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   Luminous Arc 2 - Staff Review  

The Lesser Arc
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Luminous Arc 2
PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
3
ORIGINALITY
2
STORY
2
MUSIC & SOUND
2
VISUALS
2
CHALLENGE
Easy
LENGTH
20-40 Hours
OVERALL
2.5/5
+ Nice art style
+ Decent variety of characters
+ It has Wi-Fi battles
- Boring dialogue lacking humor of LA1
- Bland combat
- Wi-Fi is unbalanced
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Luminous Arc 2 is a follow-up to imageepoch's initial tactical RPG offering. The first game featured a tongue-in-cheek story with lots of unique characters and many well-endowed witches. The gameplay was very basic and offered little to nothing new to the genre. However, the entertainment the characters provided was helpful in making the game a minor cult hit. Now, just over a year since the release of Luminous Arc, Atlus has released the second of the imageepoch titles. Does it improve on the the failings of the first, or fail at making fixes?

   The story of Luminous Arc 2 is like a two-sided coin. On one side, the game is full of humor and funny, likeable characters. Roland and his friends go on an adventure to save the world from a witch gone bad, but then drama unfolds while hilarity ensues. Throughout this quest, Roland teams up with nearly half a dozen witches and other ancillary characters. There are bits and pieces of innuendo here and there along with the staple comic relief character. And while there is nothing too memorable about the quest, the humor is definitely the highlight. On the other side of the coin is a bloated story with so much superfluous dialogue that it is tempting to just skip over it. Even the humor found throughout the game is not enough to make the over-abundant text worth reading. The game's developers must have known this going into it, because they even added an option to speed up the trite dialogue so as to reach the meat of the game: the battle system.

   The battle system is central to Luminous Arc 2, but even so, it is as traditional as it comes. The game features a typical range of classes: mages, healers, ranged and direct melee characters. Players are given a cast of fairly numerous, unique characters from which to form their party of six. Each member gains experience through combat, though they only gain a significant amount if they defeat an enemy and characters will gain new skills at set levels.

   Only the main character Roland deviates from typical development, as he can use the Engagement system to enhance his skills and stats. For each witch alive and in the party, players can select one to bond with Roland. He will gain a specific stat boost based on the witch he's engaged to and will also gain access to a partial list of her skills. While this makes Roland a useful unit, this is one of the few areas Luminous Arc 2 branches out into originality.

Ribbons Ribbon-Head is a good ranged unit.

   Equipping characters is a typical affair. Weapons and armor offer stat boosts and new items become available as the game progresses. Players can also equip up to three lapis to their characters. These allow party members to be fine tuned, as lapis can be used to boost HP, MP, and a host of other stats as well as granting enhancements such as regeneration.

   Luminous Arc 2's user interface has been improved over its predecessor., though not by much. Menus are easier to navigate, but purchasing new equipment is still problematic. The shop menu shows whether or not a certain stat will increase if an item is equipped, but it is limited to just a single stat such as defense for armor and strength for weapons. Other stats are not listed, so players will have to go into their equipment menu and manually compare these details.

   Players will find little challenge in Luminous Arc 2 as it is a fairly easy game. The only time that players should have trouble is if they are using a bad or under-leveled combination of characters. Thankfully, guild quests and side quests become available early on that allow players to grind, though it's not really needed.

Onion The odd onion is back and as random as ever.

   Another feature that has been almost unique to the Luminous Arc series is the ability to fight battles with other players across the world via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. While this is a nice feature, it is inherently flawed due to the required amount of coordination that has to go into preparing for battles outside of the game. Players can organize matches with others, but will have to take necessary steps to make sure the match will be fairly balanced and will have to share friend codes outside of the game. Connecting to a game with a random person is possible, but highly unlikely due to the fact that players would have to be randomly searching for a match at the same time. It's a nice addition, but will likely go unused by most people.

   The presentation of Luminous Arc 2 is not as solid as it could have been. The visuals consist mostly of still character portraits with a small variety of expressions. FMVs are limited to the game's intro and the sprites and battle maps are dull and uninspired. So while the character artwork is fantastic, little to nothing is done with it. The game's voice acting is not itself bad, but the dialogue is so stilted that when the few voiced lines come around, players will likely skip through it, if they've not already turned the volume down. The music is handled by Yasunori Mitsuda's Procyion Studio, with no tracks composed by Mitsuda himself since he only acted as sound producer. Like so many other things about the game, the soundtrack is not horrid; it's just not very good either.

   Luminous Arc 2 is not a very long game, it is made longer by the flood of pointless dialogue. The game is fairly typical in most aspects, but even the few areas that it tries to branch out in don't quite make the cut. All of the issues aside, the game is completely playable. There is nothing about Luminous Arc 2 that is broken; it's just not fresh enough to stand out. The gameplay is average, the presentation is bland, and the story had the potential to be fun and humorous, but defeats itself with its own seriousness. For those seeking a playable, yet substandard tactical RPG, Luminous Arc 2 will fill that void. Those are looking for something interesting or innovative should look elsewhere.

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