When Mistwalker released Lost Odyssey in 2008 the developer was lauded for crafting a traditional Japanese RPG while dismissing the traditional JRPG hero. It seems as though all the pundits have agreed that the protagonist Kaim is not Japanese but could he be Greek? Lost Odyssey, the title itself reads like the long lost chapter in the story of Odysseus and conjures images of the Greek isles replete with the usual cast of heroes, villains, Gods and Titans. The story as well would not seem completely out of place among the pantheon of Greek mythos and within the game no single quest seems more appropriate to the likeness of its storytelling forebears than the DLC, “Seeker of the Deep”.
For those who haven’t played Lost Odyssey (and shame on you) “Seeker of the Deep”, allows Kaim and his compatriots to visit the sunken remains of the previously explored and subsequently destroyed dungeon, Experimental Staff. The level design looks like something a Mistwalker intern slapped together the afternoon before the DLC’s release, the enemies for the most part are simply opponents not-so-cleverly renamed to differentiate them from their character equivalents from earlier in the game and the final boss is a comical absurdity.
However, despite its flaws “Seeker of the Deep” shines in the mythos from which it borrows. Kaim’s decent into the remains of Experimental Staff’s seemingly endless repetition of levels that looks more like a college dorm stacked 25 stories deep, lying several leagues beneath the sea than a dungeon pulled from the game’s over-world and seems reminiscent of many Greek heroes’ journeys into the depths of the Underworld. To clarify further and to state bluntly, Kaim’s decent into the depths of Experimental Staff seems to me a metaphorical reimagining of the story of Orpheus and his doomed quest to rescue his departed beloved from the grips of the underworld.
According to myth, Orpheus possessed otherworldly ability for music and song and upon charming his way through the depths of the underworld, pleaded with Hades to return his lost love to his arms. Hades, bemused by Orpheus’ song agreed, on the condition that his wife, Eurydice, follow several steps behind him and that on their journey back to the mortal world Orpheus not look back and rely on faith that when he reached his destination Hades, true to his word, would have allowed his wife to follow in his footsteps.
Like Orpheus, Kaim’s and by extension the player’s faith is continually challenged in their journey. While Orpheus’ true challenge occurred in the faith of his ascent, the player’s is in his or her continuing faith that they have buffed their band of characters enough to withstand the next stage in the dorm building from hell. The true similarities occur when the player begins to smell the end of the dungeon wafting up the stairwell like the vengeful remains of a carton of milk several months past its expiration. At this point the player, undoubtedly fatigued from hours of dungeon crawling and haunted by the knowledge that the closest save point is so far away that it supplies only a fading memory of what one may actually look like is faced with his proverbial Sophie’s choice and must select one way of a diverging path. The first is to continue upon his potentially doomed course and the furthering in this video game test of faith. The second beckons in the form of an elevator promising a quick and direct route back to the surface and the comfort of a save opportunity. If like Orpheus, doubt is the road chosen the player will have forsaken his progress, and will turn just in time to watch his hubris retreating like the metaphorical spirit of Eurydice back into the depths, all the while flashing him the finger and proclaiming him a dirty quitter.
However, if one wishes to test his mettle he may continue on where Orpheus faltered. He may meet the final confrontation and in doing so champion his ego and proclaim that he, unlike so many who went before had the courage to continue on in the face of overwhelming doubt. Unfortunately there is a price for pride and a penalty for ego. It may be worth mentioning that I did reach the end of the dungeon and that, at the early hour of 3:00 AM, running solely on a consumption of snack food and an ironclad will I faced the final challenge. My courage steeled, my formation stacked I threw my full assortment of attacks, spells and items at the boss aptly named “Kill-alon” and in a grand total of 3 turns my collection of allies; my band of brothers lay smoldering and dead on the ground, the “Game Over” message smiling smugly from my T.V. screen. It was as if Orpheus having traveled the full length and breadth of hell and succeeding in quashing any temptation to chance even the slightest glance behind to ensure his beloved followed, made it to the surface, turned to face Eurydice, went to take her in a long sought embrace and was met instead by the blunt trauma of his wife, possessed by the unholy fire of Hades himself smashing in his face with a sock full of quarters.
I, like my hypothetical Orpheus sitting dazed and confused watching the game like an evil Eurydice prancing back into the depths of hell was left to wish that I had simply turned around and called it a day.
There is a reason most Greek myths are referred to as tragedies.