A return to form.
Gust is primarily known for their long running Atelier series and rightfully so, as the quality of those titles have been improving with each iteration.
However, back in the PS2 era, they released a little known series called “Ar Tonelico” and while it never managed to garner the level of popularity the Atelier titles enjoy, it became a cult hit among JRPG enthusiasts, myself included.
When the title first made the jump to the PS3 in the form of Ar Tonelico: Qoga it was riddled with flaws, and while it retained some of what made the previous games so memorable, it was overall a less than stellar effort.
With the release Ar nosurge, Gust delivers the true successor to the Ar Tonelico crown.
Demo Availability: N/A
Voice Acting Selection: Both JPN and ENG voices.
Played: 26~ hours.
The story of Ar nosurge unfolds from the perspective of two parties, which can be swapped at any save point at will.
While the actual plot elements are easy enough to follow, much of the motivations and back story of the characters are hidden and inaccessible to all except for the Japanese speaking crowd, as the prequel, “Ciel nosurge”, never made it to the States.
It’s quite the shame, as I found many of the characters quite charming, and would have loved to have gotten the full story, but as it stands now I feel we’re unable to enjoy the game to its fullest.
Still, I was entertaining listening to the wacky conversations, and I really became familiar with the various characters in the world of Ar nosurge, thanks to the return of the series’ trademark game play mechanic, “Diving”.
It’s the process in which the player “dives” into the minds of other characters and goes on a bit of visual novel styled adventure, where they explore the inner workings of their companions.
Steeped in metaphors and some truly outrageous scenarios, it’s a great way to learn more about your party members, all the while learning some immensely powerful attacks called “Song Magic”.
The Songs are essential to success in combat, as while the front line can dish out a fair bit of damage, it’s nothing compared to what a charged Song Magic can do.
As the combat is initiated, the enemies continue to push forward in waves, one after the other. The duty of the one single front liner is to protect the songstress at all costs, allowing for her to charge her Song to maximum strength before unleashing it, destroying dozens of enemies at once.
The better the player performs in combat, the more they are rewarded, to the point where they can earn more than four times the money and experience.
The random battles cease completely in an area after wiping out a full battalion of enemies, often consisting of 15-25 waves. Given they can be wiped out in one well executed encounter, it’s quite easy to clear a zone of nuisances and explore at one’s leisure.
In that regard, it’s unfortunate that the areas open to exploration are bland and uninteresting, without any real hidden areas or treasures to uncover.
That type of lackluster exploration element is a bit typical of Gust in general, but considering how far they’ve come over the years, I feel this is one area they could certainly step up their game.
Of course, there’s plenty more to this game like the synthesis, hot spring conversations and purification, but those mechanics are just icing on an already moist and delicious cake.
Spanning well over thirty hours with five different endings, there’s a great deal of fun to be had in the world of Ar nosurge.
It’s just unfortunate that the lack of localization for the prequel ends up hurting the full enjoyment of this great sequel.
Fun Tidbit – When I call a soundtrack beautiful and haunting, I don’t throw those words out in jest. One of the reasons why Ar Tonelico games became cult classics is thanks to the OSTs. Check these out from Ar nosurge- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDK7IVEKphA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1uaTpY28TI
Review copy of game provided by publisher.