One of my favourite genre of video games would have to be strategy RPGs. In Japan these games are fairly popular, but unfortunately for me very few of those titles ever reach Europe. I suppose I could import them, but I wouldn't be able to follow the story. I have barely mastered English so learning Japanese is out of the question.
I was therefore ecstatic to learn that Rising Star Games was bringing Luminous Arc 2 to our shores. If like me you own a Nintendo DS and like these type of games I strongly recommend you pick it up. It's one of those gems that doesn't get the attention it deserves in a market over saturated with movie licensed games and sport franchises.
The game takes place in the kingdom of Carnava where the shadow witch Fatima is on the rampage for reasons unknown. The player takes the role of a young knight named Roland who is sent to the magic academy, with his brother Rasche and childhood friend Rina, to seek aid from other witches in bringing a halt to the chaos Fatima is causing.
As the story progresses Roland's party recruits new members to his team including witches, knights and even a perverted artist who constantly gets smacked by the witches he ogles. The game has a good story that has a few twists and turns. During his travels Roland will have to contend with a bandit group who is assaulting witches, find out what Fatima's motives are and ultimately tackle a bigger threat coming from creatures known as beast fiends.
Players who have played games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea should feel right at home playing this game. You move along the world map watching story clips and buying equipment from shops. Not before long you will come across some hostiles and the fun can begin. Battles take place on a map broken up into a grid which is displayed using an isometric viewpoint. From your team you can pick up to a maximum of six characters to accomplish whatever objective the level demands. Normally you have to eliminate all the monsters or boss character, but there are some scenarios where you have to protect a friendly unit or fight your way through to the exit.
Hitting enemies, healing allies, casting buffs and slaying foes awards your characters experience points. Once they accumulate one hundred experience points they level up making them stronger and occasionally they will unlock new abilities. There are over fifteen characters in the game each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some melee characters fight at close range, others attack from a distance, there are a few support characters who buff allies and debuff enemies along with magic users who hit multiple targets with powerful spells.
As far as strategy RPGs go this one is fairly simple. I didn't have too much trouble getting through the game, but if you have problems with a particular stage it is always possible to go to the guild to take on optional missions to get stronger. These tasks allow you to level up your characters and claim rewards such as better weapons and armour.
The game lacks the complexity of Final Fantasy Tactics were you have the option to customize your units. You do however acquire items called Lapis seeds whenever you complete a mission and these can be used to personalise your army a little. Characters can carry up to three seeds which grant them certain bonuses. Some seeds boost a character's stats whilst others confer them with abilities that replenish their health or reduce the damage they take.
Strategy RPGs aren't known for having stellar graphics, but I have no complaints about the visuals. When the game starts up you are treated to a nice animated opening. The story is told using still pictures which are well drawn and are sure to appeal to fans of anime. The in game graphics are not too detailed as you have to squeeze a map into the small DS screen, but they are colourful and get the job done.
The game also does a good job in the sonics department. I enjoyed listening to the tunes on offer and was impressed by the amount of voice work they managed to squeeze into the DS cartridge. The voice actors all do a good job giving life to a story which blends touching moments with light hearted banter between the likeable cast.
You can find Luminous Arc 2 for just under thirty pounds which I think is good value for money. At the time of writing I have played it for seventy hours and still pop it into my DS from time to time as there is plenty of content to play. There are two endings to see and bonus material such as character profiles and artwork are unlocked upon completing the game. Those who have beaten the story multiple times can still tackle the optional side quest were you face high levelled Kopins who have infested the local hot springs.
I am pretty confident that lovers of strategy RPGs will enjoy this game. Even if you didn't like the first game I suggest you check it out as they have improved the clunky interface which plagued the first title. This time round there are no slowdowns, commands can be executed easily and information is displayed clearly on the handheld's two screens. Get this game now because you wouldn't want to disappoint the witches... get them mad and they may turn you into a frog (ribbet.)
Review originally posted on Ciao (July 2010)