Luminous Arc is unfortunately yet another strategy role-playing game for the DS that fails to fulfill the potential the system has for the subgenre.
The story in Luminous Arc starts solidly, but suffers from predictability, if not cliché. Essentially, something happened in the world long ago supposedly due to Witches, and it is now up to the Luminous Church to eliminate the threat that any remaining Witches represent. Predictably, the "witch" issue isn't as black-and-white as it appears, and throughout the game, the main character, Alph struggles with his background knowledge about the Witches. Unfortunately, due to the lighthearted nature of the game, it is very difficult to take this inner struggle seriously. Especially when Alph is so easily swayed to one side or the other. On one side, one character will tell Alph that not all Witches are evil, and he'll agree, yet the next moment, someone tells him to uphold his faith, and he's instantly ready to smite some more Witches despite any doubts he may have had. In fact, much of the game's dialogue and many of the story sequences suffer from the design of the game itself. In its staunch resistance to become too serious about anything, Luminous Arc sacrifices most of the emotional impact the story could have had. It is hard to get involved in a storyline that even during serious moments has main characters begin bickering like schoolchildren. It is an unfortunate downfall to what could have been an epic plot.
On the bright side, there are two storytelling systems which, despite not being completely original, serve to add some spice to an otherwise bland plot. The first is the intermission. After nearly every battle in the game, players are given the option of interacting with one of the characters in their party through Alph. These interactions, while not very deep, serve to add to the character development of the game. The other storytelling system is the "Life of Kopin." These onionlike creatures tell a tale that serves as a nice diversion in-between the main plot.
|Don't you tell me what to do, text-thing!
As a strategy RPG, it is the battle system that defines the game. Unfortunately for Luminous Arc, its battle system could be described as wholly mediocre. The game pits players against their foes on isometric battlefields. The player's job is generally to select the characters that will enter battle, start the battle, and eliminate all the enemies in turn-based fashion. That's basically it. There's nothing here to distinguish Luminous Arc from any other strategy RPG. In fact, it could be argued that many of the mainstays of the subgenre are notably absent. The screen cannot be rotated (though this has been done well in a few games), players have no control over how their party is lined up on the map, and evenly leveling characters is nearly impossible.
The average battle in Luminous Arc consists of clustering all one's characters around one or two enemies at a time, eliminating them, and proceeding to the next. There really is nothing at all special about the battle system. Even the Flash Drives, the featured special attacks of the game, are nothing special. They're essentially just a different kind of special attack.
Gameplay issues don't stop there, however, as selecting characters and their targets on screen using touch control can be frustrating. While selection is fairly accurate if one aims at the base of whatever they are trying to select, even this can fail once in a while, causing immense frustration. On a good note, however, Luminous Arc manages to show that touch control for strategy RPGs is a good, time-saving experience. It just needs to be done, well, better. It should further be noted that the game is extremely easy, assuming the player is smart enough to stock up on healing items before battle.
Outside of battle, there really isn't much to do other than advance the story or do shopping. The game follows the standard "story sequence, battle, story sequence, battle" set up most strategy RPGs feature. It also has a sort of world map, but even this isn't fully realized as it could have been.
|I AM SO GENERICALLY RENDERED! ANGRY!
Impressively, several story sequences in Luminous Arc are fully voiced. This, combined with a fairly good score, makes the sounds of Luminous Arc one of its best features.
Graphically, Luminous Arc is pretty good. It suffers from generic (albeit well drawn) character designs and a rather bland style, but the brightness of the game and fairly lush environments shown throughout make for some pretty nice battlegrounds. In battle, the animations look good, but nothing that will blow players away.
Luminous Arc is proof that a strategy RPG on the DS can be done decently. It just needs be done better. While it isn't a bad game, Luminous Arc remains wholly average throughout. It's yet another example of a game that really should have been better, but didn't get the time or effort that it would have taken to bring it out of mediocrity.