Arc the Lad II Review
Arc the Lad II
Arc the Lad II is undoubtably the crown jewel of Working Designs’ Arc the Lad Collection. It makes up the bulk of the originally planned story, it has first rate production values, and it’s just plain fun.
The plot of Arc II picks up shortly after where the original left off, from the perspective of a new character named Elc. Roughly halfway through the game, Elc meets up with Arc and the rest of the characters from the original game, who maintain their stats and equipment if the player imports saved data from the end of the game. This feature is really the biggest strong point of the game, as it allows characters to truly carry on in a new game, where most recurring characters in sequels put in only a cameo, or at best join briefly as a watered down version of their former selves.
Aside from bringing back familiar faces, the story of Arc the Lad II is a long, dark, brooding affair which takes the time to develop each and every character quite nicely. This combined with a proliference of bulky airships and trains gives the tone a pleasant resemblance to that of Final Fantasy VI.
Along with the more sophisticated story comes more sophisticated gameplay. While the original only allowed characters to be customized be equipping a few accessories, Arc II has weapons and armor to upgrade, with each character being able to choose from a variety of weapon types. Much like Secret of Mana and Grandia, as a character uses a given type of weapon, their skill with that weapon improves, causing them to do more damage and attack in a more flamboyant manner. Additionally, each piece of equipment found in the game has a level of its own, which can be improved with use, or a small fee at a blacksmith to bring up its attack or defensive power. In other words, to reach its full potential each piece of equipment must first be broken in over the course of a few battles.
Furthermore, while the original game captured much of the spirit of a traditional RPG, Arc II incorporates a fair share of the gameplay as well. While most TRPGs simply send you from mission A to non-interactive plot point B to mission C, Arc II has traditional RPG style towns, and even large dungeons in which one fights numerous small battles with no chance to heal up between.
The graphics in Arc the Lad II, as in the first, are 2D sprites on 2D backgrounds. However, these sprites are now extremely well animated, giving the game a very nice look despite the low-tech graphics. Meanwhile the soundtrack is essentially that of the original game, with a few new tracks thrown in. The quality is still quite good, but as this game is several times longer than the first, the lack of variety can grow a bit monotonous towards the end.
While the main game is quite enjoyable on its own, Arc the Lad II offers up many interesting side quests, mostly by way of the Hunter’s Guild. Like the location of the same name in Phantasy Star 4 and Phantasy Star Online, the Hunter’s Guilds in Arc the Lad II offer up a variety of missions that earn players some extra money, and help flesh out the world a bit. As an added twist, these guilds also contain wanted posters depicting special monsters. These monsters can then be encountered at random, and after killing them, a large cash reward can be collected.
At the end of the day, Arc the Lad II is an outstanding game, marred only by a soundtrack stretched a bit too thin, and a final battle that takes quite a ludicrous amount of time.