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Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) artwork

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) review

"Wonderfully familiar"

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) image

Arc Rise Fantasia taught me that "standard" is not a dirty word.

The thesaurus in my brain lists "standard" as a synonym for "mediocre" and "dull." As a result, I've come to see standard genre offerings as inherently boring, unoriginal, uninspired and incapable of offering a genuinely entertaining experience. That's what I expected going into Arc Rise, as it is your everyday JRPG released on a console.

Arc Rise showcases a story we've heard before. A teenage swordsman named L'Arc embarks on a mission to save the world. A ragtag crew of seasoned warriors join him, along with a seemingly alien love interest named Ryfia, who is comedically ignorant of the world's customs. Meanwhile, our hero's childhood companions similarly seek to prevent calamity, although their mission happens to be at odds with L'Arc's.

L'Arc and company travel the world, venture through numerous dungeons, visit a handful of towns and occasionally purchase new equipment. They squash their foes with spells and special techniques called "excel acts" and occasionally level up. About halfway through the campaign, you receive an airship and a deluge of side quests. For good measure, Arc Rise also features: religious criticism, an aged swordsman, a dapper sorcerer with a pair of female bodyguards, prompted conversations between party members and pacts formed with summoned creatures called Rogress.

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) image

To top it all off, Arc Rise sports English voice acting full of wonky readings and awkward intonation. Alf, for instance, starts his lines with proper gusto, only to flatten his vocal expression by the time he finishes. It's as if the actor holds back at the last minute, ruining the intensity that Alf's lines should carry. Other characters, like the veteran mercenary Rastan, plod lackadaisically through their portions of the script. Rastan speaks with a monotonous voice that undermines the badass presence he exudes.

I've experienced all Arc Rise has to offer in countless other RPGs, and yet I managed to greet the game with enthusiasm every night I returned to it. Although it leans on tropes, Arc Rise arranges its material well enough to entertain. For one thing, it doesn't portray its protagonist as a perfect leader. L'Arc makes several bad calls throughout the campaign's early phases, earning him an ill reputation and driving wedges between him and his closest companions. He fails to consider his options or question all of the information presented to him before acting, further complicating his mission. His experienced allies continue to following him, regardless. They see L'Arc's greenness as an opportunity to help the young man mature into the future hero the world needs.

It's easy to relate to L'Arc because many of us were that eager, naive teen once. I empathized with him because I also recall making poor judgments based on my inexperience. In a way, Arc Rise takes a melodramatic, fantastical plot type and makes it applicable to everyday life. Like L'Arc, we face life's challenges and falter, only to learn better in the future. It's refreshing to command a character who, like us, doesn't always win and has to live with the drastic outcomes of his choices.

Arc Rise's strongest facet, though, is its turn-based combat system. At the beginning of each round, you receive a certain number of action points (AP). Each command costs AP, be it attacking, defending or casting a spell. The best part about this system is that you're not obligated to utilize your entire party. You can spend all of your AP on a single person or distribute it evenly among your troops. Unused AP rolls over into the next round.

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) image

Actions used multiple times in a single round combine to form devastating combos. Multiple strikes against an opponent, for instance, condense into one series of blows rather than several hits spread throughout the round. Spells also merge, forming advanced blasts when cast repeatedly. If you, say, cast a low-level wind spell three or four times, it becomes a powerful gale that squelches weaker opponents and their neighbors. This is key to victory, as dishing out massive damage is the only way to topple Arc Rise's deadliest creatures.

You might not comprehend how awesome Arc Rise's battle system is until you face a few bosses. You see, the game features a stiff assembly of villains, each so formidable that they can decimate your squad within a single turn. Even when bosses aren't dropping nukes on you, they're shaving off enough of your hit points to keep you on the defensive. But you can't rely on a passive strategy. You must harm your adversaries while healing yourself, and you've got to finish those bosses in a timely manner. If you linger too long, they'll exhaust your resources and bury you.

Thankfully, you've got some nukes of your own. Not only can you occasionally summon Rogress for massive damage, but commanding all three of your units to use excel acts triggers a massive, multi-hit bombardment called a "trinity act." In the latter portions of the campaign, my own trinity acts stripped off 75,000+ hit points, so hitting these once in a while is imperative.

Even your own weaponry contributes wonderfully to your strategy. Each blade, fist and gun provides passive bonuses and counter abilities, as well as interchangeable perks. If you desire, you can load up one of L'Arc's swords with strength boosters, give Cecille a fist that cripples dragons or bestow a defensive counter unto Ryfia that randomly negates physical damage.

Arc Rise Fantasia (Wii) image

But woe betide those who don't take their group's health into account. You can't take a guns blazing approach and expect not to get wrecked. You have to set yourself up, use the defend command to mitigate damage and consider the possible risks and rewards of committing to an all out assault. Maybe Leslie will perish in the next round if you go for a trinity act, but that might be worth the trouble. Or perhaps you can summon a Rogress and conclude the scuffle early, knowing full well that if your opponent survives, it will absolutely murder you.

Arc Rise Fantasia is at its best when you're struggling. It's most entertaining when you're scrambling to remain alive and carefully weighing your options. Or when L'Arc must accept painful realities and realize that he could have avoided heartache, had he taken time to think before acting. Yes, the game is your standard RPG, but it presents the kind of content that anyone looking for just such a game would want. It's a challenging and sometimes downbeat adventure, but it's also a worthwhile journey.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 23, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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