Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... 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. =... more
Protect the light, condemn the dark and all that jazz...
Luminous Arc (DS)
Member Name: Anti
Luminous Arc (DS)
Advantages: Solid strategy-based gameplay, interesting features,
Disadvantages: Predictable story and characters, awkward controls, subpar music and voice acting
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)
Summary: A fun game, but very bland compared to others in this genre.