It isn’t very common that a game with so many poor features can shine… Kind of.
Many, many moons ago, during my Nintendo Wii phase, I pre-ordered a game called Arc Rise Fantasia. I knew very little about the game aside from that the battle system looked cool. I believe the only trailers I watched for it existed on Amazon alone. When it arrived in the mail, I eagerly inserted the disc into my Wii, grabbed my Nintendo Wii SNES model controller, and awaited an RPG experience I thought would be awesome. And boy, at that point in my life, I was totally unprepared for one of the WORST opening experiences in an RPG to date.
Flash forward to about a month ago. I just finished Uncharted from the Nathan Drake Collection, and I was in the mood for an RPG. After much searching, I settled on showing my friend just how awful Arc Rise Fantasia really was. Again, I popped in the disc, cringed at the miserable voice acting, and laughed at the indigent opening of the game. But then, I decided I’d try and grind my way past the first ‘big’ boss. Once I topped the boss (let me interject here, and say that, in my defense, I had three separate save files for this game when I put it in again), I decided to continue on, as I had nothing else to do.
I’m actually pretty glad that I did. You see, if you can get past one of the most atrocious voice acting experiences in living memory (there are a few worse, for sure, but this is bad), then the gameplay is pretty enjoyable. The narrative is also an interesting tale, and the soundtrack is pretty remarkable. But while these aspects are very strong, I’m not quite sure it saves the game.
Arc Rise Fantasia is the story of L’Arc Bright Lagoon, a 17-year-old mercenary who, after toppling a dragon, falls from his airship. Coincidentally, he runs into the affably ignorant, Ryfia – a young and self-pronounced Diva of North Noirism in search of the Child of Eesa. She mistakes L’Arc for such an individual, and, being a stubborn-but-kind-hearted soldier, L’Arc decides to escort her back to town. From this point, the narrative proceeds quickly. After teaming up with Prince Alf, L’Arc’s childhood friend and present employer, the three find themselves caught up in an assault on Dragon Prison, catapulting L’Arc and friends into a plot far thicker than they could have imagined – and one that, for a large portion of the game, runs fairly unique.
The battle system shines in Arc Rise Fantasia, lending itself well to progressing the narrative. Combat is turn-based, like your typical RPG, but with a few bonus elements. Players expend AP to attack, move, defend, use a skill/magic/item, or unleash a summonable create known as Rogress. The party consists of three playable characters and sometimes a guest character (though the quest character acts separately from the party AP pool). By choosing targets, actions, and characters, you can easily chain large attacks and deal massive damage to foes of all types, making combat a bit more strategic than your typical RPG. Another element that enhances the battles is customizing your weapons. Arc Rise Fantasia allows the player to slot in different enhancements into available space on the weapon. These improvements could be something as simple as adding 100 HP to a character, boosting strength, raising elemental resistances, or adding debilitating effects to the weapon. Understanding the location you’ll be traversing can help you strategize your weapon slots.
Standard battles can become a piece of cake if L’Arc’s party is adequately prepared. In fact, with my set up of Niko, L’Arc, and Ryfia through the majority of the game (whenever Niko didn’t find his way out of the party), I was easily mowing through enemy encounters in one turn – before I could even be damaged. This may seem like it can grow stale – and, to an extent, it does – but the story progresses with significant time between areas involving a lot of random battles (I also thoroughly enjoyed combat, so I often grinded a few extra levels per area). At the end of each map, L’Arc & Co. usually found some boss archetype to do battle with.
The bosses in the game proved to be no easy feat. Often, even if I grinded a few levels above the recommended level, I would die on my first run (or it would be an hour long slugfest involving the use of multiple healing items). Strategy plays a crucial role in boss fights, but I also found that I could use L’Arc to continuously out-pour damage while Ryfia and Niko healed. When my health was in safe territory, I would commit Niko to damaging the boss or destroying the map crystals (these can enhance attacks of the elements the crystals represented). Every so often, I would be able to use a tri-attack and deal significant damage. The cool part is that not every battle needs to be won. Sure, it is certainly a boost to win – especially when fighting for control of the Rogress. And the game proceeds in different paths depending on the outcomes of some of the major battles. But there is only one ending, so, ultimately, outside of exposition, it is not vital to win every battle.
The last bright aspect of Arc Rise Fantasia was the fantastic soundtrack accompanying the game. If this was a game of my childhood, I’m sure I would remember it fondly when hearing any of the tracks from the OST. Of recent memory, only Xenoblade Chronicles and Nier can even compete with the wonderfulness of the soundtrack. Yasunori Mitsuda was the main composer, along with Shunsuke Tsuchiya and Yuki Harada. Fans of Mitsuda will know him from his work on Chrono Trigger (with the legendary Nobuo Uematsu), Chrono Cross, Xenogears, and many other phenomenal OSTs. Given the prestige of the game’s composers, it’s no wonder the soundtrack is so fantastic; it’s just a shame that the voice acting has to be so atrocious.
See this video:
Voice acting in a game is extremely important. Good voice acting enhances a game significantly. I believe that English voice actors are usually solid; Troy Baker, Nolan North, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Liam O’Brien, Matthew Mercer, and so many others have put in such quality work over the past decade (and more) that it’s hard to argue against the talents of these actors. And, unless it makes logical sense like in Yakuza or Samurai Warriors, I dislike having to read subtitles. But I also feel hostile towards listening to non-English voice acting because I have no clue as to whether they’re good voice actors or not. Here’s why: the voice actors, from my research – particularly of L’Arc Bright Lagoon – are English voice actors who live and do voice work in Japan. If you check out Brett Coleman’s website, you’ll see that he does acting and voice-over work for advertisements, shows, and others in Japan. Do you think that they believe he’s a good voice actor? I don’t know. They probably don’t understand our voice inflections the way we do – just like I have no idea about how the Japanese speak. Sure, I’ve studied linguistics and speech – but it isn’t always what is said that carries meaning; it’s how something is said. And that is something that I can’t, in good faith, decipher when listening to non-English voice acting – as I imagine other languages believe of English (at least those who do not have a working understanding of English). Anyway, the point remains that the English voice acting in Arc Rise Fantasia is so unbelievably bad it’s worse than comical. But it’s so bad that it actually changes the meaning of what is written. It is for this reason that I would highly recommend muting the voice acting in this game and reading the dialogue boxes. I did not, as I enjoyed the entertainment of bad voice acting… but I had to re-read dialogue boxes multiple times to fully comprehend what was just said.
So with all this said and ranted, would I still recommend Arc Rise Fantasia to curious Wii or Wii-U owners? The answer is… probably? If you can get past the simply vile voice acting, then you’ll find yourself an exciting and fresh battle system with an unusual but interesting story worth the 60+ish hours you’ll invest. By muting the wretched acting (acting so bad that it made the two very mediocre actors sound great), you may even save yourself from self-loathing by the end credits.