"Stripping is an all new type of dangerous."
Everybody's favorite provocative series is back with a third iteration entitled Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel, which takes place two and half years after the events from Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. And yes, there are cameos from cast members of the past two Ar Tonelico games. The game begins with the main character, Aoto, a human, rescuing a mysterious girl named Saki. When he first meets her, she transforms into another persona, strips her clothes (during a prayer), and turns bad guys into cake. Naturally, Aoto can't help but be intrigued by the girl and her enigmatic behavior. Later in the game, he meets a similar girl named Finnel who is not only clumsy, but also likes to engage in sassy banter with him. Both of these girls are Reyvateils, as fans of the series may have already guessed. As Aoto gets to know these girls, the journey heats up with several twists and turns.
The story focuses on the conflict between Reyvateils and Humans. The situation has been exacerbated by a great catastrophe called the Sea of Death that destroyed most of the sustainable land. The result? Only three artificial towers are still habitable. Reyvateils control the third tower, Sol Cluster. The Reyvateils who reside in the upper third of the tower, Clustania, have the most control and authority – they're tyrannical to say the least. Clustania inhabitants have an interesting plan: a society that consists purely of Reyvateils in command of human slaves. They "cleanse" humans by brainwashing them to love the Reyvateils. Can't Reyvateils and humans just get along? Aoto, with the help of Saki and Finnel, hopes to discover the answer. More importantly, what role do these two Reyvateils play in all of this madness? You're just going to have to play to find out.
Fans may be surprised to know that Ar Tonelico Qoga has abandoned the traditional turn-based battle system seen in the series' first two entries. Battles play out in real time in an action battle system format like that of the Tales and Star Ocean games. You only directly control one member of your party, but you can't get lost in the excitement of battle and forget about your Reyvateil – it's your duty to stop enemies from getting past you to attack her. The game also brings an all new meaning to the phrase "special attacks" with its new purge system for Reyvateils. Simply put, your Reyvateils needs to strip to strengthen her song magic – somehow, less clothing makes her stronger. During battles, synchronizing your attacks to a rhythm meter at the bottom of the screen causes your Reyvateils' heart to grow. When it reaches its highest form, you can purge some of her clothes by shaking the PS3 controller and pressing the proper attack button. As you dive further into each girl's cosmospheres, you're able to purge more and more of her clothes and unlock some ultimate magical songs. Enemies beware! Stripping is an all new type of dangerous.
Item synthesis is still a noteworthy side aspect of the game. Not only can you synthesize items to use in battle (such as a Snow Fan which unleashes an ice attack), but you can also create super moves with item synthesis. You can make a ton of weapons, armor, and accessories; nothing is too difficult to grasp with item synthesis. In fact, most of these items almost create themselves; you get the goods to create items by opening various treasure chests. It's not quite as involved as finding your ingredients in a game like Atelier Rorona, but it's still a fun feature to play around with and try to make as many items as possible. If you miss a chest, there's no need to worry – you can also buy these items at various vendors.
The dive system, mentioned above, is still in place in this entry. Going into your Reyvateils' cosmospheres allows you to learn their deepest secrets and inner desires. It's also pretty interactive: if you choose incorrectly, the girl boots you out and you are forced to find the error of your ways. These cosmospheres definitely raise the scandalous bar, as you unlock scenes that really do go "there," and not in a PG-13 way. During your dive trips, you unlock Hyumas, who represent strong feelings in a Reyvateil's mind coming to surface. These manifestations of powerful feelings, once unlocked, grant a Reyvateil special characteristics, such as attack up, paralysis, healing amount up, etc., to use in battle. Hyumas all have special song preferences as well, so you have to pay attention to that before equipping them to your Reyvateil.
Aside from its battle system, Ar Tonelico Qoga is shaping up to be fairly similar to prior entries in the series, and it's safe to say fans are okay with that. The title does prove one thing though: the veil is getting thinner and thinner in its sexual innuendo. Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel is due to hit shelves March 15th, so it looks like your PlayStation 3 might get some love after all, of the Reyvateil stripping variety. In the meantime, check back soon at RPGFan for a review.