Okey, first thing first: This game does not take place in the same universe of Ar Tonelico, it’s just a spiritual successor. This have been causing a lot of confusion amoung fans, but this kind of thing is even to be expected. It’s just like when Guilty Gear fans insisted for years that BlazBlue is a sequel setting many years in the future in the same world of GG (some even believed that Ragna was “That Man” because they got the same seyuu).
While there are a lot of similar themes, this new universe has some new elements not present in the Ar Tonelico series. For instance, there is no sexual references and character designs are much more “tamed”. This game is a rare case in the Japanese media where there is no chuunibyo, instead there is Techno Bubble! A even more rare element in eastern games, which means that it makes constant use of terms like G2 force, Qualia values and even make use of quantum physics! It feels like watching a Star Trek episode. There is also a Xenogears feel to it, with things like beings of pure energy from a higher dimension and terms like “U-DO”.
Story and Characters (Heavy Spoilers)
This post will be like a warm-up for the soon-to-be-release Ar Nosurge (like what I did with Tears To Tiara), so I hope to clarify a lot of things about this prequel (specially because I doubt this will ever be localized in the States).
She repairs an old communication device and it gets acidentaly connected with the Player’s PS Vita (this is seriously what happens!), so the player acts as Ion counselor, partner and collaborator. She soon reveals to the player that she lost nearly all of her memories and she doesn’t even know where she exactly is right now. The player have to enter her dreams to help her remember her past by producing artificial fairies called Sharls to fix her memories. By seeing deep into her memories, the player and Ion get very intimate and she ends up falling for him, even if she knows they are from different dimensions. She even asks the player out for dates (this is where it enters the “LovePlus” parts).
An entity summoned from the 7th dimension that inhabits the body of the young empress candidate. The people from the Celestial Faction believed she was the only one who could come up with a solution to the many catastrophes that are about to fall in the world of La-Ciella. However, the shock from her summoning ritual caused her to lose many of her powers and memories, leaving her in a child-like state. It’s just much later that she gets to know that she is using someone else’s body. Once she awakes her true potential she can easily do god-like acts like manipulate time and space. It is possible that she is a different Ion from the one in that the player interacts (this was even hinted by the guys from Gust in a recent event).
His true name is Delta and he is the future protagonist of Gust’s next RPG Ar Nosurge…probably. His full name is never revealed and it is believed that this will kept secret for a big reveal during the last chapter. Here he finds Ion lost and afraid when she is sent to travel the world for 3 years as a trial to become the next empress. He lets Ion stay in his house and changes her “secret club” to a group to support her. He becomes considerably more mature when he helps rescuing Ion and Casti from the Tube Company. He greatly admires the PLASMA battalion and wants to join them at any cost. However, part of the reason is so he could become stronger to protect Casti.
A young rich girl who is part of Ta-Boh’s group. She gets jealous at Ion at first but becomes best friends with her later. She stops being a tsundere after being rescued by Ta-Boh and openly admits to be deeply in love with him. He later accept her feelings but feels bad for still being too weak to protect her. She starts to follow Ion later, but stays behind to be with Ta-Boh.
The real Ion. She was forced out of her body by a mad scientist responsible for the summoning of the higher being. She was given an artificial humanoid body and used it to make a name for herself as the famous dancer “Pretty Berry”. However, she is still secretly working for the scientist in hopes to be transferred back to her original body someday.
The interactions with Ion are actually very deep and interesting. One certain time, her hair was growing too big and she asked me how short should she cut it, I answered I liked her long hair more, but her expression made clear that this was not the answer she was waiting for. In the next day she cutted her hair very short and asked me if I liked. I answered “NO” and selected “I liked your previous hair-style much more” next. This made her feel very bad! She apologized and even promised she would never cut her hair so short again. That made me very impressed with how accurate she responded to my opinions and with the way we could disagree with each other and even argue about it. You can ask Ion on dates and sugest things for her to do, but once she decides to do something, it will take long, if she decides to have dinner, she will take as long as a real person would. For this reason, many times you have to let your PS Vita by your side while you wait for something to happen. That is why I would not recommend this game to impatient or occupied people.
Ion’s growth and customization involves her hair, accessories and clothes. The mouth is part of the 3D model and makes for characters with many expressions. It’s such a shame that little effort was made into lip-syncing. During the events from Ion’s memories, the characters may seem to be very similar to each other and to just repeat the same gestures, but with each chapter the quality of the 3D models gets much better and that results in many great scenes filled with action and cool animations that REALLY should be seen more often in other visual novels.
Just like the Ar Tonelico series, the cities are made using many layers of hand-drawing graphics. While those are gorgeous, they feel like they don’t belong. (It should be noted that, while the graphics for Ar Nosurge are already MUCH better, those are still superior than the ones used in Ar Tonelico 3).
The music is in the same style from the tracks found in the Ar Tonelico series, many of the same bands and singers have returned to compose new tracks for this title, and they are still superb, making for one of the best original soundtrack in a video game EVER! The songs are not only incredible, but they also have meaning in the story, as this games also incorporates a very similar (if not the same) fictional language used in Ar Tonelico, which is a fusion of Latin, French and some made-up words (the lyrics can even be translated to something that makes sense!). The vocal songs have the same format from the previous series as well, which means that the Latin and French words are words of enchantment that work like a computer programming, and the Japanese words describe the feelings of the singer. This formula creates a very “atmospheric” composition that makes a simple “insert song” go one-step ahead and become part of the story.
The voice-work is fantastic and every voice actor does a very convincent acting, even Ion’s seyuu (a newbie at the time) was able to make a realistic cry!
This game is very pricy! The fisrt two chapters of the dream world are for free, but I had to pay the same price of the full game a second time to get until the 8th chapter, and there is more chapters coming later! That is why you have to be a HUGE Gust fan with a lot of money to waste if you really want to enjoy this game to its fullest.