The first Luminous Arc game ticked all the usual boxes for a strategy RPG. It had checkerboard grid battlefields, more than two dozen characters, tons of stats to digest, and a plotline filled with epic clashes, twists, and changing allegiances. But what it really got by on was charisma. It was infectiously vibrant and goofy. The characters ranged from endearingly shy wallflowers to noble knights and hot-blooded, impossibly buxom witches in barely-there clothes, but they were almost all really likeable. Thanks to their personalities and interactions, the cut scenes were long, but fun and often surprising. And the good news is that none of that has changed with Luminous Arc 2.
The plot is different, so you can jump right in with no need for backstory. While there are a good 20 characters overall, you’ll begin in control of Roland, a young knight’s apprentice who just got a magical device called a Runic Engine fused to his hand.
The repercussions of this are best left to the game itself to explain, but it’s enough to say Roland now has a newfound power to gain the spells and other abilities of witches he meets in combat. This makes him a key component in his country’s war against a race of monsters called the Beast Fiends, and also a central figure in the rising tensions among the super-babealicious witches. Which in strategy RPG land means lots and lots of grid-based combat.
Battle was a strength in the first game, and it remains so here (though we’d still like a faster way to call up each unit’s movement and attack range while on the battlefield). Roland’s ability to adopt the powers of nearby witches – via a process called “Engagement”, which comes complete with images of the witch in a wedding dress – mixes things up a bit and gives his character huge depth.
Luminous Arc 2 is also notably more difficult than its predecessor overall, especially critical story battles and the hidden “Hot Spring” bonus battles. Enemies are tougher, and there are lots of overpowered boss types. The designers also seem to have become fond of tossing out late enemy reinforcements or chaining entire battles together. That’s common in this genre, but it feels cheap and overused here.
Another unwelcome change we definitely don’t like is the way the unit that executes the killing blow gets the lion’s share of points. This lopsided distribution makes it too easy for certain units to soak up all the levels, leaving others languishing.
Music is top-notch again, and the graphics are spiffier overall than in the last game. And we welcome the segments between battles, in which you can choose to give presents and cultivate relationships with various party members. You can even take your troop online, though the matching service leaves something to be desired – be prepared to fight some wildly mismatched battles. But to enjoy the process enough to keep battling away anyhow.
Nov 24, 2008