Stripping should really be an integral part of more video games, especially when hot anime chicks are involved. That's the impression we got after viewing a short preview of NIS America's upcoming title, Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. Set for release on the PlayStation 3 next spring, the game mixes stripping and music in order to form one of the core mechanics of its battle system. Oh, and there's also a bit of a dating sim in there to boot.
As the third (and final) game in the Ar tonelico series, Knell of Ar Ciel brings the Reyvateil ladies of the Sol Cluster to the PlayStation 3 for the first time. Like many other titles that have made the jump, this means that the series has gotten a complete makeover, dropping the 2-D sprites for a fully 3-D rendered world. High-resolution 2-D art is still used during conversation scenes, but otherwise, everything is 3-D. We didn't get to see the game running, but from the screenshots provided, the visuals are leaps and bounds above the prior PlayStation 2 release.
Details of the plot were somewhat thin, but the essence of the story has the hero, Aoto, teaming up with two Reyvateils to defend the human race against an evil organization (Clustania) that wants to enslave everyone and rule the world. In short, it's your basic hero story with an anime twist.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Reyvateils are humanoid girls that were created for combat. In all of the Ar tonelico games, the Reyvateils play key roles, both as members of your party and as plot drivers. The Reyvateils are fully developed characters in their own right, complete with distinct personalities that must be catered to if you wish to maximize their benefit.
Along with the jump to 3-D, the battle system has also changed from a turn-based system into a real-time combat system. All moves happen in real time, similar to how combat works in an action game. Standing around to carefully plan your next move isn't exactly an option here. Another new feature in the battle system is the implementation of the Reyvateil song magic. During each battle, there is a glowing orb in the lower right-hand side of the screen that pulses to the music. If you time your attacks to occur on the beat, you charge up your Reyvateil's song magic — the better your timing, the stronger the magic.
Casting song magic is the main form of attack for the Reyvateil, but, for some odd reason, known only to the developers, clothes have the nasty side effect of minimizing the power of song magic. The only solution, of course, is to have your Reyvateil strip down to her skivvies for maximum magic effect. Pre-teen otaku everywhere are sure to love this feature.
The "dating sim" aspects of the game come into play when you dive into the Cosmosphere, a virtual world where you can communicate with your Reyvateil's inner personality and learn new spells. By conversing with the Reyvateil, you can learn more about the character as you help her master new song magic.
While the new combat system and song magic were the features highlighted during the demo, NIS also mentioned the multiple endings within Knell of Ar Ciel. The final game is planned to have more than two hours of recorded ending sequences, ensuring that players have an incentive to go back through the game multiple times.
Without any hands-on time, it's hard to tell what to make of Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel. The game certainly promises to bring new features to the series, but whether or not fans will embrace the changes remains to be seen. Either way, it is somewhat difficult to argue with a pretty girl who wants to take her clothes off and sing for you. Here's hoping that when it comes to the latest Ar tonelico, beauty is more than just skin deep.
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