Published by: Atlus
It's been a long time coming, but Atlus finally publishes the first DS sRPG game since pretty much the beginning of the DS era. Players have highly anticipated a game like this for ages, but it seems to be just simply something to quench your thirst before Final Fantasy Tactics comes out.
Your main character is Alph, and he's a knight working for a church along with his brother and friends (notice anything so far?). The church wishes to destroy the evil witches living throughout the world in order to stop them from gathering crystals that could ultimately destroy the world. Alph followed that train of thought, until Lucia came...
The plot is...generic anime. I really can't think of anything but that. The whole "church is evil" plot has been done to death in these types of games (Ar Tonelico called, they want their evil church leader back). It's also quite easy to tell who's a good guy and who isn't simply by seeing whether or not they look cute or not, just like an anime. Wow, I sound like a broken record already. At least the storyline is somewhat enjoyable. Somehwat.
Nothing special. The characters in Luminous Arc aren't anywhere near high quality, and shouldn't be judged as such in the first place. It's a typical anime game. It needs big breasted good girl, and big breasted tsundere, and big breasted timid girl, and them lolis. The personalities are pretty much set in stone via these typical methods, while your hero is the same as all the other anime heroes. Can't they think of anything original anymore?
Graphically, the 2D sprites during dialog are beautiful, anime style. Unfortunately, gameplay graphics are lackluster at best, having graphics that is merely comparable to Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis during the GBA era several years ago. These are not good graphics. On top of that, the characters' death animations are weird and don't exist. On top of that, having too many characters in one place slows the game down considerably. While sRPGs should not care so much about graphics, this is not acceptable.
An sRPG has its biggest attraction in its gameplay. All sRPGs should have good gameplay, and should have an enjoyable story. But still the #1 thing for an sRPG is its gameplay. Luminous Arc flops and fails badly.
First of all, the game has your characters being stuck with the same skill set and same classes (class changes happen only during story, and are few). The characters you play also have a tremendous imbalance between the different characters. A character such as Leon is considerably more powerful than nearly every other character in the game, allowing for a dominant strategy to emerge. This problem is heightened by the fact that there is no class/job system in this game, and no advancement in classes for the most part. Customization by equipment is also fairly simple, and thus do not warrant any attention.
Besides that point, the AI is stupid. They tend to like to rush your characters, giving you plenty of time to get those first strikes in. On top of that, the computer has this stupid idea that guys with low HP should always retreat, and thus you don't always have to kill guys off to lessen the amount of damage you take. You just need to get them into the red. In any case, the AI is too stupid to form any strategy of its own.
Overall the gameplay of Luminous Arc is lackluster, and really doesn't hold much water. Online gaming does not make this a better game, since it's pretty much who has the highest level, and at lv. 99, it's basically a war between players to see who came keep the dominant guy alive longer and thus deal more damage to their enemy.
On a side note, the stylus response is rather bad as well. I remember trying to select a unit to kill for like 30 seconds simply because the game isn't registering the location of the screen touched in relation to itself or something. I had to be a bit off on each stylus selection to get things right. This new stylus control, while welcome, is not exactly user friendly either.
Luminous arc came at a time when sRPG players are thirsting for one on the DS. Unfortunately, this game will not live up to the expectations of these players. The gameplay is lackluster at best, the graphics are mediocre GBA graphics with slow downs, the storyline was somewhat decent to wrap up an overall mediocre game. Luminous Arc 2 is already announced, meaning that they want to get another one of these in before the good stuff (Disgaea and FFTA2) come in, most likely. Perhaps they might actually fix the gameplay this time around, but I'm not hoping for much. If you own a DS and is desperate for an sRPG game, go get Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis for the GBA at a used game store. To the very least you get to play a game that is the benchmark for sRPGs in the handheld market, but Luminous Arc is below that same benchmark.