previews\ May 19, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits - PS2 - Preview

The Arc the Lad series made its American debut in the form of a multi-disc boxed set.  The boxed set included all of the PSone versions of the game, as well as some extra content.  Despite the hefty price tag ($70 when it was released!), the Arc the Lad collection was well received among the hardcore RPG crowd.  Now that US gamers have experienced the games that started the series, Sony is ready to release the PlayStation 2 update in the States.


Having not played the previous games in the series, I can't compare the battle system and list all of the changes or improvements that may have been made.  I can, however, tell you that Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits' gameplay is a lot different from the Final Fantasy clones that most gamers are used to playing.  The battles are turn-based, and some functions are performed by selecting them from a menu screen.  But the similarities stop there.  Battlefields are fairly wide, and most of the monsters are scattered, making them difficult to reach.  The only way to move them is to change your character's position.  You're given the option to do that every turn, and unlike strategy role-playing games, you can attack the nearest enemy right after moving.


This style of gameplay has been demonstrated before in games like Parasite Eve.  The outcome for each game has been different, but at this point it seems as if Twilight of the Spirits will prevail as one of the better RPGs.


One thing that's sure to please RPG fans is that Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is incorporating a sword upgrading system.  While only briefly mentioned in the demo, it appears as if the weapons are upgraded with magic, just as they are in one of Sony's other RPG series, Dark Cloud.


The story revolves around the Great Spirit Stones.  These stones are like Materia (Final Fantasy VII), or like any other magical orb or stone that the characters of that particular story need to survive.  In this case, the stones are beneficial to two species: humans and deimos.  Deimos are basically demons, and use the stones to help their spell casting abilities.  Humans also utilize the stones' powers, but for good, not evil purposes.


The introduction to the game centers on Kharg, one of the main characters, and Lloyd, the father of a potential love interest for Kharg.  The two have a quick sword fight, very much like the one between Squall and Seifer in Final Fantasy VIII's intro.  All of Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits' movie sequences are in real-time though, and some (but not all) have voice-overs.  Thus far, the voice acting seems pretty good.  Kharg's voice is typically cheerful and upbeat, but it works.  His acting can't be fully judged until the final game is released, but right now I'd say that he is far superior to the leading men of most anime series.


From a graphical standpoint, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is most impressive off the battlefield.  On the battlefield, the game looks kind of bland, especially when compared to Dark Cloud or Wild Arms.  Off the battlefield, you'll see buildings with lots and lots of detail.  When the demo loads up, a short movie sequence plays that shows gorgeous sun light effects streaking through the branches of a large tree.  This reminded me of ICO, one of the few games developed that took the beauty of nature seriously.


Musically, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits has the potential to compete with big RPG releases like Final Fantasy X-2.  The music is instantly likable.  It really draws you in to the experience, especially the story.


Needless to say, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is turning out to be one of most anticipated RPGs of the summer.  Due for release this June, Twilight of the Spirits is just the game you'll want to play on those rainy summer days.

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