To some, the developer and publisher attached to this game (and combination thereof) don’t seem to be particularly auspicious ones. Image Epoch was the same developer behind Sands of Destruction (which Alex did not look kindly upon) and the Luminous Arc games (which received mixed reviews and tend to be viewed as middle of the line SRPGs), and Ignition was the publisher who released Lux-Pain (infamous for its subpar localization) stateside.
Let’s see how this game stacks up.
Arc Rise Fantasia is situated in the Meridian Empire, which has been plagued by Feldragons, creatures that explode when killed (and poison the area they perish in). Upon discovering that hordes of them are headed for the capital, the Empire sends a fleet to deal with them. Among those sent is the mercenary L’Arc, who becomes injured and separated from the rest of his group after defeating a Feldragon. Just as the Feldragon is about to explode, a girl named Ryfia steps in to neutralize the explosion and heal L’Arc’s wounds. From there, they discover they’re linked in a significant way and that parts of the world are increasingly becoming crystallized, and it’s up to them to find the cause and stop it. It doesn’t really tread any ground other JRPGs haven’t (and manages to hit a number of common cliches), and the characters basically fall into archetypes – brash swordsman, softspoken naive healing girl, tomboyish childhood friend, and so on. However, it does manage to throw in couple of twists along the way.
There are also skits akin to those seen in the Tales series that are activated by various conditions, such as plot advancement or wearing certain outfits. These help flesh out the characters and their relationships to each other, and they’re generally amusing to watch. The localization was handled better than in Lux-Pain, though it’s dry and somewhat stiff at times. However, the voice acting is cringe inducing, at least at first – the scene where L’Arc and Ryfia first meet was kind of hard to take seriously. After a while, my ears adapted, and it sounded as though the voice actors improved a little later in the game, though it’s far from the best voice acting ever. Most of the characters lack affect and don’t properly convey the emotion called for by the situation.
As an Easter Egg for those who have played the Luminous Arc games, little references to them were sprinkled in this game. A whole village of the little creatures known as Kopin that serve as LA’s mascot make an appearance. In addition, there’s costumes of various LA characters for the ARF characters to don (you’ve got to love those acronyms), as well as a cameo in the arena. Even L’Arc’s name seems as though it could be interpreted as a homage to LA.
The character models look decent and animate fine, and spell animations (especially the Rogress animations) are suitably flashy. However, in large and busy areas, movement would drag a bit at some points. There’s also popups – as you enter or walk around in an area, people magically appear where there was no one before, which looks odd. The anime styled character portraits are expressive enough, but portraits and models for NPCs seem to recur often between (and even within) towns. There’s a couple of CGI cutscenes, but they’re rather scant, so the majority of story cutscenes are depicted through in-game graphics. The transition is a bit jarring, but they still serve their purpose. When you walk into shops and most houses, it turns into a still background with a character portrait of the person inside, so there’s no running around in and pillaging of houses. That’s a bit of an odd design choice, but it ultimately doesn’t impact gameplay much. Characters can also don outfits they find or are given, though it only shows in their status screen portrait and in the skit pertaining to them (if any); in battle and regular plot scenes, they’re in their standard attire. Weapons do change appearance depending on which one is equipped, though. The music sets the mood, but it’s not something I’d be listening to outside of the context of the game.
You can either use the Wiimote and Nunchuck, Classic Controller, or a Gamecube controller. They’re not too divergent from each other, and you can easily switch among them and they’re all viable, though I ended up using the Classic Controller Pro most often. However, if you switch from one controller type to the other after you start the game, you have to go to the system menu and manually select what you’re now using. The buttons will still respond if you don’t do this, but the onscreen prompts will reflect the control scheme currently selected. Whenever you’re near something that can be examined further, some text (or question marks) will appear on the top right corner of the screen. There are also no random battles, but instead visible enemies roaming the areas.
You can have up to three characters (and in some parts a guest character that’s AI controlled) in the active party, and they all share one Action Point (AP) gauge. AP determines how many and which actions you can perform in a round during battle. Each turn you can have everyone act, or you can have just one person act. Each action costs a different amount of AP. As characters battle, their Skill Points (SP) gauge builds. When it’s build enough, they can execute Excel Acts, which are special abilities that can come in the form of attacks or magic that consume both AP and a percentage of the SP gauge. L’Arc also acquires an exclusive ability called Rogress, which are this game’s form of summons. Using it requires all Rogress Points (RP) and a large chunk of AP. You can also sync attacks, either with one character or the whole party, by choosing to use the same move on the same enemy in concession. This inflicts more damage. However, the enemy can do the same to your party as well.
The magic system can seem confusing as first, but once you untangle all the details and put them into practice, it’ll seem a lot simpler. Basically, each character has an orb, into which gems are set. In order to use magic, you have to upgrade the orb at a workshop so that it has enough slots and set gems in them. You can also increase the level for a certain element, the amount of MP (in this game, the number of times a character can cast spells of each level) the character has at his/her disposal , and have shards assembled into gems. All this costs Device Points (DP) as well as Rico (the game’s currency). Magic comes in eight elements, which all have opposites: fire, water, wind, earth, lightning, light, dark, and ice. The first four are the basic elements and can combine to form the other four – ice results from water and earth, lightning from water and wind, light from fire and wind, and dark from fire and earth. Fire opposes water, wind opposes earth, lightning opposes dark, and light opposes ice. Gems come in the four basic elements, and how you place them has different effects. Placing two of the same element and level adjacent to each other grants access to higher level spells of that element, while doing so with two compatible elements will grant you access to a different element. Conversely, placing two gems of opposing elements next to each other will cause them to dampen each other’s power.
Once you beat the game, there’s no New Game+, nor are there any alternate endings, so there’s little incentive to begin another new file. However, loading a clear save file will take you to before the final boss battle, and you can roam around most everywhere except one-time places (so no retrieving missables). As encouragement to load the clear save and meander about, a bonus dungeon becomes available, and you can fight more powerful enemies in preparation for it. There’s also trying to finish the Monster Book, though again, you can’t go back to retrieve any missable entries, and you don’t get anything for completing it. Beyond that, there’s not much else to pick up the game again for once you’ve beaten it, unless you wanted to play the minigames or go to the arena.
Admittedly, I wasn’t all that impressed with this game at first, even though I tend to eat up JRPGs. However, as I played more and things picked up, it grew on me. While it wouldn’t make any top lists, and it doesn’t do anything revolutionary, it was enjoyable enough to play through. At times I did have to grind for money to update everyone’s equipment, but I never really felt the need to do so for levels. I was generally able to get through most boss battles in one try, with a couple of exceptions, notably Paula and Luna – that duo did take a few tries, but I eventually managed to defeat them without gaining more levels. Even during grinding, the battle system didn’t get too monotonous.
The Wii is not exactly bustling with JRPGs, leaving those who own just a Wii and a hankering for JRPGs with not many options, so that could entice some to give this a second look. That, along with the fact that the price point is a bit lower than some other games for the Wii, could help move some copies. That being said, there was also little advertising leading up to the release of this game, so it’s not likely many people have heard of it. As a result, some may not want to take a chance on something they’re unfamiliar with.
Story: Above Average
Graphics: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Good
Originality: Below Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
Arc Rise Fantasia comes with the the usual JRPG trimmings (both good and bad), it lasts a decent amount of time without dragging excessively, and the battle system is actually fun to play through. However, it doesn’t break any new ground, hits a number of RPG cliches, has shaky voice acting, and once you’ve beaten it, there’s not much reason to pick this up. Still, it’s not a bad choice if you’re in the mood for a JRPG.