If you could live for 1,000 years, what would you do?
It’s a very simple question, one that people can possibly give in their sleep if they wanted too. Why not wish to fulfill your wildest dreams? All your hopes and desires are available to you with enough time to do it. But is it worth it? For each positive, the negatives can stack up, from the loss of friends and family, to finding complete apathy towards life in general; is being alive for 1,000 years truly worth it?
Not too many games deal with this issue of immortality in a cathartic way like this, fully exploring the emotional core of a long life. Yet one game took this premise and boldly ran with it, and that was Lost Odyssey. A story about immortals living in a mortal world seems like a strange idea for a more classic-styled turn-based RPG. Still, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was able to create a journey that fulfilled those ideals. He is able to showcase the ups and downs of the long and winding road of life, mostly through the eyes of the immortal characters found in Lost Odyssey: Kaim Argonar, Sarah Sisulart, Ming Numara, and Seth Balmore.
Disc 1: Kaim Argonar and LossEach character alone is worth a long treatment to truly dissect the question above, so we're going to look at all four characters to see how they grow and change throughout their adventure. Starting with the main protagonist of Kaim, he is a warrior and soldier, constantly fighting for over 1,000 years because it is seemingly all he knows how to do. His memories are fragmented, having no recollection of them consciously, a trait each immortal will have.
The theme of amnesia is not exactly a strong way to pull off a narrative, often used as a trope to keep a main character mysterious while allowing their pasts to be revealed for storyline purposes. Of course, how the theme of amnesia is executed is important to its implementation to a narrative, and in the case of Lost Odyssey, it becomes an essential plot point to cover the overall theme of the game: loss.
Loss is not exactly something tangible in many regards, but it is something that trickles down to the very beings of the principal cast, especially the immortal members of the party. Loss does correlate to their memories, yes, but also to other aspects of their 1,000-year existence. For each character it becomes a different form of loss, but in the case of Kaim—and to a lesser extent, his wife Sarah—it is the loss of loved ones that plagues his memories.
This loss of memories plays out through the famous dream sequences of Lost Odyssey. These sequences, triggered at various moments in the game, are very simple affairs visually. The only sound heard are simple orchestral themes in the background of swirling text on various colored backgrounds. Sakaguchi and his team at Mistwalker hired famous Japanese short-story writer Kiyoshi Shigematsu to handle the 31 different dream sequences to showcase moments in Kaim’s past. Each of them has a different tone, but a common thread is a sense of loss of life. One dream, for example, deals with Kaim saving the life of a talkative mercenary who attempts to slit his throat on the eve of battle. Another has him defend a village from an invading force, so that this village can have the glimmer of hope to hear a chorus of cicadas for the next generation. My personal favorite, entitled “Don’t Forget Me Now, You Hear,” involves Kaim meeting an 85-year-old woman he remembers meeting decades ago. Each of these stories are well written memories of a fragmented mind, so much so that they were collected and published in a novella after the game was released.
These are moments that really peel the layers from Kaim’s exterior. They sow the seeds of his existence, why he continues to fight despite never succumbing to death, but at the same time, showing a reverence for life itself. The juxtaposition of his actions, when showing complete apathy towards many but pure empathy towards some, is just scratching the surface regarding Kaim as a character. He is essentially a dichotomy of two ideals: he curses his immortality, but to prevent himself from devolving into a truly apathetic character, he attempts to bring life to those who can lose it.
But if there is any event in-game that truly affects Kaim, it is the revelation of his own lost daughter, Lirum. Lirum has a small but pivotal part to play in Lost Odyssey, as it brings forth the theme of loss onto an emotional level that truly affects Kaim in a way unforeseen. For the most part, with the exception of the dreams, Kaim is shown to be somewhat of a stoic person with those he travels with. But early on in the game, Kaim’s demeanor begins to change, partially because of the revelation of two other playable characters, Mack and Cooke.
Mack and Cooke are both young children, barely 12 years old. Skilled with magic and deeply close to their dying mother, they take Kaim and the party to meet her as she is close to passing on, and in this meeting, their mother Lirum discovers that Kaim, her father, is an immortal. Kaim and a fellow immortal, Sarah Sisulart, lost Lirum when she was a young girl in a tragic case of her jumping off a cliff. It is later revealed through the memories of the ordeal that Gongora, the primary antagonist of Lost Odyssey, was responsible for Lirum’s supposed demise. Kaim’s character changes from this point forward in the game, giving him a more personal reason to continue the fight against Gongora. Kaim also slowly unravels his past, shedding away the mental blocks that Gongora has put upon him, to find that the immortal wizard has been manipulating him the whole time.
All of this is revealed in rapid succession, but the emotional impact of these moments is what really shows Kaim’s true colors. Despite what he projects as a warrior, as a man who will never feel the zest of life as others because of this constant shadow of loss around him, he still fights for life. He fights to protect lives and those seeking meaning to their life, both in his dreams and during Lost Odyssey. And one of the more poignant ways he fights for life is the promise made to Lirum as she lays dying, a promise to find and tell her mother, immortal Sarah Sisulart, about her children.
Disc 2: Sarah Sisulart and DespairThis theme of family becomes highly tied to the themes of loss, as each immortal will eventually come to terms with this issue, and Kaim and Sarah are entwined through this to the mortal characters Mack and Cooke. An immortal like Kaim, Sarah and he were once married and had a child, Lirum. Devastated from the seeming death of Lirum, which was at the hands of Gongora's manipulation, Sarah disappears from Kaim’s side, and begins to reside full time in their former home for years, donning a disguise as an ‘Old Sorceress’ in the game.
Like Kaim and the other immortals, Sarah has no recollection of her memories, suffering from amnesia. She does, however, keep her memories in some respects. She writes down important facets from her life in a journal, and, being a spell caster, she is more attuned to the spirits and to deep emotions. Because of this, Sarah reads her journal regarding Lirum and, overcome with grief and despair, spirals out of control into a deep depression.
When the Old Sorceress is confronted, a boss battle between the party and Sarah ensues. Unlike the other bosses in the game though, this one is a fight to prevent Sarah from essentially committing suicide. While the leap in logic here is a bit hard to ignore, the symbolism behind it—succumbing to despair and loss—sees Sarah attempt to act upon that strong emotion through death. It is implied that the death Sarah will receive is one that will just erase her memories again. The boss battle has you destroy four crystals that protect Sarah, as she does damage to herself. The crystals are named “Bodies of Thought,” which imply that they are her lost memories that are causing her pain.
So, in effect, the suicide here is just a symbolic gesture to purge her memories. Sarah can’t cope with what she lost and decides to act on it through the most extreme method. Even after eliminating the Bodies of Thought, Sarah is still unruly, only snapping out of her depression when her grandchildren recall a happier memory, one in the form of a lullaby she sang to her daughter. It causes her despair to dissipate and allows Kaim and Sarah a moment of tenderness despite the loss of memories they both have.
This dynamic becomes important for all four party members. United by blood, Kaim, Sarah, Mack, and Cooke become a family again, one that is now united by a common goal. In many ways, this relationship between these characters is what drives them to fight Gongora, both for personal reasons and to, of course, save the world.
Disc 3: Ming Numara and RegretAll the immortals throughout the course of the game are explicitly tied to a mortal counterpart in some way. Outside of the family dynamic between Kaim and Sarah, Ming and Jansen are the sarcastic comic relief of Lost Odyssey. As a sort of wise-cracking mage in the same vein as Han Solo, Jansen is among the earliest characters recruited in the game to join your party. Jansen also served as a spy for Gongora early on in the game to ensure that the immortal characters would never regain their lost memories by using a magical artifact to repress their memories, but he quickly abandons his loyalty to Gongora as he travels with the immortals throughout their adventures.
Ming comes into play during disc 2 of Lost Odyssey, where she is kidnapped by the team willingly to help her escape an impossible situation. Serving as the only queen of Numara for nearly 1,000 years, Ming reveals the nature of Gongora’s plans to the players: that he, also an immortal, is the one repressing their memories for his own goal, which is to rule the entire world after becoming disillusioned with the immortals’ original mission. Ming, clever spell caster that she is, was able to seal away her memories before Gongora could force them from her after he threatened to destroy her kingdom.
Throughout all of this, Ming acts with the grace and dignity of a noblewoman. Her dry, oftentimes cold demeanor is a stark contrast to Jansen’s more laid-back, snarky behavior, but it serves as the perfect set of tropes to provide a budding romance between the two characters. Ming for centuries focused entirely on the rule of her kingdom from afar, being compassionate but distant from her subjects. Her relationship with Jansen sees her gain another reason to face down Gongora: simply love. This, in turn, allows the relationship between Ming and Jansen to grow organically, shedding some of her icy exterior while Jansen becomes more responsible, at least by his standards.
Disc 4: Seth Balmore and LifeThere is a song written by Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon titled "The Long and Winding Road," a melancholy ballad about loss and finding oneself, that appeared on The Beatles' final album, Let It Be. It was also their last number one single in America, released after their breakup in 1970. The tone of "The Long and Winding Road," much like Lost Odyssey, goes through the highs and lows of life, but it ends on a brighter, sometimes somber note that offers a glimmer of hope through such adversity.
As we have seen with Kaim, Sarah, and Ming, each of the playable immortals has gone on a journey, has followed that long and winding road, only to have the door shut on them due to Gongora’s manipulation. The final playable immortal, Seth Balmore, is one of the rare exceptions to this entire premise. True, she, like the rest of the party, has lost her memories by the hands of Gongora, but throughout Lost Odyssey, she was perhaps the character least bothered by the memory loss.
Her first scene of dialogue with Kaim shows her more outgoing personality, her willingness to both have fun with her murky past and live for the present to the best of her abilities. She is a confident person, one who shows a free spirit through her joyous resolve, allowing her to be more open and liberated when compared to her immortal counterparts. That is not to say that Seth doesn’t has doubts about her past; at times she feels the weight of failure and sadness, mostly manifesting through her relationships with the two final mortal characters, Tolten and Sed.
Tolten, a young prince who was essentially tricked by Gongora to grab power for his kingdom and later made a martyr to start a war, becomes a surrogate son to Seth as she takes the wayward royal under her wing. Tolten’s arc is more about coming out of his shell as a gentle, unseasoned ruler to a more confident, battle-hardened king, to prove his worth by being strong and independent without his naive nature.
Sed, however, is a different story. Sed is an elderly pirate captain who is captured by Gongora and is blamed for the death of the prince. A passionate character yet cautious because of his old age, Sed seems out of place among a cast of younger characters. But Sed also has a special connection to Seth, being her biological son. The reunion between mother and son is one of the more comical moments in Lost Odyssey, as she rescues Sed from Gongora’s clutches at the end of disc 3.
The relationship between Seth and Sed is still unique. Unlike how Kaim and Sarah treat Mack and Cooke, Seth shows great compassion for her son through her bubblier personality. Sed himself is a comical momma’s boy, but Sed also acts as a surrogate father, of sorts, to Tolten as well, using his age to show both wisdom and passion to the young prince. So, in some respects, Seth follows Kaim’s lead in finding a sort of family unit with her biological son, and with a “surrogate” son. This of course shows off Seth’s zest for life overall, her constant upbeat persona a stark contrast to the brooding, stoic outlooks of Kaim, Sarah, and to an extent, Ming.
Through these bonds of blood and love, the group finally can catch up with Gongora, but in the process they learn the truth about their existence as immortals. See, Gongora, like all megalomaniacs, wants to rule the world, and he reveals that he and the other immortals are not from this world but emissaries from a parallel universe who were sent to the unnamed planet of Lost Odyssey to find a way to prevent their world from dying.
As plot twists go, this one is pretty out there. But thankfully, it is justified through several notes left by Gongora. He discovers that a year’s time in their world is 1,000 years in Lost Odyssey, and he uses his personal weapon, the Grand Staff, to align itself with a mysterious floating construct in the center of the Lost Odyssey map, the Tower of Mirrors. It turns out that the immortals came from these magic mirrors, and Gongora plans to use the energy emanating from the mirrors to fulfill his desires.
Don't Forget Them Now, You Hear?Of course, in the game’s climax, our heroes stop Gongora, but amidst the chaos, the mirror’s energy fills the room, turning all the immortal’s mortal once more and effectively beginning to kill the mortal members of the party. Despite the best efforts to put a barrier up to save themselves, the five mortal members become trapped in this magical barrier, which slowly becomes a death trap for them as the power of the mirrors begins to kill the mortals slowly.
In a moment that shows true sacrifice for the relationships built throughout the game, Seth grabs Gongora and, with a final cry, pushes him back through the magical mirrors, herself included, to save the rest of the party from death. With a knowing smile to her son, Seth gives up her life for theirs, sealing the immortal world away for good in the process. It is a moment of true sadness for the characters, but one of understanding of the sacrifice Seth made—the only character to show no regret over loss elects to make the sacrifice to prevent further loss for the others. Seth “died” the way she lived, through exuberance and bravery, knowing that their lives would still be rich without her.
In many ways, Seth becomes emblematic of what all the immortals have done for their 1,000-year tenures in Lost Odyssey. Through the loss of memories, the loss of family, and even the threatened loss of loved ones, in the end, to be truly happy is to let go and not lose yourself. Seth never loses herself like Kaim, but that was because she knew to let go of her feelings in the end.
With a final cutscene showing the jovial wedding of Jansen and Queen Ming, of Kaim and Sarah being optimistic about the future, and the remainder of the cast enjoying the lives they have, Seth’s sacrifice to let go shows that loss and gain go hand in hand. For every loss, there is life, love, compassion, and fulfillment of dreams. This is what Kaim and the rest of the Lost Odyssey cast come to terms with, finally achieving an understanding after 1,000 years of regrets, forgotten memories, and troubling dreams.
And that is the final coda on this epic journey about loss. Seth’s energy as a character and fulfillment of her full life through the noble sacrifice to save those around her, made her emblematic of what the characters around her can strive to be. Through it all, this parable of loss ends on a sad, but triumphant note, much like "The Long and Winding Road." It is the end of one journey into a new one, with each character coming to terms with their sense of loss and overcoming it by embracing the most important lesson of all: Enjoy life and whatever it throws at you.
I hope you guys enjoyed this long look at Lost Odyssey. Please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for Character Select, leave them below.