Review by Psalm51
"I hate you, I hate you..."
Let me say outright that Luminous Arc is a hateful game. Look at the final paragraph and you will see that this fact doesn't affect my aggregate score, but Luminous Arc is truly a hateful game. Let me be more specific... Luminous Arc is hateful towards the church. This theme occurs occasionally in Japanese games and is seen in all its glory in Grandia 2. This is a brave move by developers Image Epoch but one that is risky. To attribute the (game) worlds woes to the church and to say that the good guys are the witches is novel. As mentioned, the same thing happens in Grandia 2, where the church (all faiths?) is depicted as corrupt and that humans, if left to their own devices, can fashion their own salvation. This concept makes me laugh as the thought of mankind fighting out of a wet paper bag seems a big enough task, let alone fashion their own salvation. Anyway, I'm not about to get all preachy but, suffice it to say, Luminous Arc is a hateful game...
Introduction - Besides the hardcore few, has anyone else completed Final Fantasy Tactics Advance? I've tried to "get into" FFTA twice and even invested thirty hours at one attempt, but I lost interest. The juxtaposition of a job system and main game thread messed with my mind. Also, in battles, I simply got tired of my party missing hits. This happened waay too often. I'm guessing that I will have another try at the game sometime; maybe. Luminous Arc takes the FFTA formula; tightens it up and gives it a wild crazy story and bingo...you have a game that you actually want to finish. It is not without its faults, but more on that later. It is also almost entirely linear, with random battles that you can choose to fight or pass by (you really don't want to miss too many.) So, if you liked FFTA (actually, Final Fantasy Tactics on any console) then you will probably like Luminous Arc.
Gameplay - 7 out of 10. Both Grandia 2 and FFTA are turn-based battling games and so is Luminous Arc. You start with a party of weaklings and build and buff them up until they can take on mobs of monsters and the bosses. Shopping and an incredibly strong story hold the rest of the game together and that's pretty much it. Their are a wide variety of attacks but the developers give you so much choice that it is easy to get confused. Magic attacks are supplemented with Flash Drive attacks that everyone can use, but it can get messy. Now for the bad stuff... Oddly, for a game which is technically so good (like most games from Japan) there is slow-down on a few of the maps. Also, some of the maps are cramped and it can be hard to carry out area attacks without causing friendly-fire damage. The pirate ship random battle comes to mind, when I KO'd two of my troops in friendly-fire incidents. For a cutesy game, with heroines of ample bust, the game can occasionally be brutal. Levelling-up is encouraged and the only way to get the money to buy the better weapons and armour is by fighting battles (lots of them.) Oddly also, the game can misinterpret stylus entries at the main menu. Final comment here goes to the pair bonding which features late game. This is a waste. of. time.
Story - 8 out of 10. There is one wacked-out, super crazy story in Luminous Arc. Stories in games can often truly be second rate, but there is nothing wrong with the story in Luminous Arc. Sure, it's a chase-me, chase-me story of good versus evil, but it is dressed up in the best (story) clothes around. IMHO, Japanese developers seem to come up with good stories for their console games and the story in Luminous Arc is no exception. I think that there is simply too much dialogue for most gamers, but I liked it. The same "problem " occurs in Golden Sun: Dark Dawn on the DS and this aspect alone split the gaming community. So, if you think that long-winded dialogue is too much for you, then you might want to give this game a miss. The ending is also something of a disappointment, with two tough battles (no intermission save!) followed by an ocean of dialogue...and I wasn't even sure the story had really come to an end. I was expecting a nice ending FMV, to supplement to great intro FMV, but sadly, there was no ending FMV either!
Graphics/Sound - 8.5 out of 10. I was impressed to find some decent voice acting in this game. Not much of the dialogue is voiced but that which is, really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The voice actors seemed to try hard and credit to them for coming across at least as well as some low-budget TV show stars. The music is well done too, with a variety of mood music and battle themes encountered along the way. As mentioned above, there are a few problems with the technical side of the game although the graphics themselves are of a high standard. The intro FMV is much better than those usually found on games on the DS, so good job done here by Image Epoch.
Play Time/Replayability - 8 out of 10. How long is a piece of string? Well...how long is it? For me, game play time falls into the realm of boasting and I wonder if some folk simply lie with the play times they report. For me, Luminous Arc is a solid 35-45 hour game. I like to buy the best armour and weapons and fight the random battles to level up my weak team members, so you can see that I might take twice as long to complete this game as others might take. Interesting point...The save that was on the cartridge when I bought the game (second hand, obviously) was for level nineteen of twenty five and the game time recorded on that save was thirteen hours. I'm guessing that you can complete this game in less that twenty (recorded) hours but I wonder how many re-trys you will have for the tougher battles. Ply it again? Probably not as there is a sequel out and the linear nature of the game means that there is not as much variety here as you would initially think.
Final Recommendation - 8 out of 10. For a hateful game that openly copies the Final Fantasy tactics formula, Luminous Arc is a good game. In fact, it comes close to being a great game, but a few things hold it back. Technical problems are not numerous enough to spoil the experience but they can frustrate. The dialogue goes on, and on, and on...but some folk like that. The linear non-branching nature of the story/battles means that you are unlikely to be tempted to play the game again, but is that really a problem? The ending is tortuous and anti-climactic, but how many folk get to the end of games anyway? For myself, one good playthrough is what I am looking for and Luminous Arc serves that up nicely. The game won't stay in my collection but I will look forward to playing Luminous Arc 2 sometime. So, if you liked but never finished FFTA, you will probably love this game. Just watch out for enemy flash-drive (magic) attacks...boy do they hurt!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/25/11
Game Release: Luminous Arc (EU, 10/19/07)
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