Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Favourite Games/Series' #1 - Luminous Arc (series)

On paper, there really shouldn't be a lot to get excited about with regard to Imagepoch's Luminous Arc series. The games are isometric, grid-based strategy titles similar to Final Fantasy Tactics but that's pretty much where the similarities end. In fact, listing the features is essentially an exercise in listing negative qualities; cliched, predictable plot which is basically the same for both games? Check. Anime-styled characters with stereotypical archtypes? Check! Pervy content and the obligatory busty female characters? Big fat ol' check there too. Even the gameplay has as much depth as Joey Essex - characters have different stat-based strengths and weaknesses and there are meter-dependant 'Flash Drive' super moves similar to Final Fantasy's 'Limit Breaks' but that's about it. There's none of the depth of Square's strategy masterpiece, the challenge of Advance Wars nor the engaging characters of Fire Emblem.

So why am I such a fan then?

Honestly, I'm not even sure! The first game was a bit of a low-key release here in the UK and I made up my mind to purchase it off the back of a tiny review on Official Nintendo Magazine and the 85% score they bestowed upon it. The local branch of 'Game' only had a few copies in and they were £15 apiece to boot so I was more than happy to take one off their hands. At this time I'd already played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance but even so, I found myself engrossed in Luminous Arc. Perhaps not having too big a challenge is actually refreshing once in a while? I'd spent over 200 hours getting the most from FFTA so a strategy title that put up less resistance was welcome. As for the design, I have a particular weakness for games with the usual JRPG tropes (as much as I'm no fan of them being done to death) so the anime-styled visuals, cliched character designs and dashings of perversion were not necessarily a turn-off. Overall, it was a more laid-back experience with some silly elements that I enjoyed not having to take seriously in any way.

For the sequel, Rising Star games even gave us a Limited Edition set with a soundtrack CD (which disappointingly only has about 8 tracks on it so not the entire OST!). I've recently beaten this game and I have to say that it was even better than the original. The plot is basically the same as the original despite the completely unrelated world and characters and once again, there's nothing overly special about the characters. Heck, most could even be clones of the original game's cast! Roland is just like Alph, Fatima is a less sultry version of Vanessa and Althea could easily be Lucia in a new skin. The music is a little better however and the touch-screen controls are actually enjoyable to use this time thanks to a little refinement. Again, I enjoyed LA2 purely because it was very playable and a nice 'light' alternative to getting involved with a serious RPG and overly-complex battle systems.

And that's the thing about these games: they are nice and accessible without being too easy. The gameplay is always solid if not standout and tropes aside, the presentation and design quality is actually top notch. There was an artbook covering both games released in the US to coincide with Luminous Arc 2 so this may have to be one of my next purchases! It's a bit of a shame however that the third DS installment and a more recent PS Vita Luminous game weren't released for English-speaking territories but regardless, I would encourage all fans of strategy JRPG's to give the two Western-released games a crack.

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