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A lot of people were excited when they heard that the Arc games were heading towards North America. Earlier in Japan, the three games had been released separately. However, in the North American release, we would receive all three games in a unique box, along with a whole lot of extras (a making of disc, soundtracks, strategy guides etc., etc.) This is a review of the first of the 3 games, Arc the Lad.
Arc the Lad is a Tactical RPG. Battles take a whole lot of time, and are very enjoyable. Depending on where you are in the game, you can have up to 7 characters in battle, and one of them has the ability to summon even more helpers. The battle field is often large, and the enemies are always many. As in most other TRPGs, a character has to finish his or her turn before anyone else can move, and so forth.
To attack an enemy in battle, the only thing needed is to press the X button while standing next to it. No menus, no commands, nothing. With spells, you only press circle to access that character's ability ring. From there, just choose whatever you want to cast, and then do it. To gain more skills and abilities, characters only need to level up. When characters gain levels, they also gain stats, such as HP, Agility, strength etc. While there wasn't much time to explore the battle system in the first Arc (since it's so short), there isn't much more to say about it. The simple interface also make battles flow a lot better. Although, the world map system might be the most dull one I've ever seen. While the other Arc games had brilliant world maps, this one is just a point-and-click-board. And since you can't choose where to go whenever you want to, it would've been better if the game just sent you to the correct direction directly instead.
Music in Arc the Lad is very average. While I loved the sound effects and the voices of the characters in battle, most tunes are repetitive and dull. Also, there are way too few tracks... but then again, that's also because the game is very short. I really liked that they kept the Japanese voices in battle though; instead of translating the battle cries…they tend to be unfitting in English.
When it comes to Working Designs, their translations are always spectacular, and the Arc collection offers nothing else. While there isn't a whole lot of dialogue in the first Arc game, you won't find a single spelling error, or even a single weird sentence through the entire game. Most importantly, the flow of the dialogue is perfect.
While this title is only an introduction to the series, don't expect that many cutscenes or major plot events. There is a plot, and it is indeed solid, but it is merely the beginning of something much, much bigger. You play the role as the young Arc, whose father mysteriously disappeared 10 years ago. Since then, Arc has fought hard to become a strong soldier and find out about his father's mysterious fate. Along the way, he will meet lots of new friends, and make a few enemies as well. Although, none of these events actually end in Arc the Lad…instead, you'll have to play the second game to see how things turn out
Even for its own time, Arc the Lad didn't have any outstanding graphics. The visuals are very standard and nothing special at all. I liked the character models, even though they looked more like something taken out of a SNES game than anything else. What also looked good were the effects coming from the different special attacks.
Arc the Lad shouldn't take longer than 7-15 hours to complete at most. Like I said, it is merely an introduction to the series. Luckily, the game is also far from hard, as most areas in the game can easily be completed on the first try, even the final boss. Even if the game was entertaining, I don't think I'll ever pick it up once more. Unless you're planning on replaying Arc the Lad II and want to remember more of the story (which isn't even necessary), there is no reason to even touch Arc the Lad again. In the sidequest-section, there isn't that much to look out for. Since you can convert your clear save from Arc the Lad to Arc the Lad II, players might want to finish off the 50 floor bonus dungeon in order to earn some great items and powered up characters. This isn't a must, though.
After all, I don't think I should be too harsh on Arc the Lad. From the beginning, Arc and Arc II was supposed to be the same game... and considering what a wonderful game Arc II is, the first Arc can be forgiven.
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