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by Working Designs


Arc the Lad II

Tosh1.jpg (4884 bytes)After blissfully wandering through Arc the Lad I, popping in the next disc of the Arc the Lad collection is a mindboggler. Everything is so different, yet so much the same. And better. Early on I heard that Arc the Lad II was the best segment of this adventure, and so far I’m believing it whole-heartedly. With the same style of strategy RPG battle, a whole new cast of likeable characters, plus all the old ones to boot, and a brand new career to pursue.

Wanted2.jpg (5933 bytes)As I said in the last portion of this review, if there is anything wrong with Arc the Lad I, it’s tough to see. That is, it’s tough to see until you pop in Arc the Lad II. The second installment offers very little change in the way of control and general gameplay, which is very good. However, the stats and experience readings have been made a bit better, the menu systems are a little more streamlined, and the gameplay is more varied. In the first part, the battles seemed a bit too easy sometimes, and the game was too much of a linear journey from battle to battle. Sure, there are plenty of sidequests and diversions to go back and check out in Arc the Lad I, but these didn’t offer the variety of Arc II.

Job1.jpg (6557 bytes)You import your characters from the first game into the second installment. However, you won’t immediately get to play with your ultra buffed out Arc and friends. Instead, Arc II centers around Elc and his similarly loveable crew. The story is a continuation of the first game’s plot – the evil generals are still trying to destroy the world, and this time Elc gets all mixed up in things.

ToshShu2.jpg (6629 bytes)Prior to his involvement with world-saving and rogue heroes, Elc is a Hunter. He performs tasks and eradicates monsters for the townsfolk. Hunters are a tough breed, think Han Solo meets Truck Turner. You can play an entire Hunter career in Arc II – Elc rises in ranks, makes money, and eventually gains access to new areas by succeeding as a Hunter. Due to his experience in the trade, he comes to know of Arc as a terrorist out to destroy the government who sports a hefty price on his head. This leads to some tense storylines as Elc and Arc cross paths repeatedly and you, the player, are the only one who realizes they should be good friends.

Weapon4.jpg (6365 bytes)Eventually everything gets sorted out and you’re cruising the world in Arc’s air boat with the crew from the first game and the crew from the second game. Of course, that’s where things get really hectic, and the story takes off. Again, Arc II offers some great story, and the folks at Working Designs have done a stellar job of translating the dialogue. The quality dialogue is always one of the best aspects of a Working Designs import.

Boss_3.jpg (7841 bytes)Another major aspect of Arc II is capturing monsters. You’ll notice that monsters level up as you fight them, and at first that seems odd. However, you eventually gain, through Lieza, the ability to capture monsters and use them in your party. That means your party can get almost infinitely huge (and it also lends the game a strange Pokemon-like quality). To accommodate such huge and varied parties, Arc II allows you to pick the active members of your party for each segment of the story. This lets you switch up your gameplay between old and new characters as well as monsters you’ve collected, and it lends the game an overall unique feeling. It is fun to swap characters in and out of the party.

Statues.jpg (4893 bytes)Arc II may indeed be the highlight of the series. It is a much longer game than the first installment; however, that length (or the brevity of Arc I) just becomes part of the Collection, which offers well over 100 hours of gameplay. Arc II makes me glad that Arc I was so easy – I recommend chugging through the first installment at a good clip so you can get to all the real goodies in the second game. The second disc of the Arc the Lad Collection definitely makes me more sure about asserting that every RPG fan needs to have this game in their collection.

Arc Arena Monster Tournament

Lieza1.jpg (7172 bytes)Unfortunately, we got in this part of the Arc the Lad Collection before Arc III. So while I’m waiting to bust out the final episode of the trilogy I’ve been biding my time fighting monsters. And I don’t mean that I (or Arc or Elc, whoever I am after way too many hours at the PSone) am fighting the monsters – the monsters are fighting the monsters, and there’s something a lot like putting two spiders in a jar about the game.

Elc.jpg (6538 bytes)I have to be honest and say that at this point in time Arc Arena Monster Tournament just doesn’t appeal to me the way that the RPG games do. In Arena you can import all of your beloved monsters and enter them in tournaments where they fight against other monsters for fun and profit (and experience). It looks, feels and plays just like the RPG titles in the game with one crucial difference – you don’t actually get to fight your monsters. You outfit them, set up groups, train them, and all the rest, but once the fight starts you just sit and watch. That is much less fun than actually playing the strategy RPG style battles.

Battle.jpg (8490 bytes)And that’s the nail in Arena’s coffin. Here’s the scenerio in which this might be fun: First of all, you really dig Pokemon and Arc the Lad, so you’re into the characters and the idea of capturing and fighting monsters. Second, you have a friend who is similarly addicted to Arc the Lad (wouldn’t it be cool to have multiplayer?) and loves the monster collecting aspects of the game, too. Third, you and your friend, in order to share the experience of Arc the Lad, get all of your monsters together and fight them while either downing Ho Hos and Twinkies until you have a ripping sugar high or swilling brews until you’ve got a great buzz on. Then, perhaps, fun. Otherwise, not so much fun.

DiekBattle.jpg (11045 bytes)In spite of the amazing disappointment I felt when I realized just what Arena was (I believe my exact words were, "That’s it?!?"), I don’t hate Arena for existing. I consider it a bonus in a package that, even without Arena, packs weeks and weeks worth of gameplay. Arena is not the Arc title I will be returning to as I play through the last third of the trilogy, but it might give me a little thrill once I’ve turned on my other friends to the game.

<< Back Page Two of Two.

Shawn Rider   (04/18/2002)


Ups: Great value for what you get in the collection; incredible gameplay length overall; excellent story; really nice translation; addictive strategy RPG gameplay; a must have title for RPG fans.

Downs: Arena is a bit disappointing.

Platform: PlayStation