Baten Kaitos wallpaper
February 22, 2024

Experience a GameCube JRPG classic reborn in our Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review!

The resurgence of the turn-based JRPG is well and truly upon us. Not only that, but there has certainly been no shortage of retro game remasters and remakes releasing in the past few years. Both of these trends continue here with the Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster combo pack.

These are two massive JRPGs that were originally released on the Nintendo GameCube on 5 December 2003 and 23 February 2006 respectively in Japan. Both games were released slightly later in the West (except Baten Kaitos II was never released here in Australia… sadge). Both games are massive in terms of their breadth and size, with both clocking in anywhere between 40 and 60 hours each.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review floating continent

Massive game, set on massive floating continents.

The Baten Kaitos duology was definitely not massive in terms of reach though. Indeed, only the biggest GameCube and/or JRPG fan may have ever played or even heard of these titles before. Because both games are so lengthy I’ll complete the reviews separately, though you can only purchase them (physically or on the Switch Online store) as a double pack.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review title screen

   Today we will be reviewing the entire alphabet, I mean this game with an excessively long title.

The full name of the first game is – Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. It is a long title… I’ll say it, it’s too long, particularly when you throw ‘HD Remaster‘ on the end of it. Because the title is such a mouthful, I’ll just refer to the game as simply ‘Baten Kaitos’ from here. Personally, I loved Baten Kaitos when I first played it almost 20 years ago (yes, I’m old), but I haven’t touched it again since then…until now.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review Gibari

Mate, you called me old… Not only do I take it personally, I’m gonna kick your ass! If I can get out of this chair.

The game has been given a shiny HD makeover for the re-release on Nintendo Switch. But the core gameplay mechanics have been left untouched.

How does it fare in 2024, and is it worth your time? Find out in our Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean HD Remaster review! *phew*

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review Zosma block puzzle

It wouldn’t be a GameCube-era JRPG without some block pushing puzzles!

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster Review – Story

One area of Baten Kaitos that hasn’t changed is the engrossing storyline. In this RPG you actually play as yourself… sort of. Really you play the role of an amnesiac ‘guardian spirit’, discovered by what is ostensibly the main character – a young man known as Kalas. As far as protagonists go, Kalas comes across as gruff, rude, and for lack of a more accurate term – a dickhead.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review Kalas

Kalas has a somewhat cliche videogame goal of seeking revenge for the murder of his grandfather and brother. This is a JRPG released in 2003 though, so things get much, MUCH more complicated (and weirder) than that. Along the way to meet his destiny, Kalas encounters a young woman named Xelha (pronounced ‘Shell-ah’), who is on a quest to save the world from evil forces looking to resurrect the ancient demon god Malpercio (that sounds more like it).

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review Fadroh

What the hell is that, and where is its mouth?

This is a story that continues to surprise with twists and turns some of which you definitely will not expect. There is some excellent world-building in this game, even if the dialogue (at least, the English translation of it) is not the greatest. As the story unfolds, we discover the mysteries of the world and the true nature of the impending threat.

Even if you don’t like the story, this is a beautiful world to explore.

Baten Kaitos Review – Gameplay

Where Baten Kaitos really sets itself aside from almost every other JRPG that came before it is in the gameplay. Gameplay that for better, or for worse, remains untouched in this Remastered edition. It offers a unique blend of traditional turn-based JRPG combat mixed with card-based gameplay. Indeed, the majority of the game’s systems revolve around cards known as ‘Magnus‘.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review build deck

Build your decks, and take them into battle.

These Magnus cards serve multiple purposes, functioning as both the primary method of combat and as tools for solving various puzzles throughout Kalas’ adventure. For combat, you assemble a separate deck of Magnus cards for each playable character. Individual cards represent different attacks, spells, and items. Weapons and armour have different attack and/or defence values (some cards can be both) in addition to elemental affinities.

Most importantly, in battles players strategically choose cards to execute attacks, spells, or defensive maneuvers where the large numbers in the corners of the cards (from 1 to 9), create a layer of depth and tactical decision-making to the traditional turn-based combat system. Combos can be achieved by ensuring only sequential numbers are selected, or by choosing pairs/triplets of numbers – these add to your overall damage and the difference can be massive.

Magnus also form the basis of recovery items in the game. However, it is usually much more cost-effective to use ‘in-battle’ healing effects (which are infinitely repeatable) over the single-use ‘out-of-battle’ magnus.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review camp dialogue

Thanks for the info Doc, but I was really hoping for your opinion on this wart on my big toe.

Exploration involves solving puzzles using Magnus cards. Often these puzzles require Kalas and his crew to ‘absorb’ and carry the essence of something like ‘pristine water’ or ‘an egg’ and carry it around the world until the individual needing that essence is found.

The game’s progression is also tied to the acquisition of Magnus cards. The game’s currency is not obtained from just simply winning battles, rather ‘Camera’ cards are used in battle to take pictures of enemies which can then be sold in shops (after they develop of course).

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review camera dialogue

The monster has only one look for god’s sake! Blue Steel!

The player’s deck evolves as they advance, allowing for customization and specialization in different playstyles. A small number of ‘equipment’ Magnus are obtained for each of the main characters that buff their stats in various ways.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review character screen

Finally, specific ‘class’ magnus are obtained after major story events to ‘class up’ characters to increase the size of their Magnus battle deck, the number of cards in hand, but also reducing the amount of time you can take to select cards in battle. This is an interesting trade-off (you can’t un-class after it has been done) as even the most skilled players will inadvertently run out of time in battle and whiff an attack.

In Baten Kaitos you can also only level up at certain save points throughout the game (typically the ones found in towns and other non-dungeon locations). Saving up your EXP and levelling up multiple times at once can give you a chance for even better stat increases than levelling up only once at a time.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review level up

The last interesting thing to mention about the Magnus is that some of them will change and ‘age’ over time. This will strengthen some, and weaken others. A flaming sword may eventually lose its fire, changing its element and reducing damage output, while an HP-regenerating fruit could become a preserved fruit that provides even more HP on use…or it could become rotten!

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review updated settings

Whilst gameplay itself is untouched in the remastered version of Baten Kaitos, some quality-of-life settings have been added. There are both ‘game speed’ and ‘battle speed’ settings to run the game at 2x or 3x speed. Good luck with trying to complete battles at any more than standard 100% speed though…the time available to select your battle magnus at even 2x speed is almost non-existent! Fortunately, simplifying battle results does significantly decrease the time spent in battles…or you can just set ‘no encounters’ altogether.

Baten Kaitos Review – Presentation

Before getting into the new ‘HD Remaster’ version of the game, I do want to discuss the overall presentation package of the original game. Baten Kaitos was a stunning game on its original GameCube release. However, the game is very inconsistent. Some of the design choices for various areas of the game are at times amazing, such as the island maps themselves.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review map visuals

Whereas some dungeon design can leave you wondering where exactly you are meant to go… or even where you CAN go.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review dark dungeon

Can you see where to go? Cause I sure as hell can’t!

I don’t even know what to say about this lovely section of the game…

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review mirror dungeon

Up is down and left is right.

Baten Kaitos also has some very strange towns, including one made entirely from candy. I mean, I would like to go to there…but it still feels very weird in an otherwise ‘serious’ JRPG.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review candy town

Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows…everywhere

Did I mention that there is a scene where one of the characters literally eats their way out of a building to escape some enemies…

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review Gibari eats building

Please, go right ahead. Don’t worry about saving any wall for me, I’m full from lunch.

Whether serious or silly, every single area of the game has been made even more beautiful than the original version. The pre-rendered backgrounds look better here than any ever did in the PlayStation 1 Final Fantasy trilogy. 3D Character models for both player characters and the various enemies have been completely redone and look great as well.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review visuals

Find me a gameplay scene in Final Fantasy 7, 8 or 9 that looks better than this… come on, I’m waiting.

One of the biggest changes in the Remaster version of Baten Kaitos is the complete removal of the English voice acting. Whilst both Japanese and English options were available on the GameCube version, for the remaster the developers made the decision to completely remove the English voiceovers because ‘some of the expressions don’t match the current era’.

Honestly, they could have just said that the English voice acting in Baten Kaitos 1 was just the worst voice acting ever seen in a video game and that would have sufficed (trust me, it was laughably awful). Fortunately, the Japanese audio is well done.

Do you want to hear a bad voice actor say this? I sure don’t.

The music in Baten Kaitos by Motoi Sakuraba has not changed in the Remaster version, and that is fine because the original soundtrack is great. The battle music in particular is enjoyable (which is always a good thing in an RPG as you will hear it often).


Baten Kaitos remains an engaging adventure through its 40-hour playtime (almost the same amount of time as it takes to say the name of the game). Of course, being a JRPG, gameplay can be extended by another 15 to 20 hours if you want to complete all of the available side quests and seek out the collection challenges.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review constellation

Gotta catch observe them all!

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean is a game that despite being over 20 years in age still manages to soar above the typical JRPG fare with its whimsical mix of floating islands, mystical cards, and a revenge plot that becomes a mission to save the whole world. This is a game that has aged gracefully, and with its shiny new coat of paint, it remains a delightful rollercoaster ride through a stunning fantasy world.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review map visuals

So, if you’re up for a journey that’s at times heart-rendingly sad, whilst simultaneously being entirely bonkers, buckle in, shuffle up your Magnus deck, and get ready to soar into a gaming experience that’s as unforgettable as it is quirky.

Baten Kaitos I HD Remaster review retro game

Yes, this is a screenshot from Baten Kaitos. I promise.

I’m glad that this game will have a chance to see a new generation of gamers. It certainly isn’t a game for everybody, and even some JRPG fans may find some of the design choices in the game a little too weird to enjoy this game fully. Still, I do strongly recommend this game to anybody that likes both a solid JRPG and card games (deckbuilders, TCGs or even things like Poker).

I hope it does well enough that we can one day see a Baten Kaitos 3.

So, why should you play Baten Kaitos Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean HD Remaster?

  • Ever wanted to get a Full House to do massive damage in an RPG? This is your chance
  • Some story elements and twists in Baten Kaitos remain unique in JRPGs and are worth experiencing at least once.

But, why shouldn’t you play Baten Kaitos Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean HD Remaster ?

  • If you played the original there isn’t anything new here to make a replay worthwhile (though you may want to pick it up to play Baten Kaitos Origins/II)
  • Like fast-paced action combat? You certainly won’t find that here.

Love your retro JRPGs as much as we do? Check out our review for Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster, or the amazing retro-inspired modern marvel Sea of Stars! Keep an eye out for some more Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster reviews coming out soon as well. We are always happy to talk retro games with you, particularly JRPGs… come join us on our Discord Server!

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