Arc Rise Fantasia has been on the radar of many Wii owners for a while now. A lot of the excitement surrounding the game is likely due to the fact that the Wii isn't a platform known for its library of RPGs. Thankfully the long wait will be over soon, as Arc Rise Fantasia will be released this summer in North America. I was invited to Ignition USA's office to get an early look at the localized version of the game. So the question now is, will Arc Rise Fantasia be able to satiate RPG starved Wii owners?
"Regardless of your localization preferences, I can safely say that Arc Rise Fantasia is a fairly good-looking Wii game."
I had very limited hands-on time with the game, but I did get to watch a live run through of the first hour of Arc Rise Fantasia. It started off with a grand opening cinematic of a fleet of airships taking on a horde of dragons. This is where we are first introduced to L'Arc, the main character. After a brief struggle with a dragon, L'Arc is knocked off one of the airships and lands in the middle of a forest. L'Arc manages to kill the dragon, but unfortunately, when dragons die in this game, they leave massive explosions in their wake. Thankfully, just when the dragon was about to explode, a mysterious girl emerges from the forest and absorbs the energy from the blast, saving L'Arc's life.
This young girl is the second main character, Ryfia. Ryfia, apparently, is a Diva from another country. I'm not entirely sure what a Diva is in this world, but it is probably the reason why Ryfia is so sheltered and socially awkward. Later on in this demo, I came across the third main character in the game, Alf. Alf is L'Arc's best friend and the second prince of the Meridian Empire. The demo moved so fast that I really wasn't able to learn much more about the story than that. However, I was told that one of the major themes in the game is about the environment versus the government. This game sounds interesting enough, but an hour isn't anywhere near enough time to see how that will play out.
While I didn't get to see a whole lot of the story, I did get a solid feel for a lot of the game's mechanics and presentation. First off, let me start by saying that the game does not feature a Japanese voice track. Ignition wasn't able to secure the rights to the Japanese voice track. However, the entire game is fully voiced in English. Regardless of your localization preferences, I can safely say that Arc Rise Fantasia is a fairly good-looking Wii game. It employs a bright and colorful anime style that lends itself nicely to the Wii's limited capabilities. I also found the character designs fairly attractive, especially during dialogue sequences where large hand-drawn portraits of the characters are used.
Arc Rise Fantasia employs a turn-based battle system where you take control of three party members simultaneously and issue commands from a shared pool of Action Points. You can also strategically move characters around the battlefield to avoid area-of-effect spells or to keep magic users in the back away from enemies. There is a system in place to set up auto-attacks and auto-actions to streamline battles a bit, but I didn't find out too much about it in my short time with the game.
However, I did learn how the magic system works in this game. Characters learn magic through the use of orbs attached to their weapons, which are called Arm Force Pieces. You can buy orbs from shops and equip them on weapons with open slots. In the demo, L'Arc was using a fire orb, Alf had an earth orb, and Ryfia had a water orb. Apparently, the orbs do degrade over time and can be repaired in shops. An interesting thing to note is that when used in battle, magic uses up both AP and a separate pool of MP. I was also told that you can buy more MP in shops.
There are a few things about Arc Rise Fantasia that really stood out to me. In general, I liked the game's mechanics. The battle system, while traditional, seemed fairly fast-paced and fun. It looks like there will be a lot of room to employ complicated tactics and strategies as the game progresses. I also really liked the fact that there are no random battles in the game. You can even gain an advantage in battle and attack first if you manage to sneak up on an enemy, but you can also be ambushed by an enemy, which results in the enemy attacking first. It all depends on which way you are facing when you encounter an enemy on the field. All in all, I got the impression that the core game is a solid JRPG with a lot of towns and dungeons to explore, a lengthy quest that can take upwards of thirty hours to complete, and a ton of side quests that can nearly double the game's length.
There were a few key things about Arc Rise Fantasia that did turn me off. The chief among these was the voice acting. In general, the voice acting is fairly bad and awkwardly delivered. The lip syncing for the character's dialog during CG cutscenes was pretty off the mark too, almost comically so. In the opening CG cutscene, L'Arc would often start talking several seconds before his mouth would start to move. The biggest offender in the voice acting department has to be Ryfia. I understand that her character is supposed to be a socially awkward girl who has been sheltered her whole life, but it still doesn't change the fact that every time she opened her mouth, I cringed a little. It really was that bad.
I also didn't care much for the main character, the story (what little I saw of it), or the characterization. L'Arc comes off as your typical, cocky, arrogant anime cliche and like I mentioned before, Ryfia comes off as more awkward and uncomfortable than cute and endearing. To be fair, I was rushed through the story and dialogue fairly quickly, but what little I did see of it left me confused and not hungry enough to see more.
While it was a fairly short demo, I did walk away with a lot of information on Arc Rise Fantasia. My feelings on Arc Rise Fantasia are fairly mixed. I think the core game mechanics are solid and have a lot of potential to be fun and complex as the game progresses. I liked the graphics, the art style, and the world of Arc Rise Fantasia. The story and voice acting, on the other hand, left me feeling cold. My reactions to the story and voice acting could simply come down to personal preference so your mileage may vary. Stay tuned to RPGamer for continuing coverage of Arc Rise Fantasia and for our final verdict when the game comes out this summer in North America.