Something I’ve been hooked on over the holidays was Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia. It’s made by Gust (the creators of the Atelier Iris series) and localized by NIS America. Originally NIS America was supposed to bring the game out in November, but they decided to take some extra time with it so it’s coming out in February. Anyways the game has a style similar to the Atelier Iris series, sprite graphics and semi classic RPG gameplay. Battles are slightly different from your traditional turn based system. You have a group of warriors in front who do melee damage and have basic skills like “Impulse” which does wind damage at the cost of 10% of your HP. In the back you have a Reyvateil who is sort of like a spell caster. In the beginning of battle you select a spell for her to “sing” (yes sing, but she doesn’t sing in the game). While she’s chanting a power meter comes up and she charges the attack. The two early Reyvateils, Aurica and Misha charge up giant pastel energy balls and hold their hands up as if they were Goku calling a Spirit bomb. So she’s sitting in the back charging and you’re fighting with Lyner (the hero more on him later) and Krusche a mechanic who attacks with a chainsaw. They don’t really do lots of damage, in fact their pretty much human shields to protect your Reyvateil who does the killing blow her song magic. At anytime you can press triangle to bring up your Reyvateil’s menu and make her unleash the massive energy ball. Your Reyvateil is the key to winning battles, especially boss ones, but there are tricks to the system. If you’re really fast you can make her rain weak energy blasts instead of fully charged ones to end battles quickly. The whole thing plays in pseudo real time sort of like the old school ATB battles in Final Fantasy VI.
Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia isn’t all about the battles, but since the system is unique I wanted to explain the video a little. The story begins with Lyner who is a loyal knight and he is in search of a way to stop viruses (not the biological kind, wolf like creatures who can phase in and out of reality) from taking over his home. When he goes to the lower world his eyes are opened to the plight and treatment of the Reyvateils who are used as human weapons. He’s your typical idealistic, “I’m going to save the world because it’s the right thing to do” hero. Now here’s where Ar Tonelico gets interesting, the supporting cast is integral to the game. Ar Toenlico goes beyond side quests to get to know the other characters, you actually dive into some of their minds to learn about them. It’s an interesting concept that gets you to know the characters on a much deeper level. Each Reyvateil has their own world in their mind known as a cosmosphere. When you explore it you find out what makes the character tick, what their hiding and about their inner thoughts. While in their world there are events to complete and if you successfully finish the bonus story segments you unlock new spells for your Reyvateil. Before you can go diving you have to spend time conversing by picking topics to talk about while at the inn resting. Topics are hidden around levels and indicated by a glowing sparkle. Where I am now I’ve only dove into the minds of the female Reyvateils, which made me realize that Ar Tonelico is a mash up of those Japanese dating sims and Gust’s Atelier Iris series. You’re not taking Misha or Aurica out for coffee, but you’re getting to know them as if you were. The result makes Ar Tonelico something fresh on the shelf and I’ve spent quite some time with it. I just hope the story goes somewhere, right now it’s at a dead end for the main plot.