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First Impressions: Arc Rise Fantasia

First impressions are important. They let you know what you’re in for. They’re even more vital when you’ve just blown $60 on a game and you need to know whether or not to mourn the loss of your poor cash. In the First Impressions series of articles, I’ll spend an hour with a new game and document my experience. One hour is hardly enough to fully judge a game, but to partially judge it? It’ll do just fine.


Not all beginnings are easily deciphered. Some experiences exude a mysterious aura that leaves one’s thoughts clouded. Not all things show their true selves immediately upon first viewing. Not every facet of an experience is always displayed at first glance, leaving more to be discovered with the passage of time.

Final Fantasy XIII, for instance, hides the fact that it apparently becomes a competently constructed game if only you sink 30 hours into it first. Limbo, without uttering so much as a word, captivates you while leaving you totally on your own to figure out what kind of experience you’re actually in for. 

Other beginnings are more obvious. The first time a character uttered a single sentence in Arc Rise Fantasia I knew exactly what I was in for. Every cutscene, battle, town, and dialog afterward simply reinforced my initial impression. This isn’t a game that will perplex your poor brain as you desperately struggle with the quandary of whether to spend more time with it or not. I can guarantee that within five minutes of picking up a controller you’ll know whether this game is for you.

By the second sentence of dialog, I, for instance, had discovered that I was not one of the small percentage of gamers who could tolerate Arc Rise Fantasia. 

This game seems to be made for a mysterious type of gamer who may or may not actually exist. It is carefully constructed to be of maximum appeal to those whose enjoyment of a game is directly proportional to the number of terrible cliches it contains. A game consisting of nothing but a series of these cliches must, by way of logical conclusion, be aiming to sell itself to those who love a nice trite line of dialog and favor predictability above all else.

At the least, one has to credit Arc Rise Fantasia for not limiting its mastery of cliches simply to overdone plot constructions or familiar gameplay elements. It extends its reach to a far more, shall we say, “meta” level; all the way to the quality of the experience itself.

Take, for instance, the voice acting. Not only does even the first hour of the game seem to contain plenty of overly familiar character archetypes and lines of dialog pulled straight from Ye Olde JRPG handbook, but judging by the quality of the acting that brings these lifeless lines to life, one can only assume developer Imageepoch obtained their acting talent from the janitorial staff. 

I must question why the developer would even spend money recording English voice acting in this case. What’s the point? They clearly weren’t trying to make it any good and the audience for this sort of niche title would almost universally prefer the original Japanese voices with subtitles anyway. The developers did give you the handy option to be able to mute just the voice acting though, clearly hinting that they knew just how bad it is, which at least keeps your ears from bleeding at the expense of immersion and awkwardly quiet cutscenes. It won’t save you from the terrible writing either. 

And who came up with these names? The lead character’s name is L’Arc Bright Lagoon. That sounds like a Parisian tourist trap, not a protagonist. I also met a prince by the name of, get this: Alf. Sir Alf! I can’t make fun of your ditzy female companion’s name, as Ryfia isn’t all that bad, but I can make fun of the fact that the timid, clueless girl’s profession is referred to as being a “Diva”. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t burst into a fit of laughter after hearing that, and I’m at least partially convinced that wasn’t the intention. If there was some hint that the game was making fun of itself this kind of thing would be okay, but I think I’m supposed to be taking all of this seriously. Maybe. 

The gameplay itself seems almost not worth describing. If you have even the slightest familiarity with what a JRPG is supposed to be, then you more or less know exactly what to expect: enemies who politely wait their turn, lots of jamming the A button to select the “attack” option, and plenty of numbers that soar ever upward as the little progress bar marked “XP” fills again and again.

To be fair, the battle systems in even the best RPGs can take far longer than one meager hour to unfold and it does appear as if Arc Rise Fantasia has a few potentially interesting ideas. The setup is somewhat reminiscent of Skies or Arcadia, with a shared pool of action points designated to you every turn. Every action taken uses a certain number of action points. You can expend them all or save some for the next round. Uniquely, you can mix and match actions from whatever party members you like every turn. You’re free to have one character attack three times and completely ignore your useless healer if your HP is high, for instance.

This does reveal a potential issue, however. Perhaps this changes with time, but by the end of my first (and only) hour I had three characters in my party. Two appeared to be warrior types with no appreciable differences in attack style. The other was a healer who, bless her heart, seemed to be entirely useless. Every time I’d try to make her attack she’d miss. Every time I’d try to make her heal I’d remember that I only had a measly three MP to expend before her magic was unavailable, meaning items were a far better healing option. So she mostly just sat in the background and was consistently skipped over while the cool kids in front did all the fighting, like some poor nerd getting passed over by the team captains on dodgeball day. Poor Ryfia. She just wants to help!

Is this necessarily a worse system than your typical JRPG which forces you to do something with your healer every turn even when you don’t need to? Not at all. In fact, it’s probably better, but it’s still worth noting, especially considering the magic system that at this point seems incredibly limiting. 

Throw in your typical suite of constantly upgrading abilities and what seems like a rather nifty materia-esque mix-and-match weapon upgrading system, where using one weapon unlocks abilities which can apparently be removed and used on other weapons, and you have a battle system which let’s at least say has the potential to rise above the mediocre. It’s predictable but fast-paced, overly familiar but with the only sparks of actual creativity I glimpsed in the entire game, which counts for something I suppose. 

But the potential for a battle system that might be all right is not enough to save this game from the discard pile for me. Its voice acting sins and truly horrific writing are too terrible to forgive. If you’re simply foaming at the mouth for a comforting JRPG and can think of no alternatives I suppose it might be worth giving it a shot, but I’d keep your expectations low.

Arc Rise Fantasia really needed to come out of the gate stronger if it wanted to hook gamers beyond the fanatical bunch who play every JRPG they can get their hands on. It needed to show off how it was different somehow or at least have a nice sense of humor about the whole thing. As it stands, most will probably get bored and give up long before it has time to get good, if it ever does. 

I know that, for me, one hour of Arc Rise Fantasia was already one hour too many.

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    Zestful Contemplation - Blog - First Impressions: Arc Rise Fantasia

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