Nippon Ichi Software seems to be going the route of Atlus with their newest RPG, Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia. Ar Tonelico features a fun little diversion not seen since Thousand Arms, and that’s a dating sim! Well not in the sense of something like Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial titles which is like a straight up courtship. No Ar Tonelico is an RPG with a dating sim thrown in for some added kicks, and it works out in the game’s favor, couple this with a fairly well written story and a solid battle system and you’ve got a title that despite a few flaws manages to hold up well even though it contains an archaic graphical style and music and acting that makes me want to hit the mute button on my TV.
Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia I guess has the first distinction of having a dating simulation under its hood on the PS2. I mean if there was another that came before then pardon my ignorance on the subject, either way the first time I heard about this little feature I was more than surprised. Getting my hands on it proved what I was expecting. It is well implemented within the game, and it really helps make the end product better. Gust was wise to team up with developer Banpresto because in doing so they have made one of the most enjoyable old-school style RPGs to come along in a good amount of time.
Out of the box you will note that the presentation feels very drawn out and epic and it is really one of the high points in the game. The way the game transitions between normal game play and the sort of sub-games is just sort of interesting and I’m glad they did it, because it always excited me when I was about to go to this little side world. What I am referring to now I will explain later when I discuss the actual game play. But there is a solid mixture of music, cut-scenes, and game play and graphics and it is all drawn out for you in a very clean and intriguing way and it’s just something I felt was very prominent and strong here.
Graphics here are obviously not going to be all the rage here; it’s an old-school isometric world that you will be exploring. The only time you will see any 3-D is when you are out traversing the world map. And by traversing I mean you’ll be moving a cursor from place to place. Aside from that the 2-D graphics are very anime, and it works well for the storytelling, which feels very brisk and reads more like a visual novel more than anything else. The only downside here is that not all the lines are acted out so there are periods where you’re just reading and reading and reading. Though those spots are few and far between it would have been nice if there were something more than the background music to keep me interested in the game.
Sound is this game has to be both the high and the low at the same time. There is a myriad of musical styling ranging from rock, to peppy little techno bits, to epic vocal scores. And then there is the battle music which manages to ruin any good merits this game earned on music. It all starts out well and good as a synth bit, and then all of sudden it breaks in to these slow versed hip-hop lyrics. It makes absolutely no sense as to why these are here and are agonizing to listen to. The first time I heard it I busted up laughing, but after that I was hard-pressed to enjoy my battles. Aside from that the voice acting is so-so and I am always glad that NIS is placing a Japanese audio track in their games.
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