When I first heard about Luminous Arc, I was immediately interested in learning more about the game prior to its release mostly because it was an SRPG; and as some who own a DS and are into RPGs may know, the DS is pretty thin when it comes to SRPGs. Advance Wars was the last SRPG to grace the Nintendo DS while the rest of the DS RPGs were pretty much action RPGs. My interest in Luminous Arc reached an all new height when I learned that Yasunori Mitsuda, the brilliant and talented video game music composer who blew many RPG fans away with his score to Chrono Trigger, was behind the game’s soundtrack. To my surprise, after having an extensive amount of time with the game itself, I’m glad to say the wait and interest I had in this game was well worth the warm and awesome reception it returned to me in the end.
Luminous Arc tells the story of Alf and his band of friends who are, by some wonderful twist of fate or perhaps unexpected coincidence, now poised unwillingly in a struggle of power between the Luminous Church and a witch named Vanessa who summons monsters to destroy towns and kill people in the process. The whole purpose behind this conflict involves Runes which have the power to make its user(s) possess stronger magic be omnipotent in more ways than one. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t dive too far into the game’s story; but considering how somewhat childish the story appears in context, childish in the sense that it seems a bit kiddy and mature at the same time, the game does pick up later on when you’ve acquired a better majority of your party members and learn more about what’s really going on and who’s really pulling the strings. A majority of the game’s main sequences are voiced with each character having their own voice while some other parts remain in text form. Every character also has their own battle quotes!
One of the things I found to be the best feature of Luminous Arc is how the game really does require you to make use of the stylus in battles. In typical SRPG fashion, each battle has a limit to how many characters you can take with you; at the beginning, save a few missions of course, you can use the few characters you have in each of the main battles. Afterwards when you’ve gathered more characters and have gone further into the story, those limits will start showing up in missions. Battles all take place on an isometric plane with monsters on one side and your team on the other, and movements and actions are all manipulated by you using the stylus. Advance Wars DS allowed you do use the stylus as well but was more fixated on using the D-pad to manipulate your course of action; in Luminous Arc, the use of the stylus is your means of manipulation. Sure you can change to using the D-pad by pressing select in battle or on the world map and use buttons to input commands, but using the stylus really does bring out the best in this game.
Of course, using the stylus has its fair share of problems. For starters, since there isn’t any way to change the camera angle at all, some areas that you can move to won’t readily be visible if there are a ton of characters and monsters obstructing your view of where you want your character to move. The same can be said about casting spells on enemies or allies; if you want to select an ally to cure that just so happens to be poised between an abundance of allies and enemies, you have to be really careful in how you point to that character with your stylus to ensure you do, in fact, select that one character. It gets annoying after a while because you seriously have to sit there with stylus in hand and try to find a way to select that particular character you want to heal or particular enemy you want to cast a spell on without selecting anyone else. Luckily a confirmation screen appears asking if you want to heal/cast a spell on said person. Battles flow in typical SRPG manner with characters being able to move as far as they can based on their level and movement number. As always, attacking from the sides or from behind is always the best way to go as it not only takes more damage but also increases the hit percentage.
The game is also pretty average when it comes to difficulty, and characters can easily level up. The best part about this game is you’re allowed to visit battle grounds you’ve once visited on the world map and replay those fights again and again to not only level up but also earn more gold; and since some SRPGs never really gave you that option to go back to non-story related battlefields and earn more gold and level up, this is a huge plus when considering how the game gets a bit more challenging later on. Each character can learn his or her own skills when levelling up; and one skill that’s pretty awesome for each character is called Flash Drive. In battle, underneath your character’s HP and MP will be another bar that says FP, which stands for Flash Points. You basically earn Flash Points by attacking and defeating enemies or letting enemies attack you. Once the Flash Point bar is full and your character knows a Flash Drive move, your character can execute a pretty heavy damage inflicting move! Party members can also do co-op Flash Drive attacks which is dependent on that character’s relationship to another character.
Oh, and Wi-Fi multiplayer is awesome. For the first time in what seems to be a pretty long time, an SRPG, a handheld SRPG at that, you can play online against other people! The way it works is pretty simple and virtually lag free (depending on where you are); once you’ve completed Chapter 13 in the game, the option for multiplayer will now be open in the game’s main menu. Simply choose the multiplayer option with the stylus, the upper most right option and then the Wi-Fi option when prompted, and the Wi-Fi menu, similar to that of Mario Kart DS, will appear. If you’re familiar with it, then regardless of not knowing Japanese, you should know what to do. For those that don’t, the options read as followed:
- Connect (1st option let’s you play with a friend who has the game & second option let’s you play with a random person who’s online…that means you’ll more than likely play someone from Japan who has level 70+ characters!)
- Friends (1st option let’s you view your friend’s list, 2nd option let’s you add a friend code, 3rd option let’s you view your personal friend code)
- Wi-Fi settings
Overall, though, Luminous Arc is a pretty average game that could have seen a bit more depth in story considering it was getting a bit interesting midway. It’s worth the import, though, if you’re looking for some good SRPG handheld fun that has online play.