|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gust||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: NIS America||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Sadly, the stages within which these battles take place are hardly interesting. Though Ar Tonelico II charms at first glance, its curvaceous artwork is truly soulless. Its passable artistry was rendered by someone truly skilled, but this was clearly "just another job" for them, as their work lacks passion.
Interiors are sparsely decorated, and often colored brown or gray, while - to make matters worse - every Dive Shop, major palace, and inn looks exactly the same. Textures, structures, and environmental details are shared across zones, which means that very few original sprites were actually created for Tonelico II. Thus, it all feels cold and artificial - like a shallow copy of what proud things two-dimensional RPGs once were.
At times, the music that plays along with these areas compels you to trek onward. The soundtrack includes some marvelously minimalistic and ambient pieces, complemented by stirring vocals. Plenty of it would inspire you to relax, or to simply behold your fairly artistic surroundings, which helps in overcoming the visual flaws. Unfortunately, none of these musical pieces loop seamlessly, and there are plenty of jarring, saccharine-sweet tunes that only serve to distract you. Once again, the simulation and RPG aspects don't blend, but instead clash - a very definite line is drawn between the sweeping compositions of a role-playing game, and the cheesy, uninspiring Muzak of a dating sim.
Due to the mind-searching Cosmosphere sessions, the variety of nightly dialogues you can find littered about, and separate storylines with unique endings, there's certainly a multitude of things to be done within Tonelico II. Whether you'll wish to partake in everything it offers depends upon you - whether you can appreciate simplistic, naive characters, a predictable plot of good versus evil, and hours upon hours of discussions about everything from daily wear to stuffed dolls. Truly, what a marvelous work Tonelico could have been! What if you weren't required to find additional discussions, but could instead earn them through smartly-navigated dialogue trees? What if they had more time to personalize each and every area's art, and refine the character designs into things more fantastical yet believable? Had they ditched the elevator music and instead replaced it with additional epic tracks... oh, well then, it would have been a marvelous game!
As it is, it is only middle-ground, very much a "what could have been!" Metafalss is an interesting place where you'd perhaps like to spend a weekend, but hardly anything more.
CCC Freelance Writer