limited fashion, anyway -- he has an unusual connection with a departed soul, which resides within him and occasionally communicates with him. Exactly what it wants is another mystery waiting to be revealed.
What Kalas himself is after is simpler -- the game begins with his quest for revenge against an enemy who killed his brother and foster family. His path soon crosses Xelha's, which is leading an a less certain direction. She travels the world in hopes of defeating some sinister world-conquering plot (oh, dear, not another one of those), and enlists Kalas to aid her in that regard. No prizes for guessing that their respective enemies are one and the same, of course.
Visually, Baten Kaitos is a bit of a throwback in some ways, favoring as it does the pre-rendered backgrounds which many other contemporary RPGs have left behind. Monolith's artists are using the opportunity to build a richly detailed game world, though. The art direction is by Monolith's Yasuyuki Honne, and it clearly echoes his work on Square's Chrono Cross, with the same broad color palette and attention to detail.
Gamecube RPG fans can look forward to a fine aesthetic experience, then, and perhaps much more besides. Baten Kaitos is showcasing a wide range of somewhat underappreciated talents, which perhaps dovetails nicely with its appearance on an underdog of a console. Monolith's biggest game won't be coming to the Cube, but for now, it looks like its more interesting one will.
Info (RPGfan.com): Namco subsidary MonolithSoft has released details regarding its third title currently in development along with Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille Zur Macht - Reloaded and Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Boese (Beyond Good and Evil), both for the PlayStation 2.
Baten Kaitos - Owaranai Tsubasa to Ushinawareta Umi is an original GameCube RPG, named after a star. The game will take place on a floating continent with five countries, one relying on machinery, another one on magic. The game's battle system will make use of cards called Magnus. The protagonist is a young lad named Karus, who seeks to avenge the death of his foster parents and brother. He is not only capable of talking to the spirits of the deceased, but also to host them in his body. The female lead is Sheila, who has begun her journey in order to obstruct an evil plan in the making. In her hood lives a mysterious creature by the name of Mimay, who features an elastic body.
Baten Kaitos will be available in Japan sometime in December.
Namco has announced sales projections for Monolith Soft's original GameCube RPG Baten Kaitos - Owaranai Tsubasa to Ushinawareta Umi. Just like Namco's second big GameCube RPG Tales of Symphonia, Baten Kaitos is expected to sell 500,000 copies in Japan. The cards around which the game's battle system are centered contain an essence called Magna Essence. Cards can be obtained in battle and through exploration. Attack, defend, item, skill and all other battle commands will be related to those cards. Depending on timing and combinations, players may be able to unleash chain and certain kill techniques. By executing those combos, more than 1000 different items can be created.
Baten Kaitos - Owaranai Tsubasa to Ushinawareta Umi will be available in Japan in December. Monolith Soft is expected to release additional information on the game at next week's fan event in Tokyo.
I love rpgfan.com: At today's fan event in Tokyo, Monolith Soft introduced fans to the key staffers behind its original GameCube RPG Baten Kaitos. The game will be produced by Namco's Shinji Noguchi and Monolith Soft's Kiyou Nomura. Its directors will be Tri-Crescendo's Hiroya Hatsushiba and Monolith's Yasuyuki Honne. The scenario will be handled by Masato Katou (script writer of the Chrono series), while Motoi Sakuraba (best known for his Star Ocean and Tales series soundtracks) will compose the game's soundtrack.
Last but not least, Masataka Kurasawa, who previously worked on Onimusha, will be in charge of the movie sequences. Interestingly enough, Monolith president Hirohide Sugiura mentioned that his company - despite being owned almost entirely by Namco - is interested in developing software for other companies as well.
Baten Kaitos will be available in Japan this December, with a US release expected, though not announced.
I heard about this game on IGN a few days ago, and it sounds sort of like an "ultimate gathering of the minds" type project ala Chrono Trigger. Let's just hope it's as good...and the screens seem to testify that it'll be easy on the eyes, which is a plus.