Friday, January 16, 2015

Gamer's Frontier: Arc Rise Fantasia

Good RPGs on the Wii are a rarity. Quite literally.
Console: Wii
Genre: JRPG
Year Released: 2009 (Japan), 2010 (North America)
Developers: Imageepoch, Marvelous Entertainment
Publishers: Marvelous Entertainment (Japan), Ignition Entertainment (North America)
Overlooked or Rare?: Both

Welcome to the very first Gamers' Frontier! Here I cover games that are rare, that I think don’t get enough attention, or both.

Now usually with Wii games, you have to dig through mountains of shovelware to find anything of worth. Sure, you have famous titles like Super Mario Galaxy and Legend of Zelda: Skyward sword, but if you want the lesser known gems, you have to be willing to go on a hunt. Titles like Punch Out and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn are harder to find, and some titles are near impossible to even locate. I found Arc Rise Fantasia, one of the rarest Wii titles, in a nearby Half Priced Books. And honestly, I’m quite glad I finally found it.

Story and Concept
The playable cast of Arc Rise Fantasia. Note the lone adult tucked away in the back, next to the giant pair of breasts.
Arc Rise Fantasia is a Japanese role playing game (or “JRPG”) developed by Marvelous Entertainment. It takes place in the fantasy world of Fulheim, which faces threats from both the destructive Feldragons and the crystallization of their home. The story focuses on L’Arc, a young mercenary under the employment of the Meridian Empire, one of Fulheim’s three major powers. He meets a mysterious girl named Ryfia, and things start to unfold from a simple struggle against the Feldragons to a conflict that will decide the fate of all of Fulheim.

Yeah, the story is a bit generic at first, but as you progress, it actually becomes pretty interesting. The characters are the same: at first they aren’t much more than stock anime characters, but eventually they reveal themselves to be a bit more complex. Really, you have to be patient with this game; if you can stomach the first few hours, you’ll find a pretty engrossing fantasy world with a decent story.

Graphics and Design
A shot from the overworld map. Wait, JRPGs still have those?
The Wii may not have the best hardware, but that doesn't mean it can’t pump out some great-looking games. And for a Wii game, Arc Rise Fantasia looks pretty damn good. Sure, it doesn't look as impressive or complex as modern JRPGs, but it's still very colorful and easy to look at. The character models fall into the same boat: simple design, but still quite good. The character design is simple but effective, and same goes for the monster design, though both could have been a bit more creative.

Sound and Music
A taste of the voice acting.

The lowest low of Arc Rise Fantasia is the voice acting. This game has some of the worst voice acting I’ve heard in a video game. Its practically emotionless; nearly every line lead is flat and doesn’t fit the situation at all. It also doesn’t help that there are ton of unnecessary pauses. I’ve listened to fandubs better than what Ignition is trying to pass of as a dub.

The boss theme.

Fortunately, the music of the game is tremendous. Composed by the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda (the man who composed most of Chrono Trigger’s soundtrack), this game features an all-around excellent soundtrack that adds a layer of atmosphere to every scene. From the field theme to the battle music, there isn’t a track I can say a poor thing about.

A sample battle scene.
Arc Rise Fantasia follows in the footsteps of many of its JRPG brothers. You travel the world, fighting monsters, leveling up, buying new equipment, and all that good stuff. However, it adds a few of its own elements to avoid being just another generic JRPG. Take the weapons, for example. The weapons don’t modify your character’s strength, but instead come with abilities. Some are fixed to the weapon, while others can be relocated once the weapon has been modified. You can stack different abilities onto weapons to optimize your party members and even unlock hidden upgrades.

A sample boss fight. Is that a Malboro?
The magic system is similar. Your party members can’t learn magic, but they can equip special gems that allows them to cast spells. You can either stack gems of the same element on top of each other to learn more powerful spells, or you can equip gems of different elements to gain access to new elements. With both weapon and magic customization for each party member, you can optimize your party as you see fit in a surprisingly deep system.

He's fighting a bat-bear-lion-monster thing with a sword as big as he is. Yep, this is a JRPG.
Of course, any RPG wouldn’t be complete without a fully-realized battle system, and Arc Rise Fantasia has great one. Battles take place on a 3D field, and party members can relocate to a different part of the field if needed. The party shares a pool of Action Points, or AP. Every action, from attacking to casting a spell to performing a special attack, consumes AP. Your actions are limited to how much AP you can use a turn. In addition, you can chain individual actions, like two fire spells for example, for a new and often more powerful action. All this adds up to a deceptively deep system that allows for a lot of strategy. The battle system is easily the game’s strongest point, and is the only one of its kind as far as I can tell.

Final Words
Arc Rise Fantasia is a great JRPG, despite its faults. A bit generic, yes, but if you can stomach the first 3 hours or so, you’ll find a game with a surprising amount of depth. I would recommend this game to any JRPG enthusiast, just as long as they’re willing to pay at least $30.

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