When you stop to think about it, an awful lot of media - films, TV, and games alike - draws on the myths, legends and fantasy of societies gone by. The Romans, Greeks and Norsemen all had their own unique mythos, weaving together fanciful tales, religion and superstition to create fully-fledged worlds that provide a wealth of material to fantasy writers, even today, hundreds of years later. Whether it's Final Fantasy's summons, based on Hindu and Middle Eastern stories, the popular Pokemon lifted straight from Japanese yokai folklore (Slowpoke, Gastly and Ninetails to name but a few) or pretty much every summonable creature in Persona, it's safe to say that basing your game's lore on existing myths and legends is quite a popular thing to do. Demon-slaying dungeon crawler, The Lost Child is one such game, from our friends at NIS America, purveyor of all things weird, wonderful and Japanese.
The story begins with occult journalist Hayato Ibuki, who's researching a spate of mysterious suicides in Tokyo's Shinjuku Station, when an unseen shadow pushes him into the path of a moving train. At the last moment, a strange girl appears and saves his life, handing him a case, and insisting that he must live, before up and disappearing. Inside the case sits a mystical gun - a gun that it turns out will let him capture mythical creatures and arcane beasts (as you do). Seemingly taking what the mysterious girl said to heart, Hayato soon forms a team with a self-proclaimed angel Lua, as he puts his occult knowledge to the test, and delves into a series of interdimensional dungeons called Layers, in order to uncover the mysteries of the device, find the missing girl (who also happens to be Lua's sister) and ultimately decide the fate of the whole world.
From the man behind El Shaddai and Okami's character design, The Lost Child is a dungeon crawler steeped in mythology, mixing Western legends and Japanese yokai with HP Lovecraft-style fantasy in an epic battle of heaven vs hell vs cthulhu. Exploring takes place in first person, square by careful square, around an uncharted dungeon that gradually fills in as you move around - with enemies, traps and pitfalls galore to keep you from getting too comfortable. Random encounters with monsters occur as you explore, triggering traditional turn-based battles where you and your opponents take it in turns to attack, defend and sling special attacks, which we're hoping are not as punishingly difficult as some others in the genre (we're looking at you, Shin Megami Tensei IV).
In a similar vein to Shin Megami Tensei, or even Pokemon, The Lost Child is a game about catching, training and battling monsters. Using your trusty magical gun, you'll be able to capture any of the aforementioned mythical enemies that wander the dungeon - known as Astrals - before getting them to fight alongside you in battle. Looking set to offer more than a hundred Astrals to find and capture, each with their own unique skills and uses in battle, everyone will be able to find a favourite Astrals to do their bidding in battle - and with each able to evolve through three different forms, learning new and diverse skills as they go, the customisation options are huge.
One of the most interesting things about The Lost Child is its somewhat unique approach to recruiting and levelling up said Astrals. To start off with, battles play out much like your average Pokemon battle, where you just need to weaken your opponent sufficiently to make them easier to capture. However, just because you've used your special demon gun to capture them, it doesn't mean you can add them to your party straight away. Instead, it'll cost you.
As you battle through enemies, you'll start to amass Karma, which are essentially orbs of experience points in blue, purple and red. Turning a captured monster into a loyal party member will eat up a chunk of your Karma of varying colours, with more powerful or rare Astrals costing more to "purify" than a bog-standard weakling. Luckily, if you can wait a little bit between capturing and purifying, it'll bring the cost down at least a little bit - in our demo, an Incubus had seemingly been captured a while ago, but left to languish in limbo for a while, which had brought down his cost to practically free - but as a general rule, the more powerful the Astral, the more expensive it'll be. Karma is also required to level up your Astrals and make them more powerful, with each requiring different amounts of the different colours of karma to get stronger. As such, you're set to be faced with a bit of a balancing act when it comes to party building - do you sink all your Karma into boosting a couple of uber powerful beasts, or do you level your team a bit more evenly?
The Astrals you collect also have their own secondary uses - depending on which ones you have in your party, you'll have a choice of different 'bullets' you can load into your Gangour gun for different 'Astral Burst' effects in battle. We didn't really get chance to have a good look at what's on offer, but we imagine it'll be a range of elemental-style fireballs/blizzard spells and negative-status-inducing moves, such as poison, confusion and the like, giving you an additional layer of strategy to contemplate when you're putting together your party.
With its interesting blend of fantasy and 'everything but the kitchen sink' approach to all the major mythologies, all wrapped up in a modern day Japan mystery, The Lost Child certainly has an interesting setting. As we already have a bit of a weakness for Pokemon-esque gotta catch 'em all games, we're just hoping it doesn't get too difficult, like fellow demon-collecting dungeon crawler, the rather brutal Shin Megami Tensei IV. We're sure to find out one way or the other, when The Lost Child hits the Playstation 4, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch this summer. Why not check out the trailer below: