Genre : RPG
Release Date: June 24, 2003
Buy 'ARC THE LAD: Twilight of the Spirits': PlayStation 2Arc the Lad is probably one of the few RPGs that a majority of gamers will overlook. The first game in this series was released back in 1995, and while it drew a small following, it could not compare to the fame achieved by the Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior series. The PS2 console has a large RPG market, and it continues to expand (although you GC lovers do have one hit going for you: the new Tales game, which I really hoped would be released on the PS2). So, how does this game compare to the hot titles of its time, such as FFX, Suikoden, and Xenosaga?
With so many of these games in the market at once, it is no surprise that Arc the Lad: TOS was overlooked. I personally know that I have a limit before my spending rips apart my wallet. If I didn’t have that barrier, I would surely buy all of the computer parts, anime DVDs, and movies that I’ve wanted, and I would try to get a complete PS2 collection (maybe even import games that may never see a stateside release). But the average gamers will probably feel the same pain I do. We have to choose the games wisely, usually picking the games that got rave reviews or were widely recommended on the Internet (a.k.a. word-of-mouth). But when there are several good games out, we sometimes skip ones and get others instead (like what happened with Prince of Persia).
So, is Arc the Lad: TOS getting the same treatment as Prince of Persia? I think it is, because I actually enjoy the game so far, but please keep in mind that I have not played the “original” that was released back in the day, so that may be a major reason why I don’t hate the game. I know how it feels to have high hopes for a sequel only to have those hopes dashed (some prime examples are select Hollywood movies; man, some of those sequels should have never been made). This is why I am placing Arc the Lad in the “new game” category, comparing its system to other games I have played instead of comparing it to its predecessor.
The thing that you will notice immediately when you play this game is that the battle system isn’t the “standard” RPG-style system that we have grown accustomed to thanks to Final Fantasy and several other popular series. There have been a few that tried a different system, but they haven’t received the acclaim they truly deserve, with examples including the Tales and Star Ocean series (which both have new games coming out that I’m looking forward to). We now throw Arc the Lad into this group. The system they used is a turn-based set that is slightly different from a tactics system due to the fact that you can move a certain radius (which seems like it might be a similar system to the one in Phantom Brave), and you can only attack areas within a certain radius around you. Of course, the range of the attack depends on the weapon the character uses. Intuitively, it is quite obvious for a sword to have a shorter reach than a bow, unless you own a magical sword (and I would sure love to own one).
Well, in this game, there is no magical sword. At least, I haven’t gotten one yet. Magic, or Spirit stones, are used not only to cast spells but also to cast special abilities. Unfortunately for us, there is no potion that you can use to replenish your magic – you can only search for more spirit stones. This is what leads the Humans and Deimos to battle each other. It’s almost like the war with Iraq – it may be a war against terrorism, but at the same time, we wanted to gain the oil reserves. The Humans and Deimos are thinking the same way. They are finding and protecting new sources of Spirit stones, and as we know, when two different ideals clash, conflicts will surely arise. In the game, there are actually three factions you will be facing: the Deimos, your faction of Humans, and the Dilzweld Army. Somehow, fate has placed these three in a competition to collect all five Great Spirit stones, which will grant the user the ultimate power.
You play as two different characters: Kharg and Darc. They are brothers with the same birthmark, one being half human and half Deimos while the other is completely human as far as I can tell. These are the only two characters in the game that have been granted the power of both special abilities and magic. These powers don’t instantly come to you – you have to learn them with the SP you gain from battle. Each class has a certain number of spells you can learn, but as for how to level up in classes, I am not completely certain. I believe killing more enemies increases the likelihood of your class level going up. Most the time, however, you will level up your character faster than you will your class. Sadly, your weapon doesn’t level up with you, so you must do it yourself. Do not forget!
A fighter’s soul resides within the weapon he or she uses. Once a fighter gets attached to a weapon, it’s literally impossible to separate them unless the weapon breaks. Arc the Lad takes this into account, and the only way to improve your weapon is to equip it with parts. Parts will improve strength, add status effects, and in general just improve your weapon overall. The downside is that you can only use three parts to upgrade it. The same concept applies to accessories for defense items, but one thing that differs between the two is that accessories don’t have user requirements, while parts do. The more expensive the part, the more powerful it tends to be, and I have yet to level my weapons to a desirable rank. I strongly suggest getting an item called the Stone carrier, which gives you more space to carry Spirit stones. You can find it at almost any shop around the world. Whenever you go to a new world or area, it is wise to check out their stock of inventory, because the variety is different. Also, when you enter a newer area, they seem to sell more powerful (and more expensive) items.
Items are always a crucial factor in the game because running out of Spirit stones is rather common. The only way to recharge the Spirit stones you have used is to pick up the dropped item from the field. The field is what I call the game’s battleground. In FF, everything was automatically acquired, while in Arc, you need to actually pick it up yourself, or else you may never get money to spend on parts and items. Money (or Gods, as they call it in this game) is important in that it allows you to purchase healing items, and the characters don’t have an overly abundant supply of Spirit stones. They have pouches limiting the amount of Spirit stones and items they can carry. I truly enjoy the system, but running out of Spirit stones is a big downside, and the magic and special attacks deal so much more damage than regular attacks, making the chapters harder to complete.
There are a total of seven chapters, and although the number seems relatively low, the game is actually quite long. Each chapter may take a matter of hours to finish because you have to finish several quests. Over time, you will gain more and more comrades to fight with you, allowing for a decent number of allies and enemies on one single field. At this time, I know you can have a total of five allies fighting against a massive horde of enemies. They are probably going to gang up on you, so in order to prepare for that, you can hope your character has high counter-attack or block stats, because some of the enemies’ attacks are pretty strong. Without those abilities on your side, some enemies can kill you in a single hit.
Likewise, there are times when your character will have the ability to kill the enemy in one hit. This is usually the critical team attack, which only occurs when your life is low. In other words, it’s the last resort. It’s extremely useful considering the fact that some characters can attack more than one enemy at once, and when you critical against a group of enemies, they are almost guaranteed to die.
When this occurs, you get to observe a nice little cut scene where it seems like the characters were granted powers from a spiritual source. The graphics aren’t all that impressive, but the CG scenes are nicely executed, slowly revealing the story. You won’t really get attached to the characters until you play through a few chapters. The chapters consistently alternate so that you play as Kharg and then Darc. Both have their own ideals on how to save their race, but as time passes, you will see it evolve into something more. I was thrilled when I finally got the airships in the game, and boy, do they have interesting designs, especially the Pyron (the Deimos airship).
Well, CG scenes wouldn’t be any good if they were silent movies – I believe these scenes must have sound. Of course this game does include sound, but one thing that is often debated is whether or not to use voice actors. In this game, they decided to include voices, and they are, surprisingly, not horrible. The battle cries can be annoying, but Sony took this into account by allowing us to turn the option on or off. I am grateful for this option. The sound in the game is very well done; a very nice mixture of instruments produces the atmosphere needed in the game. I even caught myself humming along to the sounds because they were so catchy.
Overall, I actually liked this game, and I find the system nicely done. The game may not have lived up to Sony’s expectations, but I would recommend trying the game out. It may not be as appealing in the graphics as the other high class games, but the battle and story are pretty well-executed. If you are an Arc the Lad fan, it may not live up to the originals, but if you are looking for another RPG to play, I suggest that you check this one out.
Score : 8.0/10