The story is lengthy and complex, but it pretty much boils down to a conflict between two opposing groups, the Grand Bell and the Sacred Army. Both sides have the same problem – the oppressive Goddess who controlsMetafalss (their world)refuses to grant the people the land they need to flourish and prosper, which has been idealized in the minds of the people as a mythical utopia called Metafalica.
The Grand Bell believes the solution is to destroy the Goddess and create Metafalica themselves, using the power of their Reyvateil maiden Lady Cloche. The Sacred Army, on the other hand, believes that going to war with the Goddess will bring about the end of the world, and that there must be a reason why the Goddess hasn’t granted them Metafalica yet. The greatness of the story is in its moral ambiguity – both sides have worthy causes, and there are honorable and dishonorable characters as key players of each movement.
Like the first Ar Tonelico, themoeelement is where Melody of Metafalica really shines. It might sounds creepy, but getting to know the ladies in the game (mainly Lady Cloche and Luca) is actually the most rewarding part. While human characters (vanguard) level up normally through experience points gained in battle, Reyvateils actually level up in a completely different way. A Reyvateil’s magic gets stronger depending on how closely she’s bonded with her partner, so to level up a Reyvateil you must “dive” into her mind, into a virtual representation of her psyche called a Cosmosphere. By getting to know her and gaining her trust subconsciously during these dives, you’ll unlock deeper levels of her Cosmosphere, each representing a more private aspect of her personality.
The whole concept of becoming “close” with these characters is inherently a very talky way to go about things, so it completely relies on excellent writing to work. Although Ar Tonelico is known for its humorously overt sexual innuendo, there’s more to its humor than “put it in the hole” jokes. Aside from superficial typos, the writing in AT2 is incredibly good, both in the big picture, with its believable characters and storylines, and in its small details, with tons of clever jokes and memorable lines throughout. Not to mention that it’s quite an achievement that a game about quasi-lesbian goddesses manages to show subtlety and sensitivity, without even remotely being pervy or creepy.
Our only major gripe is that we would have loved to see this on PS3 – the static character and background art is beautifully detailed throughout, and we would have really liked to see it fully realized with more powerful graphics. It’s a big time commitment and it’s really text heavy, but if you’re even remotely into JRPGs, Ar Tonelico 2 is easily worth it. Then again, if endearing, well-written characters and well-crafted turn-based battle systems aren’t your thing, well, it’s your loss.
Jan 21, 2008