(Image link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ar_nosurge)
To be frank, I’ve never played any games of the Ar series except for one… Ar Tonelico Qoga. I did enjoy it as a standalone JRPG but I also heard how bad it is compared to the previous games in the series.
This will be a small review of the game (based on around 8 hours of gameplay)
The game’s story is told through 2 perspectives: 1 from the perspective of a male lead named Delta with his partner Cass, the other from the perspective of a female character named Ion with her partner You, the player / avatar (a reference to her previous game: Ciel no Surge), who has been trapped in a sealed world, according to the story of Ciel no Surge. You are given the ability to switch between the two pairs as their stories develop throughout the game. There are times when the story cannot move forward (due to a puzzle or door for example), and requires interaction from the other pair. Those moments are usually a good indicator of when to switch between the two pairs.
A major feature in this game is Song Magic; something that certain females have, allowing them to fight and help out their partners during battle. In return, the partners have the ability called “Geometrics” (or better known as diving) which makes them enter the body and soul of their female partners. They help develop new personalities or characteristics based on the characters the females are linked to (story-wise), which in turn allows them to wield new Song Magic if the procedure is successful.
During these segments, the game turns into a visual novel / dating sim-esque type in which certain dialogue choices can affect the female’s personality, Song Magic power, or even forcing you out of “Geometrics” if you choose the wrong choice or if you fail to do something right during that moment.
Otherwise the game plays as a standard console RPG, with little to no exploration of dungeons required. You just need to get to point A to point B, maybe finding a few items along the way to scavenge. Encountering enemies work in a “Wave” system in which each dungeon has a certain number of waves for you to clear. Each battle has some sort of time limit, or limited number of turns to take, before the battle suddenly ends. The idea is to defeat as many waves as you can before that limit is up. If all waves are defeated while in that dungeon, you are free to explore without worrying about encountering any more enemies until you leave the dungeon.
The battle system is turn-based with reaction-time elements implemented. Each turn, there is a selection of enemies who will attack you in the next turn. The idea is to bash the living hell out of these enemies using various techniques and combos. If enough damage is done they will “Break”, unable to attack. If all such enemies “Break”, or you defeated all enemies in that wave you will be rewarded with a free turn; Rinse and repeat. You can also use an item per turn, activate skills acquired from different characters throughout the game, or use Song Magic which ends the battle. The power of the Song Magic is determined on your performance during battles.
Any enemies not on “Break” will attack or use a skill in the next turn. Pressing the O button activates a defensive shield which lasts for around 1-2 seconds. Any damage taken during that time is reduced and increases the power of the Song Magic. Failure to do so will reduce the power instead. There is a limit to the amount of times the shield can be used per turn so in the case of boss fights when multiple enemies are present, it may be wise to plan out when to use it.
Something to point out: Boss / Story battles ignore most of the rules mentioned above, and are only considered finished if all enemies are dead.
While I didn’t get to list all the features of the game, the following below should let you know what to expect from the game: what’s good and what’s bad.
+ Good English voiced dialogue… when it does happen. (The game’s got popular / known voices such as Johnny Yong Bosch, Cristina Vee and Wendee Lee)
+ Interesting and active battle system
+ Always liked the atmosphere and overall setting of this game’s world. A nice mixture of modern and future-esque (sci-fi)
+ Next to little drop of FPS throughout the game so far. (JRPGs tend to have problems in regards to FPS)
+ While heavy in terminology, the game does provide descriptions for those words, giving the player an idea of what they mean
– English voiced dialogue is so minuscule; Hardly any lines compared to the Japanese version where almost every line of dialogue in the game is voiced
– While interesting, the battle system can get repetitive really fast
– The story and terminology can be hard to understand if you have not played Ciel no Surge (or any other game in the series)
– No minimap or markers during exploration, can get lost quite easily in some dungeons
– Too many optional events and dialogue involving certain NPCs with little to no relevance to the story or game. Unfortunately, talking to said NPCs is the main method of actually getting new items to synthesize
Personally, I’m not really digging into the game… the lack of English voiced dialogue takes away part of the entertainment value (though dual option is available), I’m not really a big fan of the whole “Geometrics” feature as I just find it tedious and confusing at times… there’s just not as much entertainment value to me. It’s still a decently structured game, just lacks certain aspects that would otherwise make it a good JRPG. I’d give it a 6 out of 10.