“The devil must be beating his wife.” – L’Arc
Give this a thought: The Wii, the video game ambassador of all things Japanese, has hardly any new traditional turn-based Japanese RPGs. The Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series isn’t turn-based; the upcoming Monster Hunter Tri isn’t either; the RPGs on Wiiware are nearly all rehashes of classics; Dragon Quest Swords can only be described as a “rail slasher”; and Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is hardly traditional. Practically the only flag bearer for the genre on the Wii is Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, but that game was released almost a year and a half ago. So have developer imageepoch and publisher Ignition Entertainment lamentably observed.
[image1]Enter Arc Rise Fantasia, from the creators of Luminous Arc, to end this unholy drought. Let’s not mince words: If you’ve been shrugging your shoulders and rolling your eyes at the genre’s attempts at shedding its identity by becoming more real-time and action-oriented, then this might perk you right up. All of the major tropes that make the JRPG “traditional” are in full force here – animé-inspired cut-scenes, dialogue sequences comprised of text boxes and 2D portraits, an audacious strapping young lad as the main character L’Arc who (of course) wears red and wields a sword, a cute and petite love interest who has a frail voice and casts healing magic, a prince/childhood friend who is also enamored with said love interest (do you see a triangle?), and a world populated by greenery, airships, legionnaires, dungeons, and gosh-almighty dragons.
Will there also be plenty of loot? Slots for weapon upgrades? Item and weapon customization? A soundtrack composed by none other than Yasunori Mustuda of Chrono Trigger and Xenogears fame? Towns where you can talk to everyone in streets filled with inns and stores for weapons, armor, and accessories? The ability to save on a world map? Attributes like strength and vitality? Allies with unique abilities and bold personalities? Experience points? Just what you do think a JRPG is about?!
Most of the cut-scenes are told with lines of text in front of environments that are understandably low-res due to the graphical limitations of the Wii, but the introduction shows off more than several minutes of stunning 3D graphics. L’Arc, a youthful merc for the Meridian Empire who is confident enough to forgo wearing dragoon-like armor like his fellow legionnaires, faces off against a flight of dragons while upon an airship. After a quick hands-on tutorial with the battle system, one of the wounded monsters whacks him off, sending both plummeting from the sky into the forest below. As he recovers from the fall and gets up off the ground, the dragon explodes in a Felburst, but L’Arc escapes in time. Not soon after, he meets a mysterious girl named Ryfia whom he chivalrously decides to escort from the forest to a nearby town.
[image2]From that point on, the graphics switch to the normal presentation you’d expect from an RPG on the Wii, but the humor makes up for a lot of the lower-res graphics. It’s not too long after reaching the next town that L’Arc realizes that Ryfia is aloof about the world, like “What’s an inn?” aloof. Whether it’s the Japanese to English translation or the love triangle that’s ripe with drama, you never really know what’s going to come out of the characters’ mouths.
The combat system, on the other hand, comes from time-honored RPG principles originating mainly from the Suikoden series or Legend of Legaia. Every turn grants you AP points which you can distribute between each character, with some actions costing more AP than others (e.g. casting magic takes more AP than defending). One distinguishable feature is that you can opt to have one character perform all of the actions in a turn, mainly for strategic reasons, but you’ll mainly distribute AP evenly between characters. Since characters actually move around the battlefield, you can also choose to position them away from enemy attacks, particularly area-effect magical spells.
Magic also follows the Suikoden route, with each character able to cast a limited number of spells in one of four progressively more powerful tiers. Which spells a character can use depends on the
materia orbs they have attached and their overall level. Furthermore, any damage party members receive is turned into SP, which when completely filled, allows them to unleash a limit break special power.
Of course, if you’ve read everything so far, none of this should really surprise you. Arc Rise Fantasia doesn’t try to reinvent the genre after all; it tries to be the example, the very smack-dab definition. And for now on the Wii, that just might be all it takes to succeed. Check GR for a full review for Arc Rise Fantasia when it arrives in summer 2010.