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Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) Review

Review for Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

There aren’t a huge amount of localised RPGs available on Wii, let alone pure, non-hybrid, turn-based RPGs. So when one gets translated in English, fans of the genre get their hopes high, and hope for the Wii RPG experience to fill the gap. Is Arc Rise Fantasia, released last summer in North America - though has yet to reach Europe - up to the task of delivering what RPG fans crave on the system?

The story follows L'Arc, a soldier of the Meridian Army, as he meets a young girl named Ryfia after she saves his life. It is thanks to her that he gets pulled into an adventure where he will become a child of Eesa, the god that rules the world despite a centuries-long slumber. His new status forces him to seek mythical creatures called Rogresses, spread throughout the world, and bind with them so as to wake up Eesa, and present it with the law he has chosen: either Imaginal's Law, which seeks to save the world from the dangers of Hozone and crystallisation, both threats to all life, or Real's Law, which wants the world to become crystallised, leading to its destruction.

Binding with the first Rogress, Simmah, however, makes it disappear from its prison in the Meridian Empire, removing the area’s source of Ray - the energy used to run machines in this world. Normally Ray flows naturally throughout the world, but a millenium-old device known as the Skywalk, set up by the rival Olquinan Empire, blocks it from Meridia, leaving them devoid of power without Rogresses. L’Arc’s bind with Simmah and the subsequent power loss is regarded as an act of treason by Prince Weiss, regent of Meridia, and L’Arc is forced to go on a mission to destroy the Skywalk to redeem himself.

The story is written by Takumi Miyajima, who also wrote the scenario for Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, as well as Prope’s upcoming 3DS/Wii title Rodea The Sky Soldier. It's not overly revolutionary and it takes time before it becomes really interesting, but once it does it even holds some big surprises that come out of nowhere to blow your mind. The perspective used to tell the events is also so good that you'll be left wondering for a long time if you're actually on the right side or not. The look and feel of the game is very similar to the recent Tales of titles, which might be explained by the fact that the game was produced by Hiroyuki Kanemaru, who also previously worked on Tales of Symphonia.

Enemies can be seen roaming the environments explored, and can be avoided to some extent. Upon visiting a dungeon for the first time, enemies can spot the party and come running at it to engage in battle, but once a dungeon is beaten and the characters come back to it later on, the enemies leave them alone, free to explore the dungeon for missed treasures undisturbed. This reminds of Earthbound, where enemies would run from your characters in cleared locations.

Battles are undertaken in groups of three (plus an uncontrollable guest character when one has joined your party). They are somewhat similar to those in Skies of Arcadia in that every character has an AP gauge which adds up to a party total which can be shared between characters. Every action taken during a turn uses up AP, but the player is free to make only some of its characters move. For example, it's possible to have the healer in the party use up all the AP available at the start of a turn to heal everyone and boost them while they defend, before a boss can launch its most powerful attack later during the turn. That way you save your characters from dying.

Screenshot for Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

There's a wide range of actions possible in battle. Characters are movable, so they can be spread out or grouped together as the situation requires, and of course there is the normal attack action. It's possible to group multiple attacks on the same enemy to chain up to four attack commands, thus acting faster during a turn. Summon attacks can be called forth - only by L’Arc - as Rogresses are collected throughout the adventure, though doing so will cost a ton of AP and a full Rogress Point (RP) gauge, which fills as L’Arc hits enemies.

In a similar fashion, every time a character performs a normal attack in the game, their SP gauge is gradually filled to allow special attacks. Excel acts are a form of super attack, consuming AP and a percentage of the SP gauge, and have a number of types: healing, reviving, curing status afflictions, a powerful offensive strike, or non-targeted variations of these that affect everything within an area. Those can also be combined for a beautiful devastating attack, similar to the Unison attacks from Tales of Symphonia.

Finally, the traditional magic casting action is there too, with an MP system very similar to the one found in the NES version of Final Fantasy. Magic spells are not gained through leveling-up your characters; rather, you upgrade each character’s ‘orb’ at specific workshops by spending money and Device Points (DP). Each character possesses a certain amount of DP from the very beginning and do not gain any extra along the way, so you’d better think twice before spending any.

There are four levels of magic in total, each tied to a different set of MP. You can upgrade the maximum amount of MP of different levels, upgrading one of your elemental strengths, or adding a slot for hosting a gem. Those gems can be of different levels (1 - 4) and elements (wind, water, fire and earth) and can be found throughout the game, either in full or in shards that must be put back together. Setting the gems in slots on an orb will grant its owner spells of different levels and elements, and combining basic elements will unlock special elements (light, dark, lightning and ice). The combinations of gems and their levels in turn determine that character's spell set. If you realize you didn't make the best choices to upgrade your orb, you can reset it at a workshop.

Screenshot for Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The key to this is that the more the player upgrades an orb, the more money and DP it'll cost, getting more expensive the more optimised they become. Due to the limited amount of DPs, eventually a point is reached where orbs are no longer upgradable. It's an interesting system, but it takes a lot of thinking to get it right and exploit it well. You'll often want to change the way an orb is set with gems before you go fight a particularly strong boss, so that your settings fit what the boss requires to be beaten without too much difficulty.

Difficulty is what it's all about in this game. Lots of grinding is required to gain levels and upgrade your equipment, weapons and orbs. Battles dole out experience, money and Weapon Points (WPs) to meet these ends. Every single weapon in the game is completely unique, so it’s impossible to have the ‘same’ weapon twice in the inventory. Buy one in store and it becomes sold out, and no weapon can be sold back. Every weapon has the same base strength of zero, and is differentiated by its Arm Force. Arm Forces are special gems shaped like Tetris blocks that can be set on your weapons in a 4x4 grid called the Arm Force Frame. They come in different shapes, colours and sizes and all have a unique effect. They can increase a stat, give special abilities such as taunting or stealing mid-battle, or add an elemental or status alteration effect to attacks, for example. Before you start ‘training’ it with WPs, each weapon’s Arm Force Frame has some of its squares sealed so the space cannot be used, and the arm forces set on it are locked.

Specifically, they are differentiated by their black Arm Forces and an unlockable ‘special effect’. Every weapon has one or two black Arm Forces, which are set in place on that weapon and can't be moved from the grid, while the coloured ones can be removed and placed on any other weapon once they’re unlocked. By setting any Arm Force you want on any weapon, you can pretty much build the weapon that suits you the best. If you manage to complete an Arm Force Frame, leaving no empty space on it, then the weapon’s special power is unveiled, and becomes usable, acting like an additional hidden Arm Force that can only be used with that weapon alone. This system is the most inventive and original thing about Arc Rise Fantasia. Systems like it have been seen before - Final Fantasy VII comes to mind, which also featured slots on your weapons and equipment for Materia - but the system here is much more flexible and opens up a much wider range of possibilities.

Screenshot for Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The story isn't all there is to do in Arc Rise Fantasia, as you can also take on Guild quests. Disappointingly, many of them are boring and don’t reward the player with anything important, with only a few being interesting. However, later in the game, players can find optional bosses scattered throughout the game’s dungeons (a quest does not necessarily have to have been undertaken to find them). They look like normal enemies on the map, though usually stand still and have a different colour, but they can be much harder than the regular bosses in the story. Defeating these bosses grants exclusive, powerful weaponry as a reward.

The game also has an arena similar to the one in Baten Kaitos Origins, where you fight waves of enemies in a row, except every battle has a rule, which usually involves a status effect forced upon you to make things harder. There's a casino too, where you can play some mini-games to win tokens which can be exchanged for some items, weapons and outfits - alternate costumes that change the characters’ avatars on the menu and trigger hidden skits in certain locations, but sadly nothing else.

The graphics are a mixed bag. While the characters' close up animation and designs are superb, and the lighting effects during battle are amazing, the environments range from good-looking to mediocre, with blurry textures cropping up too much. However the game boasts a nice level of detail. The animation takes an occasional frame-rate drop when exploring towns or dungeons, but only in a couple of specific places in the game and doesn’t deter too much from the experience outside of slight annoyance. The character designs by Kenichi Yoshida, who previously worked as an animator for Studio Ghibli, are nice and colourful. The Rogresses are designed by Makoto Nagasawa, who previously designed monsters for Etrian Odyssey. There are also some nice references to another game by Imageepoch, Luminous Arc. Some characters from that game make cameo appearances, and every character can get an outfit that belongs to a character from Luminous Arc.

The music is really good, but not quite to the level of Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, both also composed by Yasunori Mitsuda. The voice acting, on the other hand, is awful. The voice actors read the text without any emotion. Contrary to Ignition Entertainment's claim that it’s on par with other dubs, it brings down the overall feel of this game. You'll want to turn off the voices altogether - thankfully you can.

Screenshot for Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

No motion controls or any pointer based actions, just plain classic RPG controls. If you play using a Classic Controller Pro, you could mistake it for a PS2 RPG, albeit a bit better looking. The game’s weapon and battle systems give off a sense of déjà vu, but work very well.

Graphics

The character models look good, but the textures for the environments are a bit too blurry in places. It’s a shame that so few cutscenes in the game use close ups on the superbly animated character models.

Sound

The music is good, but we've heard more outstanding pieces from Yasunori Mitsuda. The voice acting is terrible. What's even less understandable is that in the Japanese version most of, if not all, the skits used voices. but none do in the American version. It's safe to say that the voice acting was completely botched during the localization process.

Value

Considering the grinding needed in a lot of places, this game is long. It's even longer if you're a completist, in which case it could well last you up to 90+ hours. There's even a bit of post-game stuff for you to do. Well worth the price for a nice RPG experience.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Good - Bronze Award

About this score
Rated 7 out of 10

Minor technical issues, wasted opportunities and dreadful voice acting bring Arc Rise Fantasia down, but there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be found as long as you know what to expect. All that's left to do now, for European Wii gamers who can't play imports, is to wait for a European release, if it ever happens.

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26.02.2011

4

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Developer

imageepoch

Publisher

Ignition

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (1 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

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Staff Member

Nice review Rudy, I wish this would come to Europe, I'm all into RPGs all of a sudden again, and this seems like it would be a good one to play, and I find grinding quite fun sometimes.

Stuart Lawrence
Follow Me on twitter :: @Stulaw90 || My Youtube || Backloggery
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Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Sadly it was planned for release in Europe last year under RSG, but it got swiped from under their noses just before the official reveal was due. Strange, huh? Makes me think Nintendo stepped in and will release it this year instead.

Shame it doesn't sound quite up the usual standard set by the actual 'Tales of' games, despite some similarities in style.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Or they'll drop it completely like they did with Project Zero IV/Fatal Frame IV... just like they didn't release Another Code 2 and Disaster Day of Crisis in North America. That's Nintendo for you... We're still waiting for Captain Rainbow too, which was also said to be coming to Europe, and it's been a couple of years since its release in Japan. I wouldn't hold my breath personally.

Besides, considering the flaws of the game (which like I said didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying it to the very end), I don't think Nintendo would release a game which wasn't developed by them and that's not exactly well polished. But I'd very much like to be proven wrong of course. I just hope they'd put back the Japanese dub back in. If hackers can make an undub version of Arc Rise Fantasia (which I played most of the game with), Nintendo can make it. But both versions on one disc, I highly doubt it. The space that the japanese dub takes on the disc is more than the empty space left on the North American version with the English dub. Or they'd have to compress the audio heavily to pull that off... or use dual layered discs, but those are more costly, so I don't see them doing that either, especially since it makes loading times longer, and I hate that !

By the way, I could have mentioned that voices play a role in fighting too, as characters will usually say something different at the start of a turn when the enemy (usually it happens with bosses) is about to unleash a particularly dangerous attack. But I'm not sure if they're turned of during battles as well if you turn voices to "off" in the options. mmmh...

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

That's not quite fair. Every shovelware game got released and quality was mediocre at best.
So why not put it in as an english-spoken game, sellint their x-thaousand copies? At least core gamers and fans may buy this game. They just have to transcribe the manual for the usual languages, or even keep it english-only.

Their are not much RPGs on Wii, so why not release every one they got? And this one's not as terrible as some mini-games released from Nintendo for Wii.

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

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