Lostmagic has been on Modojo's radar for a while, by virtue of being one of the few RPGs announced for the system. What solidified its position as one of our most-anticipated spring DS titles was the news that the game was actually a mash-up of the traditional RPG and RTS genres, and that it featured online play. Nintendo's Wi-Fi service has (rightfully) come under a lot of fire for requiring silly things like friend codes, but all criticism aside, RTS-battling online while I'm lying in bed? Sign me up.
The game's early plot doesn't seem to break as much new ground as the gameplay mechanics, however. An evil sorceress known as the Diva of Twilight is attempting to take over the world, and it's (of course) up to you, the young mage Isaac, to put a stop to her devious plans.
Battles play out in realtime from an overhead, RTS-style viewpoint. This allows the stylus to be put to good use. A unit is selected simply by tapping it, which brings up all its relevant statistics (movement, health, attack, defense, magic attack, and magic defense) on the top screen. The unit can then be ordered to move, attack, or use magic with another tap of the stylus. Groups of units can be selected simply by circling them with the stylus.
Casting magic spells plays out similarly to Konami's Tao: The Curse of the Demon Seal, but with a couple important twists. Holding down L brings up an area where spells must be drawn with the stylus itself to be activated - a fire spell can be activated by drawing a triangle, a water spell by making an "S" shape, etc. The first catch is that the realtime battle is still raging while you're drawing your spell. The second catch is that the power of your spell is actually determined by the accuracy of your drawing. The stylus recognition seems quality - hastily-drawn triangles still created fire spells - but by taking your time and making accurate stylus strokes more damage can be dealt.
Another genre element developer Taito has thrown into the mix is enemy capturing. After an enemy has been sufficiently weakened, gamers can capture it with a spell, and in subsequent battles it will be available to fight by your side. Isaac as well as his captured army gain experience and level up as the quest progresses, so it's a good idea to share the love and bring multiple types of monsters into battle with you, to ensure you have units with the proper offensive or defensive attributes available to you should you need them later on.
This also opens up another strategic element for gamers to consider. Isaac has a set amount of unit points to spend summoning allies for each battle, so they can be spent summoning a few very powerful units, or many weaker ones.
Mission variety itself doesn't appear to break much new ground, but at least there is some mission variety. In most levels gamers will be tasked simply with routing the enemy within the time limit, but other goals are occasionally thrown into the mix, including boss battles, reaching specific waypoints, and simply surviving for a set amount of time.
Wi-Fi support allows gamers to hop on and begin battle ASAP with strangers, or with friends, through the use of the familiar friend codes. Local multiplayer is also an option, but unfortunately there are no single cart multiplayer options.
Although we're obviously reserving out final verdict for out full review, Lostmagic seems like a sure bet for most hardcore gamers. Its colorful (but not too cutesy) graphics, coupled with a its genuinely interesting and innovative RTS and RPG elements, in addition to insightful, creative use of stylus control looks to make this one a winner. Lostmagic is due for release this week, so check back soon for Modojo's final word.