Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: Luminous Arc

It's getting harder to buy used games. There was one game shop near the Kotsuki river on Tram street, but that was replaced by a cell phone store. So, the shop moved to the basement of Best Denki Electronics next door, before being cut in half and moved to their third floor. Then Edion bought out Best and completely rennovated everything into another cell phone shop. Along the way, Yamada Denki dumped their used section, too. Right now, the only places near me that sell used video games are Half Price Books (which has a very limited selection of Gameboy games), and Bic Camera. Bic's selection is bigger, but most of the Gameboy games are still in the $15 to $40 dollar range (a new game here can be as much as $60 to $80, depending on the title). Which means that I only buy games if they've really been discounted, or if I'm getting really desperate. Right around Christmas, I was getting desperate, and was flipping through the 900 yen bin ($10 USD) when I found a copy of Luminous Arc priced at $5.

LA came out in both Japan and the U.S. in 2007, and was followed by LA 2 in 2008 and 3 a year later. The original game isn't that bad, I guess, but it's a tactical role-playing game and I don't like TRPGs. Given the option, I prefer straight rpgs like Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross, but Bic didn't have anything like that in the bargain bin (mostly, it was cooking and story riddle games). Anyway, the point behind TRPs is that you're given a specific battle field and a set of characters to select from, and you have to meet the conditions for the goal. For LA, those conditions are pretty much "clean out the field". The story is purely linear, with 25 chapters. Each chapter has someone you're supposed to defeat, plus minions. In between, there are optional filler battles that can be used to raise money or level up, which is good in a sense, in that you can fight as much as you want in order to prepare for the stronger boss battles. But, the fields don't change and the minions always behave the same way each time. The game engine is limited, and it takes so long for each round to finish that the fighting gets boring after a while.

The game isn't necessarily turn based - each character has a speed value and the faster ones can take actions more often than the slower ones, but there's no skill on the player's part for positioning for an attack like there is in an rpg. You get 15 characters, who are all different types (fighters, magic users, healers), which gets expensive because each character uses a completely different weapon or set of armor than the others. You can have up to 8 characters in your team for battles, and they aren't permanently killed if they fall in a fight, which is good. As long as you keep them leveled up and healed, most battles aren't that difficult. The attacks are ok to watch, but the animations aren't as good as in FF. The game itself is a pretty quick play (maybe 24 hours start to finish), although there is a New Game + that lets you start over while keeping all your levels, money and equipment, plus opening up a new dungeon, which is good. Unfortunately, you only really need maybe 20% of anything in the game to beat the main story boss (you can do side quests for obtaining supplies to try making weapons upgrades, but the upgrades aren't worth it unless you want to enter the 20-level NG+ dungeon, and I'm still missing supporting supplies to do even one upgrade, so the only point to doing the side quests is if you like character development stories.)

The artwork is fine, and the story is interesting, at least. Your characters start out in a "garden" run by the church, where you've been raised as knights to track down and kill witches. As the plot unfolds, we learn that the church had collected known witch children and put them in the garden as part of an experiment to raise the old god, a consuming machine that exists only to devour the entire planet.

My biggest complaint with LA is that the touch screen controls are all screwed up. I tap on one button with the stylus, and the game activates something completely unrelated. There are some menu controls that can be activated by the hardware buttons, but all of the battle options require the use of the stylus and touch panel. The programmers should have never let the game go out without fixing that. Otherwise, at $5 USD it is a cheap way to kill time when you're waiting to get on the train to go to work in the morning.

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