Winner 2: Hidden gem 1
The second winner and first of the two hidden gems goes to Joe Chen who wrote this fantastic piece on Arc Rise Fantasia.
My family always invests in one video gaming console per generation. When I was first born, it was the Super Nintendo, and since then, we have stepped through the N64, PS2, and finally the Wii. Although the console list is Nintendo-centric, my time with the PS2 has unexpectedly changed my gaming expectations. Thus after playing through several Wii classics, I wanted to play a JRPG. In what is a seemingly starved genre for the Wii, I was thrilled to find Arc Rise Fantasia, an Imageepoch game with the story-driven, strategy-based JRPG gaming experience I was looking for.
Arc Rise Fantasia follows the story of L’Arc Bright Lagoon, a somewhat cold mercenary working for the Meridian Empire whose life is turned upside down after meeting Ryfia, an innocent Diva from the enemy country. She eventually drags L’Arc and his childhood friend Alf, Prince of the Meridian Empire, into a sensitive international conflict centered around two opposing religions. Along the way, they meet a little girl who calls herself the “Hero of Justice,” a magician who likes to hit on women, a mysterious and powerful swordsman, and many other quirky characters. Although the story seems predictable at first, the developers’ mid-story twists catalyze character and plot development, giving the game an epic atmosphere.
The game heavily draws upon elements from other JRPGs and integrates them into a fun experience. The world map, simple dungeon puzzles, and town structures in particular feel similar to several Tales JRPGs, and the game even features optional skits and costumes which allow for extra character development. However, Arc Rise Fantasia features a unique turn-based battle system where party members draw from a joint AP pool to perform actions in a series of battle phases. Different actions take up different amounts of AP, and spells and attacks are chainable for greater damage. Although player and enemy actions in a phase occur concurrently after setting the battle commands, players can estimate when a character’s actions will take place, making battles more about strategy than finger reflexes. The game also features a large explorable world and contains plenty of side quests to keep the gamer entertained both mid- and post-game.
Unfortunately, Arc Rise Fantasia suffers from a major setback: the voice acting. Before I picked up the game, I did a little internet research since it had already been released for some time and was shocked to find an extremely negative reception for the game because of its voice acting. In fact, I almost didn’t buy the game because it practically seemed shunned by the video gaming community. I admit, the voice acting is noticeably poor. The script is awkward at times, and the voice-mouth synchronization is sometimes completely off. However, I’m ultimately glad that I gave the game a chance. Once I got past the voice acting – which I found doesn’t feel as bad while you’re playing the game as opposed to when you’re watching a video clip online – I discovered a rich and fun game with an epic story, interesting characters, and a likeable soundtrack (anyone recognize Yasunori Mitsuda and Yoko Shimomura?).
Arc Rise Fantasia will probably continue to be a black sheep game in both the Wii library and the JRPG genre because of its subpar voice acting, but now that the game is cheaper, I urge Wii owners to just give the game a shot. I know it’s not for everyone, but you might just be surprised to find a gem underneath its rough exterior.