It’s hard to imagine the Wii wanting for anything. Given its global appeal and phenomenal sales since day one, you’d assume that it would be flush with traditional RPGs, but as you probably know this is not the case. The number one selling console in the Country (5 years running) from the company that championed the RPG with brands like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy has but a single traditional turn-based RPG. Are publishers asleep at the wheel or is the traditional turn-based RPG finally on its way out?

If the former were true Ignition Entertainment would still be counting their loot. Not that Arc Rise tanked, but 160,000 total sales (58k of those coming from Japan) is well below average for an original Japanese RPG on a Nintendo system. Or at least it used to be. As traditional JRPGs go, Arc Rise gets just about everything right, so maybe those numbers are indicative of how much the gaming public has changed. Or perhaps it’s the narrow-minded pretentious male meets fish-out-of-water omnipotent goddess story line that’s kept the RPG faithful at bay. …L’arc is a jerk, Rufia’s tolerant to a fault; she wants to be by his side forever, he wants to stay married to his right hand… The dynamic can certainly be trying. Fortunately in this case we don’t have to put up with them for too long before Prince Alf shows up to bridge the gap and augment the story.

The key to creating a traditional turn-based JRPG is knowing what makes them tick, beginning with the battle system. Turn-based battles can bog an otherwise great game down—especially when level grinding is essential—so the speed at which battles unfold is paramount. With Arc Rise imageepoch emphasize efficiency with near seamless transitions. Enemies on the field and throughout the dungeons appear in plain sight and engage immediately when touched. You begin each battle with a single pool of AP (action points) for all three active party members. How you spend it (in what order and on whom) is entirely up to you. Dispensing AP keeps the tactics in a constant state of flux as your party members hone their unique abilities and continue to grow, utilizing special attacks, magic combos, and/or augmenting weapons via placing skill crystals into a grid-based Arm Force Frame. Essentially every aspect of the system is manageable, so if its turn based battles you crave your RPG awaits.

The monsters in Arc Rise adhere to JRPG law in which it states that fruity flowers and gumdrops must precede monsters; in this case however, Imageepoch get a pass on making me battle shrubbery for the likes of some of ARF’s larger denizens and key creatures. As much as I dislike hacking away at hostile daisies, I really enjoy beating on sickle and bumbershoot wielding murderous teenage girls in frilly Victorian attire. Cool character designs; check. The villages, towns, and cities are equally devised; filled with events, shops, guilds, and other familiar JRPG to-dos and trappings. What they lack in detail (and camera control) they make up for in efficiency (idle citizens express their discomfort as you pass by) although the script overall is merely adequate (expletives such as “Oh, crap!” have no place in a fantasy RPG) and the voice over, a mixed bag. L’arc is positively wooden, while the obligatory dimwit Niko, and other supporting roles such as antagonists Paula and Luna, seem right at home. The story itself is strong if not a tad slow, and the Yasunori Mitsuda soundtrack is mostly sublime.

Taking to the field and dungeons, I’m not crazy about folding the party into a single body. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could switch out L’arc with other party members, but even when he’s out of the rotation, he’s the sole mode of transportation. For a game that claims to push the envelope of the Wii’s graphical capabilities, not having all three party members on-screen is a pretty major oversight. A more accurate statement would be that Imageepoch push the Wii as far they are able while retaining seamless transitions and zero load times.

I grew up playing turn-based JRPGs but became increasingly disenchanted as generation after generation developers clung to conventions as if immune to change. I can’t resist Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest but otherwise I have to be completely awestruck to stick with a turn-based RPG for days on end. Plug in an “active” battle system (like Magna Carta 2’s) and point me to the nearest town, otherwise, I’ll be right with you… Arc Rise is a quality RPG through and through, but I had to tackle it in bite size chunks to get through it. It’s a huge game—50-60 hours easy—and the pay off down the road is commendable, but it’s a really long road.
If the Wii is your sole console and you’re hungry for a quality traditional JRPG, Arc Rise will do nicely, but if you really want to see what your system can do and how amazing a non-traditional RPG can be look no further than Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers.

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Game Name: Arc Rise Fantasia
System: Wii
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Imageepoch
Online/Multi: N/A
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: July 27, 2010
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One Comment

  1. Thomas W says:

    Getting a steady stream of JRPGs on a Nintendo console post SNES seems like it has been a question of how much a developer was willing to contribute towards development; Nintendo seems to have adopted a hands-off policy with RPGs. I could be wrong (and I hope I am) but it almost seems like they are just trying to ignore them and hope that they will go away on their own.

    The PSP is the go-to now, thanks in part to the fact that UMD became super-cheap when the medium “failed.” Xseed is a great example of a company that has taken advantage of this with pretty stellar results. Hopefully the bigger fish are taking note…

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