From the moment you start playing Arc Rise Fantasia, the title’s intentions are clear. From the anime-inspired style and subtle earth-conscious storyline, the game unabashedly reproduces elements from the Tales of, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Age series. However, this isn’t necessarily a reason to rule Arc Rise Fantasia out immediately. As much as hardened gamers don’t like to admit it, familiarity is the name of the game (why else would there be tens of Super Mario games all with the same premise) and simply recombining elements from previous RPGs certainly isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it is almost par for the course. Although the weak thematic story and design elements are helped by a strong turn-based battle system, there are some other missing components that make this title fall short of its potential.
The game starts with our hero, a high-ranking soldier named L’Arc, trying to battle a beast known as a Feldragon. Unfortunately, defeating these beasts is complicated, as they create a toxic explosion when they die that can wipe out nearby towns and villages. Fortunately, he isn’t successful in his endeavors and ends up alone in a forest. He is found by a mysterious young lady from an enemy country who refers to herself as a “Diva” and seems to have defeated the Feldragon without suffering the consequences of its destructive curse. This mysterious woman becomes an integral part of the story (as well as the eventual love interest) and is interested in travelling with you because it was her mother’s dying wish that she sees a specific city in your nation.
Of course, there are plenty of clichés in the story so far, but what I’ve described only covers about the first half hour of the gameplay. During your travels, you’ll meet a reluctant royal, a goofy (but occasionally serious) sidekick, and, of course, a competing love interest. The game’s story plays like a mix of all your favorite RPGs from the past, which is actually somewhat endearing if you are an old-school JRPG fan and like a classic story with plenty of conventions. However, if you crave something a bit more original, you won’t find it here.
The game’s story isn’t the only thing that recalls older titles. The battle system is also retro-inspired, but the appeal of the battle system stems from the fact that it is so retro that it feels fresh. Though things like active turn-based system have become the norm in the world of JRPGs, Arc Rise Fantasia uses a strict menu and turn-based system that plays just like you would expect. Players all have rigidly-set turns that are set within a points-based paradigm, which dictates how many actions your party can take as a whole. From these points, you can assign moves to one or all of your characters.
The attack system consists of two prongs, : physical and magical attacks. You start off with just your physical attributes, but after a lengthy tutorial, you learn about the game’s magic customization system. This system is a bit on the complicated side and uses swappable orbs that can be modified to give users a host of element-based magic spells they can draw from. These orbs must be modified, used, and traded for at special magic shops and must be customized in a linear fashion to be most effective. The magic system can also be used to create multi-character attacks, which are helpful when you are in a tight spot or fighting a particularly difficult boss.
Although I found the magic system initially confusing, it works well within the context of the battle system overall, which favors tactics over flashy moves or action-based gameplay. This can feel like quite a change of pace if you are accustomed to modern RPGs, but if you’ve loved or played an old retro-feeling RPG, then you’ll feel right at home with Arc Rise Fantasia’s battle system. Taking my time to navigate through the menus and determine the best course of action felt great, and I definitely enjoyed the battle system’s throwback style.
Still, the game’s battle system was not enough to make up for its lack of production value. The game’s initial cutscene looks decent, but once the visuals snap into the game’s engine, the game falters. The environment is full of blocky and repetitive elements, and even the animations are poorly done. Although my standards for visuals on the Wii are lower than on other consoles, these visuals would look bad on a PlayStation 2. I was highly disappointed with the graphics in the game, especially because there is such a contrast between the polished cinema scenes and the jagged, blocky world in the game’s engine.
Unfortunately, the audio isn’t much better. The game’s background music is pleasant overall, but it is all-too-frequently interrupted by a terrible voiceover. As an anime fan, I have experienced some bad voiceovers, but the one in Arc Rise Fantasia has to be one of the worst I have ever experienced. The dialog does not match the game’s animations at all, and the voice actors do a poor job of incorporating emotion into their performance. The game’s main female lead is the worst offender, and has a phantom accent that seems to have travelled from Canada to Asia, with a few stops in the United States on its way to the game. Although some voiceovers are memorable for being so bad they are humorous (I’m looking at you Resident Evil series), Arc Rise Fantasia’s voice over is just poorly done overall. There are also some weird translations at work , where characters will randomly ask to rest or complain of sickness and then the issue is dropped and never addressed again.
It is a shame the voiceover and poor graphics sink this title, as the basic foundations for a good JRPG are present. While the story isn’t the most original in the world, there are plenty of people (myself included) who don’t mind the occasional throwaway story (JRPGs are kind of like the romantic comedy of the gaming world). However, the look and sound of the game just don’t match its potential, which makes it difficult to play through. I constantly felt myself on the cusp of wanting to like the game, but some particularly ugly element of the visuals or poorly done bit of dialog snapped this title right back into the mediocre designation.
Arc Rise Fantasia is a decent game if you like the old-school JRPG format. The battle system is fun, and the story (despite pulling every cliché out of the JRPG handbook) is entertaining enough. However, the poor production values drag this title down considerably, and will turn off many potential players. Though there is almost no innovation in this game, if you like nostalgia, you’re likely to find some enjoyment with Arc Rise Fantasia. Just don’t set your expectations too high.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
The game’s pre-rendered cutscenes look great, but the in-game world is blocky, repetitive, and ugly. 3.6 Control
No matter whether players opt to use the Wii-Mote and Nunchuk or the Classic Controller, the controls work fine. 2.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The background music is pleasant, but the voice over is terrible. 3.1
Although there is a decent amount of story material to cover as well as some potential for grinding/leveling up, nothing here warrants a second play through.
3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.