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Import Review - Arc the Lad Collection (PlayStation)

(full database entry)

Review

Platform: PlayStation
Developer: ARC Entertainment
Publisher: Working Designs

Reviewed by Mickey Shannon on 4.26.2003
Review Rating: 9/10 User Rating: 8.12/10
What do you get when you put three games, five game discs, a ton of cool crap, and the Working Designs touch together? I would suspect something similar to Arc the Lad Collection. Rewind back to 1995, and you have the brand new Sony Playstation just starting to make waves. One of the first RPGs released for the import system was a game called “Arc the Lad”. While the game was very fun, it suffered because it was extremely short for a stand-alone RPG, and was very linear to boot. I can only assume this, coupled with a few other reasons (Bernie Stolar’s problem with RPGs before moving over to Sega for one) was why this game never made it over here. However, Arc the Lad was only meant to be a small “introductory” game to the main game, Arc the Lad II. Arc the Lad II took the solid fun gameplay of the first game to create the second. However, this time the game was expanded ten-fold. Where Arc 1 was merely a 10-15 hour RPG, Arc II could easily span 50 hours for even the most hardcore gamer. And this is just beating the bare minimum of the game. However, unfortunately for us gamers, Sony opted not to bring this game over either. Again, I can only assume that it was because the prequel, Arc I never made it here. Eventually, Japan also got a third game in the series, Arc the Lad III. Sadly, it too, stayed in Japan.

Fast-forward about five or six years after the release of Arc I. Working Designs announces that it has picked up all three games and will be releasing it as a collection, and giving it the LUNAR-touch. The package includes 5 game CDs, including all three games, a making of CD, Dual Shock controller thumb pads, a memory card holder, character standees, a hardcover manual, and a glossy box so big that when it contains all of the goodies inside would weigh enough to knock a brotha’ out cold.

As I stated earlier, the first two games are pretty much one long involving epic storyline. The first game is the introductory pre-story for Arc the Lad II. However, the first game also has some merits to its name. The gameplay is addictive to say the least, playing very much like something similar to Shining Force’s battle system, in that it’s somewhat simpler than your average strategy RPG. Using a big invisible grid to control where the characters can move, and how far they can reach with their spells, items and attacks, you control one character at a time. G-Craft kept the options simple enough to understand for even a novice gamer, while keeping it fun and addictive for the more experienced RPG player. The system balances out almost perfectly. Arc the Lad II keeps the same basic engine for the most part, and fans of the engine should stay happy during the transition. Arc the Lad III, while similar to Arc I and II expands a bit and actually improves it’s very few and very minor shortcomings. In Arc III, the enemies and characters can move through each other, making it much harder to protect specific characters while leaving the stronger ones in the front lines, but also making it easier to not get blocked into small areas and groups of enemies.

Translation-wise, Working Designs did a fantastic job! Working Designs kept more to the script, while retaining the quality of translation that can be found in the average Working Designs game. The humor was actually kept to a minimum in the collection, compared to say, the more light-hearted storyline of a LUNAR game. While a joke can still be found here and there, the script itself is fairly clean, and should please those that wanted a more direct translation without side-tracking into the humor. The balance fits well for the Arc the Lad series, and Working Designs deserves a pat on the back for this one.

The story is where a majority of this series really shines. The first Arc the Lad keeps your interest, but really has nothing spectacular in the story-line department. Its main drawing point was in the battle system. However, Arc the Lad II, while retaining the great gameplay, took the story to much greater heights, following Elc and his crew. Where Arc I and II were very closely connected in story, Arc III is much more distant. Instead of revolving much of the storyline around Arc I’s main protagonist, Arc, the game goes in new directions. Unfortunately, the quality of Arc III’s story doesn’t keep the player as interested as the second game did. Still not bad, but Arc the Lad II is by far the best of the three games in terms of storyline.

Fans of old-school 2D style graphics should be right at home with the first two games, while the more modern trend of 3D graphics are abundant within the third game. The first game is obviously a little dated, considering it was released in 1995, but when you take that into account, the graphics are on par, if not above average, for a 2D RPG from that era. Arc II improves quite a bit on the look, but retains the 2D. I personally was a big fan of the graphics in Arc II, especially the character designs and battle spells. All three games include CG, and unlike the story, the CG gets better and better as each installment is presented. The first two games seem about average in quality for their time, while the third game really shines in this department. The overworlds of all three games are great, especially the third game. The first two are 2D, and while the first game’s overworld could be considered average, the second game looks remarkably well. The third game enhances the map to 3D, and looks absolutely gorgeous. The towns and maps are much the same in that, the first two games show off some standard to above average looks, while the third game upgrades quite a bit over it’s predecessors.

As for the music, all I can say is wow! The combined soundtrack of all three games is great. Arc I and II are, for the most part, performed by the amazing London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, while Masahiro Ando composed all three games. (with help on the first game from Hirotaka Izumi) The soundtrack is amazing, the sound effects are great, and the battle cries are also well done. Overall, the sound department of this series is one of its best qualities. It’s too bad that the soundtrack didn’t come through in the package, but it would have been hard to pick only one CD full of tracks from so many great ones.

This anthology is by far the biggest collection I’ve ever laid eyes on. With all of the cool collectable stuff that Working Designs threw in, and considering you’re getting 3 great games in one, this collection is great. Standing alone, only Arc 2 would really stand out, but put together as a trilogy, this is an RPG collection any serious RPG fan shouldn’t pass up.

Oh, did I mention the ultra-cool fact that you can convert data from game to game? I guess I also forgot to mention that the collection also comes with a side-game, Monster Arena. Oh, and while not included in the package, (and rightfully so, where would they fit it!?) is a two volume strategy guide that blows all other strategy guides out of the water. Yes, this series has truly turned into a game collectors dream come true. Just be warned, the series will take you over 100 hours to complete, and many more to master. Arc the Lad Collection is addictive, fun, and involving, which are the three most important aspects of any game.

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