Luminous Arc 2: Will - Staff Review  

Which Witch Switched the Switch?
by Mike Moehnke

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20-40 Hours
+ Entertaining tactical action
+ Strong score
- Turn counter is wonky
- The RPG version of an Idiot Plot
+ Lots of optional content
- Why the wedding dresses all the time?
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   Luminous Arc was a cute, tactical title that gained recognition for itself through a charming art style rather than its undistinguished tactical action. The appreciation of otaku seemed to be taken as a sign by imageepoch that this sort of game was smart business, and Luminous Arc 2 does not vary the action of its predecessor significantly. Its tactical action is not terribly complex, and its characters are again drawn by Kaito Shibano to lend unity to the series' look. It is definitely more of the same rather than an evolution to the Luminous Arc series, and this coupled with a story that insults the intelligence of its player makes the game something of a letdown.

   Luminous Arc 2's combat is similar to many other tactical RPGs. Player and enemy characters maneuver around an isometric battlefield, with every character possessing a different attack and movement range. Aside from attacking with their weapons, characters can use skills and magic. The direction being faced when attacking affects the damage dealt and the chance of hitting. Attacking enemies and taking other actions earns experience, with every 100 experience points gaining a level-up for a character with increased statistics being awarded.

   One wrinkle in the usual tactical RPG's kit is the varied turn order. Instead of a turn in which every participant on the field takes an action, the wait time until a new action can be taken is supposedly determined in part by how much is done with the current action. Standing still or moving, but not doing anything else, lower the time needed to act again. The exceptions to this rule are glaring enough to attract notice, such as the occasional character getting to act twice in a row or taking a second action much sooner than would be expected. These exceptions do not occur in every battle, but they will often be responsible for plentiful player frustration.

   The other somewhat unusual aspect to Luminous Arc 2's combat is exclusive to Roland, the main character. As the game progresses he gains the ability to Engage with each of the Witches when they are concurrently on the battlefield. Engagement greatly increases one of Roland's statistics (depending upon the Witch) and grants him additional abilities. Engagement is a temporary undertaking that can be done once per battle with each Witch. Every time it is done, however, the player is treated to a picture of the Witch in question wearing a wedding dress that takes up both screens and grinds the action to a halt for a moment so that Roland's implicit polygamy can be celebrated.

That is a sick floor.  Just look at all the purple spots. That is a sick floor. Just look at all the purple spots.

   Menus in combat are a bit slow to interact with but have no glaring faults, other than it being difficult to target attacks at times thanks to the isometric view making it appear that an enemy is in range. Outside of battle, shop menus are fairly well-constructed, allowing the observation of changes from new items and their equipment without leaving the shop. There are two nitpicks regarding shopping, one being that four characters and their affinity towards the current equipment are displayed at once, necessitating much scrolling back and forth as the party enlarges. The other is that only one statistic's increase is factored into whether the game considers the equipment an improvement over what is currently in place, and other attributes the new item might improve require close scrutiny.

   One inventory facet that needed improvement is the Lapis arrangement. Lapises are gems that can be equipped to characters and grant a variety of effects. They are not bought, but are received as spoils post-battle. And there is no way to get rid of the surplus, meaning that near the end there are scores of Lapises to sift through when the player is shifting setups.

   The plot of Luminous Arc 2 is the low point of the game. The protagonists battle against Fatima, the Shadow Frost Witch, without learning why she is their enemy. Every opportunity to ascertain her motivation is ignored by the script. Later in the game, transparent padding is added by having so-called allies inexplicably become enemies just long enough to provide additional battles that ignore the game's internal logic. Ignoring the plot is impossible thanks to the plethora of dialogue on display, which is capably translated by Atlus but cannot surmount the stupidity of the original script. The lameness of the plot is a shame, considering the characters can be entertaining when not shackled to the story's boneheaded machinations.

Southern California surfer dialect knows not the boundaries of time or space. Southern California surfer dialect knows not the boundaries of time or space.

   One high point in the game is its aural accompaniment, with the composer list including Yoko Shimomoru, Akari Kaida, Shunsuke Tsuchiya, and Yoshino Aoki. The battle music never sags in its pointed pieces, and the plentiful good tracks outside of battle more than make up for a few inconsequential titles. For a DS game, the voice acting is plentiful, and Atlus has done a respectable job at making sure the performances are listenable at worst. As for the visuals, they do not strain the DS in any way. Luminous Arc 2 looks serviceable for the system but nothing more.

   One thing the game does provide is plenty of auxiliary material to enliven the experience. At most points during the story, guild missions can be accepted for grinding purposes. The majority of these missions have no purpose other than recycling battlegrounds with different opponents for the sake of extra experience, but some do add story sequences, and there are even a couple of optional characters to be obtained from one. Several other optional missions are not obtained from the guild and are available while exploring older areas, all of which flesh out character backgrounds. To further elicit interest in playing the game beyond its mandatory portions, a new game + option is present for extending the roughly twenty-five hour core story for many hours more.

   The vast majority of Luminous Arc 2 will pose no great challenge to tactical veterans. Occasional hiccups in the turn order notwithstanding, the difficulty is minimized by there being no penalty for characters falling in battle. They do not die or have to be revived. They simply come back at battle's end. If the player's team is annihilated, the option to retry the battle is offered instead of seeing a "Game Over".

   Combat offers little to distinguish Luminous Arc 2 from the rest of the tactical RPG universe, but it is moderately entertaining. That and a rousing score should be the reasons to play the game, because its other aspects are undistinguished at best and downright insulting at worst. Tactical RPG fans can do better on the DS, though not necessarily in the field of otaku magnets, which Luminous Arc 2 has in enormous quantities.

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