It’s no secret that the Nintendo Wii has a massive shortage of traditional Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPG). On top of that the ones that have been released are mostly forgettable. Ignition Entertaiment is hoping to change that with their North American release of Arc Rise Fantasia. Developed by Imageepoch, Arc Rise Fantasia is a true JRPG, with turn based battles, cute characters, and a confusing yet satisfying storyline.
Story Mixed With Religion
The game centers around a young soldier in the fictional Meridian Empire, named L’Arc Lagoon. L’Arc is a promising soldier who quickly finds himself caught up in a war between three nations. The plot revolves heavily around two competing religions, with one of them seeking to bring about the apocalypse. Normally I think making religion the center of any video game story has the potential of alienating some of the core audience. However, in this case both religions in the game bear no close resemblance to any real world religion and I think even the most religious of people will not be offended by the viewpoints expressed in the game.
As the story progresses you soon find out that L’Arc is more than just a soldier and is actually a child of Easa (one of the gods) who has the power to bond with Rogress. The Rogress are actually very large and powerful beasts who you can summon into battle, much like Bahamut in the Final Fantasy series. Overall the story isn’t bad, but it’s nothing ground breaking either. The characters are unique enough and developed, so they do become interesting. But on a whole, the story really doesn’t break new ground and I doubt you will remember its details a couple of years from now.
Arc Rise Fantasia is a lengthy game, easily clocking in at over 40 hours for the main storyline. But there is also a whole list of side quests available. The side quests in Arc Rise Fantasia are called Guild Quests, and can be found in guild houses found throughout the game. Most of them are simply kill-X, collect-X quests. But they do offer nice rewards. They are also a nice way to level your character up rather than just roaming around grinding levels, which you will most likely have to do in order to beat certain bosses.
Classic Turn Based Combat
While the storyline and side quests may be average, I did find the gameplay to be quite enjoyable. Arc Rise Fantasia is a turn based RPG, but you get to decide who in your party actually performs actions during each turn. Every action from basic attacks, to magic, to defending, requires the use of action points. At the start of each turn you have one pool of action points that every character must draw from. If you want to use all 10 of your action points instructing one character to attack numerous times, then that is up to you. It’s actually a fairly simple system to learn, but it’s also one that can add a huge amount of strategy when you need it. For the most part, the battles in the game are fast and easy, however boss battles can be challenging and will require careful management of your parties’ action points.
Adding to the strategic aspect of the game is a combo system which will increase damage when you string multiple attacks together from different party members. Figuring out the combos and when to use them takes some time. Additionally, each character has multiple special attacks that they can use if their special attack meter is full enough. Deciding when to use your character’s special attack and even which character to take into battle can play a huge part in defeating a boss.
Arc Rise Fantasia does not offer item crafting. But it does have a really cool weapon leveling system. The weapons in the game each start with base modifiers and they can be leveled up a total of three times. On top of that the wapons have slots in them that you can use to place items that will further buff your character. Each weapon will have it’s own stat modfier that unlocks when a weapon reaches a certain level. To top it off each stat modify can be removed from a weapon and applied to a different weapon once it is unlocked. You will find yourself leveling each weapon in the game in order to unlock its modifier.
Bright Anime Style Graphics
Another area that Arc Rise Fantasia gets right is the visuals. The game has a very vibrant, colorful, anime look that works well on the Wii. There are a couple of set pieces in the game that you can tell were intentionally designed to show off just what the Wii is capable of and really suck you into the atmosphere of the game. On top of that the characters are all visually appealing and distinctive from one another. The monsters are also unique and varied enough that you won’t become bored from fighting the same bad guys over and over again. I won’t go so far as to say that Arc Rise Fantasia is an amazing looking game, but for the Wii it’s pretty impressive.
Did Someone Say “Don’t Open That Door”?
By far, the biggest weakness found in Arc Rise Fantasia is the English voice acting. To put it simply, it is downright bad. Just how bad is it? It’s Resident Evil 1 levels of bad. A lot of the time the voice acting actually takes away from the storyline, because many of the actors use no inflection at all and it’s hard to figure out what their characters are actually feeling and expressing. Much of the dialog sounds like it was chopped up and cut and pasted together from previously recorded dialogue.
It’s the first time I have played a game and I actually thought to myself that I could do a better job acting than the people in the game. Heck, I even said some of the lines out loud and sure enough I sounded better. If any of the people at Imageepoch are reading this review, I implore you give me a call for your next game and I will record some lines for you. On a more serious note, I really wish the developers had left the Japanese voice options in, but they did not, so your only choice is to read the dialogue as fast as you can and then hit the “a” button to skip to the next sentence. This way you at least skip most of the voice acting.
The controls in Arc Rise Fantasia are extremely straight forward and easy to learn. There are no motion controls to struggle with and in fact you have the option of using the classic controller instead of the wiimote and nunchuck. This is a cool feature because the game actually controls better with the classic controller and I played the majority of the game that way. In a 40+ hour game I appreciate not having to waggle.
Filling the Void
While the game doesn’t break any new ground in the JRPG genre, it does help to the fill the JRPG void that the Wii suffers from. The storyline isn’t groundbreaking, but it is decent and moves at a good pace. The combat is the strongest aspect of the game; with its fast paced and strategic turn based style. If you can look past the dreadful voice acting, you will find a solid, but not outstanding JRPG. When you are talking about the Wii even an average JRPG is a good thing to see and play.