The Arc the Lad series came onto the scene to the US rather abruptly from Japan. I haven’t played any of the first three in the series (for Playstation One) but I think now that I’ve played Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits I’m going to have to. I am a lover of RPG games for any system. I love the storytelling, the character development, the movie-like scripts (sometimes) and just the overall depth of the genre. Let me tell you about this wonderful game. The graphics for Twilight of the Spirits are superb! Special attention was given to detail in all of the locations with splendific colors and atmospheric moods. Characters are modeled wonderfully and each has their own facial expressions. Character movement is very smooth and fun to watch, especially in the battle sequences. Characters dodge blows very realistically, attack with quickness and accuracy, cast spells with grace, and perform their special moves with the ‘WOW! That was cool!’ effect. So… The graphics are definitely good.

That’s right. 100/100 for sound/music. Voice acting is AWESOME in Twilight of the Spirits. This is not very typical of a Japanese title. The guys that were responsible for voice acting and script translation on Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits should be responsible for every RPG title that comes across the ocean. This helped make the depth of this game’s storyline phenomenal.

Music for Twilight is also excellent. It hits the nail on the head for setting specific moods and appropriately fitting the setting of the scene. Battle music is awesome. The rock guitar riffs to jazzy tunes to dark mood music caught my attention every time. Sometimes I had to stop and just listen to the guitar sing its tune.

The controls for Twilight are straight forward and simple. This is a good thing. You move your characters around with the analog stick in non-combat and combat sequences. You select menus with the control-pad or the analog stick. Not much more to it. As far as I’m concerned, the less I have to say about control in a game the better it is. The only gripe I have here would be that the camera is stationary. You can’t rotate the camera around to check out your surroundings.

I am a firm believer that story and great characters make or break an RPG. Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits definitely has the story AND certainly has the characters. After ten minutes of play I was drawn in and intrigued by the world and what was going on around the characters. Throughout the game I was constantly wondering, ‘Jeez… What’s going to happen next?’ The characters each have a distinct personality and act accordingly, making their decisions based on their own long term objectives. The relationships between characters are strong and easily draw you into their lives and motivations. I became emotionally attached to the protagonists and their friends early on in the game.

I especially love the way the story is told. There are two protagonists and at the start of the game you play out their roles separately. It is a treat bringing them together through their own trials and tribulations while meeting their friends and losing some along the way. The one negative thing I can say about this aspect of the game is that it is generally rather linear. It’s tough not to be when you’re following a story. So don’t expect to be able to go out and do whatever you want like Morrowind. It does become a little non-linear later on in the game but it is linear for the most part.

The battle sequences are a little different than your standard console RPG fare. Instead of a purely menu driven interface you are given some tactical decisions. Each character has a movement range (which is set by a statistic) and can move anywhere in that range. In addition each character has an attack ranged based on his/her weapon. Some characters have longer range attacks in a small arc while some have short range attacks that have wide berth. Magic and special moves have ranges and area of effect as well. You also must be careful to not be too close together for the same reason as the enemy may have a wide berth attack that can gobble up more that one of your characters at a time. Character facing is also important. If you attack (or are attacked) from behind the chance to hit increases as well as the accompanying damage.

Characters increase levels relatively quickly. I liked this because I felt it kept the game more interesting. The nice thing is that the difficulty of the battles is well balanced. Some of the battles are still difficult which gives you that much needed sense of accomplishment. Character development and leveling is straight forward and basic: Gain XP, level up, stats increase. About the only thing you have control over is ‘purchasing’ special moves and magic. As you gain experience you will have access to tougher spells and moves. These are gained by spending points earned in combat. I was a little disappointed in the robustness of the character development scheme and it probably could be better.

In battle, characters make comments and respond to certain events. For example, if you heal another character they will give a ‘thank you’ response based on their personality. They also have neat responses to certain actions like attacking, dodging an attack or doing a critical hit. This really adds to the depth of personality each character has and draws you in even more. Overall I really liked the tactical element of the battle system. The added touch of character personality in combat makes combat a spicy treat.

Overland movement is done in one of two ways: Point-to-point travel on a globe to get to different continents and point-to-point travel on the continent to get to certain areas in the continent. The overland movement is almost identical to Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s basic, but does the job and doesn’t take anything away from the game in my mind.

In the end the gameplay for Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is excellent. I haven’t been this engrossed in a console RPG for a long time.

The fact that this RPG catered to my tasted in storyline and character puts this value rating high. I’d much rather shell out my dough for this than to another title selling right now.

If you’ve played your fair share of RPGs then you know that they are usually jam packed with secret stuff, hidden items and replayable this or that. Arc the Lad doesn’t have a lot of hidden or secret things to uncover or do, and in my opinion, that is just fine. I find that if I am distracted with ‘Man I gotta’ find EVERYTHING!’ I can become very frustrated and will put the game down.

I loved Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits and you will too. If you love RPGs for their rich characters and ability to tell a great story then Arc the Lad is for you. If you absolutely must have complex character development (stats), or an open ended game you probably won’t like Arc the Lad.

I think any RPG lover will love Arc the Lad: Twilight and embrace its way of storytelling. To be honest I believe Arc the Lad has raised the bar on the quality of RPG storytelling and plot, others should follow this direction.