Luminous Arc (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 27.10.2007 6

Strategy RPGs are perfectly suited to the Nintendo DS due to the system's fantastic touch-screen input and the chance to make great use of the dual-screen set-up. Finally companies are jumping on-board, such as Marvelous Interactive with its new release 'Luminous Arc'. But can this game live up to classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, or is it merely another pretender to the throne? With high quality talent on the development team, though, you have to feel nothing can go seriously wrong...

Luminous Arc focuses on the wrangling between the Luminous Church and evil witches that purportedly terrorise the land. Monsters are attacking people and supernatural occurrences are becoming somewhat of an everyday issue, thus the Church has enlisted the help of the 'Garden Children' (basically a youth training programme to build up special soldiers for protection in situations such as this) in thwarting the Witch of Immolation, her many minions and any other witch that gets in the way of the peace and prosperity that once was. The game is highly reliant on its strong visuals to carry its theme along, with lavishly crafted, well-drawn characters that appear in detailed 2D portrait form during the story sequences, many of which are rather busty in nature, flashing lots of skin around...(but you would expect no less from the creative mind of renowned artist Shibano Kaito, who has a habit of creating numerous drawings of buxom young ladies as well as many other images). These characters are then translated into small SNES/PSone-like sprites for the actual battle scenarios and, thankfully, still manage to retain a lot of their charm. Locations are full of detail, magical effects are quite attractive (although do not push the DS to its limits in any way) and movement is fluid throughout. However, there are issues with the fixed camera, since it can be hard to judge where to click to highlight the character you wish to use or enemy you want to attack when there are many characters huddled around the same location.

As for the soundtrack, the game flourishes in this department all thanks to the marvellous work of Yasunori Mitsuda, a name that will be recognisable to stalwart RPG fans. His work spans many games and along his path of creation he has left many a fond memory in gamers' minds. His repertoire spans the likes of Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Xenosaga I, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter...even up to recent release 'Deep Labyrinth' on DS. The man is a legend in the world of soundtrack composition, alongside other greats like Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo. In fact, in his work for Luminous Arc there are shades of Mana to be found, along with moving music full of orchestrated strings, trumpets, piano work, gentle bells and much more that help to create a haunting atmosphere in places, yet a perfectly upbeat, happy mood at other points. Everything is balance wonderfully. Voice work is also particular strong, if somewhat cheesy and over-the-top in places, with the majority of the main scenarios being covered by voice actors. Overall it really does bring the player closer to the story and help immerse them into the gameplay.

Screenshot for Luminous Arc on Nintendo DS

Speaking of which, in terms of the game's core, Luminous Arc is a pretty standard strategic role-playing game. The game does not let you wander around an overworld, instead having you choose the next location along a set path and automatically moving the team appropriately. Each time you arrive at a new place there will be a long-winded conversation to help the story along, followed by the choice to talk to other members of your current team, shop for new weapons, armour, items and so on, brush up on more background knowledge of the world and various in-game elements at a local library or simply 'advance the story' and move onto the next major battle. Basically, if you have played anything like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem before, you will feel pretty much at home with the set-up.

Now, whilst this might sound quite boring, the script is so diverse and the options available for extra plot development so extensive, that players will be sucked into the tale and find themselves starting to care more and more about the characters as they develop throughout the adventure. There are highly amusing moments littering the script (thankfully it seems the game has not been censored for its Western release, meaning all the quirky and sometimes risqu

Screenshot for Luminous Arc on Nintendo DS

Once fully suited up with whatever armour and weapons you require / desire, you are given the chance to select which characters you will be using in battle, before being thrown onto one of the various encounter maps, strewn with various different enemy types. Everything is controlled using the touch-screen, so selecting individuals is a perfectly simple case of tapping on them, choosing an action like 'Move' or 'Attack', and then tapping the place they need to move to, enemy they should attack, and so on. Each character takes its turn and when finished must wait for the rest of the map's dwellers to take make their move. But rather than having the annoying situation of certain team members getting stranded and dying quickly, everyone gains experience 'on-the-fly', meaning each action taken lets them accrue a little more of that vital 'EXP'. Therefore, someone on the verge of death can be fully revitalised as their level goes up and health and magic levels are fully boosted back up again. This adds a great new element of strategy to the proceedings as calculated risks come into play more than in other SRPGs. New skills are learned during battle as well, meaning your team's dynamic constantly changes.

In addition, tactics play an important role, since hitting enemies from the side or back results in more damage being given, with the same being true for when they counter-attack; so be careful where you leave team members after going on the offensive. Other aspects included in the game are things like how certain characters can use strong magic, crossbows and arrows, meaning that they can attack from further away, thus protecting them more from returned fire. There are also special moves, called Flash Drives, which can be used when a character has killed an enemy and has gained a Flash Point. Many of these have a long range, again letting you stay back to attack from distance. But do not simply use all of your accrued Flash Points straight away, as if two characters store up a maximum of three each, they can team-up to unleash devastating Synergy moves. Add all of this into the package, plus little extras like Intermissions where you can boost the morale of certain team-mates simply by talking to them, and Vitae Imbuing (that appears later on in the game) where you attach special runes to weapons, armour, and so on, and it is quite clear Luminous Arc is definitely a not-to-be-missed title for lovers of SRPGs!

Screenshot for Luminous Arc on Nintendo DS

The game consists of twenty-five main chapters, so if you choose to skip over the majority of the optional conversations and extra information, you could probably fly through the main adventure in about fifteen to twenty hours, all depending on your skill (and luck) in battle. However, the game is so well developed that you will definitely want to make sure you do not overlook any aspect of the storyline or miss out on the side-quests dotted around the game's world, meaning that the game can easily stretch to thirty hours or more. With the added option of being able to fight friends or even strangers via the local wireless download, or over the online Wi-Fi network as well, there is definitely enough depth to this RPG to warrant making the purchase.

Screenshot for Luminous Arc on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Luminous Arc is one of the best strategy experiences on the Nintendo DS, mixing in usual SRPG elements with lots of little extras and a storyline that develops greatly the further you get into it. Humorous, engaging and downright fun throughout, fans of role-playing games with a more strategic edge should definitely check this out.

Developer

imageepoch

Publisher

Marvelous

Genre

Adventure

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (13 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

That was a great review. Except for the final score which I agree may be an eight, but a high eight. ANyway, I hope that people don't just go by the score and actually read the whole review so that they appreciate how much (apparently) you liked the game. I beat the game already, thirty eight hours in total, including the extra dungeon Mysteria Ruin and most characters level 99. The story is pretty good, and as you said, Adam, great humor all throughout. Seriously, get this game if you like SRPGs. By the way, the fixed camera is a problem in like two stages only (so don't worry) and the framerate only drops in one or two battles near the end. You can choose to use the D-Pad, instead of the stylus, so the fixed camera thing becomes less annoying.
Get this game, seriously.

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http://blogs.ign.com/charwiimario
Top games:
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In my head it was a 7/10 after playing for just a few hours...but the game really does grow on you the more you play. It may well be worth an 8.5/10, but not a 9 in my eyes, that's for sure.

Very impressive game and sadly overlooked in the UK so far. In fact, Amazon UK doesn't even stock the damn thing! :sarcy: Best bet is GAME (use the C3 store links on the right of the review).

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Yeah, I agree, it starts pretty slow, but it sure gets better. Luminous Arc 2 is on its way! So let's hope they improve some of the things that were lacking on this game. =)

----
http://blogs.ign.com/charwiimario
Top games:
5-The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
4-Super Mario Galaxy
3-Eternal Darkness
2-Super Mario Bros 3
1-Super Mario Bros

Luminous Arc 2: Will should definitely be one to look forward to since Image Epoch has expanded considerably since this first game was completed (including the hiring of the ex-Atlus man that created Trauma Centre and Etrian Odyssey).

But that shouldn't put people off trying this first version...since the sequel won't be out over here until probably next Christmas!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Shouldn't we just wait for FFT on DS instead? Or is this really worth getting now?

I've actually been playing FFTA2 on DS for the past few days, along with the US edition of Front Mission and both are indeed fantastic games...but FFTA2 really needs to be in English to grasp what's going on and won't be released in Europe until at least Q4 2008, whilst Front Mission is only out in the US so far, with a European date yet to be confirmed.

Best bet is grab this whilst you can as it's hard to find (not even listed on Amazon UK!).

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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