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If Arc the Lad 2 was to be sold separately for the same price as the entire Arc the Lad Collection, it would still be worth the money. This game is what really shines in this gigantic anthology, with its deep plot, interesting characters and fun battles.
Starting out with the battle system, it is very much like the one seen in the first Arc game (they were to be the same game from the beginning, so one shouldn't expect anything else). The battles are much longer in Arc 2 though, and the battle areas are often gigantic. Just like in Arc 1, you only need to press X while standing next to an enemy to attack it normally. To cast spells, simply bring up a tiny menu with that character's spell, and cast away. Much like in other Tactical RPGs on the market today, you have the abillity to choose which characters are going to participate in each battle just before it starts. One thing that make strategies more limited in Arc 2, is the fact that no characters can move through each other at any time during a battle. Usually, this only goes for the enemies.. but in Arc 2, it goes for everyone. This may seem like a small detail to some people, but it can indeed cause lots of trouble (such as characters getting stuck behind others, being forced to waste their turn in an important battle etc). To grow stronger and earn more stats or skills in Arc 2, one only needs to level up. However, there are certain other things you can do to improve your attack power even more. Each weapon has its own levels, which goes up when you use that particular weapon.
All parts of the interface is beautiful in this game, and quite original to a certain point. First of all, the fact that you only need to press X next to an enemy is very pleasant. Second of all, Arc the Lad II has a gigantic world map which you can explore... most Tactical RPG's dont have those kinds of world maps. Third, when you are in a dungeon, you walk around and explore things just like in ordinary RPGs. Most TRPGs don't have that either. Arc the Lad II also uses the same type of graphics as its predecessor. The sprites look way better this time around though, and everything in the game is a lot smoother than before. Too bad they didn't put in any good FMV work until the third part though, but I think most people can let that slide.
The only real complaint I have on Arc 2, is probably in the music section. While Arc 2 certainly has a few tracks that I will never forget, the majority of the tracks are boring and repetitive. The ending theme is one of the best I have ever heard, but overall, the quality of the soundtrack is very average. While the game is translated into english of course, they kept the battle-voices in japanese. Much appreciated.
The translation of Arc the Lad II is perfect. This may not come as a surprise, since we're talking Working Designs here. Every single conversation, every word, everything is perfectly translated. No spelling errors, no grammatical errors, nothing. With flawless translations such as this one, the jokes in the game are actually funny, and you instantly understand what kind of a mood the characters are in.
One of the biggest reasons that this game receives such a high score from me, is because of the plot. I have played so many RPGs these past years with predictable, boring and uninteresting plots. Arc the Lad II however, offers everything any RPGamer may want the plot to involve. Friendship, love, war, betrayal, you name it. The plot focuses on a young hunter called Elc. When Elc was just a little kid, his entire village was burned down, and everyone who lived there were killed. Being the sole survivor of the massacre, Elc met up with an experienced hunter called Shu. Shu took care of Elc and taught him how to make a living as a hunter. Ever since then, Elc has sworn to avenge his relatives, and find out who actually did it. Not to forget, the plot also continues the story of Arc and his friends from the first game. At first, one might wonder how these two games are connected, but they have a lot more in common than most people may think. The two stories of Arc and Elc will become one, and turn into one of the greatest adventures ever. The story of Arc the Lad II is top notch, with its tons of deep and interesting characters, tragic events and memorable dialogue.
While the first Arc game was very short, lasting about 10 hours at most, Arc 2 is one of the longer games in the genre. It'll take about 40 hours to complete the game without doing any sidequests. If you want to complete most of the sidequests though, you'll probably end up around 60 hours, or even more than that. Also, Arc 2 can be quite challenging at times. Some of the battles may be totally impossible to beat if you come unprepared, so watch out.
Considering that the game is so long, and there is no newgame+ function or multiple endings, the replay value goes quite low. Going through this game once is more than enough. In the sidequest-section, you'll see that its not like in any other RPG either. While Elc is a hunter, most of the sidequests are accessed through the hunter's guild in the various towns of the world. These quests can involve almost anything from searching for some guy's dog to defeating an army of ghosts. The rewards for the quests also varies a lot depending on your task.
To sum it all up, Arc the Lad II is truly the crown jewel of the Arc the Lad Collection. It is too bad that its predecessor was so average, and that its sequel was so crappy, because this game is really something.
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