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Luminous Arc 2 Package Art
GENRE
Tactics RPG
DEVELOPER
Marvelous Entertainment
PUBLISHER
Atlus
LOCAL WIRELESS
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
Wi-Fi/GLOBAL ONLINE
MULTI-PLAY
Yes
MICROPHONE
No
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Luminous Arc 2

What is it that initially attracts a player to a game? Some unique mix of previews, screenshots, box art and maybe a gameplay video or two combine to pique the player's interest. In examining Luminous Arc 2, the box art features intriguing characters, while screenshots and video convey the game's dialogue sequences and isometric battle sequences. Having played the game, we can report that these elements are exactly what Luminous Arc 2 is all about.

visuals

The visuals for Luminous Arc 2 are somewhat of a mixed bag. There are many interesting and unique-looking characters, ranging from our starting troupe of three knights to the larger cast of elemental witches, robotic golems, ferocious beasts, theatrical thieves and eccentric artists, just to name a few. All of them are uniquely designed and have a certain magnetism that grabs the player on sight.

We meet witches from a removed society, each of which has a hairstyle, face, color scheme and outfit to match her personality and elemental power. For example, Dia, the brilliant witch leader, has blonde hair and dresses in sunny yellow business attire. These qualities convey her magical element of Light and her role as the leader of the witches and head of Rev Magic Academy. Fatima, the Shadow/Frost witch and instigator of conflict among the witches, dresses in a much more provocative outfit of dark purples and indigo, conveying her own bold, mocking non-conformity in contrast to Dia's formal authority. These two characters are but a single example of the extent to which the world gains depth and meaning by way of its well-designed characters. Each character has a similar air of uniqueness, having been designed with just as much intent down to the last button.

It's a shame then that these exceptionally designed characters don't have equally interesting and beautiful environments behind them. The background images that make up the world look extremely generic and bland, especially with exquisite characters juxtaposed directly in front of them. It's an unfortunate mismatch. Consider, for comparison, the backgrounds in a game like Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Layton is a similarly 2D, dialogue-driven story, but the level of intrigue for that world is much higher due to its rich, atmosphere-laden background images. They work together seamlessly with that game's similarly unique cast of characters to deliver a whole that's more than the sum of its parts.

Graphics in Luminous Arc 2's isometric battle sequences are more in line with the level of quality in character design. Characters move with satisfyingly realistic animations across every rock, hill and log. The fact that each character in a cast of many characters has been crafted with such attention detail in both 2D and sprite-based 2.5D is no small feat and a real visual treat for players. It's just a shame that the 2D backgrounds don't pull their weight to complete the effect.

audio

Mirroring its visuals, the audio in Luminous Arc 2 is also a mixed bag. The background music matches the 2D backgrounds: fairly predictable and not very memorable. As with character design and the isometric graphics, however, Luminous Arc 2's voice acting and sound effects bring a high level of quality to the audio when they're found peppered throughout dialogue and battles.

gameplay

Gameplay in Luminous Arc 2 follows a fairly consistent pattern: dialogue between characters reveals motives for travel and conflict; after dialogue the party moves into a new area for more dialogue and usually a battle. Following this players can gather more information about the area, buy and equip gear and, when ready, move on to the next chapter in the story.

As with certain other elements, the story is also fairly standard, made interesting by its characters. Humorous comments are sprinkled throughout their dialogue, like how Dia consistently refers to Roland and Rasche, our knight heroes, as "kid" and "other kid." One of Althea's witch's rules for success is to "have a witty catchphrase," and in one conversation Rasche tells the females in the party, "No man wants to date a girl with gorilla arms. It's just not sexy." Additionally, after each battle, players are treated to a humorous intermission featuring a handmade page from the life diary of Kopin, a small elemental spirit that looks like an upside-down turnip with a face. In the absence of a strongly compelling story, these humorous elements bear the burden of keeping players engaged.

Where Luminous Arc 2 really shines is in the tactics-style battle system and its physical implementation. When compared to a traditional turn-based RPG, the tactics-style battles like those in Luminous Arc 2 offer much more strategic depth. The level of strategy in most RPGs consists mainly of which enemy to attack first, with some monitoring of stats and the occasional selection of party members. In Luminous Arc 2 every decision affects the success or failure of the battle, from choosing how many and which characters to include in the battle, to their movement across the battlefield, from the position taken to maximize damage dealt and minimize vulnerability, to the focus on which enemies to attack when to best complete the battle objective. When is it best to remain grouped up and when is best to split up? Who should go with whom? How long should the party pick off fringe troops from a high, defensible position and when is the right moment to move in and take down their leader? Successfully dealing with sorts of critical questions is a necessity in this game.

This joy of strategy could potentially be overshadowed by a cumbersome, daunting menu system, but happily, such is not the case in Luminous Arc 2; the touch screen has been fully implemented. In the navigation of menus and characters in battle, players can use the D-pad, touch screen or a combination of both depending on the situation. Both work well, but using the touch screen makes navigating menus a breeze. Everything from selecting attacks to buying and equipping gear and items can be done quickly and easily with the simple tap of a stylus. Indeed, players who have experienced ease of touch-navigating menus in Luminous Arc 2 will find it hard to go back to button-based systems.

multiplayer

While Luminous Arc 2 features Wi-fi enabled gameplay, we were unable to test multiplayer functionality at the time of our review.

overall

Luminous Arc 2 is fun to play, but it doesn't provide a strong, compelling reason to do so beyond its character dialogue and battles. To be sure, certain elements of the game are well-done. Unfortunately, the areas that are somewhat lacking cause it to stop short of immersing the players in a truly believable and compelling world. Given a few more pieces and a bit more polish, Luminous Arc 2 could have been a knockout title. As it stands it's an enjoyable, light-hearted fantasy romp for players looking for tactics-style battling on DS.

final score 7.5/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Paul Starke
Staff Profile | Email
"In Japan this was named a 'trouble bug.' (...Is it really a bug?)"


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