An illness is infecting Metafalss, but it only affects Reyvateils, the songstress magicians in the world of Ar Tonelico. Cloche is the first Reyvateil we see in Ar Tonelico 2 and she also happens to be Princess of Metafalass . Lady Cloche gives a speech before we switch over to Croix, the game’s protagonist. Like Lyner before him Croix is a knight and a front line fighter.
Also like Ar Tonelico the combat system puts melee characters like Croix on the front lines and they have to defend the song magic casting Reyvateils from damage. However, battles in Ar Tonelico 2 are different with two distinct phases. Attacking in Ar Tonelico 2 brought back memories of Valkyrie Profile. Your two vanguards are controlled by mashing the X and Square to strike blows. In the defense phase the enemies attack and you hit square/X to the rhythm shown on a timing bar to lessen the damage.
Mashing works for random encounters early in the game, but later on you will want to pay attention to the emotion indicator in the bottom right hand corner. If the meter is pointing to the right your Reyvateils are in trouble and you need to “care” for them by holding right while attacking. If you want to be more offensive you can hold forward while attacking to give the burst meter a boost which leads to more powerful spells. Hold up while attacking to boost trust and your vanguard’s attack. Hold down to increase synchronization which can yield a special synchronization magic attack if both Reyvateils synch up. At the beginning of each round you can assign a spell for your Reyvateils to chant. Then in the heat of battle you can let the spell go by hitting circle. The most basic combo is dishing out some damage with your vanguards first, letting the spell charge up, and then finishing the attacking phase with spell magic. The system is pretty flexible with multiple characters to use in battle and different moves to connect.
After battle you’re rewarded with items for crafting and dive points. The dive points are used to enter Cosmospheres, a visual representation of a Reyvateil’s psyche. Cosmosphere’s take place on their own map (Luca’s is a cake) and have their own events focusing on the Reyvateil’s inner feelings. When you tackle mental blocks like Cloche’s fear of being herself the Reyvateils level up and get better spells.
Think that’s an unusual way to “level up”? Wait until you hear about the new bath system. Reyvateils relax by taking a warm bath that players configure. You choose where to place the Reyvateils and bath crystals to get them to interact on a strategy RPG like grid. Since the Reyvateils are drawn to the bath crystals like moths to a flame you can group them together by putting bath crystals next to other Reyvateils. When near each other they talk and have splash fights. All of this actually has results in combat. Group baths alter stats and boost the synchronization meter.
Somehow Gust and NIS America managed to have even more sexual innuendo in Ar Tonelico 2 than in the previous game. I think because of the dialogue Ar Tonelico 2’s story is hard to take seriously, but the visual novel meets RPG blend is still a fresh to play.
Images courtesy of NIS America.