Ok, now, it’s time to review the gameplay aspect of this game, as well as some analyzes of the plot and it’s characters. This review might come in handy for those who are not familiar with the Ar Tonelico series and are not sure about buying this game yet.
Story, Settings, Characters & Themes
This game plot is great! It is full of interesting twists. They are not as predictable as other games and don’t need to sacrifice story consistency for that. The world setting is very interesting, full of places that are much different from your generic medieval fantasy setting, but it can also be much more creative than most futuristic settings. I personally don’t enjoy much the Japanese vibe GUST gives to those games, since it steals a bit of the “alien-world” feel, but I don’t blame people for thinking otherwise, because it gives a “mystic” atmosphere, after all.This is an environment rarely explored on any type of story, since you’re almost the entire game inside a giant space ship. Therefore, most of the places you’ll be visiting are dark and have few signs of life, but there are some secrets inside this giant space-shuttle…A big minus for me was the characters, being the cast that I most hated in the series. While there are characters I really love, there are many I just hate. Delta is a “good” example of this, it’s not like he is the best protagonist ever…Actually, he is a sandbag! When he is not being punched by Cas, he is being insulted by everyone else. This doesn’t make him a good hero, specially since, even when he says something very cool and heroic, the only reaction he gets is: “That’s stupid!” Or “Are you retarded?”.Even Casty, who I liked before on Ciel Nosurge, now follows every step from the book on how to be the most generic Tsundere possible. The worst about her is that not only she got a dokuzetsu, but she also became a violent girl…Seriously! Is there someone who still find those things funny? For me, this has become as dated as the “cream pie to the face” joke. The only thing I feel when she hits Delta is anger. Ney has become even worse! Even the game label her as “super annoying girl”.Nero is as bad as before, since she is all about “I want to go home” and never shuts! But, what really bother me is that she “suffers” from the “kawaii kara yurusu” trope. The main villain is the worst! It is very childish, has no good objectives or strategies and is not intelligent. It goes whining every time things don’t go it’s way.On the other hand, Ion is surprisingly a much better protagonist! She is still kind and innocent, but not as naïve as before, since she has an objective to complete since the beginning and will not hesitate to fight for it, even if it’s against her most dear friends.Earthes is also very interesting, as he is essentially “you”. When you start to control him, you can set if you’ve played through Ciel Nosurge or if you’re seeing Ion for the first time. She will act accordingly and even call you “darling” depending on your answers. Yours reactions to the events also go further than making you looking like a “good little two shoes” or a total asshole, you can even be a prankster too. The reactions you get to your answers tend to be funny, but sometimes can even make your feel like a badass!Talking about Earthes, this reminds me how this probably is the most “META” game I’ve played since Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi. There is so much about how our dimension interacts with the game’s world. But this subject gets even more explored on the Genometrix, where the player relation with Ion gets questioned many times and on many different levels.Even with so many irritating characters, the plot kind of makes up for it, as it’s really great! Longtime Ar Tonelico fans will be delighted with so many new elements and possibilities to be explored. The end is also fantastic, and the final battle is nothing short of EPIC!
This is what every fan wanted from the third game. The battle system is an evolved version of the one found on Ar Tonelico 2. There are shop owners with names and personalities who have MANY special events with you (maybe even too many). New attacks are once again acquired by leveling up, Song Magic have many variations and properties, etc.Now, about the battle system: It’s great! My second favorite thing about this game. It is based on the classic system from the first two Ar Tonelico games, but expanded. You control only one fighter and one caster for the whole playthrough. You use just a few directional commands, and each button corresponds to one type of attack, each one with different properties. Once you end your turn, it’s time to protect the caster, and this part is all about timing and patterns. This system is much more fast-paced than the real-time-action one from AT3. Here, you feel totally in control of the battlefield, choosing when to release your song magic and knowing just how much destruction it will cause. You can also choose to not use all your attacks to make the song magic stronger. The only down-side is that the battles are a bit too easy, I recommend playing at “veteran” level.The most important thing is the “zapping”. This is when you change between couples. There are places and things only a specific pair can do, so you have to “zap” constantly to talk with different people and enter alternative areas just to open the path for the other group. It’s a really cool feature, but it could be further explored, like having 3 couples and making their interactions more complex…
It’s true that the graphics were made by Flight Unit, the same people responsible for God Eater 2 graphics, but since the people who animated the 3D models were different, it doesn’t look as great. In fact, if you played Ciel Nosurge, you will imediatelly notice most animations were directly recycled from there, and those were never too “super-special-awesome” to begin with. Their graphics look awesome on screenshots, but it loses much of the appeal when you see them on motion. I suppose there are different people working on the animations for the battle parts, because they look GREAT. It’s so smooth and makes your character look so cool! However, during any event, the facial expressions, gestures, clothes movements, walking animations, weight, lip-synch…pretty much everything feels awful…To be honest, the presentation of this game could be much better. There are many moments of “Show! Don’t talk”, as the screen just goes black during some events, just so the developers don’t need to make animations for what is happening.Characters sometimes don’t even look on the direction of the person they are talking to, and they move like the floor is made of butter. There are just a few NPCs, and they get reused over and over at the same place, making a world full of clones.The game also gets frozen for about half a second every time your character gets close to an object that is connected to an event, any event! Even if it is a chat with a NPC, it will still freeze you game for half a sec just from getting close to that NPC, you don’t even need to press the button!
The Music! THE MUSIC! IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!! This soundtrack can be so many things, but it really feels like a song sang by an alien civilization. It can be mysterious, but can also be disturbing sometimes. Just like with Ar Tonelico, It never feels like the song is coming out of the singer’s mouth, but with time, I stopped caring about that, since those OSTs are so fantastic…When you are able to hear it, at least!The truth is there was a bug which makes the BGM volume suddenly go up a 200% when a cut-scene was about to end. They tried to fix this on the update 1.01, but it just made it worse, because the volume now gets very low when changing locations. This is a big issue for a game that is all about music.The voices, however, are not as great. Don’t get me wrong! The seiyuu voices are really good as usual for a Japanese game, but the recording was horribly done! I will not pretend I didn’t notice the many times where seiyuus spit on the mic or hit it with their teeth during recording. Specially Ion’s seiyuu (Kakuma Ai). This really bothered me!
I was expecting so much from this game, but it ended not being as good as I wanted. Regardless, It was still an awesome game! It was worth my time and money, since my playthrough was over 70 hours and it is not even necessary to grind!I definitely want more from this series, but I wonder how they can make a sequel from the way it ended. It will be kinda difficult, but I don’t care! Even if it feels like a forced sequel. Just do it!