Monday, January 5, 2015

Ar No Surge: Initial Impressions

Over the holidays I picked up Ar Nosurge after much debating with myself if I should invest the time or not, and I have been really surprised by how much I like it and how quickly I fell into the groove.

I've never played an Ar (is that what the series is called?) game before so I didn't know what to expect, at all.

I'm not a Tales fan, but Ar Nosurge feels like it takes heavy inspiration from the Tales series. It's like being a fan of Stone Temple Pilots in the 90s but not Pearl Jam. It's easy to recognize the former wouldn't exist without the later, but for some reason the object of inspiration or imitation doesn't click with me as much as the derivative work does.

In any case, the characters at first seem like cliche anime tropes, and maybe they are on the surface but once you literally explore their characters (by going inside their heads) you see that is mostly just a front. It's not going to win anyone over who hates anime-type characters, but for example I fully expected Ion to be a ditsy brainless moe character and she ended up being anything but.

The conversations characters have while exploring (like the Tales games), or during random cutscenes, are actually expanded upon later during Purification scenes. It's makes everything feel much more cohesive and as if these characters are actually living it this world and not just having random conversations that are never brought up again, or ignored later as if they didn't happen.

All that is to say nothing about the fantastic battle system, which I find to be exciting and rewarding.
You have two characters, one performing physical attacks, and a backup character who performs "song magic" in the background.  Each Song has a different effect, which you must decide which one to use before the battle begins.  You are then faces with waves of enemies, which your "attacker" character has to exterminate properly using three types of moves at his disposal.  Your goal is to keep your Singing character protected.  She can only be hit a limited amount of times, so your goal is to make sure the enemies don't attack you at all.   It sounds difficult and confusing, but once you experience it, you will find it is quite the opposite.

Also, your characters are constantly leveling up.  That's one thing in RPGs that has almost become a requirement for me.  I can't stand playing for hours and then getting a "Level Up" notice with hardly any stat changes.  Just give me at least the illusion that my hours spent playing are amounting to something.

The game starts off easy on the "Normal" difficulty, and I recommend playing at harder levels.

It just goes to show how many awesome JRPGs are out there, every year, that probably get passed by or ignored by the general populace. Can't wait to see what hidden gems 2015 offers that aren't on this list.

Happy New Year everyone.