Ar tonelico 2: Melody of Metafalica, like its predecessor, primarily follows the traditional Japanese role-playing game formula but incorporates a dating simulation and an extensive customizing system to keep you busy for hours. Not only that, but the way the story is presented is even more bizarre than what you'd expect. Its tantalizing opening sequence with colorful anime characters--more specifically, cute girls about to lock lips--will leave you puzzled, or perhaps thirsty for more. We were only able to scratch the surface of this peculiar RPG that is riddled with innuendo, but from what we've seen, there's a lot of content to go through, and dedicated fans will appreciate the new additions.
The story of Melody of Metaflica follows the rookie knight from the Grand Bell Hall, Croix, who is called upon to contain the spreading epidemic called Infel Phira Dependency (IPD). IPD only affects Reyvateils, a race of girls who can use magic by singing songs. The first one we met was Cloche, a bossy princess of the region of Metafalss. Her songs are powerful on their own, but when you eventually meet more of these magical maidens, you can cast song magic with two Reyvateils.
As in the previous game, you have your fighters lined up in front and the Reyvateils in the back. The battle is in phases, in which you take turns with the enemy. During the attack phase, you have a limited amount of time to fight the enemy by pushing corresponding face buttons until the meter runs out. When the enemy attacks, you enter a defend phase in which you need to protect the Reyvateil in your party. A gauge will appear to indicate when you need to hit square to best protect your party member. It's all about timing, and you'll receive feedback (angry feedback from Cloche) if you're not doing it correctly. At the bottom of the screen there is an emotion indicator that shows how the Reyvateil is feeling. Her emotions will affect how the battle will flow and can increase her song magic gauge. A happy Reyvateil is a more powerful one.
To customize your characters, you'll need to "dive" into a Reyvateil's subconscious, which is also known as the Cosmosphere. This is the only way for Reyvateils to learn new magic, so you'll want to build that trust in battle and then go to a dive shop to dive into a Reyvateil's mind. Not only is this a chance to gain new powers by helping her solve her inner struggles, but you'll also get to know the girl better through conversation and explore a strange virtual world. There are 100 hidden Reyvateils in the game, so that's a lot of minds you could be jumping into. Another way to get to know them better is when you rest at a save point. At that time you can choose to speak with one of the Reyvateils in your party to get some juicy information from her.
The visuals are decent, especially if you enjoy that classic look. The in-game characters do kind of blend together, and you'll see a lot of knights and Reyvateils that look exactly the same. The environments aren't particularly detailed either, but you'll travel to locations through a menu so you're not wandering through a large overworld. There are some lovely songs sung in Hymmnos, a language created specifically for the series. For purists who like their voice acting in the original language, there is the option to turn on the English or Japanese voices.
Ar tonelico 2: Melody of Metaflica will have more than 100 hours of gameplay with four different endings to experience. You'll be able to dive into the darkest corners of these ladies' minds when Ar tonelico 2 is released on January 20, 2009.