Lost Dimension

Reviewed by:
On August 13, 2015
Last modified:January 2, 2016


"'Lost Dimension', by publisher Atlus USA, is a different game every time you play it. And I'm not talking figuratively."

Lost Dimension, by publisher Atlus USA, is a literally different game every time you play it.

Originally released in 2014 for PS3 in Japan, LD can now find a home on PS Vitas across North America, as of its July 28 2015 release. It is a game that creatively blends elements of turn-based JRPGs with puzzle/strategy elements and just a touch of the social simulation Atlus is known for.

In LD you play as Sho Kasugai, one of 11 people with otherworldly “Gifts” chosen to take down a terrorist known only as The End. As you climb an alien tower (called “The Pillar”) towards the final showdown, you will be forced to confront the fact that there is a traitor among you. At least one of your teammates will betray you on each of the first four floors of the tower. Here’s what I mean by a “different game” every time you play: the traitor mechanic is entirely randomized. So although the procedure for sussing out the traitor remains the same for each playthrough, the culprit will always be different. This unique twist, a great turn-based combat structure, and a very endearing and memorable cast of characters makes LD loads of fun with a ton of replay value. The only thing that takes away from what could be a perfect set-up is a storyline that is pretty bare, particularly during your first playthrough of the game.

Each of your teammates possesses a special power given to them by mysterious entities known as “Fate Materia” or “Core Materia.” Within your team of 11, you will meet characters who can start fires with their mind, control electromagnetic forces, levitate and teleport, crush concrete with their hands, and more. Think of it as the Japanese version of the X-Men. Atlus is known for its innovative gameplay styles, most recently in the beloved and well-received series Persona 4, a social-dating-sim-meets-JRPG (or the PS Vita re-release, Persona 4: Golden). Both P4 and LD contain social simulation aspects, even if P4 is undoubtedly the better game. In LD, you can speak with your teammates in the “Lobby” between combat missions in order to win their trust and friendship, which impacts their performance in battle and your influence over them. A trusted friend will perform followup attacks for you in battle; an indifferent teammate may not.

Your level of trust with each team member also influences who is most likely to be voted out as the traitor. A character who trusts you and is frequently part of your battle party will be significantly less likely to be voted as the traitor by other teammate–even if they are, in fact, the traitor. As you participate in conversations and events, the characters really start to develop dynamic and interesting personalities and combat philosophies. I won’t give anything away here, because patiently learning about each teammate is one of the game’s strengths, but these are some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a game in a long time. What seems like a vapid, JRPG cliche (the fiery and stubborn redhead, for example) will often take surprising and fun turns. Don’t forget to read the characters’ Evaluation/Tips files as you collect them, which introduce their heartbreaking and fascinating backstories. 

With such a fun and unique bunch of characters, the social simulation, though mechanically simple, is an integral part of the game’s allure. In LD, you must balance the need to befriend each of your teammates for optimal battle performance with the need to mistrust everyone at all times thanks to the randomized traitor system. This balancing act adds a unique twist to the puzzle/strategy aspect of the game and breathes new life into the typical concerns associated with party building in JRPGs. You might come to depend on having your healer/support teammate at your back but if they turn out to be the traitor you will have to suddenly go without.

So how do you go about revealing the identity of the traitor, if there is no set pattern? This is where puzzle elements come into the already dynamic gameplay, making LD a unique hybrid of social sim, mystery/puzzle game, and turn-based JRPG. Sho, our protagonist and the leader of the group, has a Gift that allows him to see and predict the future. At the end of each mission, he will have a vision/premonition pertaining only to the 5 teammates who just fought alongside him. He will hear up to three “suspicious voices,” which will then be recorded in the player’s Vision History log. By combining different teammates in battle parties of 5 (plus Sho, who must be included in every mission), the player must try to match up what suspicious voice belongs to whom. It’s a bit like the Clue board game, where you will slowly make connections that will prove the innocence of some and the potential guilt of others. This is where most of the tension and suspense in the game comes from, and it’s great. Every time you reach a new floor, and a new traitor, you are struggling with the odds of losing a favourite character. During multiple playthroughs you may come to know the story behind the traitors but you can never know who will betray you next. 

Once you have narrowed down the owners of the 3 suspicious voices (it will always be 3 per floor), a minigame known as Deep Vision will allow you to dive into the minds of those teammates and see their innermost thoughts. This will either prove their innocence . . . or confirm their guilt. This minigame is arguably the weakest part of the game, as it involves little more than running through screens of white fog. It’s a little too simple, time consuming, and repetitive. The only challenge that comes with it is that you have a limited number of times it can be used, but it’s pretty difficult to run out of attempts, in my experience (and I’m on my 4th playthrough of the game now).

Once you learn the identity of the traitor, you must convince the others to vote him or her off of the team. Comrades will approach you after missions and inquire about likely suspects and/or offer opinions of their own. It is here where you will try to sway them in order to out the traitor in a stage at the end of each floor known as the Judgement. This is where trust levels come back into play, tying all elements of the game together nicely. 

Here’s where things get a bit shaky for a game that has so much potential. Because the traitor mechanic is randomized, the game doesn’t actually let you feel threatened by the traitor’s intentions. Probably because even the game can’t possibly know what they are, seeing as the traitor changes constantly. Unfortunately, LD doesn’t even try to give you a reason to fear the traitor, so there is never a sense of urgency and the traitor’s “Erasure” (the game never says “death” but you won’t learn why until your second playthrough) feels anticlimactic. The traitor will say something vague and noncommittal before being blasted into nonexistance. And then the group will move on, never again speaking the name of those who have been Erased because, again, it is all random and dialogue hasn’t been recorded for every possible traitor scenario.

Anticlimactic traitors aside, because the catch-the-culprit puzzles are so much fun (if you like logic/strategy games), I don’t mind not fully understanding what exactly the traitors are trying to accomplish. However, the storyline and enemy motivations continue to deteriorate from there. LD is a game that basically requires a second playthrough. This is not only because some collectables and trophies are ONLY available on New Game +, but also because the True Ending can’t possibly be unlocked with a single playthrough. Luckily, the game is pretty short; it took me about 20 hours to platinum it, which involves two playthroughs. The randomized traitor system and skill carry-overs on New Game + make another playthrough easy and fun. What disappoints me is that the game does not make much sense without the True Ending. Questions are left unanswered, the final victory over The End is vaguely foreboding but you aren’t told why, you never learn what the traitors were trying to accomplish, you never remember the “important event” from ten years ago that the game teases about halfway through. The first playthrough of the game is, well, hardly a game at all.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that the game is infinitely replayable and, more  importantly, the combat (which takes up at least 90% of game time) is fun, addicting, and arguably the best part of the game. I think that Lost Dimension is the only Atlus game where the combat outranks the story in any capacity. The fun and quirky characters, the strategy component of limited movement across the battlefield, the huge variety of Gift skills, the use of a “Sanity Meter” that will cause a character to go Berserk if it reaches 0, the need to constantly switch up your battle party so you can scan each member be for suspicious thoughts, the fact that trust levels depend partially on entering combat together and assisting with healing or items. . . all of this makes the idea of replaying the game a pleasure rather than a chore.

Unfortunately, though the True Ending answers all of your lingering questions, it is still not very good. It has a deus ex machina moment where things just sort of work out, though the reasons behind this are shaky at best. The most dynamic and interesting parts of the story are actually found in the collectable Files strewn about the various Pillar levels (some of which only spawn on NG+). In these “Tips Files” you learn character backgrounds, the origins of their powers, and the motivation of the villain for forcing you to vote and Erase teammates as traitors, and details about various terrorist attacks and a mysterious falling meteor. Kind of a strange place to hide such important information.

In spite of all this, Lost Dimension is still very good. It just falls short of being great because the storyline should have taken more space than it did. The game spends a lot of time and dialogue trying to convince you that the traitor is  more dangerous than they are while being vague enough for the randomized system to still work and make sense. The explanation for why all of this is happening turns out to be pretty weak and cliched; I won’t spoil anything here, don’t worry. The motivation behind the story feels unfulfilling at best, lazy at worst. The worst part is that if you have played Persona 4 in any iteration, you know that Atlus is capable of so much more story-wise. That’s what makes this such a letdown. Still, LD with all of its puzzles and quirks will tide over Atlus fans for now . . . at least until Persona 5 is released.

About Carmen (11 Articles)
B.A., M.A. Now waking up to the ocean breeze in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada. Playstation and Nintendo fangirl. PS Vita enthusiast and advocate. Avid reader and writer. Loves school, yoga, writing, chillin' in cyberspace, and spontaneous road trips.