Luminous Arc 2: Will
Developer MMV Publisher TBA Genre Stratergy RPG Platform Nintendo DS Release TBA
Tactical RPG games haven't really been my forte, it must be said. Great tactical games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem have been and gone without much thought from me. However, I recently sat down with Marvellous Entertainment's (MMV) latest and greatest outing on the Nintendo DS; Luminous Arc 2: Will. I'll be completely honest, I've never heard of Luminous Arc, and the second outing doesn't seem to rely too heavily on the first game, if any connection between the two actually exists. Unfortunately, the game is fun but flawed in many aspects...
Setting up the field
For the most part of this game, you will be reading text. This game is literally like a novel with a bit of interaction in this text with some statements you can select occasionally. From my understanding, these decisions do absolutely nothing. You'll sometimes get the opportunity to ask some questions, however the game rarely answers questions you really want it to, the basic battle-system tutorial is short-lived and the game will instantly throw you head-first into combat, leaving you not too sure what you're really doing. Text sequences in the game can drag on, the game's story seems to be the focal point, however the story and characters are so bland and unimaginative you really couldn't care less for it.
Story, you follow a bunch of soldiers, Roland - the typical Japanese RPG male protagonist. He's got a lot to learn and seems to be shocked at just about everything. He's a swordsman with mid-range travelling distance but short-range attacks. Rina - The typical Japanese RPG female protagonist. She's cute and always cheery, annoyingly cheery. She's an archer with a fair travelling distance and a long-range attack. Rush - The typical RPG "I'm confident and strong" character. His travelling distance is tragically short, but has powerful attacks, lots of health and a short-but-longer-than-Roland's attack distance. You're basically going around, in seemingly random order, a world map, looking out for event 'flags' to interact with on a strange map/menu system until another fight presents itself.
Let's move... 3 spaces to the left!
During the story, you will meet a handful of bizarre characters, including a Queen (Yes, Queen. It's a new first for RPG kind to have a young-ish looking character be a QUEEN.), Sophia, a Mage or... Shaman or something, Artigas (female, by the way). Some even stranger villains, including a cat-like character ripped straight from SEGA's puzzle game; Puyo Puyo Fever (GameID: NDS/ppf), Jojii and his slightly depressive female accomplice: Fatima. There's literally a sea of characters in this game, each with a very different temperament and a lot with their own character voice, which will, at random, kick in.
Gameplay, other than shifting through lines of text and characters zooming around on-screen, you're treated to some wonderful tactical battles every 5-7 minutes of pure text. Sadly, these battles wont last very long in most cases. Your basic goal for most battles is to kill one or more than one key enemy on the map. There will often be several minions you have to battle through to get to this key enemy. You'll often start first, the game works on a move-by-square basis. You're given a grid with blue squares on, you must move within these squares, for you cannot move outside of them. You can only move once per-turn, however if you make a mistake, you can undo your go and try again. After or before you move, you can choose to attack an enemy with a normal or special attack, use an item or power up. You can only do one of these actions per-turn. Special attacks require MP to use, you can replenish MP with items, some items can be administered to other players on the map if they're close enough to be given. Attacks have a set range to attack within, some can attack more than one enemy.
Guess genders... Now!
At the top of the screen, you have turn rotation, unlike other tactical RPG games, one character has a turn, much like standard RPG titles. Once that turn is over, the next character in the line, if that be enemy or player controlled has his/her turn. There's no maximum limit of moves you can have and generally there's more than one 'wave' of enemies you will face. One set of weak characters, followed by another weak or medium-strength enemies and so forth until the final, strongest wave of enemies come towards you. Each wave usually doesn't do anything until a player gets to a certain part of the map or a certain number of one wave has been taken care of. If one of your characters dies during battle, you cannot revive them for the remainder of that match. So your location on the map in relation to enemies must be thought through, weighing up the stats of your player to the enemy and deciding if you want your character to kick back and let a stronger character take care of business or not. This is generally a bad plan, as the CPU will always try to attack your weakest characters first.
Sound, the game's music is generally as bland as the story. There's lots of music, but it's not really varied and not really very catchy or original in many aspects. It feels sort of tacked-on and rarely meets the mood of the story. Sound effects are, for the most part, very good and clear for a DS game. However, I feel that the game could have done with more sound effects during battles and out of battle as well, to perhaps make those monotonous text scenes more interesting. Voice acting is generally very good. Some bits made me laugh in the Japanese version, not because of a joke, but because character voices were so unfitting. However, a lot of the acting is very good... Which, I suppose is a standard for Japanese RPG games now-a-day anyway.
Visuals, the game is nothing but 2D visuals, however for the most part, they are very nice, crisp, with lots of different artwork for every character, showing off a range of emotions, however you'll often see the same character art at least 3 or 4 times an event and it becomes very boring. In-battle, battle maps are very nice looking, enemies and protagonists are all equally, wonderfully animated and is very colourful. For a 2D game, the game is very beautiful.
Hot illustrated chicks? Check. Solid gameplay? Absent.
More negatives to keep in mind with this game is the annoyance of the movement system. The grid you travel on rarely gives you a sense of distance between you and enemies. Rina's archery requires a very small ring around the character to attack. And you'll often find that the enemy you want to hit just falls outside your aim ring. So you'll be moving and re-moving a lot just to get an advantageous position to attack an enemy, thus making you question if archery is actually worth it in-game, as a lot of characters can easily move the same ring-distance to attack Rina on the next turn. And as the rule goes, she's a weak character and the CPU is magnetised towards her because of that fact. It's highly frustrating. You can also buy items from the shop, however if you forget to set items to your character, you'll quickly find yourself out of items and in a bit of a mess, new weapons and clothing can be purchased and equipped, however doesn't really inform you when you've equipped that new item to your player, making you wonder if you actually equipped it or not. Also, did I mention text events are boring?
Overall then, text events are boring, the game looks and sounds nice, text events are boring, the story is lacking, character development is slow and unrewarding, text events are boring and the battle system is fun by not without flaws. The game, is a great game if you have time to waste and even better if you have lots of time to waste. However, everything in this game has been done and done better in other games. Get or not get? Well, I'd have to tell you to steer clear. The game is boring. And that boring weighs down on you like a tonne of bricks until the very end of the game. Do yourself a favour, keep your money and invest in a better tactical RPG game on the DS.