Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
SCEA
Developer
Cattle Call
Genre
RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Language, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Fun battle system
• Customizable weapon and equipment system
• Pretty good story

The Bad

• Takes a while to get going
• Some bland character designs
• Graphics and audio could be better
• Too many borrowed elements

 
Grade
B-

Set many years after the original games, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits tells the story of the conflict between humans and the deimos, a demon-like society, which becomes dwarfed by a larger problem in the Dilzweld Empire and its quest for power. Much like Suikoden III's Trinity Sight System, Arc the Lad is told in separate chapters from two different viewpoints of the conflict. On one side is the young "prince" Kharg, son of the former queen who has abdicated her throne, yet still serves as a governing force. Her son becomes drawn into combat with the deimos and the Dilzweld Empire when a mysterious girl, Lilia, crashes her airship while fleeing capture. Kharg and allies attempt to escort the girl, only to be separated. While they try to find her, they also search for other spirit stones in hopes of stopping a greater problem. The other side of the story features Darc, a half-deimos, half-human slave who breaks free of his bondage and takes power in the Orcon tribe to build a strong army to fight the humans. His single-minded goal derails when he also comes across Lilia and the Dilzweld Empire. Both storylines involve the power of magical elemental spirits that far outweighs the conflict between the two races and even the inner conflict among the races.

As with many other games in the genre, Arc the Lad: TOTS uses the staple gameplay elements. Akin to Grandia 2 and Final Fantasy Tactics, characters move from location to location along a linear path. Certain locations will allow you to enter for story purposes, while others prove to be points where you can fight random battles. In towns, you can interact with NPCs and buy supplies, including medicine, spirit stones, accessories and items to attach to your weapons. Each character has a standard weapon, but to give a larger degree of customization, their weapons have three slots where you can attach items to strengthen the weapon or give it elemental property. This system, along with equipping accessories, allows for a good bit of customization for each of the characters.

Once in battle, players will find the game plays a lot like a strategy RPG, and those familiar with Breath of Fire: DQ will immediately pick up the battle system. Others will find a turn-based affair where opponents and allies are placed on a large field, often littered with barrels and debris which can be destroyed or used as cover. When a character's turn begins, they have a movement range in which they can freely move about. If an enemy is in range, then your character can attack, thereby ending the turn. Enemies drop items, money and spirit stones. To acquire these, characters must pick them up before the end of battle. Doing this will force that character to stop where they are, but they can still attack from that position. All the benefits of strategic attacking (flanking, ambush) provide bonuses, so using your head is often in your best interest in completing each battle.

Characters can gain both experience and skill points, the later which can used to earn new skills and magic. Also, much like experience, characters can raise in skill levels, which opens up new skills to purchase. And, instead of letting players abuse magic, as was the problem in other titles in the genre, casting skills or magic costs spirit stones, which come in a limited supply during each battle. Of course, you can buy more and even pick up more off of defeated enemies, but the limited number of stones forces you to be more economical in combat, especially the longer story and boss battles.

There are some additional diversions to be found, like a series of arena battles to partake and even a Tomagatchi-like Pyron, a flying beast in the Darc levels that can be used for travel and even summoned in battle. Not to be outdone, the Kharg levels include a similar feature in customizing the laser of the Big Old airship, which can also be summoned during battle. While there are some sidequests and other secrets to be found, most will find the main quest to serve them well.

While the graphics engine is comparable to other PS2 RPGs, including Final Fantasy X and Suikoden III, it does suffer from some inconsistency. There are some locations in the game that are magnificently sculpted, so much so that you might be fooled into thinking the backgrounds are prerendered. Others, though, look plain and uninspired and some of the random battle locations get reused from region to region. Character designs range from quite interesting (Gorma, Darc, Lilia) to okay and clichéd (Kharg, Maru) to downright bland (Delma and most of the Orcon in general). Some of the character models look good in execution, while others, like the Drakyr, could use more polygons and a lot more detailwork. Also, I wished there were more variety in both the NPC and enemy models - I got tired of beating up on color palette swapped versions of the same enemies I wasted 5 hours before. Toss in the fact that most of the spell effects are timid and you shouldn't be overly impressed with the complete package. Luckily, the game does look good enough, especially in the very cinematic cutscenes, to keep you playing throughout.

The audio package is not unlike the graphics - good enough not to be a detriment, but not completely without faults. The soundtrack is a nice change of pace, with more interesting themes and including some guitarwork and solos here and there. Some of the tracks get repeated a little too often, but for the most part, you should enjoy the music more than in other games. Sound effects are your standard fare that work just fine with the theme. Voice acting ranges from decent to tolerable as the voice cast, used in small snippets of the story sequences and during battle, is composed of a number of familiar voices from cartoons and anime alike. Where the voice cast really grows old is during battle - your team members make a small assortment of comments that by the 20th or 30th battle grow very tiresome in repetition. Luckily, you can turn this off in the options menu.

Fans of the genre may either love or hate Arc the Lad: TOTS for the fact that it seems such a collection of aspects from other titles in the genre. While the story is interesting, for the most part, it seems mired in cliché and some of the characters are so single minded (like the bitter racist, Volk) that their presence drags the story down. The fact that the story takes some time to get rolling doesn't help matters much. Toss in the fact that the game is never really that challenging and the straightforward nature way the game is presented may have most blow through in no time.

Let's be honest - Arc the Lad: TOTS in not the best that the genre has to offer. But, the battle system and the decent story go a long way towards making the experience worth the while. If you're looking for something to tide you over during the Summer months, Arc the Lad: TOTS is a good 40 dollars well spent.

- - Kinderfeld

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