* Prices may differ from that shown
As you have probably guessed by now I have somewhat of a weakness for RPG's, particularly on the DS and the PS2, and Luminous Arc is no exception to the rule. It's one of those games that yet again I picked up due to the fact that the cover intrigued me and it seemed like it could be entertaining. I won't say that I was immediately hooked, or that it took over my life like some games have a habit of doing but it was quite a cute, charming game that was entertaining to play. Which to be fair is all you really need in a game.
You are playing as a group called the 'Garden's Children' who are fighting alongside the church of Luminous in a bid to rid the world of the witches, who the church claims are out to destroy the world. They claim that the recent monster boom has been caused by the witches, and if something isn't done about it then the problems will only multiply. You note how I'm using the word 'claim' a lot? Well, there's a reason for that. You see, the God which the Luminous church is worshipping is kind of a centuries old, humongous monster which the witches sealed up 1000 years ago, and it's main objective is to break its chains and eat the planet. So, we suddenly have a minor problem with following the orders of the Luminous church and so our rag tag team of heroes turn into heretics in a sudden mad dash to save the world from their own masters. Fun times, eh?
Your characters are somewhat stereotypical to the standard RPG experience; you have Alph a rifle wielding youngster with a wacky hairdo, Theo his younger and cute looking brother, Heath the experienced lance man who is teaching them although he can't be more than thirty himself, Cecille the irritating pious cleric and Leon a talented swordsman is most definitely a ladies man. Soon after the witches come in to play and everything gets interesting. The game is actually very clever in fully developing the characters motivations and experiences meaning that you actually seem to get to know each character and understand them.
The story line is actually quite compelling and you do want to keep on going to find out what happens next.
Luminous Arc fits solidly into the strategy RPG genre; the plot moves through fairly quickly and before each battle there is a short bit of dialogue to move you through. You have the choice of shopping for more equipment, talking to the three characters available for that section of the game or reading in the library and then there is the 'advance plot' button. This means that you have the chance to mess around for as long as you want before being forced into the next section of the story. My only issue would be that you have no opportunity to explore the town or the world map, you have very limited options for what you can do if you are not battling and I quite like a much larger RPG experience where I can actually wander around towns, talk to random people and generally mess around. It makes it seem more immersive in a way.
Once you've advanced the story this is then followed by a turn based battle on a grid based map. You see your characters from a birds eye view and you are allowed up to eight characters on the map during any one battle. From that point onwards you move your characters to attack the enemy with each character having different strengths and weaknesses. As you go through the game the battles become faster paced with you having to move right from the start to get your characters out of danger, and there is always the strategic aspect of where to place your characters to maximise their attacking or healing capacities.
If you attack an enemy from the side that is stronger than face on, and if you attack them from the back that is stronger still but it must always be remembered that the same rule applies to you. Each move that you do will increase your characters Flash Drive, which if you have played any Final Fantasy is very similar to the Limit Break - you get it up to maximum and you can unleash a much stronger attack with the character. This is quite a nice touch, but possibly the most intriguing touch which makes the strategy more interesting is the levelling up system. All characters level up after they have received 100 experience points and at the level up they recover full Health points and Magic points. This doesn't sound too extreme, but it's unusual in games like this and it allows you to have much more flexibility in moving characters into risky situations because if you judge it right then you will be able to time a level up, but if you judge it wrong your character will die. Likewise it gives you a certain amount of freedom on who to level up as killing an enemy gets you more experience than just hurting an enemy, so if you pick which character will make the all important blow well it can make a massive difference in terms of your party.
You always have the opportunity to go looking for random skirmishes (not unlike Fire Emblems set up if you've played that), but you are limited to the places on the map which are marked. There's no exploration between areas, you just move along the lines to the next town or battle that is marked. It isn't just this game that does this, it has become increasingly common, again Fire Emblem is a good example, but that doesn't stop it being irritating.
The other irritation in game play would be the controls which are a pain in the proverbial backside until you manually change it to allow you to use the buttons instead of the touch screen. The touch screen controls just aren't responsive enough and either doesn't register what you are trying to do or moves your character to an adjoining square. This is kind of an annoying fault in what I would otherwise say is solid gameplay.
The graphics are pretty. They are done in anime style and the characters are very well drawn. The settings for the battles are varied according to where you are at any given point and the towns (well, what you can see of them) are also nicely drawn. There's nothing particularly special, but there's nothing to moan about either.
In terms of sound the game does quite impressively for a DS game. The background track isn't particularly irritating (coming from someone who hates computer game music that is about as complementary as I can bring myself to get.) However, the voice over's for the characters are well acted for the most part, there are one or two over acted, irritating characters but they don't make too much of a difference to the enjoyment of the game. I did quite like the addition of the little voices in battle which I wouldn't have noted had I not been forced to turn the sound on the review it! When your character is about to attack or is very low on health they come out with personalised lines which is to be fair quite a nifty addition...not enough to make me keep the sound on though.
Again, having no friends I've had to read up on the multiplayer capacity. It appears that it's not particularly bad but again nothing stunning. You receive the ability to play multi-player after chapter 13 and then you can pit your teams against another person in real life. The main issue with this it appears is that because you can't customise your characters you are pitting identical sides against each other and as there is no handicap function if they're higher levels then you're scuppered to begin with.
Overall this is a very enjoyable game that should easily keep you occupied for around 25 hours, more if you spend a lot of time finding random battles to fight and getting the other characters to their full heart bar (there are intercessions after each battle and if you say the right thing the character likes you more which ends up giving you a nice cut scene eventually). There's also really cute cut scenes with a very wierd cat/blob thing called Kopin after each battle which really do add an extra level of amusement and entertainment...they're very odd and somewhat impossible to explain but so cute! This is a good, solid game with quite an original plot (even if it does still rely on kids with supremely strange hair), battles which keep you interested and are amusing to play and overall is a nice collection to any RPG fans collection.
It has its faults, but what game doesn't. And once you change the ridiculous stylus controls so that you can use the D-pad the game in intuitive and fairly instinctive. It makes you think about where you are going to put your characters next and it is a fun game. If I had my way I'd like the characters to be much more customisable so that you can choose your own class and weapon, I'd like to be able to wander around the maps and the towns (this isn't impossible for a DS game considering Chrono Trigger managed it). I guess I'd just like it to be a little bit more interactive, with me having more of a say in what's going on rather than moving from battle to battle and aside from upgrading weapons and armour having no say. But I enjoyed myself playing it and that's the important thing.
This isn't going to win game of the year by a long way. But it's above average, it's enjoyable and it's entertaining. It just could be better. I was entertained enough to order the second one in the series because despite the flaws I did enjoy playing it. I have to admit I would recommend it, because if you're a fan of RPG's then you will find it entertaining and if you're a fan of anime based games you'll enjoy it. Plus at around £10 it isn't going to break the bank. If you don't do turn based battles then you will however struggle!
Luminous Arc is a strategy role-playing game released for the Nintendo DS in 2007. Now I'm a particular fan of this genre (as my Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and Fire Emblem reviews can attest to) because in them you customize your team members of different classes and put them against the enemy in set battles, playing them out in a chess-like fashion. However this tried and tested formula of gameplay can get very bland if put into a game with little to changes that make that new game unique, and this is the case with Luminous Arc.
The game is set in a world which, 1000 years past, God had defeated the evil Witches, who were intent on destroying the world, before heading into a deep slumber. In the present day, there has been a sudden boom of monsters terrorizing citizens in the world. The Luminous Church believes that there caused by the return of the Witches who are yet again threatening to destroy the land.
The Luminous Church however has an ace up their sleeve- a group of young warriors trained from birth to fight against the Witches known as the Garden Children. They are led by Alph and also consist of Alph's younger brother Theo, priestess/healer Cecille, hot-headed Leon, ninja Saki and their leader, Knightmaster Heath. During their training they're joined a rather moody "maid" called Lucia. It turns Lucia is hiding a big secret from them (go on, have a guess) which will greatly affect their mission against the Witches...
So yes, this story is clichéd and predictable. There are a few plot twists but I've seen this type of story with an all-powerful church and supposedly evil group in other games so I knew what to expect. If you're a fan of games like Final Fantasy or the Tales series you'll see the twists coming from a mile off. I think there is only one thing that caught me by surprise regarding one character's actual personality and that actually was pretty cool. Our main characters are pretty much 2D and whilst some of them have background to their character I couldn't always relate to them. Alph is a generic hero who wants to do what's right and is a bit over-protective, Theo is a cute brother who is dependent on Alph, Leon is that guy who wants to rush heedless into battle, etc. This is coupled by weak dialogue and cut scenes, some of them unnecessary but which have to be endured for the sake of moving to the next battle. However, also in-between main story battles are little skits by a weird blob thing called Kopin, which is/was owned by one of the witches, Vanessa. These provide some light comic relief although sometimes he doesn't say enough to leave an impact on me.
The system of gameplay in Luminous Arc is very standard for a strategy RPG. You travel around the world on a map with set locations; some places are towns/fortresses where you can also buy weapons, armour and accessories for your characters as well as generally further the story, whilst others are battle maps for either random encounters or set battles. Once you've headed into battle you have to choose 8 characters to put onto the battlefield and then press start to begin the fight. Each character is in their own class meaning special strengths and weaknesses determined by their stats. For example, Saki is a ninja, meaning she'ss very fast and can dodge physical attacks more easily than other characters, but she has low hitpoints (HP) so can be killed quite easily. Each person on the battlefield (on either side) in turn has to make their move in the battle with the order dependant on their speed stat, so there are options to 'Move' (move a specific number of grids as will be highlighted), 'Wait' (end your turn without doing any other actions), 'Action' (either attack, use a special skill or magic), 'Status' (view the selected character's stats) and 'Cancel' (rollback to previous command). Selecting 'Action' takes you to another mini menu where to choose to do a basic attack, use a special skill, cast magic, or use one of your items e.g. a potion to recover your HP. Your aim is usually to defeat all the enemies on the field or just the boss. However, if all your characters are slain (HP brought to 0) then the battle is lost and in the case of story battles this is a Game Over.
You have to be careful in how you place your characters. Attacking opponents from the side or, better yet, behind them deals more damage, as does attacking from a height. Also some characters can inflict status changes such as poison (character loses damage every turn), charm (you attack your ally characters) and silence (can't use skills or spells) among others. Of course the same rules apply to your team.
Whenever your character (and some types of important enemies) completes an action, they gain experience points, or XP. The amount you get depends on the particular action and the level gap between your character and the person they're attacking. Once your character gets 100XP they level up and get an increase in their stats and possibly more powerful skills and spells. They also gain Flash Points (FP) to their Flash Meter, located in the character's profile. Once they've got enough FP they can unleashed a special move unique to each character called a 'Flash Drive'. Some Flash Drives are learned upon levelling up, whilst others are after you've passed certain sections in the story. In essence these are like an overdrive system. Some of Flash Drives actually look pretty impressive, especially the spell-based ones, and you even get taken to a special screen where your character unleashes their flashy move against the chosen enemy.
Another feature is 'Intermissions'. After each battle you get a summary screen of how much money and items you've earned. This is followed by a screen where you can choose one of the team to speak to with a multiple-choice answer to whatever they're talking about. A correct response improves Alph's relationship with that character and they will give you free items at different stages (indicated by heart above their sprite). The free items and little glimpses into each character are a little interesting but I wasn't compelled to get everyone's hearts filled up to max, though completionists should like it for the good items.
The controls in Luminous Arc are a little awkward because the system is mainly touch screen based. Now I don't mind using the stylus but with these types of games I find using the d-pad and buttons quicker. For example, one issue with using the stylus was that when I wanted to select a square on the battlefield grid that was located behind or beside a character, the stylus tended to select that character. Perhaps minor, but a sign of poor design on the developer's part and another reason why games like this are more suitable when played with the buttons, especially since the touch screen isn't otherwise utilized.
Graphics in Luminous Arc are good but not great. On the one hand the few animated cutscenes (such as in the game opening and very final scene) look fine as they're sparingly used and are cool to watch. In-game graphics are colourful enough and fitting for the setting but otherwise they don't push the DS's capabilities at all- it could easily be a game for the Game Boy Advance. The artwork throughout is a cute anime design (well except the witches who are more sexy!). Normally I love this kind of design and being a Japanese title this is to be expected, but characters in Luminous Arc all have huge eyes even by anime standards with tiny irises. The result is that everyone in the game looks uncanny and dull. Alph in particular has big eyes, black hair and grey armour and so he doesn't really stand out as a main protagonist. In essence, we have eerie designs to fit our rather bland heroes.
The soundtrack in the game isn't that memorable that all. Although all the tunes seem to fit their purpose I never felt like humming along and didn't miss anything if I played the game mute. There is also voice acting in the game for the cutscenes but again I thought this too was average- the VAs gave their characters the kind of voices I was expecting and none of them really impressed me with the more emotional scenes in the game. What I found even more confusing is that sometimes the voice acting would cut out midway through a cutscene, despite the rest of the scene being no less important to have voiceovers.
It took me about 22 hours to finish the game, which is quite a long time considering all the random encounter battles and extra things I could've done (e.g. filling everybody's Intermissions). I'd say average game time would therefore be 25 hrs, and that's only for one playthrough because there's a New Game + option! So this means, if you're speeding through your second go of the game, upwards of 30 hrs enjoyment.
There is multiplayer available in this game, but I've never tried it out due to knowing nobody else who owns this game. To be honest, this genre of games aren't really the best for multiplayer seeing as there is limited customization for your characters (i.e. both players will have their teams at the max levels with all the best items etc).
Looking back over my review, my comments about Luminous Arc are not that positive. So why the 3 stars you might be thinking? Well it's probably just a case of 'been there, done that'. The gameplay is still solid like most strategy RPGs and the features unique to this game are a bit interesting. The story may be a little predictable but it's still well told. The most offputting things are the average graphics, music, voice acting and most of all the controls, especially as this is 60% touch-based when it didn't need utilising at all.
If you've never played a game like this, Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem before, then I by all means recommend it as it's interesting and long enough to be a good experience, but more experienced gamers will not be getting their money's worth forking out Luminous Arc over the aforementioned games.
(Also on Ciao under the username Anti_W)
I thoroughly enjoyed this turn based role playing game. I got hooked on the genre after the excellent 'Advanced Wars' and 'Final Fantasy' series. The story is fantasy think Zelda setting with many dungeons, towns, forests and swamps to explore in an isometric angle. There aren't that many side quests compared to other similar games but the main story is good enough to keep you hooked. The characters including Alph are great with different traits and personalities, the voice acting is also very good which all adds to the engaging story. Expect many twists and turns in the 25 chapters of the game where you have to bring peace after witches start to cause havoc.
The graphics and special effects in battles are great of this type of game, you'll be surprised at just how good they are. In battle you get the choice on how you want your characters to perform. They can either move, attack, use items/spells etc which makes choosing your tactics interesting. Later on in the game the difficulty increases as you would expect so be prepared. The AI is good and the enemies you come across are varied making the game seem less repetitive.
You level your characters by getting XP at the end of a battle, if you level their HP gets regenerated which is handy as you learn the tactics of battle. You also get HP and MP (Healthy/Mana points). They increase as you become more powerful. To do moves that cause greater damage you will use more of your points. There are also cool parts in the game such as being able to 'shop' and the upgrading of weapons giving them an extra statistical bonus.
The levelling system and general actions of your characters is pretty simple. It isn't an in depth RPG like Baldur's Gate. This is meant to just be a fluid strategy game with RPG elements. It does achieve what it set out to do and everything works together well.
I'd recommend this game to anyone and it deserves more credit than many other games on the DS.
Give it a go.
5 out of 5