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Arc the Lad Collection - Review

Arc the Lad III

By: Jake Alley


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 4
   Plot 3
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

40-60 hours

 
Overall
3
Criteria

Arc the Lad III
 

   Without Arc the Lad III, there would be no Arc the Lad Collection. Thus it's somewhat ironic that the game plays an extremely vestigial role in the series.

   While the original Arc the Lad left things hanging to be resolved in the sequel, Arc the Lad II resolved everything in a very concrete and grandiose manner, making it quite clear they meant for it to be the end of the series. Therefore, Arc the Lad III has no real driving force, making for a forgettable game overall.

   With no major crisis to keep things moving, the story of Arc the Lad III goes the route of imitating GameArts. A small group of youngsters running the gambit from annoyingly cute, to cutely annoying, wander aimlessly through the world with only the most passing of hints of any conflict until near the end of the game. Unfortunately, in spite of the lively translation, this approach fails to really draw the player in.


Scrawny characters.
Scrawny characters.  

   Further bogging things down is the way the story, such as it is, unfolds. The Hunter's Guilds which served as a fun diversion in Arc II are central to the third. Almost entire game is spent methodically taking the various missions offered in each town until one shows up which will advance the main plot and give the party a one-way ticket to the next town. As if it wasn't bad enough to replace the main gameplay with what was once a group of side quests, the missions not connected to the story are by and large highly repetitive series of battles or simple puzzles preceded by excessive expository dialog.

   This weak story hurts the game somewhat, but as the creators admit they never planned for a third game, this is not entirely surprising. What is surprising is the fact that most other elements fall flat as well.

   Arc the Lad III makes the jump to polygonal backgrounds, while missing the point to such a switch entirely. The camera angle can never be rotated or adjusted, and is set at a somewhat annoying not-quite-top-view pitch that often leaves characters obscured by buildings. Even during plot points this angle never changes, save for one short zoom near the beginning. Meanwhile, the characters are still 2D, but the colorful highly animated sprites of the earlier games are replaced with stiff scrawny twig-like characters with extremely simple attack animations. Meanwhile in a highly ironic twist, the game takes pride in having more sophisticated FMV scenes than its predecessors and grandiose monster summoning animations. These elements however still fall fairly short of the competition more often than not.


FMV is all the rage.
FMV is all the rage.  

   A poor presentation will not condemn a solid game of course, but sadly, even the gameplay, which would be just fine had it been ripped straight from Arc II, is a sad sight. Not only are the mechanics seriously dumbed down, ditching the weapon skills and equipment levels from II, and even doing away with the jump stat that helped define the first two titles. To add insult to injury, the most fundamental aspect of the TRPG, displaying how far characters can move, which every other game has always gotten right, is flawed. Spaces containing monsters will highlight as valid places to stand, and characters can end up the same distance forward from where they start whether traveling through open ground, or having to circle around trees. Not only does this show an appalling amount of laziness on behalf of the developers, it makes it impossible to block enemy movement with one's characters, removing a large amount of strategy.

   So, the story, graphics, and gameplay of Arc III pale in comparison to the earlier games, the music is tinny and while the characters from Arc II are present in the game, they simply make the occasional cameo; nothing carries over from the previous title. Still, the game has one noteworthy feature its forbearers didn't. At special shops in town, new weapons and items can be created from raw materials with some experimentation, giving players something to think about in exchange for the dumbed down combat.

   In light of how enjoyable the rest of the series is, it really is a shame that the Arc the Lad Collection ends with the whimper that is Arc the Lad III and not the roar that is Arc II.

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