While it’s certainly true that we’re all hardcore Ninty fans here at Nintendo Life, it would be silly to suggest we don’t dabble with rival systems from time to time. One manufacturer that is almost impossible to ignore is Sony. You may not like them much as a company but, even the most dedicated anti-Sony zealot would have to admit that some sterling releases have appeared on their machines. Final Fantasy Tactics – produced in the late ‘90s for the original Playstation – is one such title.
Sired from the loins of the SNES classic Tactics Ogre, this sublime turn based strategy title was nothing short of a masterpiece. Not only did it feature a robust game engine with layers of depth thanks to an intricate ‘job’ system, it also managed to incorporate a mature and involving plotline that neatly circumvented the usual light-hearted ‘good verses evil’ stories that 99% of Japanese role playing games are saddled with. Ever since FFT was released, any similar-looking game has been compared to it, and so far (in our humble opinion, at least) nothing has come close - ironically, even SquareEnix itself struggled to replicate the magic formula a second time with the likeable but ultimately inferior GBA-based Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
Forgive the long, rambling intro but I thought it necessary to adequately set the scene for our latest review – Luminous Arc. When this title was first confirmed for release it sets chins wagging worldwide – could this finally be the true successor to Final Fantasy Tactics?
Upon firing up the game things appear positive – the anime intro may showcase a cheesy J-Pop theme tune and few too many large-breasted ladies for my liking but, it’s of an impeccably high standard and sets the tone nicely. The opening scene continues this bright opening, with crystal-clear spoken dialogue and half-decent voice acting. Presentation is generally of a high standard throughout. So far so good.
After several minutes of exposition you eventually stumble into a combat situation and it is at this point that unfortunate cracks start to appear. Although Luminous Arc is certainly no slouch visually, it’s far from perfect. Sprites are blocky and dumpy-looking, enemies are entirely non-threatening and the levels are dull and lacking in character. When the action heats up, things remain distinctly underwhelming – combat is accompanied by special effects that wouldn’t look out of place in a SNES release. Although it cannot be described as an ugly game, Luminous Arc is a disappointment when you consider the capability of the DS hardware.
To the untrained eye the gameplay seems very similar to any other title of this type; you start each mission with a certain number of characters and the general aim is to defeat all the enemy units on any given map. Each character can move a certain number of squares in each turn and can also attack enemies or use items. Combat is a matter of placing your fighter within range of a foe - some characters need to be adjacent to the enemy to successfully land a blow, whereas others possess ranged weapons like bows and arrows that allow them to engage from a greater distance - and confirming the action. Attacks from the side or the rear usually inflict a more significant amount of damage and having the advantage of higher ground also allows you to dish out greater punishment. Magic – both offensive and defensive – can be used to turn the balance of the battle in your favour.
The core building blocks are all in place but unfortunately Luminous Arc becomes repetitive far too swiftly. The mission objectives lack the inventiveness seen in Final Fantasy Tactics and the game relies heavily on the risible, wafer-thin plot in order to encourage the player to soldier on. The protracted cut scenes contain some truly cringe-worthy dialogue and do much to remove any impact the story might have otherwise possessed. Laughable attempts at humour have been clumsily inserted – presumably during the Western localisation - much to the detriment of the already humdrum plot.
Ultimately Luminous Arc’s biggest failing is that it offers nothing new to the genre. Dedicated fans of strategy RPGs may possibly find the heart to forgive the game for its faults. But even then it’s hard to imagine that much enjoyment can be extracted from a title that is so markedly inferior to everything else out there.
Our advice is to steer clear of this uninspiring release and wait for the upcoming Final Fantasy Tactics DS title. Hopefully SquareEnix will be able to rediscover the magic that enabled them to create such a sterling game over a decade ago. However, on the evidence provided by Luminous Arc it seems that other developers simply aren’t up to the challenge.