Overall good tactical RPG for the DS. But could use some spit and polish in places.

Luminous Arc is a tactical RPG published by Atlas. It doesn’t add much to the genre, in fact in more ways then one it is more of the same. It has some good gameplay mechanics and good presentation but it could use some spit and polish here and there.

Luminous Arc is a very anime inspired game. This will become apparent when you see the very anime styled opening of the game or the character cut-outs. As with most RPGs the story is told through cut-out story boards and text. Thankfully there is actually quite a bit of spoken dialogue as well. The only thing bad about the presentation is that fact the story itself is very bland. It is the typical thousand year the world is going to end type thing. It tries to add some twists here and there but it isn’t anything you couldn’t predict or haven’t seen before. So if the gameplay isn’t your thing then the story isn’t going to entice you to finish the game.

Luckily the gameplay mechanics are done well so you don’t have to worry about the bland story. It’s your typical isometric turn based tactical RPG mechanics. Each character takes turns, order depended on speed of character; during your turn you can move the unit and attack or use an item. For attacks you have your regular melee attack and you have magic abilities or skills for some, with many of them long range attacks which are helpful. You have your typical Health and Magic Points and the various statistics such as attack, speed, defense, movement, etc. Whenever you use an attack or magic ability you gain experience points; getting more if you attack a higher level enemy(ies). Once you get 100 experience points you will level up and gain more powers. The level up system works great because it isn’t a constant strain to level up like other RPGs. Thanks to this system you never get to a point where you are forced to level up to stand a chance, which for me and many others is a great sign of relief.

Environmental factors also play a role in the game. Elevation is a big factor. If you are above the enemy then you will have a great effect. And vise-versa if you are lower then the enemy. And if the elevation difference is too great, even if the enemy is in range of an attack, you might not be able to hit them. And the angle you attack has a great affect as well. Attacking from the back or sides is much more effective and has a higher hit percentage then an attack from the front. Besides normal attacks you also have Flash Drives which are very powerful attacks you can only use after gaining enough FP(Flash Points). You gain FP slowly during battle, so Flash Drives can’t be abused. If you have two characters that have enough FP you can do a Synergy. This is a super powerful attack that is well worth using if you can do it, but it takes forever to get enough FP to do it so you won’t be using it often.

I do have a few grippes with the controls though. You can use the stylus or d-pad to control the game which is fine. I would like to use the stylus because it is faster to go through menus. But sometimes choosing characters on the battlefield, especially in a crowded area, can be quite troublesome. The menus for shopping and outfitting your characters are a bit awkward to use as well. And besides not being able to skip the story sections the game plays very well.

The graphics in Luminous Arc are what you would expect from an isometric tactical RPG. While nothing is truly spectacular the playing fields have a very nice look to them and are well designed for the most part. The character models and cut-outs are done well and look great. Some of the attack affects are a bit weak though. Many of the attacks look very similar, if not the same, so it loses some variety. But there is one problem, when a larger amount of characters are on-screen the frame rate drops dramatically. It only happens when a lot of characters are on-screen, which happens a lot in later chapters. While not a deal breaking thing it does bring you out of the experience of the game when it happens so it is annoying.

The musically selection of Luminous Arc is also good. It has some good tunes that make for great background noise. And the sound affects a generally pleasant. The voice acting of the game is also done well and adds to the depth of the characters. But some of the voice work for some characters gets a bit annoying, but then again that’s the character’s style so it has to be that way.

The game also features a multiplayer part. I never got to try the multi-card play since I don’t know anyone else who owns the game. But I did get to try out the online experience. When you go online it uses your current party as your team. But the thing about this is it just becomes a game of highest level. Even a difference of two or three levels is enough to turn the flow of the battle, so it ruins the experience since you won’t likely find a person on equal grounds as you. There can also be a bit of lag which is a little disheartening since there isn’t a lot going on during battle to warrant the lag.

Overall Luminous Arc is a fun tactical RPG for the DS. It doesn’t add much, or anything really, to the genre and has some flaws. But it is nonetheless a good game and is worth the time to check out if you are a fan of the genre.