NIS AmericaDeveloped By:
M for Mature (Fantasy Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes) Release Date:
March 15, 2011Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now! Written By:
Matthew PruntyMarch 14, 2011
– The last time we played an Ar tonelico title was back in 2009 with Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica for the PS2. Though the game did have it shortcomings, I found Melody of Metafalica to be a solid RPG with a wealth of content to be explored. Now with the 2011 release of Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel for the PS3 console and its new art direction, developer Gust is venturing outside of their comfort zone to make Ar toneico Qoga appeal to a broader audience. How well did they do? Keep reading to find out.
For those players have played any of the previous Ar tonelico titles, the first thing you will notice is that developer Gust has done away with the character sprites in favor of 3D character models. Another change for the better is the fact that the lands you travel are rendered in 3D as well, making the experience more visually appealing that ever before. I will admit white the transition from 2D and sprites to 3D is a definite step in the right direction for the series; it seems to lack the crispness of another Gust developed title, Atelier Rorona. Also, the visual quality of the environments is a mix bag. When you are in the various towns, everything seems vibrant and colorful, but when you are traversing the lands in between the towns, the world seems bland and unattractive. The still art used during the dialog sequences is beautiful and highly detailed, retaining some of the elements found in previous Ar tonelico titles.
In Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel, you assume the role of Aoto who wakes up the sounds of an attack happening outside of his residence. When he goes outside to see what all the commotion is, he notices a fallen gentleman, and the Clustanian army trying to capture a young Reyvateil by the name of Saki. Instead of staying out of the situation, Aoto decides to become a hero for the day and step in to protect Saki. Aoto’s decision to protect Saki starts him on an epic journey to get Saki back home safely and to truly find out what he’s made of. Along the way he teams up with Tatsumi, a V-boarding sensation, Hikari Gojo the Reyvatologist, and a clumsy Reyvateil by the name of Finnel. Each one of these individuals has their own secrets that come to life and help flesh out the story of Ar tonelico Qoga.
At the heart of this epic journey that everyone will partake on is the bond that both Saki and Finnel share, which three different armies would love to use in order to getting the upper hand in a epic war that’s going on. It seems that Finnel and Saki possess the unique ability to harbor multiple personalities within their bodies. Along the way, you will come into contact with the different personalities; each bringing about unique experiences and interesting situations along the way. Aoto realizes that these personalities can and most likely will be exploited for evil-doings and vows to protect both Finnel and Saki, even if it cost him his own life.
One thing that’s appealing about the story in Ar tonelico Qoga is that it knows when it needs to be serious and when it can have fun. At times, the story carries a serious tone where Aoto will be hit with some serious information, have to make tough decisions and be put into situations where he surely can meet his death. And then there are times where Aoto, Tatsumi, Saki and Finnel will be involved in conversations that will produce awkward moments. These moments especially happen when you are dealing with Saki and Finnel’s other personalities. Along the way you will come across several moments of sexual innuendo, which can be very funny or down-right wrong depending on your sense of humor. Whether you invest into this experience or simply play the game just for the challenge of acquiring the trophies, you’ll find yourself caring for Finnel and Saki; even to the point where just like Aoto, you would want to help them out and protect them.
One of the best elements of Ar tonelico Qoga is also one of the worst to experience. I’m not saying it’s bad, but for those trying to experience all the endings of the game, it will require you playing through the title several titles. There are five endings in total –bad, normal (Sake & Finnel) and good (Sake & Finnel) within Ar tonelico Qoga. Depending on how you approach the game and the choices you make, you could miss big chunks of the story, resulting in a bad or normal ending. Trying to achieve the true endings for both Finnel and Saki would require you exhausting all your resources, or simply investing in a strategy guide in order to know what is needed to be done. As of writing this review, I have completed the bad ending and both normal endings for Saki and Finnel. With more than 45 hours invested into the title, I’m close to achieving the first good ending. A saving grace for those who complete the game for the first time is you gain the ability to restart at various points throughout the game, which is helpful in unlocking the other endings of the game without having to start from the beginning.
Like the visuals in Ar tonelico Qoga, the combat system has received an overhaul, which some longtime fans will love, while other won’t. Leaving behind the old turn-based combat system, Ar tonelico Qoga adopted the R.A.H. system, which is a real-time battle system where players and enemies will go at it until one has been defeated. Depending on the moment you are at in the story, you will have anywhere from 2 to 4 players on your team fighting in battle. Players will take control of one of the vanguards --Aoto, Tatsumi and Hikari—as they do battle in order to protect the Reyvateil. The other members of your party will be controlled by the A.I. system, which does a decent job of keeping themselves alive during a battle.
The source of a Reyvateil’s power is song magic, which can be used in battle to deliver devastating attacks upon the enemies. During the battles, the Reyvateil will sing to the beat of the song playing. As they do that, their song magic becomes stronger and stronger. The more high waves that are hit on the Harmograph, the more powerful the song magic becomes and will ultimate lead to the Rayvateil purging. Purging is performed by holding down one of the shoulder buttons –L1, L2, R1 and R2—and shaking the controller. I know what you are thinking; games still use the SIXAXIS motion sensor in the SIXAXIS/DualShock 3 controllers? That is resounding yes. When purging, the Rayvateil in action will lose a layers of clothing, which in turn allows her to deliver bonuses to her team like increased attack and increased defense. The more purging the Reyvateil does, the more power she can wield on the battlefield, which also mean the more naked the individual becomes. Once purged all the way down to the final level, your Rayvateil can perform Flipsphere, which is like an ultimate attack that can eliminate foe(s) or a boss with one hit.
Another staple of the Ar tonelico series to make its return in Qoga are the Cosmospheres. For those new to the series, by diving into a Reyvateil’s Cosmosphere you are able to know more about them on a deeper level, which in turns helps them become for comfortable around you outside in the real world and helps them to develop stronger song magic. In order to perform a successful dive, you must have enough Dive Points. You acquire DP with every successful battle you have. Once you have enough DP, you can visit one of several Dive Shops, where you start the process of diving into the Rayvateil’s Cosmosphere (Soul Space). As each Cosmosphere progresses, the more DP you will end of spending due to the various events that take place. Investing time in the Cosmospheres of the Rayvateil’s in your party allows you to make decisions like ‘Which girl will Aoto be with?’ and also play a factor in which ending you will see upon completing the game.
Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel is definitely a worthy finally for the long-standing series… as long as you can acquire the true ending. Gust addressed any issues left standing from the last Ar tonelico title, while also ushering the franchise into a visual realm; something fans have been waiting for. While Ar tonelico Qoga doesn’t have the financial backing like many RPG titles, it provides a wealth of content and depth that puts it in a category above many of the great franchises of today. From the complex, yet intuitive combat system to the solid visuals and ever-reaching storyline(s), Ar tonelico Qoga is a title you can easily spend 100 hours plus playing….and there’s a trophy for that too. By no means is this a perfect game, however despite its faults, it’s a solid experience worthy of your time.8/
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