When Luminous Arc came out it had the luxury of trudging new territory as one of the few tactical RPGs on the Nintendo DS. Now there is a strategy RPG flood with Final Fantasy Tactics A2, Disgaea DS, and Drone Tactics. The niche genre blew up on the DS which is great for strategy RPG fans, but this might leave Luminous Arc 2 in the dark.
The story starts when Roland, an optimistic knight in training, accidentally bonds with a Runic Engine. The device, still in testing, bestows Roland with a new power — getting “engaged” on the battlefield. Pick engage and an image of a female witch in a wedding dress flashes on both screens before Roland is empowered with an element for a few turns. This sounds like a funny way of powering Roland with new arts and flash drives (read: super moves), but in the world of Luminous Arc it makes sense.
Luminous Arc 2 is one part strategy RPG and one part visual novel. Like the first game you get to pick from a handful of party members and talk to them after battles. As Roland, you have to select what he says, and if you say the right thing your relationship is strengthened. In addition to talking to your comrades, there are story scenes, optional story scenes to find, and NPCs waiting to give you information in towns. Luminous Arc 2 has a lot of text. A tonne of text. Maybe it’s because only two lines are displayed at a time, but Luminous Arc 2 feels like a pocket novel. However, it doesn’t feel like your drowning in mythology or personal struggles. Like the previous game Luminous Arc 2 is lighthearted. Discussions often tangent to flirting and Rache’s difficulty getting along with witches. Since there are lots of side events to see you get to know the characters well, but not in a psychoanalytic way. You learn their favorite foods and little details you would read about in an art book.
The reward for paying attention and pouring attention on the same character is a boost in battle performance. Since you can’t change classes and abilities are automatically earned by leveling up character selection is the most important pre-battle strategy. Once your in battle your allies can get another bump up by utilizing drive points. You earn DP after each attack and once you collect 100 DP you can bump one of your arts up a notch. Drive points are essentially a flexible power boost that let players make the most out of their MP consuming arts abilities when they want to. However, drive points aren’t stored between battles so you either use them or lose them when the fight is finished. Monsters have drive points too, but it doesn’t look like your average death beetle is smart enough to use them. Although, some enemies like Josie, a flying cat familiar, are tricky to knockout. In one fight six party members are on a map with mini islands. They can’t walk in water so you have to jump between land. Josie, being a flying cat, can fly and hover on water tiles. When Josie was near death she started flying into the water which forced me to chase her and kept her alive for a few more rounds.
So, far my experience with Luminous Arc 2 has been a lot like any other strategy RPG, just with a lot more reading. The biggest change from the first game is probably the least sexy one to talk about too. Imageepoch’s game feels more balanced than other strategy RPGs. You’re not going to storm into battles with over leveled characters armed with tons of abilities and you won’t level up just by drinking potions in Luminous Arc 2. Since you can’t brute force your way through fights Luminous Arc 2 is slightly more cerebral and more tactical than the other strategy RPGs I played this year.
Images courtesy of Atlus.