Recently, I have been seeing a lot of JRPG’s coming to the market. Summer is a good time to dive into an engrossing RPG and with that being said, Arc Rise Fantasia steps up to the plate. Arc Rise Fantasia is a JRPG from the guys Marvelous Entertainment and Imageepoch, and is one of the only true RPG’s to come to the Wii. It’s traditional in many ways, while also taking cues from other leaders in the genre. It does a few things right, but there are many shortcomings that may make you want to pass on this one.
The story starts off with a huge battle scene. You are L’Arc, a mercenary for hire, who has been tasked by the Meridian Empire to hunt down dangerous creatures known as Feldragons. You eventually get taken down, and are stranded when you run into Ryfia, a girl from a neighboring Republic. You both head to a town nearby and your adventure begins. Soon you are joined by your best friend Alfonse, or Alf for short, a prince in line for the throne in Diamant, the capital city of the Empire. You also find out that the third neighboring country, Olquina, has decided to send a group to start a war with the Empire, and as a mercenary your new job is to stop this out of control brigade. The faction from Olquina that wants to start a war eventually finds out that L’Arc and Ryfia have formed a pact, and that L’Arc is a Child of Eesa, who can control summons called Rogress. This causes them to start a hunt for L’Arc and his party as well, which eventually complicated things.
Along the way, you do help other people in various towns, and the main quest is broken up quite a bit, which causes it to get very confusing and convoluted. When you are finally figuring things out and the motives of a character, you get caught up in something else, and it artificially lengthens the story. This can get very annoying, and cause you to lose interest. Also, the story has a lot of history behind it, and the developers have created a vast world with religion fueled governments and a lot of political intrigue. This also causes things to get very confusing, and you need to stay on your toes during cut scenes, or you might not understand what the characters are talking about.
Most of the cut scenes are delivered with static character models who spout lines of dialogue, and the static models change depending on the emotion in the cut scene. Also, you can get a lot of background information between characters using conversations that take place outside of the cut scenes. At certain points during the game, a box will pop up on the bottom of the screen that allows you to have conversations between characters in your party. This helps with some of the information you might have missed along the way, and I found these to be more interesting than the main cut scenes. As a whole, the story is interesting, but it hard to focus on the main narrative.
The presentation of this game is severely lacking. One of the worst aspects of this is the dialogue, which is delivered with almost no emotion. This may be just the American translation of the game, as I am sure that the Japanese one is better, as in most cases it is with these games. The dialogue is laughingly bad in some spots, and you wonder why this could have been passed over so easily. This gives the game overall no emotion, other than the way the character’s static images change as I mentioned above. The dialogue in battle doesn’t get much better, as the characters spout the same lines over and over. Also, the graphics are not very good, and the textures are blurry. There were some sections that I could not tell what some things were. There is also some slowdown when you are walking around town if there are too many characters on screen at once. Music in towns and battle can also get very repetitious, and can become annoying after a while. Overall, the presentation doesn’t make this game very easy on the eyes.
The gameplay of Arc Rise Fantasia is a simple turn-based battle system with a few extra hitches. You have an AP gauge at the top of the screen which is distributed among the party. Every action, from attacking to using an item absorbs a little bit of this AP, and when you have made the actions you want or the AP gauge gets to zero, you automatically commence your actions. Once you confirm what you want to do, all of the actions you chose play out at once, depending on an order at the bottom of the screen. You have to switch between available party members to choose an action for them, or you can determine tactics for your whole party and simply hit one button to decide what everyone should do.
There are quite a few different actions that you can decide to do during battle, and I will go into some of them here. First is an Excel Attack, which is a special attack that involves a canned animation and a flashy name. Almost all of the characters can use magic as well, which you can acquire by attaching orbs to your character. Each different orb unlocks a different kind of magic, and you unlock more magic by adding more orbs to the character. Next is Arm Force, which is the power residing within the character’s weapon, and is attached to the character via the Arm Force Frame to give the character new abilities.
You earn weapon points after each battle to unlock more Arm Force tactics, and each weapon has unique tactics, which you can move them around the grid as you please once you unlock them. The final action in battle that I will mention is called Rogress, which are the summons that I mentioned earlier. These are powerful attacks that deal a lot of damage in a single hit. All of these pieces of the battle system come together pretty well, and make it a system that is easy to use, but hard to master.
The problem with the battle system lies in the boss battles though. In many of the battles in the game, it is pretty simple to take down normal enemies quickly. However, when you get to one of the many bosses in the game, you are forced to act frantically to even survive, I found myself healing every turn, and not even being able to attack because once I was able to heal my party enough to attack, the boss would drop my HP low enough again that I would have to continue healing. This left me very frustrated, because most of the boss battles did not have a save point before them, and when I died, I had to revert back to the title screen, losing all the time from my last save up to the boss. This caused me to have to replay large sections of the game. The difficulty spikes were much too high to try to bounce back from, and resulted in me not having a desire to play the game because I was afraid that I would lose time that I spent on it.
As a whole, Arc Rise Fantasia is a very average game. There is not much that really stands out. The story is fairly interesting, and the battle system can be fun when you are not in a boss battle, but there are many parts of this game that needed to be improved. It surprises me in 2010, with all of these great RPGs being released that we still have a game that does all the old tricks, but still manages to not make it fun. I cannot really recommend this game, because it may be fun for the first couple hours, but when you lose almost an hour of content because you cannot defeat a single enemy, it just is not worth trying to play the game. To the hardcore RPG crowd, I can’t even recommend this for you, unless you are dying to try a new game. I think it would best for everyone to steer clear of Arc Rise Fantasia.
Review copy provided by publisher.