Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Lackluster Third Act - Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel

 As I mentioned in a previous post about Atelier Rorona, I have a love-hate relationship with games developed by Gust.  When it comes to Ar Tonelico games, however, there's mostly love.  It's funny, really, because these were the last sort of games I expected to ever like.  For those unfamiliar with them, think of them as what you get when you cross an Atelier game with a dating sim with a turn-based RPG.

Sounds like a crazy combination, right?  What's even crazier is that it works.  Or at least, it did until Ar Tonelico Qoga:  Knell of Ar Ciel came along.  When you look across the Ar Tonelico games, the first entry, Melody of Elemia distinguished itself as simplistic, yet quirky and interesting enough to sustain one's attention.  The second game, Melody of Metafalica, in short, improved on just about everything from the first game (except for quirks in the localization process..).

Unfortunately, rather than further refining what made the series likable, ATQ takes a number of steps back, showing a far inferior combat system, less interesting characters, and a less robust crafting system.  While at the core, it still has many of the things that characterize an Ar Tonelico game, it is a sadly lackluster ending to a series that showed great promise.

So what happened with the third game?  You'd think that the potential of the PS3 would allow for a game of even greater magnitude.  Did trying to be more poetic by using "qoga" and "knell" in lieu of the numbered entry and usual subtitle change up things that much for the worse?

Well, you'd be surprised. . .

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Not so metal Alchemist

I have a love-hate relationship with games developed by Gust.

I hate that often, there's an annoying glitch, bug, or just poor quality control which, in the best case, serves as a minor annoyance, and in other cases, is absolutely gamebreaking: And not the type that works in your favor.  Yet, many times, there are things that I love about them which allow me to overlook these flaws:  They're (usually) aesthetically pleasing (if not in terms of sprites, than the lush background).  They have a number of interesting gameplay mechanics going for them.  Perhaps most importantly, however, they usually end up being the sort of games that you can sit down, veg out to, and play casually through -- at least in an initial playthrough, as long as you're not trying to be a super completionist.

Enter Atelier Rorona.  Like a few other Gust games in the past, this game suffers from random freezing, which can destroy hours of progress if you haven't been diligent in saving.  On the flipside, it is one of the most gorgeous games produced on the PS3.  For me, however, the beauty of Atelier Rorona wasn't in pure aesthetics, but it's relative simplicity:  Something much needed at a time of year when things get hectic for me at work.

A Delayed Acquisition

How I acquired this game is a funny story.  Originally, when it was first released, I happened to chance upon it at one of Gamestop's ever-frequent (though they'll try to convince you that they're not that frequent) Buy 2, Get 1 free used game sales.  In a previous piece, I lamented how there were very few PS3 exclusives that justified my purchase of the system:  Something that, to this day, I, as well as others, I'm sure, still struggle with, as we hope for the release of some game that makes us happy to own this iteration of Sony's console:

Not that we're pointing any fingers.

So when I came across this game, I was somewhat relieved, yet still not fully convinced that I wanted to purchase the game (even used, it was still $45 bucks).  Fortunately, someone made that decision easy for me:  The guy who snatched up the game after I had put it back while I debated a bit too long on my decision.

Pretty sure it was this guy.
It was for the best, as by the time I finally got around to purchasing it, it had dropped to $26 or so.  Patience is a virtue after all.  But enough of my acquisition story:  You're probably curious about the game itself.