Luminous Arc
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: imageepoch
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: Cartridge
Release: US 08/14/07
Japan 02/08/07

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ALF? ALF is here?! Oh, wait, Alph. My bad.
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No. He smells.
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Ramtower, lost cousin to Buckbeak.
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I wouldn't piss her off.
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John P. Hussey
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John P. Hussey

Protect the Light, Condemn the Dark

Atlus has been one of the most interesting publishers in the short history of the Nintendo DS system. Their games have utilized the dual-screen technology in innovative ways (see: Trauma Center, Contact, and Etrian Odyssey), and have been on the cutting edge in terms of ambitious storytelling, difficult gameplay, and making what's old, feel new again. Behind the rookie developer imageepoch, the newest Atlus release, Luminous Arc, is on its way to being another triumph for the well-respected company.

Luminous Arc is a story of a planet called Shtraberl, which was destroyed 1000 years ago in a fierce battle between witches and dragons. The witches were blamed for the conflict and were held responsible for the watershed Aldhed disaster, which in turn decimated the planet. The disaster (a combination of various natural disasters) was, according to legend, a result of the witches' evil ambition. Thankfully, God, always a protector of the light, eradicated the witches for eternity (or, at least, until the beginning of our story).

The narrative opens with the appointment of a new Grand Cardinal. 13 year-old Johnannes, who is unbelievably wise for his age, is given control of the church by former Grand Cardinal Kingston. Because Johannes is so young, many people worry about the rise of evil in Shtraberl and therefore, a group is created whose sole (or soul) order is to protect the peace. The Garden Children (who remind the player of a reinvented version of the Holy Crusaders) are responsible for such a task. Heath, a lance-wielding knight, is responsible for the creation of the group and their extensive training.

Heath's merry men include: Alph and Theo, a sibling pair who bicker with each other, but ultimately protect one another; Leon, an arrogant swordsman who spends more time chasing women than sharpening his sword; and Cecille, a wise and spiritual medic whose one ambition is to protect the order. While the game uses obvious RPG stereotypes, that shouldn't dissuade the player from jumping right into the quest.

When the peace is broken and the witches return, battle ensues. The battlefield is pretty typical for this kind of game: expect to see rivers with narrow bridges, mountains with archers poised to shoot you down, and climate changes depending what part of the continent you are on. Even though these types of environments may be boilerplate for the genre, the artwork does not feel old. Imageepoch has a done a great job keeping the imagery fresh and each battle seem different.

From a battle standpoint, Luminous Arc uses some of the best features of previous strategy RPGs (Shining Force, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea, etc.) while leaving behind some of the tedious ones. For example, each character gains a level after 100 EXP with more experience points being awarded when a low level character performs an action on a higher level one (similar to most strategy RPGs). In addition, characters receive bonuses when attacking from behind, certain terrain can affect damage done to an enemy, and the characters with the highest move rate act first. While most of the features are old, some feel more fresh. There are 7 elements to consider when attacking (not just 4), you can save at any point during the battle, and most interestingly, characters recover all of their HP/MP after gaining a level. This single feature changes battle strategy- should I cure with Cecille, or wait to see if I can have Leon gain a level first? Suffice it to say, the battle system has all of the depth and intrigue you'd expect from a strategy RPG.

While the artwork is good, and the battles are great, the soundtrack is phenomenal. The depth and variety of music included on the little DS cartridge is staggering. Every chapter had a different theme, town and battle music changed constantly, and the opening sequence was top-notch. In addition, there are tons of voice overs in this game, which for a DS title, comes as no small feat. Between the sound effects, score, and solid acting performances, the audio in this game is second to none.

Luminous Arc could be the strategy RPG and definitive DS title we've all been waiting for. Be sure to check out RPGFan in the coming weeks for a full review of this wonderful Atlus title.


© 2007 Atlus USA, Marvelous Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

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