Sunday, April 27, 2014

Game Review: Luminous Arc

SRPG; Nintendo DS; Image Epoch/Atlus; 2007
Ho there Hi there, a few things to talk about before we begin. For one, I've gotten a job, or at least I will as soon as all the paperwork is done. Unfortunately, it's only temp work but depending on how well I do I might find a more permanent placement. But even if that doesn't pan out, it's still work which means I get money for it and I have something to put on my work resume. Beyond that, James the Movie Reviewer (I didn't know there was only ONE person who reviews movies) has linked my review of Kill la Kill to the tail end of his review (as kind of a second opinion), so as gratitude here is a link to his review blog: J and J Productions. If you like my content... You'll probably like his more as he goes far more indepth and actually uses the conventional number scores as appose to my reliance on vaguely defined recommendations. Speaking of vaguely defined recommendations, it's time for another game review this time a little known game for the DS called Luminous Arc, a game who's most noteworthy aspect is how unnoteworthy it is. What do I mean by that? Well click that little "Full Review" link to find out.

I would apologize for the poor quality, but that's what animated cutscenes looked like on the DS.
A thousand years ago a massive war between witches and dragons nearly wiped out all life in the world, until the Luminous God descended to defeat the dragons and seal away the witches. After his task was done, God entered a deep sleep, and the Luminous Church was founded. Now a thousand years after God fell asleep, the witches that plagued humanity return, and disasters soon followed. In a place called the Ever Garden, a small group of children where raised to fight against the witches should they return. Raised by the church ever since he could remember, Alph holds the Luminous teachings close to his heart. That the witches must be condemned for there to be peace. But everything Alph knew to be true is shattered when he meets Lucia, a witch who wants peace but must kill God do achieve it. Are the witches truly evil? Is God truly good? Alph and his friends must find out if they want to Protect the Light, and Condemn the Dark.

If you start a drinking game for every cliche that Luminous Arc employs, then you will be plastered before the third fight of the game. The plot is pretty much the same as any other RPG that centers around a church, particularly a monotheistic church that is heavily inspired by Judeo-Christian teachings. You probably know every single plot twist that Luminous Arc will pull just from hearing the premise, and there lies it's biggest problem, neither the plot nor even the characters are anything special. It's not that it's bad, but it just is so amazingly unoriginal.

"Well IS IT!? IS IT OKAY!!??"
Luminous Arc is a Strategy RPG, and if looking at the screen shot above reminds you of Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics, then you are not the only one. A lot of LA's design and battle system is modeled heavily after those games. The progress through the game is an event to a battle to more events and then to the world map to move from previously visited locations and towns as well as your next destination. Event scenes are the sort of thing you usually see in a SRPG, just two static portraits of characters talking to each other in front of a backdrop. Throughout the game there are voice overs accompanying these events though they appear and disappear sporadically throughout these dialogue pieces. And while the voice acting isn't bad, it is by no means stellar hampered usually by the ho hum dialogue and low audio quality of the DS. Battles are everything you expect if you've ever played Tactics Ogre or Final Fantasy Tactics. Characters move on an isometric grid and are allowed one move and one action taken in either order to fell your foes. It is safe to say that, much like the story, the gameplay doesn't offer anything you haven't seen before. Everything in the battle system is well trodden territory, even the Flash Drive and Synergy special attacks are just variations on the Limit Break and Double Tech mechanics seen in Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger (though with Synergies massive requirements to preform they are more like your ultimate attacks than just Double Techs). However, though this is well traveled ground, Luminous Arc preforms well, although it is one of the most forgiving SRPGs I've played given the frequency of revive items and the fact that every character has FULL access to your entire inventory and Leveling up means full HP and MP. Luminous Arc also features three different control schemes which are two different stylus controls (for right and left handed people) and traditional button controls, though you'd have to switch between them either through the Options menu or by pressing the Select button. It is also has a multiplayer battle system via wireless internet; however, I have no means of testing this element because my DS can't connect to my wireless router and because given the game's age I'm pretty sure there isn't anyone else online looking for matches.

Yes, look for the landmark of the two giant swords.
Unfortunately the game has it's share of problems, and rather big ones at that. First of all, Luminous Arc is plagued with several graphical and auditory glitches. Every now and then there is a line that streaks across the screen and whenever an ally dies his or her death quote skips a bit near the beginning. Another glitch happens during every conversation event where a character (particularly characters with wide portraits like Kai) is panned off screen so that they can be replaced by the next person talking, you can see a bit of them pan back on screen before the portrait is replaced by the new speaker. Spoken dialogue scenes have a few weird goings on, as characters talk, they often times talk pass the dialogue box's text and the game waits a while before auto-advancing that particular dialogue box. There is also one moment where the text spilled outside of the dialogue box. Now, none of these problems are gamebreaking in the least, but they all contribute to make Luminous Arc feel like an unfinished product. Luminous Arc has bigger problems than that. Each control scheme has it's share of problems, with the D-pad and Buttons scheme every time you cancel out of a choice the cursor returns to it's neutral position, meaning if you accidentally select the spell below the spell you want then when you cancel back you have to scroll the cursor back down to the one you want. This is even worse when targeting with a long range attack, say you want to compare the damage you will do between two adjacent targets, well when you cancel out of one of the targets, the cursor moves ALL THE WAY BACK TO YOU CHARACTER. This might not seem like such a big deal but when you have to do this several times during one battle, it adds up rather quickly. The stylus controls don't far much better, yes it is faster since you don't have to scroll the cursor all over the place, but the accuracy of the touch screen is questionable at times, particularly when you want a square that is at a lower elevation than the square in front of it, or when you have several characters are packed together. Then you start running into problems where you keep selecting the people you don't want to select and it becomes a chore trying to find the one schmuck you want to club. There are other problems with the game's design, for one there is at most only 8 enemies you have to fight, and you can deploy 8 characters. This means that you never fight overwhelming forces. Later fights are only harder because the enemies you fight are at higher levels, making some fights feel duller than they really should be. Also when deploying your characters, you have very little control over how they are deployed. You don't see a map and you can move them freely so that your fighters are in front while your mages are in the back. Instead you are just told that the order you select your character determine where they are in the battlefield with the guys you select first usually being the guys closest to the enemy... usually.

This game is a hard game to sell because it's not a bad game, not by any stretch of the imagination, but by the same token it is not a great game. Everything in Luminious Arc is stuff you've seen before, but, excusing a few moments of poor craftsmanship and questionable design choices, it is still a fun game to play through. Maybe not the most long lasting game (even with moderate grinding I beat the game in around 20 hours, incredibly short for a SRPG), but a fun one. However, since it is so generic it may have less fun-factor than other SRPGs that seem to have more heart to them, which puts Luminous Arc in a very awkward position between not bad enough to earn a Limited Recommendation, but still hard to give a solid Recommendation. In the end I favored the good parts of the game, so if you love SRPGs and want a small non-intrusive game to pass the time, you might want to try out Luminous Arc: It's just like every other SRPG out there... huh... I'm not sure if that is a compliment or not.

Anyway, Until next time.

-Crescent, Of course there is a hot spring episode.

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