I think I figured out why I had trouble with that boss earlier. At some point it dawned on me that I had bought some new equipment but somehow forgot to actually equip it. Of course, this doesn’t make that a good boss fight or anything, but the combat in general has evened out a bit. Not enough to be enjoyable yet (there are a bunch of systems here that feel awkwardly glued together and much less interesting than those in I Am Setsuna), but it’s at least decent enough to keep playing. The annoying character who I hate even got removed from the party! That was nice.
A bunch of tutorials careening into your face
The short version of the above video is that momentum mode returns from I Am Setsuna with some minor differences. For example, SP is now called MC, and fluxes are now called sublimation. These are totally pointless changes, but ones that I fully expected after all of I Am Setsuna’s pointless new terminology. Another difference is that the MC bar goes up when you’re hit as well as while you’re waiting for your ATB bar to fill up, so you don’t spend quite as much time sitting around waiting for a charge. Of course, the downside is that the interesting combat things you could do to heal your HP and MP in that game don’t seem to be possible anymore, rendering this much more of a traditional “run to the inn and/or use items between fights” affair, which is really my biggest objection to the combat thus far. I Am Setsuna did some truly interesting things with its combat, and going back to something more in line with the billion other generic jRPGs out there is a huge step in the wrong direction.
Spritnite also returns, but I’m not comfortable talking about it in depth quite yet. Like I Am Setsuna, spritnite is basically character-specific special attacks, but you can also equip other spritnite for a secondary effect that has a chance of triggering sublimation and imparting a lesser version of the effect onto the spritnite attack. This seems vaguely similar to how the previous game did it, but I don’t remember the details enough to adequately compare the two. All I know is that right now, I have access to so little spritnite that none of my characters can do anything fun yet.
There are also “vulcosuits,” which is where Lost Sphear starts to go horribly wrong. These are a secondary form you can use, but they only work so long as you have VP, with attacks while in that form quickly depleting it. Since you never know how long an area is or how full of enemies, I’ve been sticking to everyone’s original forms for the most part. I Am Setsuna was unique in the way it avoided the tedium of constantly managing health and mana pools. A couple hours in, and Lost Sphear already has three pools that can’t be refilled anywhere near as easily. This adds tedium and needless complication into the mix, and nothing of value is gained.
Global bonuses are interesting, at least
Lost Sphear’s whole schtick is that things are randomly becoming “lost,” which means that they turn white and foggy and can’t be interacted with. Main character Kanata has the ability to turn memories and feelings into a physical form and use them to restore the things that are lost (though random NPCs have since started doing things like handing him memories, suggesting that they’re similarly capable of creating physical manifestations of memories/feelings despite it never being addressed and being a pretty huge writing oversight). All that really means is that parts of the world are blocked off until you use memories to restore them, at which point you can run around and pick up all of the shiny things lying on the ground.
Outside of restoring plot-important stuff, there are overworld spots where you choose what kind of building to bring back, and these buildings are called artifacts. They give both you and enemies global bonuses, which is kind of an interesting mechanic. For example, I built one that gave everyone an ATB bonus after dodging attacks. That means that every party member gets their next turn faster if one of them manages to randomly avoid an attack, but attacking enemies with multiple shots also becomes dangerous since one miss gives all enemies a similar ATB bonus. Thankfully, you can turn these bonuses on and off at will from the menu. I’m not sure how much of an impact artifacts will end up making, but they’re an interesting idea.
Precise aiming is needlessly difficult
Here’s a fun little oversight: you can’t launch an attack while the right stick is being held in a direction to aim an attack. That means that if there’s a one-pixel area where your attack hits two enemies, you have to aim there, then slowly back off of the stick until it’s in the neutral position, inevitably moving the attack spot in the process so that you have to try again. This is stupidly bad design and shouldn’t be a problem.