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Arc Rise Fantasia
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: imageepoch
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Wii Optical Disc
Release: US 07/20/10



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The game's protagonist, L'Arc.
 
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Characters have a number of combat options at their disposal.
 
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Rogress' attacks look big and spectacular.
 
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The heroes, in all their anime-styled glory.
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Stephen Meyerink
Hands-On Preview
07/20/10
Stephen Meyerink

The Wii's RPG library seems to be suffering a drought in much the same way as the GameCube's did. While there are a few quality titles available, there is little in the way of traditional turn-based fare and even less when we count games released on our side of the seas. Fortunately, in a few weeks that is poised to change with the US release of imageepoch's Arc Rise Fantasia. Released over a year ago in Japan, some fans had given up hope of a domestic release, but Ignition Entertainment recently picked up the localization reins and is sending the game our way on July 27th.

Ignition Entertainment, who has been responsible for the localization of titles like Lux-Pain and Nostalgia on the DS, and Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii, has announced that the game will not offer a Japanese voice track, but will have the option to disable voiceovers. Thus far, the fan response to the voices demonstrated in the numerous trailers Ignition has released seems to have been somewhat hostile, so perhaps this option will be viable for some players. However, the soundtrack appears to be more than sufficient to hold up the game's aural presence. Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, Yuki Harada, and Shunsuke Tsuchiya, the music in the game seems catchy and memorable, with the battle themes being particularly noteworthy.

In the game, you play as L'Arc, a mercenary of the Meridian Empire, who works to finance the care of his sick mother. The story is set against the backdrop of a war between Meridian and the Turemilian Republic, and begins as L'Arc finds himself aboard a fleet of airships en route to stopping a group of "feldragons" headed for the heart of the empire. Some typical JRPG antics ensue and L'Arc is rescued by a mysterious girl named Ryfia, whom he agrees to accompany to a nearby town as repayment. In true JRPG form, Ryfia seems to have mysterious powers, and likely the fate of the world will hang in the balance by the tale's end.

L'Arc eventually teams up with a variety of allies in an up to three person party, with an occasional AI-controlled fourth member, much like in Final Fantasy XII. The game offers an anime-styled presentation with character designs by Kenichi Yoshida, and the graphics seem to be on par with many PS2 RPGs. They are colorful and the character designs sport a good amount of detail, even with the somewhat dated technical side of the presentation. The game also sports an old-school world map, complete with giant characters and tiny cities; though the good news (aside from there being a world map at all!) is that it appears to be colored with lots of details strewn about it, which should provide for a nice opportunity for some exploration. And while not every scene in the game is voiced, dialogue is always accompanied by large, pleasant-looking character portraits.

The game hearkens back to the golden days of JRPGing when combat systems were turn-based and full of options, customizing, and wrinkles. To begin with, foes are seen on the field like in many recent JRPGs, eliminating the frustration that random battles can sometimes entail. On the battle screen, players will be greeted with several gauges and meters. Each character can perform a variety of actions, including basic attacks, Excel Acts, magic, items, defense, wait, and battlefield movement. Characters also have a variety of AI behaviors that can be customized as the player chooses.

Much like Skies of Arcadia, the entire party shares one single AP meter based on a percentage that increases as characters take and deal damage, as well as at the end of a turn. Players may choose which character performs what action, using up the AP meter as they do. Interestingly, one could opt to have a single character act several times in one round of combat at the expense of the other characters performing no actions. Having a character perform multiple commands in one round can result in attack chains and multi-hit combos.

Excel Acts are special attacks learned as characters gain levels that cost both AP and a bit of the character's own SP meter. When multiple characters target a foe with Excel Acts, a Trinity Attack will trigger, causing additional damage and boosting the party's damage modifier, making all attacks more potent. Magic attacks cost both AP and MP and come in several levels (one through four) and are gained by attaching special orbs to the character's weapon. Additionally, certain combinations of orbs can create new spells as well. Throughout the game, players can purchase more orb slots, allowing for a greater number of combinations and magic to be used at one time. The RP gauge governs the game's version of summoned monsters, Rogress. Rogress are equipped, up to three per character, outside of battle and offer a variety of bonuses and effects, and can be used as powerful attacks that consume the RP gauge and the entire AP gauge. In addition to the large number of attack possibilities, players must also consider their positioning during battle. Some actions have area-of-effect-based targeting, and through strategic placement of the party, players can maximize or minimize these effects as needed.

Combat nets players WP (weapon points), additional RP, money (called Rico), and experience. In addition to the magic orb customization, the Force Arm system allows you to use WP to purchase upgrades for your weapons. Each weapon has a particular set of upgrades, whose effects range from stat boosts to a number of special abilities. Learning the ability grants you a 'weapon piece,' an item that contains that ability. Each weapon has a Frame grid which allows you to attach numerous weapon pieces. Every weapon piece has its own shape, so players will have to pick and choose their pieces to fit together as needed.

With the large number of potential combat options, numerous systems in place for customization, and a good, old-fashioned turn-based combat engine, as well as a detailed world map and stylish anime character designs, Arc Rise Fantasia certainly seems to have many of the staple JRPG pieces in place. The graphics look last-gen, but certainly good by the Wii's standards. The voice acting seems polarizing, but with the option to turn it off, that should certainly not keep anyone away. All in all, it seems poised to be the JRPG Wii owners (and many JRPG fans in general) have been craving for quite some time now. Check it out when it launches in the United States on July 27!



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