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Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits Day One

 To kick off My Summer Challenge (see previous blog), I popped in Arc the Lad last night and started there.  
Despite working all most of the day today on a PPT, I've managed to get the first two sections of the game done as of last night, which is not too shabby, but it felt like like the sections were rather short. This is probably due to the very short battles and lack of story progression, or maybe just the progression of a story I've heard hundreds of times before. That's not to say that I knew anything about this game before opening. I had not a clue, but many assumptions in mind: 

  1. RPG stereotypes up the wazoo
  2. Probably not good being it was $5
  3. Standard RPG mechanics
So far, only number one is correct. We have a young, royal hero named Kharu in a small town who clearly has a lineage that he's completely oblivious of, some Deimos (humanistic monsters) attack their peaceful way of life, an important figure dies, and hatred ensues.  
But wait! As soon as Kharu declares his revenge on the horrible Deimos, the next chapter begins from the point of view of Darc (superb name) with the start of a cut scene that essentially shows Darc's mother is the same as Kharu's, meaning that they're brothers. Scandalous since Darc is not only a slave, but half Deimos himself! The story goes on to show that Darc's father died when he was young and that he was raised by a bonerific frog lady (see picture) who really doesn't care for him at all. No one does, which I can't blame them considering the voice he was given. He seriously sounds like someone pretending to be a manly man with an incredibly raspy voice(go to 19:19 on this), which makes it all the more funny to see him defend his manhood with, "I AM a Deimos!" Not surprisingly, Darc is also the chosen one, but to save the Deimos from self-destruction. By the end of the chapter, he is rightfully angry, murderous, and out to kill humans and any Deimos that stands in his way.  
By far, I'm enjoying Darc's story more than Kharu's.

 GauLight in 2003
 GauLight in 2003
Enough of the story, what of game quality? Aesthetically, it looks surprisingly good. Kharu and Paulette (Kharu's best friend, protector, and eventual love interest, I assume) aren't anything interesting to look at (their outfits are reminiscent of FFX and FFVIII, respectively), but as soon as I reached the first battle, there was the sight of Maru's bright green mask and this dopey looking white furball of an enemy's facial expression that animated so fluidly. I was pleasantly surprised as it's been awhile since I've seen enemies that weren't so unidimensional created. AtL: TotS has been trying to capture such emotion in most every character with vivid use of facial expressions, and it mostly works. Mostly. Other times, it's hard not to laugh at how absurdly radical a surprised look comes off (think of the Deadly Premonition faces on a less creepy scale), but I'd rather see the failed attempts over dialog that consists of nothing more than an exclamation point or a few ellipses as it enhances the personalization of the characters.  
Then there's the voice acting. The voice acting is one of the few things I'm taking issue with this game thus far, which really only becomes an issue during battles, if you so choose...but I'm one to think that turning off voices is a form of cheating. That said, many of the voices do make me want to cheat so, so badly. For the most part, the voice style suits the characters, except for the overly masculine Darc, saying things like "Must I fight?" every other turn, which wouldn't be so bad if turns didn't go by so fast. So yeah, the voice acting is bad, but since it's used so few and far between, it's forgivable. 
Last bit before wrapping up, mechanics. I'm not sure what sort of game this looks to other people, but when I looked at the box, I immediately assumed it was an ATB styled game. Wrong again. This is a turn-based strategy RPG, except with some key differences. First, there is no battlefield grid. Instead, each character has a highlighted circular area surrounding himself designating the distance he can go (even bypassing friendly units planted firmly on the field), and unlike most games of this genre, you can move all around this area as much as you like without having to worry about using up any action points as they don't exist. The battles are very simplistic like that with very minimal information shown on the battlefield, cutting down enemy information to it's name, level, and HP. You can still look at your full stats during your turn, but there's not really a need to confuse yourself with that. There's the basic XP, DEF and what not, but then everything else is unnecessarily renamed or is just plain odd, such as MNT for mental AKA magic or CNT for counterattack probability. In other words, the CNT number says that my character will decide to pull out his sword on a dude X number of times because his stat says so, and he defends in the same manner. I understand trying to be different, but this stat thing is just silly. Then there's this whole with the magic point usage, but I'll get into that and other omissions next time. 
So yes, an interesting play so far with so much more to go, but no one named Arc yet! Will this lad ever make his appearance? Stay tuned for more coverage as My Summer Challenge continues to find out!