Review: Luminous Arc
Posted 14 Dec 2007 at 00:34 by Hellfire
If you ever played Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre you'll notice Luminous Arc is a carbon copy of these games. On the other hand, that seems exactly what Marvelous Entertainment wanted and doesn't even try to cover that up. Welcome to the world of Luminous Arc.
The gameplay follows the classic SRPG formula: choose a destination, read a few dialogues, battle, level up, buy equipment, rinse and repeat. But even for those who are new to the genre the game is very accessible, easy to navigate through and it's fast to figure out its nooks and crannies. The battles are played in "virtual chess boards" divided by squares, each with certain terrain characteristics that will determine the characters' movement and attacks based on their status. The level up system is handled a little differently- as usual, with attacks, spells and skills, you gain experience points, when you reach 100, you level up, resetting your experience points but also filling up HP and MP. In other words, in situations where you would normally stand still, you'll do something, even if useless, just to level up. Of course, that continually raising your attack will give you something like 5 exp points, while inflicting massive damage on a strong enemy might give you 60 points. On the other hand, you'll want to decide which character should deliver that finishing blow to get loads of experience, so there is some strategy to it. In addition to the usual magic and skills there are also the Flash Drive attacks, which are basically super attacks that you can use by building up a FP bar over the course of the battle.
So, all in all pretty basic stuff, no class systems or character customization, which might piss some hardcore SRPG players off, but makes the game easier on the brain. After battles you can choose to talk with a party member, so you improve your relationship with him/her, get some gifts and improve their efficiency in battle. The game takes some good 15 to 20 hours to complete, plus a new adventure mode and a very welcome wireless and wi-fi battle mode, so it has good replay value. In the wireless and wi-fi mode you can take your team against others and compete in a normal battle just as you would in single player mode, which is pretty nice, but because there's not a lot of character customization, eventually battles will be stale and boring. Still, it's a very good addition to the game and good fun. The story is also filled with clichés, but it's entertaining and does its job.
One would expect the touch screen to be a major plus to the game, but to be honest, it isn't. Navigating through the menus with the stylus is hell- you choose one option and the complete opposite will be chosen most of the times, which makes you wonder: how the hell did they manage to calibrate the touch screen like this? During battles, the touch screen controls are more manageable though, but sometimes, the game still won't recognize certain commands and the isometric viewpoint makes it impossible to touch certain characters or regions of the map, so if you want to play without hassle, just use the d-pad, it's flawlessly done and works more than well. The upper screen is very useful though, because you can easily see character and enemy stats without having to go to a menu.
The game has abundance of beautifully drawn manga characters with lots of details, the sprites are clear and detailed and the backgrounds are quite beautiful, but unfortunately everything's repeated very often; the sprites have few animations, the drawings used in the cutscenes lack variations, the backgrounds are always very similar and most battle stages look the same. The game features a lot of voice acting and surprisingly, it's very good: it's spirited, cheerful and funny. However, during the cutscenes, the voices drop in and out without warning, which is weird. Still, it's very pleasing to see such an amount of good English voice acting with great sound quality in a DS game. The music is the highest point of the game with beautiful and lively music, which is no surprise considering the soundtrack was handled by Yasunora Mitsuda's (composer for Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, etc…) studio.
With a little more work and ambition this game would have been great, but in the end, while it doesn't do anything spectacularly well, it doesn't fail miserably either- it's fun, addictive and it looks good in any gamer's collection.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Not great, but a good and fun game nonetheless. It's an interesting buy for SRPG fans who don't mind a simplified game and for those who want to try the genre for the first time.
Music and Voice Acting
Bad touch screen implementation
Might not be deep enough for SRPG veterans