Luminous Arc - Staff Review  

Which Witch is Which?
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

20-35 Hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Long ago, the world experienced a great catastrophe. Luckily, the Luminous Church was eventually able to put everyone at ease. Witches were blamed for the catastrophe, and they were made enemies of the church. Recently, a young group of warriors dedicated to defeating witches has completed their training and are ready to set off. In Luminous Arc, a boy by the name of Alph and his friends will begin their journey to fulfill their mission.

   Alph and his allies will be doing an awful lot of fighting on their quest. In addition to two or three dozen story battles, each region has several places where random encounters can occur, and the odds of getting into a fight are very high. Battles are standard tactical fare, generally not that challenging, and take place in fields of square panels. Some of these panels posses elemental affinities, and it's possible for either side to gain an edge by taking advantage of these and understanding the complicated relationship between the elements.

   Each character has a set class, though it changes as the story progresses in a few cases, and access to a small list of skills that grows very slowly as they level up. Party members also have abilities known as Flash Drives. As the corresponding gauge fills up, characters can use these powerful abilities that they don't ordinarily have access to. It is eventually possible to combine these with other characters' as well. Each member can also imbue certain pieces of their equipment as the player sees fit in order to raise statistics and possibly add some other effects. This allows for a few tactical options that wouldn't be available otherwise, though imbuing isn't available for much of the game.

   Though battles themselves are usually pretty good, the interface that accompanies them could use some work. The order that units are selected in determines their placement on the map, yet it isn't possible to see the map when placing party members. This oversight makes it so the player will be placing units blindly unless they are very familiar with the map already. Another problem is that, while the stylus and buttons can both be used at the same time out of battle, control options are far more limited in them. It is possible to change the desired control scheme in battle, but it isn't very convenient since it involves a lot of switching back and forth between whichever setup is the most suited for a particular task. Luckily, that's only a bit of an inconvenience. On the plus side, the player can save at nearly any time. As mentioned earlier, both the buttons and stylus can be used at the same time outside of battle as well, and that half of the interface is pretty good. The only real problem there is with shops. Rather than show only the character or characters that can use certain pieces of equipment, the player needs to cycle through their entire roster a mere three members at a time in order to check to see if a purchase is worthwhile or not.

It's mostly standard fare, but tactical goodness is tactical goodness It's mostly standard fare, but tactical goodness is tactical goodness

   Players will be spending a lot of time in shops. At least, they will if they want to make sure that all of their members have the best equipment. However, everything in Luminous Arc costs a ton. Most battles yield only enough money to buy a piece of equipment or two. Trying to get around these prices by imbuing won't help much either since that is also rather costly. If the player doesn't care about that sort of thing and only focuses on a few party members and the storyline, they can probably finish the game in about twenty hours. Those that want to make sure that everyone has the best equipment, while keeping a few extras to imbue, will likely spend considerably more. Those that really want to get their money's worth out of the game can even play through a bonus dungeon and new game+ feature.

   As one might expect from a short game, the storyline is somewhat lacking in depth. Unfortunately, it is also largely lacking in originality. Most people who have played a similar game or two will be able to easily predict what is coming next. The story may be fairly cliché, but Luminous Arc throws a few things into the mix in order to make things more interesting. The first of these is the ability to pick an ally and speak to them after battle. Doing so not only helps them fight better when alongside Alph, it also adds a bit of character depth that may be lacking in the main storyline, depending on the character. Additionally, a creature known as a Kopin will pop up every now and then with some random antics that add a bit of comic relief. Mixed together with good localization, these help make up for the shortcomings of the storyline itself.

This Kopin adds an often bizarre, yet enjoyable, bit of comic relief This Kopin adds an often bizarre, yet enjoyable, bit of comic relief

   Like much of the game, the visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the artwork is nice, the battlefields look good, and there are even a few anime scenes. On the other, text boxes will often cover up part of the artwork, and there are a few graphical glitches during certain scenes. There are a few minor glitches in battle as well, including one that causes units with a positive status, such as defense up, to appear as if they have a negative one when an afflicted unit is nearby them. The visuals do look quite nice, but this sort of thing detracts a little from the overall presentation.

   The music and sound are also mixed in quality. While the music itself isn't bad, there are only a few tracks that are repeated through dozens of battles, and they can get a bit old by the later portions of the game, especially if the player fought a lot of random battles in order to gain some extra spending cash or have more conversations with party members. On the plus side, the sound effects are typically quite good. There is also quite a bit of voice acting, though there is plenty of unspoken dialogue as well.

   In the end, Luminous Arc has a few strong points, but most of those are met with a weakness of some sort. Luckily, these balance each other out, with a slight emphasis on the positive. The fact that it's one of the few tactical RPGs out there with a WiFi mode helps too. Those looking in to Luminous Arc won't find anything particularly deep or original, but most tactical RPG fans will still find it a reasonably entertaining title.

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