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PS2 Video Game Review: Ar Tonelico – Melody of Elemia (アルトネリコ 世界の終わりで詩い続ける)

A combination of what you enjoy from Japanese RPG’s, GUST’s alchemy for weapon and armor building and Japanese dating simulation and to add the Japanese drama of three girls liking one guy. Definitely a Japanese RPG that impressed me from beginning to end. Highly recommended!

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Ar Tonelico – Melody of Elemia

PLATFORM: Sony PS2

COMPANY: GUST/NIS America

It has been a long while since I felt captivated by an RPG (Role Playing Game). With so much focused on next gen graphics and who will make what on which console, I could care less. For me, it’s all about game play and I have been looking towards whatever was coming out from NIS America and Atlus because I’ve been able to find and play quite a few gems from these companies.

For “Ar Tonelico”, I know that many have felt that GUST Incorporated and Banpresto have made a very cool game and to tell you the truth, I’ve never watched the anime, read the graphic novels. I knew nothing but the fact that there was an expensive boxed game sitting on the shelf at my local Gamestop that was evoking the “buy me” subliminal message with that cool, artistic cover and that it comes with a 52-page hardcover artbook and more.

But I wanted to play this PS2 game and quench the RPG doldrum I have had of late. Wanting a story that I can enjoy and gameplay I can love, it’s safe to say that I agree with those who have had found something special with “Ar Tonelico”. 42 hours put into the game and completing it, I can safely say that I enjoyed it a lot!

What is this game about?

The game centers around a headstrong Knight of Elemia named Lyner Barsett. Viruses are attacking his home of Platina and to rid of them, he is sent on a mission to search for the hymn crystal.

Similar to other Japanese RPG’s, you go to other villages/places and meet other people who join you on your mission. You have Jack, the wanderer with an artificial arm with a machine gun in place. Krusche, a grathmeld engineer who utilizes a chain saw as a weapon and Radolf, the warrior priest and many others you will meet throughout the game.

But the characters you will be communicating with the most are the three Reyvateils.

Along the way you meet several female Reyvateil’s (human or androids that have the power of “song magic” – think white mage and black mage in one. The power to heal and the power to be destructive) who start to develop a crush towards Lyner.

You meet Aurica, a human Reyvateil who is shy, a loner and always sad. Can Lyner find out why she is that way and help her become a brave and happy Reyvateil?

Then there is Misha, a pure blood Reyvateil who for some reason is as old as Lyner but has the body of a young girl. Why is that and why does she seem to know Lyner really well?

And then there is Shurelia. A Reyvateil who is the true warrior of Platina. What happens when the warrior who knows only of duty, wants to become like Misha and Aurica and starts to develop emotions?

Can Lyner help these three? And what Japanese RPG (that is like an anime) is complete, without the love triangle… or in this case love square?

It’s obvious that “Ar Tonelico” has an interesting storyline but what separates this game from other RPG’s is that it mixes so many types of video game genres popular in Japan to this RPG.

Grathmelding – Grathmelding is like alchemy. Throughout the game you find recipe cards which allow you to obtain the things needed to make a weapon, equipment or accessory through battles and searching a whole area thoroughly. Also, depending on what grade the items are in, depends on how powerful your weapon, armor, accessory will be. Don’t be surprised if you start spending hours trying to make all your items S-Grade.

The Dating Simulator (DIVING) – The female Reyvateils (Misha, Aurica and Shurelia) have a cosmophere which you can learn about their emotions which are their own persona. Each Reyvateil has different levels of emotions which you can see different versions of Aurica, Misha and Shurelia in forms such as “Demon Misha” (negative emotions), “Shinobi Misha” (overprotective Misha), “Aurica in bathrobe” (seductive Aurica who doesn’t want to be left alone), etc.

To visit the cosmophere, you will need to dive but to dive, you will need to collect topics by finding them in different areas or shops, grathmelding. In other words, finding ways to develop conversation and communication for the person to open up to you emotionally.

The more topics you collect, the more discussions and by that, it allows you further progress in learning more about the person and diving into their cosmophere. By completing a cosmophere, you obtain more powerful star magic and new costumes for your Reyvateil.

What is wonderful about the cosmophere is that more storylines are introduced outside of the RPG main story and it works very well. It actually enhances the enjoyability of “Ar Tonelico”.

Sexual Innuendo – As you get to know each Reyvateil, you can install on them. Installing is equipping their star magic with more destructive components. The way it’s presented in dialogue is like two virgins going at it for the first time. Example: “I only want to do it with you”, “I heard it hurts for the first time”, “Install right above my breasts”… You get the picture.

The storyline of “Ar Tonelico” is awesome and is broken into three phases. What’s surprising is after you beat the second stage, you can end it as is and feel you have beaten the game. But depending on your answer, answer right and you get the third phase (quite long too).

This is where things get a bit interesting is because you meet so many interesting characters, by entering Misha and Aurica’s cosmophere and installing them, you start wanting to have your character be with one of the girls. That is until the third phase and Shurelia is now added to the mix.

Without spoiling the main story and the relationship storyline, I will say that in the end, Lyner will need to choose which girl to be with and depending on what you select, you get a different ending. What makes it difficult is that for each phase, you invest so much time developing that bond with each Reyvateil. But you can tell that as each woman takes a liking to you, like any anime storyline like this, you know there has to be a conclusion.

TOO EASY?: This is where the game may take a hit from RPG fans. The battles are too easy. Because the Reyvateil’s are so destructive and powerful in healing, the game is not very challenging (until the final boss). Most RPG gamers build on their money to purchase potions (medicine) and the medicine alone gives you a lot of health back. Battles are necessary to build DP (points needed in cosmophere mode), obtaining items or money. I literally spent hours just getting enough DP and maxing out revive potions and medicine.

IS IT GOOD FOR BUSY PEOPLE? This game is for the fact that it’s easy, save areas are common and you are literally spending more time grathmelding or fighting battles to obtain more money for the cosmophere or stocking up on accesories.

REPLAY VALUE? If you are a completist, there are recipes and magic that you may want to obtain to get 100%. There is also card collecting which give you special items. And with those cards costing over a million in money. You could be fighting for a long time or grathmelding and selling items to obtain those.

If you enjoy anime, you will enjoy “Ar Tonelico”. Despite being 2D and not 3D, I could care less. It’s a very charming game that incorporates cool cut scenes and it may not be technologically spiffy but I enjoyed the execution. The storyline is the strongest point of this game and the music is really different compared to other Japanese RPG’s. It had that “Macross Plus” music vibe and speaking of Macross, I dig the music being used as weapon theme.

As for voice acting, it’s OK on both ends. The women sound great but the men… sometimes you can’t tell who’s who talking. But nevertheless, I’m stoked they gave gamers the chance to select English or Japanese voice acting. There is quite a bit of dialogue in the game but most are done during cut scenes and cosmophere scenes.

NEGATIVE FACTOR: Graphic hounds will diss the graphics of being old school. Those wanting difficult battles will hate how easy the game is.

Because I enjoy Japanese video gaming, the combination of the RPG experience, enjoyable storyline with multiple enjoyable storylines because of the cosmophere for Aurica, Misha and Shuleria is just an added bonus. Because the storyline was so exciting, I didn’t mind that the game was easy. I also found the grathmelding to be fun and just trying to create powerful weapons and armor was actually very fun.

But going back to the storyline, you become emotionally invested somewhat. Mainly because you would like to see Lyner get with one of the girls. It’s so unique to have these different storylines but the game manages to blend them well.

My judgment is to highly recommend this game. Because the game is now delisted, I think like some Atlus and NIS America games, this is one special Japanese RPG that may be one of the rare ones to find and wouldn’t be surprised if the price goes up. So, if you see it on your store shelf… Buy it!

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