What if I told you that I’m playing a game in which you played as a whinny little bitch of a hero who has to save the world, fall in love with a girl, girl also happens to have special powers, and guess what-. You have to find the “hymn” crystal.
Now what kind of a game would you say that I’m playing? If you said RPG, then congratulations you’ve just won- what a minute- the cries of over ten million geeks just answered RPGs I suppose that no prizes will be rewarded due to the lack of Nintendo Wiis, the Kahn will be back next week with a more difficult question such as, “what is the opposite of up?”
Seriously, Gambus Kahn here, with a review of yet another RPG from NIS America (it’s made in Japan, really), Ar Tonelico for the PS2. You play the part of Lyner Barsett who is also a knight of Elemia living within a great tower overlooking the world of Sol Ciel by which has been destroyed twice. Sol Ciel is a highly advanced civilization such as in most science fiction stories.
The game takes place in the Third Era of this world that is about to experience it’s next impending doom, the Virus. You see, the history of this world implies that living breathing humanity actually merged with artificial intelligence at one point or another and by doing so created a sub-race of humanity called Reyvateils.
But wait, it gets even more insane. The Reyvateils are all female, and feel that they need a male counterpart to make them more complete. This makes great sci-fi, it evokes shades of the first Star Trek movie since it involves a type of humanity that blatantly feels incomplete without a physical, mental, and spiritual connection to a creator, mate, or companion.
After all, humanity is always trying to connect to someone or something else just so that ones self can feel that completeness of the main flaw of humanity and that is a lack of understanding. If you think about it mankind is really no different than the Reyvateils, we are all in some way trying to make a connection so that one can feel complete.
Ok, now we got philosophy 101 out of the way we can get to the real meat and potatoes. Ar Tonelico’s game play evokes a turn-based battle system by which is presented with 2-D sprite based animations to give it that retro mid-90s (is mid-90s already retro) look. You fight monsters, wild-life, and those dastardly viruses that have plagued the land of Sol Ciel.
The Reyvateils (a.k.a. magic users) use the power of song in order to create magic spells for your party to take advantage of (they should put an American Idol mini game in a sequel). How do I gain more magical songs you ask, well you must make that extra special connection with a Reyvateil (see, the completeness of humanity once again). You must listen to her problems and achieve the ultimate level of humanity, sex (I meant understanding, wait that could be the same thing after all we are all just human).
The first thing that I noticed about this title is the beautiful anime intro with the even more beautiful vocal music; it really sets the mood for this type of game. The text dialogue is both funny and sometimes clever, but the voice acting on the other hand ranges from barely acceptable to almost horrid (I can see the actor reading from the script in my mind).
Another thing that the game lacked was a variety in the environments and the sense of exploration. You navigate within towns via a menu system and you also navigate the whole world via a menu system. The world that this game takes place in is very intriguing and not being able to explore it is disappointing to say the least.
Overall, this game offers a solid RPG experience despite its flaws it also has many things going for it, and makes a nice addition to the PS2s massive RPG collection.