At first glance, Atlus's Luminous Arc looks like just another tactical RPG. After the first thirty minutes, my impression of Luminous Arc had not changed. Shortly after that, I started to really understand and enjoy what the game was all about. The characters make the seemingly serious story come to life through humor. With its characters and decent game play, what could have been just a mediocre tactical RPG turned out to be an enjoyably addictive experience.
The story starts off with the children of Ever Garden being sent by the Luminous Church to further investigate the threat from the evil Witches. Alph and his younger brother Theo, along with the cocky fighter Leon, the noble priestess Cecille, and their leader Heath, venture out into the world with nothing but the dogmatic teaching of "Protect the light, condemn the dark" on their minds. Before they know it, they have encountered more Witches than they know what to do with. Once the preliminaries are out of the way, the characters start to take on much greater personality. They become endearing, though a tad predictable. One such character is Vanessa, the well-endowed Witch, who is always flamboyant and boisterous. While I've yet to experience the entire plot, upon reaching the first major plot twist, it was exactly what I had expected to happen. Though slow, the plot does start to ramp up the further into the story you go. It didn't seem to be heading into epic territory, being quite predictable, but the characters make up for that.
The game's dialogue is well-written with hints of a modern edge through minor references to obscure web comics and other pop culture media. Some characters are completely serious while others cannot open their mouth without saying something to be taken tongue-in-cheek. The humor is reminiscent of the Lunar series as it takes a humorous spin on a serious, religion-focused plot. However the voice acting is different story. While it is nice to see a DS RPG with complete voice acting, most lines are a bit over the top. The acting is not horrid, it just seems superfluous as the delivery adds nothing to the impact and becomes irritating, especially when repeated over and over in combat. The music, produced more than composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, is fitting so far. The upbeat intro theme, sung completely in Japanese, is rather pleasant. Combat music is even fairly decent, with subtle pieces taking the place of normal repetitive tracks found in lots of other RPGs.
"The humor is reminiscent of the Lunar series as it takes a humorous spin on a serious, religion-focused plot."
Combat in Luminous Arc is similar to that of most other tactical RPGs. You can move your characters within a set range and attack a specific distance depending on the character's weapon. Characters have the standard hit points and magic points, but also have FP. This is used for special moves known as Flash Drives. These powerful attacks can be stand alone or can become combo attacks with other characters once those characters have a higher relationship level with each other. Characters develop relationships through intermission scenes between battles; however I was not able to gain a high enough of a relationship for any characters during my play through. One thing that is of note is that characters regain all lost hit points and magic points upon gaining a level. This helps curb the difficulty down quite a bit. It is important to note that the AI is not complete as of this playing, so chances are it will be much more of a challenge upon completion. However, as it stands, the game is not extremely difficult. Each character has their own specific job class, but thankfully, I had none that overlapped, so the party was rather diverse. Even though combat was not very original, it was both solid and fluid.
Interaction is not as smooth as it could have been. The set camera angles are the major problem, as many times you can't tell what you're targeting or where you're moving. You just have to try it to see if it works. That along with directional controls that seem to go the opposite direction of most other tactical RPGs made adjusting to Luminous Arc awkward. The game has the option of being controlled either by the directional pad or with the stylus, which can be oriented for either hand. I played with the directional pad since the stylus controls were not as precise, thanks to not being able to change the camera angle. There was nothing game breaking about this, but interaction is a weak area and could have been smoother.
Luminous Arc started off a bit rocky, but by the time I put it down I was impressed and looking forward to playing more. Though lacking originality in its combat system, the story and characters do grow on you after awhile assuming you enjoy the less than serious manner in which the game unfolds. With the flood of tactical RPGs that are looking to hit the shelves this year, Luminous Arc might not offer the grandest game play experience, but does offer quite a few redeeming qualities.