Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Playstation 2
2003 Cattle Call, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Screenshots courtesy of RPGFan.
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The humans and Deimos remain at war while a sinister plot begins to hatch. On one side is Kharg, a son of noble human blood. On the other is Darc, the unfortunate child of a Deimos criminal. The two clash swords and beliefs, unaware that this is exactly what a powerful evil force intends to happen. The world is at an end, and the fate of Humans and Deimos fall under one responsibility.
Goodbye, Old School RPGs. >>> by skysenshi
I'm starting this opinion with a tip: For the love of your nervous system, stock up on dark elemental armor! I will explain why later. First things first, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is set 1,000 years after the last Arc game. You will not see your favorite characters and Arc's name is only mentioned once in the entire scenario. Hopefully, this doesn't keep Arc fans from getting the latest.
Story and Characters
I have never played the Arc the Lad series and this first experience with the latest installment has been quite satisfying. I actually underestimated it, seeing as how I found myself disappointed with the lead character Kharg for being your modern whiny RPG hero. Furthermore, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is ridden with old school RPG clichés. Every scene is filled with love-hope-courage monologues that remind you of typical shoujo anime. Nobody is really mean, because for some insane reason, the lead characters find themselves betrayed left, right, and center. And unbelievably, they still have it in their hearts to forgive. You have the usual heroes with dark sides, ultra slow beefcakes with superhuman strength, and pretty kick-ass female characters who will never get love lives.
But it gets better...
Notice I'm talking in the plural sense here? That's because Kharg isn't the only hero. There are two main parties, each with their respective leaders and cliché-defined members. You control Darc half the time, so you can see different perspectives. This is much similar to the Trinity System employed in Suikoden III, where there are three different points of view you find yourself playing. The only thing I find fascinating is that I played Kharg's chapter first, and yet I developed an extreme case of loathing for the humans and Kharg's bratty attitude.
Now, I don't really have to state the obvious—I loved playing Darc. Born a pauper and damned to slavery for the rest of his pre-pubescent days, Darc is far from the spoiled brat his human counterpart has become. Even his allies are funny, which is why I found his chapters to be the most entertaining of all.
Another character to note is Kharg's sidekick Paulette. The girl absolutely breaks the tradition of weak females good only for spellcasting. In fact, she's even stronger than Kharg in attack, defense and HP. How's that? Unfortunately, we all know female party members of this caliber get downplayed most of the time because of Aeris (Final Fantasy VII) wannabes. And that, in Twilight of the Spirits, is Lilia—a useless girl who is so helpless, she practically has Kharg and Darc vying for the position of her Knight in Shining Armor. Well, not entirely useless. After all, like Aeris and all other imitations, she does have the fate of the world in her hands. Sadly, I get terrible headaches every 5 hours of exposure to Arc the Lad.
Now, Twilight isn't exactly Final Fantasy material, but that doesn't mean we should all be looking at the flaws in the 3D CG. The background music sort of reminds me of Star Wars, but they're generally okay. I wish I could turn off the dubbing, though, or at least be able to switch it to Japanese. There are English subtitles anyway.
What boggles the mind, however, is the loading time. If the graphics were as good or better than Final Fantasy X, I wouldn't have protests about the loading. But the graphics aren't as good as Final Fantasy X, so there shouldn't be any noticeable lags. In fact, had I not exchanged PS2s with my brother, I wouldn't surpass most of the FMVs. They cause my own unit to hang.
This game could also use mini-maps in villages. I notice that ever since PS2 games started focusing on imagery, there have been slightly abrupt angle transitioning you can't control. I experienced this in Kingdom Hearts, Suikoden III, and the dotHack series. All but Kingdom Hearts and the new Arc the Lad have mini-maps that give you a sense of visual stability, places where your eyes can rest on. They also prevent migraines.
Gameplay and Battle System
Twilight of the Spirits is like Final Fantasy meets Front Mission. In essence, this is an RPG, and yet the battle system seems like a pumped up tactics game. You can move your characters around in a map where they can attack, use special skills, magic, or just plain walk to a particular area. The only difference this has to a full-blown tactics game is that tactics move in squares. In Twilight, you have free reign over the area of your range. You can even place yourself at an angle that allows you to tackle two enemies at a time. I must admit, the battle system is what got me addicted to Twilight in the first place. I was so hooked that I was at the final dungeon on the 3rd day of playing.
Two major gripes: (1) You can't skip the FMVs; and (2) You have to pick up items/gold BEFORE a battle ends. Gripe number 1 is extremely frustrating, especially in the final battle. Remember the tip I gave at the beginning of my opinion? Well, you need those black accessories if you want to survive the final battle without leveling up and with your sanity intact. Don't get me wrong; going through the entire game was a breeze. Everything was so easy, it's almost laughable. So facing that boss came as a shock. Not because the end was difficult, but because it was mind-numbingly tedious. Now if you want to repeat that experience to correct a mistake you might have made along the way, bear in mind that you can't skip the cut scenes. Prepare yourself for overly long cheesy dialogues.
Gripe number 2 is simply dumb. Imagine this: If you were in the middle of a clan war, do you tell your enemy, "Wait a moment! I have to pick up the gold your friend dropped." And you think your opponent is just going to stand there and watch you rob his brother's corpse? That is basically the concept. Stupid, isn't it? In battle, it is logical to pick up the loot AFTER everything is over. Not during the heat of the event!
Other than those two complaints, the rest of the features are amazing! Gone are the days when you curse at every fork in the road because some would lead you to dead ends. Gone are the long and winding mazes (except in the final dungeon). Gone are the endless walking and searching for enemy encounters when you want to level up. You need only to click at a certain field on the world map and you get your instant encounter. These new timesaving innovations help us zero in on what's happening to your characters and your story, as well as improve your familiarity with the controls. The latter is very important since the Arc the Lad series have been known to not have tutorials.
Best of all, the game is fairly short, but you would feel like you have gone through a lot. The points of concentration converge more on the plot and less on needless battles or finding unknown villages. If other RPGs would go the way of Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, I'd say developers are headed in the right direction.
Completion Time: 50 hours (probably less if I had black charms)
Highest Level Achieved: 50 (Darc, Delma, Kharg, Maru, Paulette and Tatjana...because I didn't have black charms)
Ratings: Gameplay 9; Battle 9; Story 7; Visuals 7; Characters 7; Sounds 7; Replay Value 7