and Spiky Hair
April 30, 2009 – With so much attention on Wii – both good and bad – it’s somewhat surprising to see role-playing games (RPG) so weakly represented on the system. There are a handful of games, including Opoona, Dragon Quest Swords, and the sequel to Tales of Symphonia, though there’s almost nothing to satisfy diehard fans of the genre. Image Epoch (Luminous Arc), however, hopes to change all that with Arc Rise Fantasia, the company’s first foray into console development.
If, by looking at screenshots, Arc Rise Fantasia looks a bit like past Tales games, that’s because members who make up the development team for Fantasia also worked on the original Tales of Symphonia for Gamecube. From the story to the programming, Fantasia exhibits much of the mastery that made Symphonia such a huge hit. Fans of that game will quickly feel at home in Fantasia’s overworld, as it allows the player to freely roam the map, engaging monsters when they choose. Monster indicators in the field, as well as periodical skits, will seem familiar territory for those who journeyed through Sylvarant and Tethe`alla.
Where Arc Rise Fantasia really sets itself apart – both from Tales of Symphonia, as well as other RPGS in general – is its battle system. Similar to a traditional RPG, battles in Fantasia are turn-based. However, rather than simply scrolling through your party members and issuing commands, you’ll use ability points to conduct each phase of a battle as you see fit. Whereas most RPGs allow for each character in your party to attack only once, the system in Fantasia affords players the ability to utilize their team’s strongest assets. If, for example, you’re up against enemies resistant to magic, you can opt to spend all of your ability points on a single character who does heavy physical damage; having him or her attack multiple times during a round could prove to be a much more productive strategy than wasting the efforts of magic-based characters in your party.
Similar to Tales, however, is a focus on pooling your party’s resources. Though it may prove more useful to focus ability points into a select character or two during all or parts of various battles, there are all sorts of bonuses awarded for having characters cast or attack in unison. Some folks may recall being able to chain techs in Symphonia, using a level-1 tech into a level-2 tech, etc., and Fantasia incorporates a bit of that by requiring party members to link corresponding spells with one another.
Fantasia will also provide what is likely the deepest level of customization in any Wii RPG to date. You will, of course, acquire new weapons and equipment along the way, but these items will also gain power as you use them. As your weapons level up, pieces of them break off; those pieces then become part of your inventory and can be used to add bonuses and abilities to other weapons. It may sound a bit like the gem slots from the Diablo games, but weapon pieces in Fantasia don’t remain exclusive to a particular party member.
One last interesting tidbit of gameplay we’re excited about lies in the characters themselves. L’Arc Bright Lagoon (a laughable name, we know) plays the leading man in this story, but he quickly meets up with one very interesting young lass, Ryfia. Ryfia is a coder, and similar to the recently released Avalon Code for DS (also published by Marvelous), she can manipulate elements of the world’s actual make-up. We’re not quite sure how deep of a role this particular skill of hers will play in the adventure, but it’s something we very much look forward to learning more about.
The game can be played with either the Wii Remote and Nunchuk or the Classic Controller, and though the developers have stated that some motion-centric elements have been incorporated into various mini-games throughout the adventure, all of the main gameplay is handled in a more traditional fashion. That can be either a good or bad thing depending on who you are, but we’re glad to hear that gratuitous waggle has been omitted.
Though the color palette seems to greatly resemble that of Tales of Symphonia (and Dawn of the New World), Fantasia certainly distinguishes itself as bona fide Wii game in terms of visuals. There are no chibis here. The character models and flashy animations all scream JRPG, so the game doesn’t present itself as terribly original in that respect. However, the textures are bright and crisp, and the overall look of the game appears to be quite polished. We did notice some oddities during battles, where characters would have their backs turned toward enemies until it was their turn to attack. One or two other minor quibbles aside, Fantasia is shaping up to be one of the better-looking RPGs on Wii.
Almost three years into its lifecycle, and Wii is still quite a barren platform for fans of RPGs. Most of what’s currently available is lackluster and un-ambitious. Though Arc Rise Fantasia doesn’t necessarily look all that original, there are a host of gameplay elements under its hood that are worth getting excited about. If you’re tired of turning to the Virtual Console for quality RPG entertainment, then be sure to check back as we near the game’s release later this year.