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Nintendo DS Video Game Review: Luminous Arc

“A Japanese anime-style tactical RPG game with a fun and engaging storyline but with an average at best gameplay. Still, one of the more interesting tactical RPG games on the Nintendo DS”

TITLE: Luminous Arc (ルミナスアーク)

DEVELOPER: Marvelous Interactive

PUBLISHED BY: ATLUS

CONSOLE: Nintendo DS

RATING: T for TEEN – Alcohol reference, language, mild fantasy violence, suggestive themes

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Protect the Light, Condemn the Dark!

A millennium of peace is about to be torn asunder by the spread of darkness. A war with the witches 1,000 years ago nearly destroyed the planet and now they have returned. Character designs by Kaito Shibano, music from Yasunori Mitsuda and solid storylines combine to give tactical RPG fans the kind of portable gaming experience they’ve been craving!

I have to admit that ever since playing “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Disgaea” on the Sony PSP, I’ve been purchasing nearly every Japanese strategy/tactical RPG that has come out for all the consoles and I realize that there some gems and there are some clunkers.

For many years, I avoided the anything tactical or strategy-based RPG to come out. But since playing these games, I’ve been like fanboy-ish and purchasing not just the Japanese games but even going back and purchasing hits on the PC of U.S. games.

l I really love the strategy and the challenge (and thrill) of beating a difficult group of enemies and then enjoying the various systems, may it be weapon or armor-based, financial base… you name, I’ll enjoy it my own way. And balance that with an engaging storyline and I’m all up for it.

With Atlus announcing the second “Luminous Arc” by Marvelous Entertainment to be released in 2008 in the US, I figured that I better kick things into gear with the first game, which I bought when it first came out.

Since its release, I have been level grinding for many, many, many hours (I tend to focus this style of gameplay with RPG’s) before getting into full-story mode.

The main storyline revolves around the Garden Children. A group of orphans trained by the Arc Knight Heath to fight monsters and follow their goal to condemn the witches who have appeared in the world after being sealed for a thousand years.

As the Church prepares battle, the Garden Children prepare to battle with the witches. The Garden Children are:

Alph: The leader of the Garden Children and dedicated to the goals of the Church and follows the footsteps of Heath. Fights with a sword and uses rifle-based skills.

Theo: Alph’s younger brother. A bit naive and a young kid but excellent with a bow and arrow.

Leon: The oldest member, a bit cocky and the guy who gets all the girls, with the exception of Garden Children member, Cecille. Uses a sword but is very powerful and like his father “The Lion King”, has some really cool skills.

Cecille: A priestess dedicated to the church. The healer.

Saki: A ninja who collects intelligence data. Very professional and mature. Uses various magical, skill attacks.

Nikolai: Loves Cecille but infatuated by witches. Gets on the nerves of the Garden Children but joins to offer his knowledge on witches. Has the ability to improve stats of members during battle and able to do long distance attacks.

And of course, these are just a few of the characters that you get to play. As you progress through the game, you meet various characters who you get to control and each have their own cool, special ways of attacking.

So, the many characters involved definitely enhances the game as well.

Each character and witch also opens up a special attack called “Flash Drive”. You have a meter and when a character does a certain action (like increasing tech or speed during battle), your meter goes up and you unleash a powerful attack or cause status ailments to enemies.

Assigned to help the Garden Children is a maid named Lucia who Alph finds out is a witch and encounters with other witches. But what happens when the Garden Children find out that like humans, not all witches are evil? What will happen when the Church forces the group to continue with their goal to eliminate the witches? Will Alph and team follow or will they end up going against the church that raised them?

GAMEPLAY:

Similar to other JRPG tactical games, the battlefield shows enemies and when it’s your turn, using that character you move (as far as that character can go) and plan which direction they are going to go and assign your 5-8 characters to that direction. Have them use an action to battle or use magical skills or to heal.

Throughout the game, there is a storyline which allows you to shop for better weapons, armor and accessories. Or talk with various people and possibly get more items. Also, a library with detail from the witch or church perspective of the battle between the two.

Shown is a map where you can battle in certain areas (aka keep level grinding over and over) and go to the next village for which the next storyline begins.

After each battle, you can talk to a member of the team and build a relationship and get “Philia” points and after each battle is a short story titled “Kopin”. Mysterious creatures that live with witches. Touch the screen and certain things may happen.

Then there is Vitae – Appraisal and Imbuing. Vitae are stones that have the power of the Rune and you can add these stones to weapons or armor to strengthen effects and abilities.

MULTIPLAYER BATTLES: You can do multiplayer battles with another player that has a “Luminous Arc” cartridge and participate in battles with up to eight units. This will open once reaching Chapter 13.

EXTRA DUNGEON: A hidden extra dungeon is available but is not relevant to the storyline.

NEW GAME +: After finishing the game, everything can be carried over to a new game and this is for those who want to get better intermission screens with the characters and earn more Philia points

CONTROLS:

With your stylus, you can assign where your characters go. The only problem that I found is that you can’t rotate the battle screen. You can move up, left, down and right but when monsters and your team are together. Because you can’t rotate, selecting that enemy during battle becomes cumbersome and you may end up selecting your own character that will get the brunt of a hit or magical spell.

So, because of that…. “Save often”.

And of course, selecting the actions, skills, magic, flash drive or using an item during battle.

GRAPHICS:

The anime-style illustrations are pretty cool with character designs by Shibano Kaito. known for his work on PC games and trading cards. Cool to see the animated opening sequence. The cut-scenes are not animated but various illustrated still shots. The in-game battle are fine for a tactical RPG, nothing major. The use of the “flash drive” shows an animated sequence but nothing super.

All in all, I really enjoyed the character designs for “Luminous Arc” and Shibano’s artwork is just beautiful to look at.

AUDIO:

When I first started the game, it was cool to get the J-Pop theme at the beginning and then to find out that many of the cut-scenes include full audio. That was pretty cool!

The audio featured is in English. That would have been cool if the Japanese audio was included but with the amount of dialogue included, not sure if it could all fit in a DS flash card.

OVERALL:

So, far I’m halfway through the game. I think that perhaps I’ve spent too much time level grinding because the enemies are fairly easy for me to beat. One or two-hits and they are dead and really, there is no really strategy like I had in other tactical RPG games.

I just go all-offensive and really never had to use any defensive measures. Hopefully, things change as I further progress but without any real strategy at this time, the game is too easy and cumbersome.

If anything, the storyline and the characters are engaging and so far has kept me in. I really like the storyline and the variety of characters introduced, that will join your team.

All in all, I have been enjoying “Luminous Arc”. It’s not a deep storyline but I like the fact that it has a fun, humorous and lighthearted storyline but as you progress, you can tell things are getting darker.

I like the fact that you get more and more people with their own skills to join your team but I felt so much time was taken to level grinding and I’m a patient man but I feel like my patience of level grinding was starting to wear thin.

If anything, the engaging storyline, the ability to develop relationships (or stronger friendships) with your teammates depending on your answer is pretty cool.

But so far, so good. A bit easy so far but I think things should get a bit more challenging. The controls (of selecting an enemy when it’s populated with a lot of enemies or your own people was the only problem. But very minor.

All in all, the overall gameplay for “Luminous Arc” is enjoyable, not in the same level as “Final Fantasy Tactics” or “Disgaea” but still quite fun.

I will have a more in-depth review after I complete the game.

+ Many cool characters, unique storyline, cool attacks

+ You meet many characters who you can play as the game progresses.

+ Audio during most of the cut-scenes

+ Definitely cool for additional gameplay for multiplayer or after you beat the game

– Minor control issues

– Not much strategy as I would of hoped. The game is fairly easy if you are a level grinder but probably challenging if you don’t put time into level grinding.

– Level grinding is tedious because you literally play the same map, same enemies, same positions each time.

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