Everyone knows that the best weapon to combat sultry witches in barely-there costumes is... a precocious gang of spiky-haired kids. Such is your lot in life in Luminous Arc, leading a group of teenage warriors-in-training around the world to battle broom-wielding witches and their minions. With an unquestioning loyalty to their bosses at the Luminous Church, the mostly merry band of traveling youngsters exhorts and teases each other across the land, stopping only for battles, shopping, and the occasional bite to eat.
The core of Arc is addictive, turn-based grid battling, sporting many strategy RPG features that we know and love. There's seemingly no limit to the tactics you can employ, with multiple types of attacks, directional and height advantages, varying occupations, and the ability to combine ally powers for devastating effect. You may fight the same battle a couple of times before you're victorious (and, as you get deeper into it, much more than that) but each experience is unique. Hours and days will melt away as you lead your crew through the game's clashes; more than once, you'll tell yourself "just one more battle and I’ll put it down." And then you won't.
The top-heavy and repetitive storyline gets in the way more often than we would like (there's a mountain of text to tap through), as Arc goes to some serious depths to establish the characters and mythology of the game. Truth be told, though, we would have preferred more action and less reading. We get it - the Church hates witches and your job is to get rid of them. Plotting the right moves and when to deploy your best attacks? Fun. Reading the umpteenth paragraph about runes and enchanted forests? Not so much.
Early on, you'll rely heavily upon the leader Alph to dole out bulk of the damage to enemies, and much less so on the rest of the Garden Children (as the group calls itself when the game starts). As you make your way across the land, you'll lose a few mates but pick up many more. After each dustup, Alph can chat up one of his pals to improve their relationship; this pays dividends on the battlefield moving forward. Eventually - if you can keep them alive long enough in battle - your motley crew will level up and contribute much more toward final victory.
Unfortunately, your good time will often be tempered by a futzy command interface that doesn't always recognize your stylus input, although you can make a go at it using the directional pad. An overly clunky and confusing equipment menu didn't knock our socks off either.
Even so, with a lengthy campaign, an addictive battle system, and a cooperative multiplayer mode, Luminous Arc is the kind of title that you can lose yourself in. Of course, there's always a chance you'll accidentally smash your stylus through the touch screen when trying to position your players or tapping through endless text. After yet another well-earned victory, though, chances are that most of these problems will be forgiven.