|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Image Epoch||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ignition Entertainment||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 27, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
From the moment you start playing Arc Rise Fantasia, the title's intentions are clear. From the anime-inspired style and subtle earth-conscious storyline, the game unabashedly reproduces elements from the Tales of, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Age series. However, this isn't necessarily a reason to rule Arc Rise Fantasia out immediately. As much as hardened gamers don't like to admit it, familiarity is the name of the game (why else would there be tens of Super Mario games all with the same premise) and simply recombining elements from previous RPGs certainly isn't a bad thing, in fact, it is almost par for the course. Although the weak thematic story and design elements are helped by a strong turn-based battle system, there are some other missing components that make this title fall short of its potential.
The game starts with our hero, a high-ranking soldier named L'Arc, trying to battle a beast known as a Feldragon. Unfortunately, defeating these beasts is complicated, as they create a toxic explosion when they die that can wipe out nearby towns and villages. Fortunately, he isn't successful in his endeavors and ends up alone in a forest. He is found by a mysterious young lady from an enemy country who refers to herself as a "Diva" and seems to have defeated the Feldragon without suffering the consequences of its destructive curse. This mysterious woman becomes an integral part of the story (as well as the eventual love interest) and is interested in travelling with you because it was her mother's dying wish that she sees a specific city in your nation.
Of course, there are plenty of clichés in the story so far, but what I've described only covers about the first half hour of the gameplay. During your travels, you'll meet a reluctant royal, a goofy (but occasionally serious) sidekick, and, of course, a competing love interest. The game's story plays like a mix of all your favorite RPGs from the past, which is actually somewhat endearing if you are an old-school JRPG fan and like a classic story with plenty of conventions. However, if you crave something a bit more original, you won't find it here.
The game's story isn't the only thing that recalls older titles. The battle system is also retro-inspired, but the appeal of the battle system stems from the fact that it is so retro that it feels fresh. Though things like active turn-based system have become the norm in the world of JRPGs, Arc Rise Fantasia uses a strict menu and turn-based system that plays just like you would expect. Players all have rigidly-set turns that are set within a points-based paradigm, which dictates how many actions your party can take as a whole. From these points, you can assign moves to one or all of your characters.
The attack system consists of two prongs, : physical and magical attacks. You start off with just your physical attributes, but after a lengthy tutorial, you learn about the game's magic customization system. This system is a bit on the complicated side and uses swappable orbs that can be modified to give users a host of element-based magic spells they can draw from. These orbs must be modified, used, and traded for at special magic shops and must be customized in a linear fashion to be most effective. The magic system can also be used to create multi-character attacks, which are helpful when you are in a tight spot or fighting a particularly difficult boss.
Although I found the magic system initially confusing, it works well within the context of the battle system overall, which favors tactics over flashy moves or action-based gameplay. This can feel like quite a change of pace if you are accustomed to modern RPGs, but if you've loved or played an old retro-feeling RPG, then you'll feel right at home with Arc Rise Fantasia's battle system. Taking my time to navigate through the menus and determine the best course of action felt great, and I definitely enjoyed the battle system's throwback style.