Arc Rise Fantasia begins when L'Arc, a soldier serving the Empire of Meridia is dispatched to eliminate the "Dragons of Corruption" bringing chaos to the world. However, he is knocked down from his ship and meets a Coder Diva named Ryfia who seems to be lost and doesn't seem to understand his language very well. As L'Arc escorts her to the nearest town and reunites with his friend, Meridian Prince Alfus they discover she was a maiden from their enemy, The Republic of Turemiria. When they are attacked by a necromancer, L'Arc learns that both he and Ryfia's destiny are intertwined destiny. As L'Arc continues to serve his country together with his friends in the struggle for a fuel known as "Ray", he travels and learns what his role is as he discovers he is the child of the god Ether.
Enemies are visible and you navigate the maps with the nunchuk. There is support for the classic control pad but to be honest, I don't see why they couldn't just use the Wiimote sideways because there's enough buttons to cover the game's functions.
Along the way, you can speak to your party members to learn more of the story which is interesting enough for anyone who doesn't want to go through lots of dialogue.
You're given a limited amount of Action Points (AP) to assign actions to each of your party members which means it's pretty more flexible than the standard turn based RPG. Below, there's a bar showing the order of turns. It's quite cumbersome to give out orders individually because there isn't an individual menu for each character but fortunately, you can set some generalised strategy for each member such as attack only or focus on healing. This makes battles and levelling up go at a very good pace. Most of the time you can just leave the whole party on auto and they'll handle battles easily but, the bosses offer quite a challenge. You can't rely on levelling up and have to get the strategy just right to win.
Weapons don't make much of a difference in attack power where in most RPGs they do. Here, you can have something called "Arms Force" which works similarly to the Materia system in FFVII and affects your stats. As you buy new weapons and master them, you can unlock their Arm Forces. These building blocks that resemble something from Tetris can then be shifted between weapons which gives plenty of flexibility and customisation. The only niggle I have is that there's no "remove all" option which makes it quite a chore to move Arm Forces about.
Next, spells work with MP but in a way similar to Final Fantasy III. Each different level of spell can only be used so many times instead of drawing from a single pool of MP. You even have to go to the magic craftshop to increase your "Gauge" slots for embedding gems before you can learn more powerful spells.
The fantasy RPG elements doesn't end there either. You can summon large sacred creatures known as "Rogress" which come complete with their long attack animations - The similarities to Square-Enix's Final Fantasy titles are pretty close.
I already had a very good impression of the game when I loaded it up. The serene music and the soft light raining down on the patch of greenery at the title screen somehow reminded me of Eternal Sonata on the Xbox 360. Kenichi Yoshida's character designs look a little on the plain side and so do the 3D environments early in the game.
However, the environments are probably the biggest I've seen on the Wii so far in terms of the size and number of structures NPCs walking around. The layouts and textures starts looking pretty bland early in the game but gets better as you start to travel around. 2D illustrations used when entering the different buildings are nicely rendered too with plenty of detail although oddly enough, the ones used for the shops are always the same.
The music is composed by Yasunori Mitsuda who helped work on Chrono Trigger's soundtrack and works well with the scenarios although a bit more variation during battles would have been better. There's plenty of above decent voice acting during all the main in-game cutscenes and side dialogue by voice actors such as Yui Makino (Honoka Kawai in Sora Kake Girl) as Ryfia and Yuiichi Nakamura (Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad). As cliché as some of the characters maybe, the conversations they have can be very entertaining. The scenarios are well directed and facial expressions well animated.
Another interesting point is what the characters say during battles. Depending on the battle situation and your actions they say different things. For example, if they get attacked by the enemies consequently they may say, "Stop picking on me!" or if you waste MP or items, "Awww, don't feel too bad about it." It all makes the game that much more interesting.
On the gameplay front of Arc Rise Fantasia there's plenty of flexible customisation available, smooth levelling and challenging bosses while on the presentation side it's got some hilarious dialogue and an entertaining story. It may not be an original "Final Fantasy" or "Tales of" title but I think it is certainly one of the rare and quality RPGs on the Wii.
Time played 48 hours
- Good paced battles.
- No random encounters.
- Flexible battle system.
- Paced out changes to battle system keep things interesting.
- Optional side dialogue and skippable in-game movies for less text to go through.
- Some fun appropriate lines during battles.
- Well directed story with plenty of comedy.
- Support for classic controller.
- Side quests aren't all that rewarding.
- Repeated skill animations grow tiring.
- Giving out commands individually is pretty cumbersome.
- Party members keep leaving and joining.