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Video Game / Baten Kaitos

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Cast light upon the darkened earth,
Save those lost in despair,
O Mighty Ocean,
Guide as we journey through
The darkest pit of night

Baten Kaitos is a duology of Eastern RPG/Card Battle Game hybrids for the Nintendo GameCube, developed by Monolith Soft and published by Namco.

The series takes place on a series of Floating Continents, which were raised into the Sky a thousand years ago, after a great war between gods polluted the earth, leaving it uninhabitable. People of the Sky have so-called "Wings of the Heart" - extensions of their soul, which allow them to fly. Another unusual part of this world is magnus. They are cards, which can contain the "magna essence" of any item, and are used everywhere - from combat to street vending. The player, meanwhile, takes on a role of the Guardian Spirit - an incorporeal spirit bound to the person's soul, who gives its partner protecion and advise.

The series consists of two games, with Origins being a prequel for Eternal Wings. A third game was planned, but ultimately it was cancelled before the production even started. A Compilation Re-release titled Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster was released in September 2023 for Nintendo Switch.

The series consists of:

The series provides examples of:

  • After the End: Technically, both games take place a thousand years after a devastating war with an evil god, which polluted the land, forcing humanity to live in the skies. These Floating Continents are the only place where the pre-war life is preserved - the earth itself is covered by poisonous Taintclouds.
  • All Myths Are True: Zigzagged with the War of the Gods, which actually happened, and indeed ended in humans being forced to raise several islands into the air in order to avoid pollution. However, details have been greatly distorted over years. In reality, it was a war against promagnation fanatics, and the evil god who started it was a group of five actually good people, who accepted a Deal with the Devil out of desperation.
  • And I Must Scream: So the pieces of Malpercio are still alive after all these years, and they retain who they once were. And the lion's share are placed in magnus and sealed within the islands. If you were fond of Seph, Thoran, Pieda, Ven, and Marno, you might want to stop thinking about this now.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Died to a normal enemy? Game over. But died to a boss? Not only can you always restart from the beginning of the fight (no five minute cutscene every time the Godcraft slaughters you), but you can also access the menu first, letting you modify your decks and character order, read up on EX Combos, etc.
  • Came Back Wrong: The reason why the island of Mira is the way it is, according to a myth shared by an NPC in its capital, Balancoire. It was nearly swallowed up by a dimensional rift before being pulled out by a group of extremely powerful wizards.
  • Chaos Architecture: Generally averted, as most maps are carried between games wholesale, with little to no alterations. This makes complete absence of greater Mintaka in Eternal Wings even more puzzling. Its place seems to be taken by the Imperial Fortress instead.
  • The Chosen One: Spiriters, the people who bonded with a Guardian Spirit, are said to be able to "sway the fate of the world", and are held in high regards for this. They are also very rare, appearing maybe once in a generation. Deconstructed to an extent, as it doesn't mean that swaying will always be for the better.
  • Combos: The battle systems are completely different in the two games, but in both the object is to play long chains of cards to rack up percentage-based damage bonuses.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Naturally, the party has no problem with standing close to lava in the Lava Caves, and in one in-game cutscene, there's lava splashing too close to Xelha, but it does nothing to her. And naturally, lava can be stored in a Magnus, too, and is actually required for a sidequest. Though it cools into stone if you take too long.
  • Cool Mask: The Children of the Earth all wear large, ornate masks with unique designs. They serve as a protection from Taintclouds, filtering the air. They've also became a part of the tribe's culture.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Several, but let's note the most important and eldritch ones:
  • Eldritch Location: Mira, which exists in a flux between dimensions, and is home to several exceedingly bizarre locations, such as a town made of candy, a village with brightly colored 2-dimensional scenery, an odd garden with hallways that look like an old video game, and an elaborate maze of broken mirrors. The island itself is both vertically and horizontally symmetrical, looks like a bizarrely shaped disco mirror ball, and has colored paths that look like a Candy Land game board. It's also the only island whose world map is set at night. It's implied to have once been similar to the island of Sadal Suud before nearly being consumed by a dimensional vortex.
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: Most animals in this world are quite unusual, but birds seem mostly unaffected.
    • Pows are pigs with cow-like spotted pigmentation, which are held for their milk.
    • Prancers are deers with seahorse-like rump, which are apparently used like horses.
    • Bunnycats are cats with bunny-like ears, while fluffpups are extremely fluffy dogs.
    • Hograts are capybara-like creatures that stand on hind legs.
    • Olifants are large armadillos with elephant-like trunks.
    • Pollywhale is essentially a tiny whale on legs.
  • Fight Like a Card Player: Magnus are actual in-universe cards, which are even shown in cutscenes, as characters draw their weapons from them. However, actual gameplay mechanics have little to do with the in-universe concept, and cutscenes show that no one actually needs cards to swing their weapon.
    • In Eternal Wings each attack corresponds to one weapon. Naturally, it doesn't mean that your characters actually draw a new weapon for each strike, however cool that might have been.
    • In Origins all attacks are carried out with generic "attack magnus", which you can even buy in shops. While abstract magnus are nothing new for the setting ("Poor Excuse for a Joke", anyone?), a magnus of an action is something completely out there.
  • Floating Continent: Almost the entirety of both games is set on several large floating islands, each of which is its own country with its own culture. The five large islands are known as the Great Nation of the Sky, but there are several smaller islands, like the Church/Endmost Bethel, the Coliseum, or Hassaleh. They float above poisonous Taintclouds, which is why no one goes to earth. The five continents are held aloft by the power of the End Magnus, while Hassaleh is an ancient battlefield, which is so soaked in magic power, it flies by itself. The power sources of the Church, the Coliseum, and the land of Wazn remain unknown.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Many of the storyline facts about Magnus don't make sense gameplay-wise. For example, living beings can't be put into magnus, or they'll die. This is an important plot point, but it's hard to remember when you're hitting enemies with live Roosters from your deck, or how so many of the magnus evolutions use it (Plants grow and meat gets maggots).
  • Global Currency: Five continents, each with its own culture, all use the same currency, identified only as "G".
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The guardian spirit's name, chosen by the player, appears in the text but not the spoken dialogue. More prominent in the first game, where there was always a pause in the dialog. The second game toned it down a bit by working around it with pronouns.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: Just about everyone in this world has these. The playable cast, the other major characters, the minor characters... Even the NPCs without names or portraits. It must be normal in this world.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Egregious. The characters have wings, fences that don't cover from ceiling to floor shouldn't even be a part of society. And yet you still have to solve jumping and bridge puzzles. There is a Hand Wave that the power of the heart has atrophied, and thus does not allow prolonged flights, but it's contradicted by some cutscenes and battle animations. The problem is lampshaded in Origins, where Sagi remarks he could jump over a boulder blocking the path, but is angrily dissuaded by a nearby NPC.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Both games, but it's much more notable in the first, where you examine every square inch of every building looking for stuff.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: The world map themes in both games, stunningly beautiful songs which you'll probably hear the first five or ten seconds of unless you purposefully wait around and look at the Scenery Porn.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Sort of; due to the card-battling system, you're always at the mercy of the luck of the draw. Less so in Origins, where the Guardian Spirit can actually stack the deck in your favor, and used cards are shuffled right back into the deck.
  • Meaningful Name: "Baten Kaitos" is the traditional name of the star Zeta Ceti, which in Arabic means "The belly of the whale", the center of the constellation Cetus. The Great Whale is more or less the god of this world.
  • No Fourth Wall: as mentioned, the player does not directly control the party members. Instead, the player takes the role of a "Guardian Spirit", a helpful fairy creature of sorts whom the characters consult with. During many scenes main protagonists actually turn towards the screen and address you directly.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Words "soul", "magnus", and "heart" are used almost interchangeably in the setting. Everything, including people, is said to have a "magnus" in them. It's distinct from the physical form, and can exist separately from it, as a ghost of sorts. The magnus'/heart's most notable outward expression is Wings of the Heart - translucent, incorporeal wings, that allow one to fly. Large and strong wings are a sign of a strong-willed and virtuous person, while small, weak, or non-existant wings are seen as a sign of malicious or cursed person. Wings can be forcefully removed from a person by pulling them out, which is very traumatic for the victim. Removing them willingly seems to be less dangerous, but still damages the soul, dampening the person's emotions. Removed wings can be restored, given enough time and care.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: Guardian spirits are incorporeal fairy-like Energy Beings from other dimensions who can bond with a person to give them incredible power. Their magic can also be used to make powerful artifacts. The player is one.
  • Phantasy Spelling: All this highly advanced tech? These are not machines, these are machina. Games use the Latin spelling and pronounciation of the term, even if Latin doesn't exist in this world.
  • The Player Is the Most Important Resource: In both games, the player is the protagonist's "Guardian Spirit", a being from another dimension said to grant incredible power. Both games milk this for all it is worth, using it for some very powerful plot twists. The strength of Guardian Spirit's connection to Kalas or Sagi, as determined by how the player answers questions during cutscenes, also affects your luck in battles.
  • Pre-existing Encounters: All enemies are visible of the field, and will attack only when they spot you. In Origins, if you attack them whlie using Heartwing Dash, you will get bonus MP based on how close you were to exausting the Sprint Meter.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: In the first game you can select the Guardian Spirit's sex, but the only thing it changes is the color of the save file (blue for male, pinkish-red for female). Japanese version of Origins also has this function, but it was removed from the Western release, making the Spirit always male.
  • Real Time: Applied only to Magnus. They will age in real time, while you are in the game. Items can change in a matter of a few seconds (the fortunes) or take as long as two real-time weeks to appear (Splendid Hair, which Shampoo turns into after 336 hours — and which merely unlock the sound test).
  • Relationship Values: The Guardian Spirit's bond with Kalas or Sagi is measured based on how the player answers questions during cutscenes, and affects certain things during battles. In the first game, a card in Kalas's hand can sometimes turn into an extremely strong elemental attack during an offensive combo, happening more or less frequently depending on the bond value. In the second game, a higher bond with Sagi means a better chance of drawing cards that are useful for your current combo or your party's health.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The greythornes are small, vaguely dolphin-like animals, that live everywhere in the world. They tend to adorably squeak when talked to. Xelha keeps one as a pet, which always rides in her hood.
  • The Right of a Superior Species: Most citizen of Alfard believe that the whole world should bow before them, since they have the best technology around.
  • Scenery Porn: Oh yes. The graphics for towns, dungeons, and overworlds look more like fantasy landscape paintings than video game backdrops.
  • Schizo Tech: The Empire employs guns, jetpacks, and battle droids, and yet some of their soldiers fight exclusively with swords. The rest of the world seems to be roughly on medieval level, but their soldiers can somehow hold their own against Empire's goons. Most airships around are carriages, attached to floating animals, and yet Mindeer (the party's ship from EWatLO) is revealed to pack a powerful cannon.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Both games have 3D models on prerendered backgrounds. World maps are also prerendered, but both Very Definitely Final Dungeons and player's ships are 3D models.
  • Stellar Name: In addition to the series itself being named after a star, most of the towns are also named after stars, albeit relatively obscure ones. Sheliak, for example, is Beta Lyrae, Nashira is Gamma Capricorni, Pherkad is Gamma Ursae Minoris, and so on. The only exceptions are Anuenue — all of its locations are Hawaiian words — and the town of Reverence in Mira, which is just sort of randomly pulled out of nowhere.
  • Theme Naming: Both main characters, Kalas and Sagi, are both named after birds. Kalas's name is a romanized version of "karasu", which is the Japanese word for raven, while Sagi's is the Japanese word for heron.
  • What the Hell, Player?: If you select wrong or weird answers to dialogue options, Kalas and Sagi will call you out on it.
  • Winged Humanoid: Most people in this world have "Wings of the Heart", summoned at will translucent wings, that allow them to fly for a short time. Each set of Wings is unique to each person, ranging from bird wings (most common, such as Kalas' real wing) to butterfly wings (Milly) to tiny blue wings with a large peacock tail (Savyna) to something weird-looking and barely recognisable as wings (Gibari). These Wings are pretty much a part of the person's soul, meaning that they are not exactly corporeal, and don't interfere with clothing.