Arc the Lad was released in Japan over five years ago. With the recent burst of
RPGs crossing the Pacific, it is easy to miss one game now and then. However, Arc the
Lad has grown from one game to a full series. After the latest game in the series was
released in Japan just over a year ago, someone on our side finally took notice. Working
Designs announced that they would bring the entire series, a total of four games, to North
American RPGamers all at once. Such a large collection would take months for the average
RPGamer to complete. With the release only a few months away, RPGamer has managed to get
its hands on the first game of the collection.
First off, we must remember that this is not a remake. While Working Designs
will fix errors and make adjustments of the games they bring over, they do not overhaul
games with the intent of recreating with today's methods. With that in mind, the
technology of the game shows its age. One would have to think back to get a feel of what
to expect. In 1995, North Americans were playing games like Chrono Trigger and Breath
of Fire II. For its time, Arc the Lad showed some rather advanced features making the
game memorable for many.
The story starts with a girl on her way to the Flame Cion, a flame that has burned
for over 3000 years. As she journeys up the mountain to the flame, she talks about her
loathing of the flame, and what it means. In an act of defiance, she douses the flame.
What happens next completely surprised her as a dark voice spoke to her from the void,
thanking her for setting him free. In terror she flees back to the town. As thus begins the
story of the end of humanity. Mankind's only savior; a young boy named Arc.
The game is sprite based, with detailed backgrounds and characters. While not
very far into the game, there has already been some FMV, showing how soon the
developers took advantage of the new-at-the-time PlayStation and CD format. For a
sprite-based game, the graphics are not lacking at all. The characters show full
movement, and are very lively, almost fluid with the moving background music. Except
for the static images for dialogue, there is nothing lacking graphically for a game of this
The battles were not intuitive at first. Part of the problem seems to be that the AI
of the monsters is completely random. Some seem to be bent on crushing your party, and
others wander aimlessly. At first I thought it was the type of monster, but later the same
types of monsters would act completely different. This adds some unpredictability to an
otherwise straightforward tactic battle system. The battles are turn based with overhead
grid movement. Each team moves in entirety before the other side does, but there is no
playing the characters out of order. Sometimes the landscape will look open, but turn out
to be blocked. Planning and careful movement are key to cornering monsters. Keep
cure handy, you'll need it.
The story drew me in right away, as most games from Working Designs do. My
first thoughts were that this relatively short introduction into the series would be a bit
drawn out, perhaps slow moving and simplistic. I am pleased to say that I my instincts
were wrong. With sly foreshadowing, and really vivid characters, it took no time at all to
get into the story. Arc has a tough journey, not just because of monsters, but people not
believing he really has the power to save humanity· or worse, don't even understand
there is danger imminent.
I hope I managed to wet your whistle at least while we all wait in anticipation for
the final release date. Arc the Lad is only the first of four games coming all at once, so if
this one didn't catch your eye, there's still plenty to come that is sure to get your