Originally posted: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 on Blogger

Basic Information:


Platform: Nintendo DS
Genre: SRPG
Difficulty: Easy-to-Fair
Developer: Image Epoch
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A
Release Date: August 2007
Rating: T for teen
Retail Price: $ 29.99 US ($ 34.99 CAN)


What’s It About:

Something sinister has began to stir; monstrous fiends plague the countryside and witches, the harbingers of destruction, have began to appear. The Luminous Church has called on a special group of youths called the Garden Children to help aid in the fight against the fiends. But the group runs into a strange girl by the name of Lucia, who appears to be a witch herself, but unlike the tales, she isn’t interested in harming humans. Meanwhile another witch has been spotted terrorizing a village. Something isn’t quite right, and the Garden Children are determined to go after the witches to figure out just what is mere tale and what is truth.

Gameplay:

If you have ever played a SRPG (Strategy RPG), then you will know how the gameplay in Luminous Arc works. There is nothing in Luminous that has not been seen in another SRPG; this may be either something you welcome or something you disdain. For me, it was a much welcomed return to the solid foundations of all SRPGs. That’s not to say I don’t like experimental SRPGs, but only that I welcome returns to the basic formula as well as diversions from it. For those of you unfamiliar with SRPGs, Luminous Arc gives you a handful a characters that become your units. The overworld map is broken down into locations that contain either random battles or story battles. Random battles happen randomly when you passover the location, but story battles only happen when you are at the location of the next story battle and you click on the menu option to progress the story. You will then read a bit of dialogue between the characters (much like in a interactive novel) which sets up the next story related fight. Luminous arc is notorious all over the internet for it’s lengthy dialogue, but I for one, quite enjoy the dialogued scenes, some of which have partial voice overs. After the back story for the battle is set up, you will be allowed to choose the units (characters) you wish to bring with you for the battle. Sometimes, due to story circumstances, you will be forced to bring certain units along. I believe the maximum amount of units you can bring with you is 6. After you have chosen, you will move each units on a grid-like battlefield. To attack, most units will have to be next to an enemy unit, however long range weapons and magic spells or skills will allows you to attack from a distance. Each character’s statistics (both your units and the enemy’s) will determine how much damage a certain enemy receives, and your unit will receive experience for attacking and using support spells. The amount of experience is determined by your level compared to the enemy’s, and whether or not it is a finishing blow. When your unit gains enough experience, it will level up like in an RPG, becoming stronger and sometimes learning a new skill or spell.

Once you complete a battle (either story or random) you will get the option to speak with one of the characters you used in battle. You cannot talk to Alph, the main character, as he will be the one who interacts with the other characters. Basically you play as Alph, and the story takes place in his perspective. Also note that the option to speak with the other characters only becomes available after a few story battles; thus you won’t be able to talk with your units right away. When Alph speaks with the other characters, they will provide some interesting information about themselves and often ask Alph a question. You will be given three responses, and depending upon the response, you may increase that character’s affection for you. You can usually tell if you replied right or not by the characters response to Alph. Increasing affection improves Alph’s and the other character’s stats when the two are next to each other on the battlefield. Also most female characters will give Alph hints that they are attracted to him when their affection for him grows in later dialogues. As far as I know, these dialogues do not change the ending of the game, making Alph and a certain female character the cannon pairing. Also, unlike Fire Emblem, only Alph and the chosen character can interact, other characters cannot.

Story & Characters:

Luminous has a colorful cast of characters and Atlus has done a beautiful job localizing all the text. However, don’t expect deep and evolving characters, most characters don’t evolve beyond the stereotypical role they are placed in, but that’s not to say it’s a bad thing. Image Epoch and Atlus both knew these characters were highly stereotypical, so rather then going the serious route, Atlus reinforced the stereotypes in silly and overall enjoyable ways. The worst thing a gaming company can do is try to make stereotypical characters serious. That’s not to say it cannot be done, just that video games tend to be the least successful medium when it comes to making stereotypes provocative and deeper then they seem. Taking the silly and funny route with characters makes them much more enjoyable than they normally would be.

The story also is very predictable and I knew what was coming even before the game started. But again, do not misunderstand, just because a story is obvious and a little overdone, does not mean it is bad. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, even through I knew what was going to happen. The characters really made the story more endearing because they were so off-the-wall. And some of the hidden bonus missions were treats as well; they give you a deeper look into some of the characters without the game taking itself too seriously. In particular the Vivi bonus mission was interesting, even if it left most of what it introduced into the story undeveloped.

Art & Graphics:

This is where Luminous Arc really shines. The backdrops used during dialogue periods are lovely and quite varied. The character portraits are just as lovely, and quite detailed as well. If your a fan of the art style found in most manga and anime, then you will throughly appreciate the character portraits in Luminous. There was clearly a lot of effort put forward in the art department and the game shows it. Character portraits are not only detailed, but come in a number a variations depicting different emotions, which only add to the overall quality of the dialogue parts. The number of emotions each character displays is astonishing, so much so that these character portraits seem made for a interactive novel game, not an SRPG. If you like adventure games and dialogued sequences, then you will throughly be pampered by Luminous; it has voice overs, beautiful character portraits depicting a varying range of emotions, and lovely backdrops to accent it all.

The graphics aren’t as pampered as the character portraits, but they are quite lovely as well. Each of the character units is beautifully detailed; you will know who is who without a second glance. Battlefieldsare quite detailed and varied as well. Some are better looking then others, but all are well done. Skill and spell effects are not as beautiful, but they get the work done. Luminous is one of the graphically better SRPGs available on the DS at the moment, and although it’s not as refined as say FFTA2, it is still among the better graphically faring SRPGs.

As for the box art, it’s too busy. There are too many elements, and the end effect isn’t as nice. It’s decent, but it could have been better if Atlus redesigned it and decreased the amount of characters on the front.

Music & Sound:

Luminous Arc also features really nice music; some tracks are better than others, but overall, it has some really nice music. In-battle music is energizing and makes you want to kick some monster butt. :3 Likewise, the dialogued scenes have music which fits the mood, and special “boss” fights have some of the best tracks around. Some of the really nice tracks include: the prelude, the wandering forest, traces of the journey, ancient myth, brace for battle, prayer, the spring breeze is blowing, and grief.

The voice overs are decent as well, although I had a few issue with some of the casting choices. My biggest problem was with Mel, who sounded a little too much like a crabby old lady. The luminous site did say that Mel speaks like an adult, and I assumed it to mean she speaks formally, rather then sounding like a crabby old women. But her voice actress got a lot better later on, and she sounded less crabby and more cute (or maybe I just got used to the voice). I also had a slight problem with Alph, he doesn’t sound bad, but I would have liked a better voice actor for the main lead. A lot of other people had a problem with Nikolai’s actor, but I actually found his annoying voice to fit Nikolai’s character to a tee. =)

Below is a sample of the music found in Luminous Arc, it’s the “prayer” track, my favourite theme in the whole game, I think. =)

Multiplayer:

Luminous Arc does feature Wi-fi multiplayer, but I haven’t tried it out, so I can’t really say how good it is. If I do eventually try it out, I’ll add my thoughts here and give it a score.

My Thoughts & Recommendations:

Being an SRPG fan, this may be a little biased, so keep that in mind, but I will try to be as objective as possible. =) Luminous Arc is, in my opinion, a very enjoyable romp through the SRPG genre. It lacks the same depth that most SRPGs are now offering in gameplay, but it makes that up with wacky characters, and an interesting, albeit typical, story. I genuinely enjoyed playing the game, and even chuckled a couple of times. If your looking for a fun game of good length look no further. =)

If you are a beginner to SRPGs, then this game is for you. Most of the game isn’t too difficult and it serves nicely as an introductory SRPG. But be warned, there are two fights in this game that can be difficult, thankfully if you are having trouble, you can level grind. Veterans won’t find much challenge, but they may find an amusing game, as I did. If your itching for another SRPG, then I recommend Luminous Arc; it’s surprisingly pleasant. If your curious about the genre and are willing to give it a try, then I also recommend Luminous Arc.

I definitely enjoyed the characters the most. Although this game is aimed a males and has a dating sim feel, I still really enjoyed all the characters. Saki was definitely a favourite of mine; who doesn’t like a serious and blunt kunoichi. :3 Some of the witches were quite fun as well, like the lazy Vivi. And although he began as a rather annoying character, even Nikolai grew on me. I do think everyone will find at least one character they really like.

Conclusion:

Pros: Cons:
-Gorgeous music
-Pretty art
-Nice presentation & graphics
-Generally good voice acting
-Funny scenarios
-Fun to play
-Intermission talks
-Post-game content
-Wi-Fi multiplayer
-Rather predictable story
-Uneven difficulty
-Intermission talks do not alter ending
-Lack of customization
-Busy boxart

Overall, a good SRPG for beginners and those who like the genre.

–SW

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