Name: Luminous Arc 2
Platform: Nintendo DS
2007 saw the release of Atlus’ Luminous Arc. Mildly received by critics and fans alike, the game had enough potential to warrant a sequel. The first game was plagued with flaws that detracted from the overall gameplay experience, and one had to wonder whether or not Atlus would be able to address all the issues for Luminous Arc 2. If there’s one thing the DS didn’t need, it was another mediocre RPG, but I had faith in Atlus to deliver a sequel that could surpass the original. The good news is, they did. Barely.
Luminous Arc 2, while not wholly original, delivers a solid portable RPG experience. The game centers on a young knight named Roland, who, with the help of a gauntlet called the Runic Engine, may be able to put an end to the Witch Conflict, and thus save the land of Carnava from total chaos. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and while it may be true there are no original ideas anymore, how well the recycled ideas are presented can make all the difference. Characters that start off on the generic side end up growing on you the more you spend time with them. While the overall story ends up a being a bit by the numbers, the journey there is certainly worth being a part of. I found the story and concepts very reminiscent of the PSP title Jeanne d’Arc. Even though Luminous Arc 2’s tale isn’t quite as polished, it’s still pretty good.
Tactical RPGs are a slightly different breed than the traditional turn-based style, allowing for a bit more strategy in character selection and placement. Luminous Arc 2’s maps are varied and vibrant, and offer players who enjoy the planning stages of battle several different ways to complete any given map. Certain levels will require you to use specific characters as part of your attack team, adding another level to the strategy required to win the fight. LA2 loosely breaks characters into classes as well. You can field an entire squad of knights or mages if you like, but varying the members of your party is generally the best tactic. The only character that is able to deal heavy damage with both a weapon and magic is the lead character, Roland. With the help of the Runic Engine, he can tap into the various magics that members of the war party wield. This is another of the similarities between LA2 and Jeanne d’Arc. Where Jeanne could wear different gauntlets, Roland wears just one that can harness many different abilities. Luminous Arc 2 makes good use of the idea, but after having seen it done better before, it just falls a bit flat.
The DS isn’t particularly known for its graphical capabilities, but that doesn’t mean this game looks bad. Character sprites look good, and even have some nice detailing upon closer inspection. The overall design of the game is pleasant, despite some stereotypical character models. Colors are crisp and varied as the game makes good use of a large color palette. Having hand-drawn graphics is a big part of why this game is able to look so good on such a small device. Even the animated sequences manage to look good despite being heavily compressed. Composer Yasunori Mitsuda, best known for his work on Chrono Trigger and Xenogears, scores the game beautifully, and is able contribute the one thing in LA2 that will stand out above the other RPGs on the shelf. Impressively, the tiny speakers on the DS do the soundtrack justice, and I actually found myself not turning the volume off as I often do with portable games. The voice work present is also pretty solid, but doesn’t stand out anywhere near as much as the actual score.
While there may not exactly be a shortage of RPGs available on the DS, Luminous Arc 2 does just enough right to warrant a playthrough. It may not have anything new to add to the genre, but the game certainly doesn’t detract from it either. Atlus does a good job of sticking with what works, producing a solid game worth playing, even if you’ve seen it all before. Luminous Arc 2 may not reinvent the RPG wheel, but for fans of the genre, it’s definitely something to check out.