|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Image Epoch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 15, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
When playing an RPG on a handheld system, you automatically know you are in for a different experience than what you would expect on a console or PC. This is something that we console and PC enthusiasts should keep in mind when venturing out in to the world of handheld RPGs. Now I know there are many out there who are looking for the next great Final Fantasy title to grace the handheld scene, but let me suggest that if you liked Final Fantasy Tactics, then you need not look any further.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, Luminous Arc is FF Tactics at its roots. Unfortunately, because there could have been a few areas for improvement on the great title, and fortunately, because they did in fact advance a few of those areas. Luminous Arc brings to table what most would expect from Atlus, and then grabs your attention with a solid storyline and gameplay.
At the heart of this strategy RPG are the "Garden Children." These are the core group that you will get accustomed to as you traipse through the world destroying the witches alongside the church of Luminous. Of course, your ultimate goal in the game is to restore the peace to the land, and like RPGs of old, as you get further into the game you will start to discover the deep seeded corruption that plagues the right and just. I'm not going to give too much away for the simple fact that the story is entertaining, and too often people are plagued with spoilers at every turn. The superb story is aided by the graphics of the game. The characters are mingled heavily with anime, which in most games these days is handled quite nicely. The characters are bright, and even though you see the singular images of the characters during the "cutscenes" of the game, they are quite animated. Add that to the likeability of the characters, and you at least have a reason to care about the characters without hearing them talk, or at least I did.
During the actual strategic combat of the game, I have to say that the switch between cutscenes and battle was not as smooth as it could have been, but at the same time, it was not as painful as one might think. The battlefields look like a game board that you will move characters across in segments. The terrain of the fields have their elevations for you to work around, and almost always your enemies are spaced out enough for you to pull together a really quick strategy before you have to face them. One of the great things about Luminous Arc is the fact that you can choose to use the stylus or the d-pad in order to guide around your character. In my experience, I tried both and quickly realized the d-pad was easier to use in the heat of battle. Too often, while using the stylus, I had to repeatedly jab at my screen in order to have the spot I wanted my character to go recognized. There is another feature that Luminous Arc brings to the table that I liked a lot, all of your characters leveling up at 100 points. This made it a lot easier to keep track of when they where going to level up. It easily enabled me to enjoy the strategy aspect a lot more without having to worry about the constant need I have to check and see when my characters are about to level up. Of course, there is an additional strategy with this but it was easier to enjoy it all the way around.
In addition to the solid character animations and involving gameplay, an intoxicating soundtrack assists Luminous Arc greatly. This probably doesn't come as that much of a surprise due mainly to the fact that most RPGs have that special tranquility to their soundtracks. The voice-overs for the game are about what you might expect from RPGs. There was the usual over the top delivery on a few keynotes of dialogue, but I have to say that even though it is expected and accepted, the voice-overs never take it to the level of obnoxious. This is a good thing since you will spend a good deal of time listening to the characters and reading the happenings of the world when not in battle. Another feature I really enjoyed about the game was that you were always in control of how the game progressed, whether it be by advancing the story, upgrading your characters, or battling it out a little longer.
Luminous Arc may not be the next great title for the DS or SRPGs as a whole, but it is definitely entertaining enough to keep even the hardest of hardcore players enjoying it. Much like the whole game, the online play is equally simple and entertaining. You can go at it locally or across the globe with your eight characters. The best thing about the online gameplay is the fact there are no dummy teams for you go up against. Like I said, it is simple and you may not spend hundreds of hours playing the online part of the game but it is there and enjoyable. That is probably the best thing to say about the entire game, it is enjoyable, and in a game industry where it seems that too often the enjoyability factor is hinder, Luminous Arc provides a little light for everyone.
CCC Project Coordinator