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Ar Tonelico
Previewed on 1/3/07

Ar Tonelico takes place in a futuristic world where people have forgotten how to sing.

Oh, snap.

But it's okay, because this game is not Crapsody Reloaded, and singing isn't a focal point of the plot. Rather, a guy named Lyner descends from the "upper world" to find the key to fighting off enemies called "viruses" that are threatening his people.

In this lower world, for reasons's a video game, singing is damn sweet battle ability. Thus, people in RPG parties like that of the player would do well to have a singing girl--called a "Reyvateil"--in their back lines. In fact, most soldiers use Reyvateils is this world. What exactly a Reyvateil does in combat in interesting. First, the player selects a song (magic spell), which the Reyvateil will keep singing to charge it up. Logically, the longer a song is sung, the more powerful it will be when the effects are unleashed; said unleashing can be done at almost any time, rather than waiting for any particular turn to come up.

Like any vocal performer, these Reyvateils need a frigging break, so they can't sing constantly. That's fine, because it's not like the other party members are helpless. While the ladies in back are singing, the party members up front run the show in a fashion like most other turn-based RPGs. Once in a while, an enemy will decide to be a major prick and target the Reyvateil. When this happens, the player can choose to have other party members cover her--the more covering, the less damage each individual will take. All this being said, the battles are pretty fun.

The story so far has been good. It moves at a consistent pace and is fairly entertaining. What makes it better is the side coversations Lyner can have with his bitches the Reyvateils. Much like the neat dinner conversations in Grandia II, there are bonus scenarios the party can get into while resting. These not only help to build the characters from a story point, but also increase Lyner's compatibility with the Reyvateils he's talking to. Increased compatibility will reap rewards in battle.

Hats off to NIS America for an excellent translation. The localization crew has made the dialogue interesting and, quite often, pretty funny. Since the player can "dive" into a Reyvateil to customize things, there's a lot of opportunity for humorous, yet not tasteless innuendo, and the company has done well in handling things there.

The music in Ar Tonelico is pretty freaking great. Be it town, battle, opening, whatever, it's good stuff. Same with the graphics--they're excellent. All of the character illustrations look detailed, sharp, and beautiful overall. Everything in the game looks good.

There is some crafting one can do in this game. It's very easy to grasp even though it might seem complex at first, because the game provides tutorials (for everything, not just item crafting) that are detailed, yet easy to pay attention to.

Prepare for a good review of Ar Tonelico from RPG Land when it's released in February.


-Heath Hindman