Arc Rise Fantasia Playtest: A Flock Of Feldragons

By Ishaan . August 6, 2010 . 7:22pm

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Arc Rise Fantasia gets off to a rather unimpressive start, which is a pity because a game’s opening hours are when it makes its first and most memorable impression.

 

The story opens with a flock (?) of dragons soaring through the sky. Dozens of them…maybe hundreds. In Arc Rise’s world, these are named “Feldragons.” The Feldragons attack a flying vessel packed with soldiers. As the troopers brace themselves for battle, a lone young man steps forward to take on the first Feldragon in line all by himself. This is L’Arc Bright Lagoon, your initially uninspiring protagonist.

 

The game then seamlessly cuts to your first battle, which solely involves selecting the “Attack” command from the battle menu and watching L’Arc have at his opponent. Once you finish the Feldragon off, more appear, and L’Arc is knocked off the vessel to the ground below. Somehow — don’t ask — he survives, and the body of his now inert foe lands not far from him.

 

Feldragons have a built-in self-destruct mechanism called “Felburst.” It’s what you’d expect — when a Feldragon is killed, it explodes rather grandly, with a blast radius to be proud of. L’Arc is about to be caught in the explosion when a singing priestess appears and sends the Feldragon off peacefully through the power of her song.

 

This is Ryfia, a priestess from a far-off land who was separated from her people during a monster invasion. Ryfia and L’Arc share a brief introduction, following which the two set off for the town of Topazion, where L’Arc can submit his battle report to his superiors, and Ryfia can figure out how to get to where she wants to go.

 

Here’s the problem. The opening scene with the Feldragons looks entirely unimpressive, as it fails to convey any sense of magnificence or danger surrounding the creatures, when they’re clearly supposed to make an impression, judging by the game’s dialogue. You never really get a feel for how vicious they are or that it’s a big deal that L’Arc managed to take one down all by himself. It might be an unfair comparison to draw, but Monster Hunter Tri’s camera work and choreography when depicting its own beasts in CG form are vastly more impressive.

 

Similarly, the battle between L’Arc and the Feldragon as they both plummet to the ground below is entirely devoid of any sense of urgency or thrill.

 

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CG movies in Arc Rise, in general, are a little sloppy. Body language tends to be awkward and characters lack any sort of meaningful facial animation, which looks odd when you consider that the ingame cutscenes are slightly better animated in both regards. In recent months, the Internet has come down rather hard on Ignition Entertainment in anticipation of a botched localization, but Arc Rise doesn’t really need Ignition’s involvement to make a forgettable first impression.

 

That isn’t to say the localization is top-notch either. We won’t touch upon this too much, since this is a horse that has not only been flogged beyond death, it’s been zombie-fied, shot through the head by Leon S. Kennedy, and had an elevator dropped on top of it. Yes, the dialogue is awful. And yes, just as Ignition promised, you have the option to lower the volume of the voices or turn them off entirely.

 

Here’s the catch though. If you turn the voices off, it means you turn the voices off entirely…including in battles. (Not that the battle voices are any better, mind you) This means that every battle you partake in is going to consist of characters making a range of expressions and moving their lips, but no sound will ever come out. It…takes getting used to.

 

Something in particular that bothered me, personally, about the dialogue was the handling of Ryfia’s introduction. Ryfia speaks English perfectly, but given that she’s from a distant land, she doesn’t comprehend slang. This is understandable. However, Ryfia also doesn’t understand what a “girl” is, which struck me as extremely odd, since she doesn’t appear to be surprised by the existence of women other than herself when she and L’Arc reach Topazion.

 

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Once you get there, you run into Prince Alf, L’Arc’s childhood friend and, in a sense, his “employer.” The introduction of Alf makes L’Arc himself a little more memorable. The banter between them is enjoyable, even solely through text, and Arc Rise has a neat system where, every now and then, a little indicator will pop up where you can hit the L trigger (I played the game using the Gamecube controller) to initiate a conversation that reveals interesting bits of past information about the characters. This is one of my favourite features in the game.

 

After you rendezvous with Alf, the trio sets off for the town of Jada, which is where Ryfia was headed before she and her people were attacked and, coincidentally, where Alf has some business to attend to as well.

 

The trip to Jada is where you get your first real taste of Arc Rise’s battle system. The “Trinity Battle System” relies on making smart use of Action Points — a common pool of points shared across your party that lets you perform different actions in battle. For instance, defending requires 1 AP, while attacking would require 2 AP. While it doesn’t matter too much during the first few battles in the wild, as you get further in the game, learning to manage your AP so you can pull off the most efficient moves each turn is crucial. In addition, using magic in battle requires MP in addition to AP, which ultimately requires you to keep an eye on both.

 

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Magic use is flexible. You assign magic abilities to characters by fitting their weapons with elemental orbs. These orbs can be removed at any time outside of battles, so you’ll be able to swap movesets in and out as you please, which is great.

 

You can work a variety of combos into your regular attack moves as well. For instance, two characters casting the same spell on a single enemy consecutively will result in a “Tandem Sync.” The order in which characters — including enemies — will attack is displayed on the bottom-right of the screen, which allows you to set these combos up. Similarly, if affinity is high between any two characters, it could result in a free follow-up attack by the second character.

 

Also part of the battle functions are Excel Acts, which are special moves learnt seemingly randomly that do more damage than regular moves. These require AP and SP to pull off. In addition, you can assign tactics in battle for CPU-controlled characters, too.

 

While Arc Rise’s battle system is interesting at times, it does take some getting used to. The camera angle in battles sometimes makes it hard to figure out which direction to move the cursor in to target a particular enemy, which can get rather annoying. Most noticeable, however, is that when you’re done confirming your moves, the battle proceeds to play out all at once. It’s almost like watching an All-Out Attack from Persona, where characters on the screen — enemies included — clobber each other at the same time, which is supremely confusing to watch.

 

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The final important point to mention with regard to Arc Rise Fantasia’s battle system are the Rogress. Think of these as the game’s version of Summons or Espers. Using a Rogress requires RP. This is a rather slow-filling metre that can be sped up a tad by using elemental magic that corresponds to the Rogress you have equipped. Once your RP gauge is full, you’ll be presented with an opportunity to use your Rogress.

 

Arc Rise allows for weapon customization, too. Certain abilities in battle — both active and passive — are made available through weapons you have equipped. These are called Arm Forces. Using weapons long enough will allow you to free these abilities, in the form of different Weapon Pieces and you’ll then be able to share them with other members of your party by attaching a Weapon Piece from, say, Alf’s weapon to L’Arc’s or Ryfia’s.

 

Each weapon can only hold a certain number of Weapon Pieces. This is dictated by its Arm Force Frame (think of your inventory from Resident Evil 4). Filling up a weapon’s Arm Force Frame entirely will unlock that weapon’s Secret Arm Force.

 

Upon reaching Jada, the game’s cast widens a little, and the sequence of events that follow are where the game’s story really begins. You’re introduced to two new party members and you get to fight your first real boss, which is a tough battle indeed. It also reinforces the fact that Arc Rise Fantasia has close to no loading times, which is a fantastic technical feat.

 

I can’t say I’m going to see Arc Rise through to the end, but for now, I am interested enough to keep playing just a little bit longer to see what happens next. Some of the game’s older cast members like Serge and Leslie look interesting.


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  • MisterNiwa

    Hmm, I herd you can patch this game so it has Japanese Voice Overs…

    • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

      Flock what you herd!

    • http://twitter.com/The_9th_Sage Ian Chamberlin

      If you have access to the Japanese version of the game as well as the US (and some way of running homebrew), you could do whatever you want really. Not that I’m advocating piracy or telling anyone to do it, I’m just saying it’s very much possible (it’s definitely been done with other games before).

    • lostinblue

      Looked it up now, it seems like there isn’t a proper undub just yet.

      There’s a faulty one that keeps some of the english voices while in battle.

  • MrRobbyM

    “Ryfia and L’Arc share a brief introduction”

    We know all about that…

    • Aoshi00

      I used to think of Celine Dion whenever I hear the word Diva, now I think about Ryfia as well.. I actually bought this game a long time ago w/ the bonus soundtrack, but too lazy to play it. The Mitsuda music is okay, but nothing as epic as Chrono Trigger or Xenosaga Ep 1…

      • MrRobbyM

        Come to think of it…they kind of look alike. Maybe that explains the annoying accents?

  • http://twitter.com/The_9th_Sage Ian Chamberlin

    Hmm…I don’t know. I mean, the dialog is ‘eh’ but it sounds like maybe the combat makes up for it to a degree. Sad that Ignition doesn’t seem to put enough care into their work. I can only shake my head when I watch this video then think about a company like Xseed, or even Atlus, that does a pretty decent job with this kind of thing. I might pick it up if I can find it cheap (the game sounds decent, I like the sound of the battle system), but the bad voice acting is kind of a breaker for me.

  • mach

    Apparently, the issue with the English dub is that it was produced on the Japanese end, and in order for Ignition to license the game, they also had to license the dub along with it. Even if they just wanted to redub the game themselves with better actors, they still would’ve had to pay for the Japanese produced dub. In other words, getting a good English dub for this game meant they needed to pay for two complete productions, which was outside their price range (especially when one of those productions would never see the light of day).

    It was still cheap on their part, but I do understand why paying for two complete dubs might be unfeasible for a niche game like this.

    • WonderSteve

      If this is true, then I feel kind of sorry for Ignition.The Japanese industry wants to expand their market by selling more games in the West, but perhaps they need to do more research about the “west” first. At least know what is considered to be an acceptable dub.

    • http://honorless.net honorless

      Interesting. If so, I can’t help but wonder if the reason Ignition was able to underbid XSEED and get the project was because XSEED built in the cost of a re-dub.

      …That might have been a financial bullet dodged for XSEED. I can’t see this game doing well enough to justify that cost.

      • WonderSteve

        I think the game would do pretty good if they didn’t screw up on the dub. There isn’t much JRPG on the Wii. Who knows when we will see Xenoblade and the Last Story. Don’t even get me started on Tales of Graces.

        I originally have this pre-ordered couple of months ago, but canceled the order after listening to the dub. The dub quality is simply unacceptable by 2010 standards

  • Guest

    “It’s almost like watching an All-Out Attack from Persona, where characters on the screen — enemies included — clobber each other at the same time, which is supremely confusing to watch.”

    Supremely confusing…why? They provide you with a Turn overview on the bottom right so you know exactly what’s going to happen; it’s key to planning out your turns during boss fights.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      I know you can refer to the turn cards to plot out the battle. It’s just that it’s very hectic to watch everything happen all at once once you’ve selected your moves. A lot of the time, you can’t tell if your attacks are hitting the intended target or not (in cases where you aren’t sure which enemy you picked)

      Once you understand the battle system thoroughly, this isn’t a problem. But for those first couple hours when you’re coming to terms with the game, I didn’t find myself liking it very much. :)

      • Guest

        I get what you mean, but again, you can refer to the turn cards to see exactly which of the monsters you’re hitting.

        • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

          True, but I do feel it isn’t the most efficient or effective way to present that information. You shouldn’t have to look off to a small corner of the screen when what you need to know can be conveyed through the characters. It’s a question of making the system intuitive for players!

          • Guest

            Well that’s kinda like saying you shouldn’t have to look in the other corner of the screen to know your current AP – both of those pieces of the UI are there for a reason.

            The targeting cursor sticks to whatever monster you were attacking last, and you can browse through each target with ease just by scrolling through with the D-pad in one direction. Then you’ve got the end turn confirmation window double checking with you to make sure you’re doing what you want to do.

            I’m not exactly sure how much clearer it could be conveyed without resorting to a DQ-style combat log which would just be another corner to look at, or floating names like an MMO that would clog the screen up. Even if they tacked the letters that correspond to different monsters onto the Target info window, that’s still only slightly above the Turn overview (and a little higher if you scanned the target).

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Come on, you know that isn’t what I mean. I understand that the turn cards and the AP gauge both serve a purpose and referring to them to tell the order of actions and your remaining AP works just fine.

            The problem (for me) arises from things you can do with the characters themselves that the game chooses to pass off to other, less noticeable areas of the screen. If I want to know whether or not L’Arc attacked enemy A, B or C, I should be able to tell from watching his character model instead of having to look for a less obvious sign.

            Everything the game needed to make this possible is right there…it’s just that all the actions (including the enemies’s) play out at once, which is why it doesn’t work.

            It may sound nitpicky, but I do think the devil is in the details. I’d like to be able to highlight enemies quickly with the cursor, and not be in doubt of who I just targeted because sometimes, they tend to stand awfully close together.

            A simple solution could simply have been to let the actions play out one at a time with a button that lets you put things in fast-motion if you grow impatient.

  • EggmaniMN

    It’s really sad that Ignition ended up doing such a poor job where XSEED definitely would have done an excellent one. The actual story of the game is really good and the battle system is very fun. And the soundtrack is excellent. And the actual in-game animation is very good.

    Other than the voices it’s definitely one of the best RPGs of this generation.

  • Kris

    Sounds pretty dang average.
    Although L’Arc Bright Lagoon is the best ultra-generic JRPG main character name since Edge Maverick.

    • lostinblue

      At least he’s not whiny.

      The cast is likeable, and most JRPG’s are generic anyway. The “problem” is the voice dub, it’s lowering the pleasure people take out of the game everywhere, making them more prone to point out defects rather than throughfully enjoy and be immersed by the game.

    • Aoshi00

      Edgy and ReiRei sound cute though :)

  • Roses4Aria

    I’ve just reached Jada and so far I’m enjoying the game. Not on an epic level or anything, but just as a good way to pass some time. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting much to begin with so it doesn’t have to go far to exceed my expectations. Yeah, the voices are…bad, but I can tolerate them…I think.

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    The game has a really weak start, adding the “wtf” dubbing, is really easy to toss this game just by playing it 5 minutes, BUT! i dont recomend this!, the game gets really interesting after a while, also, as you gain more weapons and more party members, the cuztomization is really cool, and the battles suddenly became full of options to do.

    Also, one downside (to new rpg players) the bosses are too difficult at the beginning, i always beat them but i have to use all my freaking items to stay alive, pretty hardcore the first bosses xD, is kinda cool, but if i was just starting in the world of rpg it would turn me down (maybe i couldnt even beat ‘em)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sammy-Garner/100001015553430 Sammy Garner

    I just got the game an it really isn’t bad over all. The major needle stickin all of us is the VO but why cuddn’t they have done wut compile hearts did wit Agarest wars. kept the original VA and have subs. the battles r quick easy way 2 level up n it gets better imo after u reach Diamant.

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