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   Luminous Arc 3: Eyes - Staff Review  

Witches? What Witches?
by Cassandra "Strawberry Eggs" Ramos

PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
20-40 Hours
OVERALL
3.5/5
+ Faster, tweaked battle system.
+ No useless characters.
+ Dating sim elements are interesting.
- Little side quest variety.
- Less voice acting than in previous games.
- Music usage is a bit odd.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Everyone and their pet Kopin probably assumed that Luminous Arc 3: Eyes would be released in North America within a year of its Japanese release. After all, the first two games were released here and while neither one was a runaway hit, they fared decently and are considered something of a cult classic series. However, almost two years have passed since the game’s Japanese release and the 3DS is already out. It seems very unlikely that Atlus USA or any other publisher will release the game now. So what is an English-speaking fan of the series to do? Import and play the Japanese game of course. What if said fan can't read or understand much, if any, Japanese? As this fan found out, the game is not only quite playable without understanding much of the language, but rather enjoyable for the most part. It improves upon a few things from its predecessor, especially its battle system. However, only a basic assessment can be made of the story, so that section should be taken with a grain of salt.

   In the world of Luminous Arc 3, there is an on-going war between humans and fairy-like creatures called Felicia over the power of Eyes. These Eyes grant humans magical powers, which main character Refi experiences for himself after Felicia attack his village and kill his best friend. He soon joins the Ulgard Academy for magic knights like himself, and eventually uncovers the reason behind the Felicia's ruthless search for Eyes.

   From what can be gathered without having a basic knowledge of Japanese, there isn't much, if anything, to the basic plot that hasn't been done before. If there are any interesting twists of JRPG conventions, they cannot be divined by merely watching scenes and understanding little of the text. Much like the first two games, there is a large number of light-hearted, often goofy scenes between the characters, but it doesn't seem to be tongue-in-cheek like the first game was.

Anyone else think those monsters look like Legendary Pokémon? Anyone else think those monsters look like Legendary Pokémon?

   Also much like the first two games, the real enjoyment of the story comes not from the plot, but from the characters and character interaction. Although sadly some of the characters' traits and personalities are lost in translation (or rather lack thereof), most of them are distinct, have their fair share of quirks, and are likable. Glimpses of their personalities can be gleaned from the facial expressions of their portraits, the tones of their voices and how they speak, and their movements and actions during cutscenes as well as in battle. The game goes further to flesh out the characters with its dating sim-like After Break system. Luminous Arc 3 seems to create a sense of camaraderie among the playable characters and even some of the NPCs.

   Although the battle system hasn't changed much from Luminous Arc 2 to Luminous Arc 3, combat has been improved a little. Like both earlier games, it is an isometric tactical RPG. Characters can move about on the field and engage enemies with simple weapon strikes, skills that consume Magic Points, and powerful attacks called Flash Drives, which require Drive Points to use. DP is usually acquired by taking and dealing damage in battle. Every character has three Flash Drives, though it's usually more practical to use the level one Drive twice than to use level two and three Drives. A new battle option available to Refi and certain specific characters is his use of Unison Strikes. By getting close to one or more characters through After Breaks, he can perform a powerful attack with one of them so long as he and the character are standing right next to each other. While this proximity limits the usefulness of the move, it does not use MP or DP. The layout of the menus on the bottom screen is nearly identical to that of the previous game. The top screen, however, better keeps track of the turn order for both team members and enemies than it did in LA2.

   A maximum of six characters can be sent into battle, and unlike both earlier games, each one of the fifteen playable characters has his or her use, depending on the battle. Excluding Refi, there are two characters per element. Players can either stick to a limited number of characters to train up, or keep each of them at more or less the same level. This can make for more interesting and engaging battles by using each character's strengths. The difficulty is also more evenly paced, with boss battles requiring more strategy than just killing all enemies. Players can also choose between normal and hard difficulty on a new game. Another very welcome change is the speed at which units move, making the battles go much faster.

   One major change from the second game is that between fights, Refi is able to move about freely through the academy and talk to his classmates instead of choosing places from a menu. While this opens up the game somewhat, it is limited to the school. Refi can only go out to other areas for story or side quest battles, and he cannot walk freely through them. Refi can also buy items and craft weapons by using materials dropped by monsters to enhance the arms he and his party own. Much like the second game, players can use touch and button controls both in and out of battle. The touch screen is very responsive, but the ability to use buttons at any time is much appreciated.

What is she upset about? What is she upset about?

   The aforementioned ability to talk to NPCs and other party members plays a large part in the game's After Break system. After a battle, Refi can talk to a certain number of people. By answering their questions favorably, the characters will gain more Filial Points. The characters with the highest FP not only get to do Unison Strikes with Refi, but one of them can be chosen near the end of the game to see his or her ending. It is even possible to purchase secret information on the party from one NPC, which is apparently incorporated into After Break conversations to flesh out the characters a bit more. Another means of having Refi interact with characters include a bathhouse, where he can talk with the male characters while bathing, or listen in on the female characters on the other side. While it doesn't affect their FP, if there's one thing Luminous Arc is known for, it is the usage of fan service. Refi can even speak to NPCs during After Breaks to learn more about them.

   In an almost startling change from the previous two games, cutscenes are no longer limited to talking portraits sliding on and off screen, the occasional CG still, and the extremely rare animated clip. While the sliding portraits are still prevalent, there are now scenes in which character sprites are shown in places other than the battle field, moving and acting out scenes. The sprites themselves are a little stiff, and it makes one wonder why it took Imageepoch this long to implement it, but it's a welcome change of pace from the first two games. Otherwise, the visuals of Luminous Arc 3 are not very different from those of the second game, although they do seem to be somewhat sharper. The character designs, especially their clothing, are quite memorable. Their outfits may not be very practical for battle, but they are very intricate.

   The music itself is quite good, almost rivaling that of the second game's soundtrack. Yoko Shimomura does not return for this game, but Shunsuke Tsuchiya does. Many of his tracks are quite enjoyable, especially "Knight of the Black Rose," the character theme for party member Ashley. Indeed, character themes are arguably some of the best pieces on this soundtrack. The usage of the music, however, is another story. Battle themes, which were the second game's strongest musical suit, are used oddly in this one. Often times there don't seem to be dedicated battle themes, as pieces from other points of the game may be used instead. Even the battle theme for the final boss can be heard multiple times during story sequences beforehand. While the music itself is good and appropriate to the battles, it's a bit off-putting that the third game doesn't have much specific battle music.

   The voice acting is also solid, but oddly, Luminous Arc 3 seems to have the least amount of voice work of any of the three games. Entire chapters can go by without a single voiced line, unlike the first two games which had at least one brief scene per chapter. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the acting is not only good, it aids in communicating a small bit of the story across to non-Japanese speakers. However, it's surprising to hear so little story acting.

   Will Luminous Arc fans enjoy this game? I think that it is likely. The battle system has been tweaked so that it goes by faster and is a bit more challenging (or a lot more if hard mode is chosen). The characters are engaging and amusing, the music is good, and there is enough fan service to satisfy those who enjoy that sort of thing without being off-putting to those who do not, save for one minor early scene. The enjoyment of non-fans is harder to say. If the battles were what they didn't enjoy, this game may alleviate that problem. Even the previous games' penchant for fighting the same enemy multiple times is greatly reduced, having fewer such bosses, and only a maximum of three battles against them. If it were the story, I am even less certain since I couldn't really follow it, and I only have a slightly better comprehension of it through outside means. Regardless, it's a shame that Luminous Arc 3 was passed up for localization. It is still an enjoyable game, and while my opinion of it probably wouldn't be much different, localizing it would certainly help that enjoyment.

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