It's funny: The Wii doesn't immediately come to mind when I think of a go-to console for good RPGs, but I'm starting to realize that my assessment might have been wrong. The Wii, at least in terms of JRPGs, really seems to be more about quality than quantity. While the system doesn't put out a ton of JRPGs, they do tend to be pretty solid. Even more surprisingly, I tend to play through them pretty quickly once I manage to sit down with one.
Hence, I turn your attention to a game I finished some time ago (and has since been hoisted off on the Enabler): Arc Rise Fantasia. Although ARF (heh heh.."arf") gets a bad rap for its questionable voice talent and dated graphics, if you're able to look past those flaws, then you'll discover one of the most underrated RPGs of this generation that possesses an immersive world, challenging battles, fun combat, and characters that you'll both love and hate.
First, let's talk about the elephant in the room and go here:
I'll acknowledge it: The voice acting is downright terrible, and while some characters do get slightly better, it's. . yeah. The good news is if you're really hellbent on getting rid of these awful voices, you can probably find a way to undub it (sorry, you're on your own for finding that one out). I was willing to trudge past it since the game came highly recommended by a friend and former contributor here, Jared, who kept urging me to pick it up. Even now I remember the conversations, which generally followed this pattern:
Jared: You should totally play Arc Rise Fantasia. The same people who did Luminous Arc did it!
Ayn: I never played Luminous Arc. No frame of reference.
Jared: It's sooooo good though. The weapon system's really cool, and it's a fun RPG.
Ayn: Hey, do you realize that if you abbreviate it, it's "ARF"?
Jared: It's a really good game. You should sit down with it!
Ayn: ..Heh heh. "ARF". Like a dog.
Yes. I'm a terrible friend, and this game has terrible voice acting. But beyond that, without spoiling too much of the game, here's a brief synopsis: You follow the journey of an abrasive mercenary of some repute named L'arc:
|No relation to these guys. But after Bujingai, that's ok.|
Throughout his journey, he's joined by a number of companions: Token mysterious girl Ryfia, token would-be ladies man, Serge, obligatory badass Rastan, and the idealistic imperial prince, Alfonse, who goes by Alf for short, are just a few people who round out the cast:
|No relation to this guy, which sadly diminishes the game's overall impact.|
While that's not the full cast, yes, admittedly, the characters of this game are tropetastic. Fortunately though, they're a cast that clicks well together for the most part, which is further rounded out with skits reminiscent of the Tales game. Alas, also reminiscent of early localizations of the series, said skits aren't voiced.
Still, many of the shortcomings and predictability of the game was forgivable considering the difficulty, amazingly enough.
Many RPGs out there aren't exactly known for their challenge, so I was thrown for a loop the first time I played through one of the early dungeons in the game. The boss I fought at the end seemed tough, and with the way the battle was going, I figured that it was one of the obligatory tutorial battle, or one of the storyline battles I was meant to lose:
|Kind of like this.|
So imagine my surprise when I hit the game over screen. Certainly, as you learn to exploit the magic system in game there are some battles that become easier, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of battles throughout the game that still threw me for a loop. With some audiences not favoring turn-based RPGs out there as much, it was nice to have this. And in some cases, just downright fun (be warned -- spoiler alert on that link) to do:
Even the last boss battle had me on the edge of my seat. While it wasn't quite as rewarding as beating the final boss of Valkyrie Profile 2 (..which I still need to do), it was still a nice closeout to the game.
If you enjoy a solid JRPG that will give you a decent chunk of playtime, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up, or at least take it off your backlog. I didn't get to the post game offerings before I sent it off (because much like that intro battle, I promptly got my behind kicked), but I'm sure that somewhere down the line, I may actually pick this one back up.
The Wii doesn't put out many RPGs, but when you look across the horizon of stale offerings on the PS3, it's easy to see that the ones they do eke out are worthwhile additions to your library.