Three of my favorite things in life include video games, girls, and strong alcoholic beverages. Since two out of three isn't really so bad, I felt right at home with Gust's latest 2D pleasure; Ar Tonelico. This is the third old school treat we American consumers are lucky enough to receive, thanks to NIS America in their never-ending quest to appease the hearts of millions (or at least thousands) of niche RPG gamers.
And so they have, by localizing this RPG/dating sim and charming gamers everywhere with the very peculiar NPC interaction. You assume the role of Lyner, a man bent on shipping the Viruses that spawned out of the tower of Ar Tonelico back to where they came from (hint: the Tower). To do this, he'll need the help of a few friends, most notably Reyva Teils, which is right when Ar Tonelico slowly begins to delve into the world of dating simulation.
In this world, singing is regarded as more of a tool than mere talent. As singing is another way of casting spells, the game narrates how songs lost from past used to carry dangerous powers untold. The big twist about the game is that you can basically pick up chicks that can serve as Reyva Teils (for tradition, we'll just call them spell casters) and dive into their minds, cleaning out any of the excess emotional baggage they've jumbled up over the past years, in hopes of cheering them up, getting to know them better, as well as yank out some useful spells and passive properties.
It's strange at the very least, but even someone as passionate about dating sims as myself found himself playing Dr. Phil at 3 in the morning with his newest Reyva Teils. You also get to shove (and yes, literally shove) Grathnote Crystals into your Reyva Teils “ports” in hopes of opening up their minds and reaping the benefits. It's all very perverse, but knowing how well NIS America handles localization, it never comes off as something over the line and is usually very humorous. Fans of Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana will feel right at home with some of the humor.
A great, hi-res 2D game that shouldn't be missed by anyone that loves the genre.
Battles in traditional RPGs usually tend to be the softer parts of these kind of games, but as Ar Tonelico focuses on speed, it avoids this typical shortcoming right away. As you fight, a meter gradually fills on the left side. Your Reyva Teils also begin to charge their attacks, with their respective meter filling on the right. So basically, it's a game of determining how quickly you want to kill off your opponents by factoring time and which spells are needed when. This causes battles to almost heavily be relied on your Reyva Teils, with your melee attackers serving as nothing more than human shields before your songstresses are ready to deploy their monster attacks.
I wish more games took the smart initiative of making traveling across towns and the overworld as simple as it is in Ar Tonelico. Upon reaching an area, you'll usually be presented with a gorgeous view of the scenery you want to dive into, with a menu allowing you to select specific points in the city/dungeon for quick access. It's a little touch that makes exploration feel less tedious and much more streamlined while playing and having to backtrack (when applicable). This is just one of the many things that make this game's seemingly dated gameplay actually pull off some interesting and time-saving bits.
As in Gust's other 2D creations, alchemy/item creation is present. Believe me when I say that there are a boatload of crafty synthesis items in Ar Tonelico. To the point where you at times grow lost as to how many little trinkets, bells and whistles you can use for the better part of your party's arsenal. Obviously, the better materials you own, the greater the end results can be for your end results for items and equipment.
So there you have it. Just another one of NIS America's localizations of a great, hi-res 2D game that shouldn't be missed by anyone that loves the genre. Though it probably won't fancy so much for fans of 3D, and lavish production values, if you're looking for a quirky yet interesting and consistently fresh experience, we couldn't recommend Ar Tonelico enough. And just like Mel Gibson, you, too, can discover what women want. Minus the alcohol-induced anti-Semitism, of course.