Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 04/18/02 | Genre: Strategy RPG
I don't know about you, but I have lost interest playing the majority of current RPG's on the market. Perhaps it is because older titles on consoles like the Playstation, SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, and the NES were better. More than likely, I am still bitter about missing out on a ton of RPG's for the above mentioned consoles. However, thanks to companies like Working Designs, gamers now get the opportunity to play some of the best RPG's on the market, with a ton of extras, and an incredibly well written translation. Their latest work of art is Arc the Lad Collection. As the name suggests, this is a "collection" of four complete RPG's: Arc the Lad I, Arc the Lad II, Arc the Lad III, and Arc Arena.
The first game I purchased for the Playstation was Vandal Hearts. Since that time, I have fallen in love with the Strategy/RPG genre of gaming. When I heard Working Designs was translating the entire Arc the Lad series of games for the Playstation, I jumped for joy. However, when I heard they were going to package all four games in one box and throw in a making of CD, I screamed halleluiah!
Originally, Victor Ireland and his band of "translation gods" sought to bring us Arc the Lad I way back in 1995. However, the evil anti-RPG regime of Bernie Stolar and his evil RPG-hating band of merry men denied Working Designs the opportunity to bring the title over. Later, after Stolar was removed at Sony, Victor Ireland considered bringing Arc the Lad II or III to the US. However, it was decided that since the stories throughout each of the titles are so intertwined that it would be better to not release a game in the middle of the series to players.
It wasn't until 1999 that Victor Ireland was given the opportunity to translate the Arc titles to the US. After contemplating things, he decided to take on the "Arc the Lad Collection" project and bring us all the titles in the series. What first was hoped to be a project similar in depth to the Lunar remakes, soon became three year struggle. After playing the finished version, I must admit that this just might be the single greatest collection of titles I have ever played. This package has well over 100 hours of gameplay. In fact, you could probably spend a good hundred hours of your life just in Arc II...
If you thought the box for Lunar Eternal Blue Complete was big, you ain't seen nothing yet! The box for Arc the Lad Collection is so large and heavy that you will need to bring a friend or two with you to carry it out to your car. This thing is loaded with gaming goodness: six CD's, 150 page leatherette hardbound instruction book/artbook, analog stick covers, a memory card holder, and Arc character mini-stands.
The leatherette hardbound instruction book/artbook is becoming a favorite to include within every game from Working Designs. With each game they release, the book gets bigger and contains more content. This is definitely the standard for all instruction manuals and should be included in any sort of collector's edition title produced in the future.
The next item in the box is the magnetic Omake box filled with the analog control stick covers, the memory card holder, and the Arc character mini-stands. There are four analog control stick covers. Three of them feature the lead characters from each title: Arc, Elc, and Alec. The fourth cover is the Arc the Lad Collection logo. The memory card holder features a picture of Elc on the front-while the Arc character stands feature all of the main characters within each of the titles. On the stands contains Arc the Lad I, II, or III, to show which title they first appeared in.
While the packaging has nothing to do with making a good game, Working Designs definitely went out of their way to ensure that the greatest collection of games they have put together (up to this point) had the best packaging the US gaming world has ever seen.
My adventures in the world of Arc began last year with Arc the Lad I. While it has taken quite a bit of time for Working Designs to finish this project, I was fortunate enough to snag a pre-release copy of the first installment well before the rest of the titles were complete. As I popped the Arc the Lad I disk into my Playstation 2, I leaned back in my chair, and for the next 3 and a half hours, I was completely immersed in one of the most incredible Strategy/RPG titles ever! Sure, Vandal Hearts may have had a few more options and a slight better battle system--however it lacked the charm of Arc I. The only reason I stopped playing Arc the Lad I was because I looked up at my clock saw it was 3 AM!
Despite my desire to continue playing, I wandered off into dream world and dreamt of further adventures in Arc the Lad. When I returned to the game the following day, everything was just as excellent as before.
Graphically, Arc the Lad 1 is everything you would expect from a six year old game. However, when playing Arc I, you will quickly forget the dated graphics and become totally mesmerized by the gameplay. While Working Designs has not redone the graphics or added any new voices to Arc I, Arc is clearly one of the better Strategy RPG's I have played. In fact, Konami appears to have borrowed several elements from Arc the Lad I for their incredible Vandal Hearts.
In the first installment of Arc, players control Arc, a boy who is destined to save the world from destruction. His father mysteriously left many years ago and began preparing the world for when his son would walk in his steps, gather the Guardians of the world, and gain the powers of the Guardians. While Arc is definitely an incredible fighter, he will not be able to make it through his quest alone. Along the way, six other characters will join Arc--each with a variety of different abilities.
The gameplay in Arc I is almost exclusively on the battlefield, while the story unfolds in the standard fashion-with an anime picture of the character next to the text they are speaking. However, the real joy of Arc I is on the battlefield. When a battle begins, players are given the option to equip or change their characters equipment. Each piece of equipment provides a different abilities and added attributes.
Once the battle begins, players move their characters one at a time, trying to strategically place their characters while the enemies are moving with the intent of destroying your party. By placing your strong characters in the front of the battle-while keeping the weaker characters in the rear, players can usually avoid disaster--unless the enemies completely surround the party.
One downside to Arc the Lad I is that it is relatively short. Average playing time for the first time through the title is about ten hours. During those ten hours, while the story is very predictable and linear, the gameplay will keep you playing Arc I religiously until the game is over. When the final cinema plays and you are left with an unresolved story you will smile as you pop in Arc II and start the fun all over again.
Arc the Lad I is definitely worth your time. If you are even remotely interested in the Strategy RPG genre, you will fall in love with Arc I. While it would have been nice if Working Designs included voices for every line in the game, it is still a great game. Consider it a prologue to the rest of the series.
Arc the Lad II picks up after the conclusion of Arc I. However, instead of continuing to control Arc and his friends, players will get to know a new group of heroes. This time a young lad by the name of Elc leads the action. When beginning your journey in Arc II, you can use your save file to continue from Arc I. This will allow you to utilize all of the skills your "Arc lead party" had. Also, you can also use your Arc II save game to continue in Arc III.
Arc the Lad II is without a doubt one of the greatest games I have ever played. In fact, I would go as far to say that it is worth the cost of the entire package by itself. Arc II takes many elements from its predecessor and improves upon them. First, the areas where battles take place are much different than the standard, bland surfaces in Arc I. Fights can take place in skinny alleys, towns, railroad tracks, in fields, ect. The gameplay in Arc II is just like Arc I--players move their characters one at a time, trying to strategically place their characters while the enemies are moving with the intent of destroying your party. Like the first title, your characters have special abilities and magic spells they can use.
Besides just including a linear, short, story, developer G-Craft added many gameplay elements into the sequel. The lead character, Elc, can complete a variety of assignments from guilds all over the world. Once he completes an assignment, he gets a bounty and a higher ranking. These assignments can be things like: kill all the monsters, find a certain treasure, locate a certain character, etc. While they don't have anything to do with the story, they provide hours of fun--and a chance to increase the abilities of your characters.
Also included in Arc II is another fun side quest. Throughout the different regions in the world are "Wanted Monsters." These are posted on "Wanted" signs in each of the guild houses around the world. When traveling to different areas, you can hunt down and look for the "Wanted Monsters." Upon entering a zone where you have to fight, if there is a "Wanted Monster" there, you will be notified of which monster is wanted before the fighting begins. To claim your bounty, kill the monster, win the fight, and go to the nearest guild house.
The two biggest improvements in Arc the Lad II would have to be the graphical enhancements and the length of gameplay. After speeding through Arc I, players will spend many hours trying to complete the sequel. Expect to spend 65 to 100 hours in Arc II alone. Of course, if you skip past all of the extras and just try to beat the game, you might beat it sooner. However, you are really missing the fun of Arc II by doing this. Take your time with this one and you will have a blast!
The other big improvement over Arc I are the graphics. The sprite based characters are much larger and detailed. Everything in the world is "enhanced" and has a cleaner look to it. However, this is still an older Playstation title and the graphics are still dated when compared to current titles today. If you can overlook the graphics, you will find one of the most amazing strategy RPG titles ever made in Arc the Lad II.
The story in Arc II continues after Arc I. While it doesn't continue on with the quest of Arc until a little later in the story, eventually the paths of Arc and Elc will cross. The end result is a quest to rid the world of evil once and for all.
Arc III is the most graphically enhanced version of games in this collection. This time, years after the events of Arc II take place, players control Alec. While the graphics are much better, the gameplay is not quite as improved as Arc II's gameplay was over Arc I. The problem is that most of the story progresses through guild assignments. Instead of having these be optional side quests--like in Arc II--you can only continue the story through the guild assignments.
Also, the combat is more like Arc I than Arc II. The enemies are much weaker than in Arc II and unfortunately, only four characters can be used at a time. Is Arc III a horrible game because of these few problems? No. But after a huge success like Arc II, it is really hard to top a title that is so perfect. Also, in Japan, players had to wait quite a while before each sequel was released. Since Working Designs has brought us this collection, we only have to wait a few seconds to pop in the next disk and continue the adventure. I am sure if I had to wait several months to play Arc III, I would have enjoyed it more.
The final game in the collection is the Arc Arena. This title uses the monsters you capture from Arc II to let you fight and build up through a tournament. It is a fun addition to the series utilizing the Arc II engine. However, it is not a true sequel to any of the other titles. It is merely more of "big mini game" than a complete title.
Overall, this is the greatest package of titles ever produced into a collection. I could go on all day discussing each of the features of the titles included here. Working Designs put a lot of effort into this collection and it really shows in the final product. The translation is flawless, the gameplay is incredible, the extras and packaging are awesome, and most importantly, the wait to own Arc the Lad Collection is over. We all need to get on our hands and feet and thank Victor Ireland and the team at Working Designs for their greatest product they have ever localized for the US market. If you are a fan of RPG's or just like games with great stories in them, this package is a must buy. While it may take you 150 to 200 hours to play through it all and realize how incredible this collection is, Victor and his loyal team at Working Designs will be hard at work localizing their next masterpiece...