For those who have been following NIS America, Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel is the third and last installment to the long running Ar Tonelico series that started on the PlayStation 2. The third game in the series has some serious upgrades that fans will truly appreciate it. Moving from the PS2 to the PS3, one of the things that fans can expect are improved visuals. For those who appreciate the semi-erotic theme of the first two games in the series, expect to find it in the third game as well.
From the two games we’ve played on the PlayStation 2, how does Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel improve on the PS3, and should fans expect anything exciting from its gameplay? Let’s take a look at the HOTs and NOTs of NIS America’s Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel.
Ar Tonelico Goes HD
As a fan of the Ar Tonelico series, seeing the third game going to the PlayStation 3 is something I’ve been waiting for. From the 2D graphics that we’re all used to in the PlayStation 2 era, Ar Tonelico Qoga has now been upgraded to the 3D graphics equipped with full 1080p resolutions. If you don’t see the character’s faces well in the first two games, you will now see them in Ar Tonelico Qoga. The visuals of Qoga have improved drastically, making it a pleasure to see on an HDTV set. The character models are crisper and the artwork of each character is hand drawn anime style. The environments are nicely drawn and you can expect to see more colors in the game, especially in the characters’ outfits.
When it comes to voice overs on NIS America games, it’s always a pleasure that they give us an option to switch from the original Japanese to the dubbed English. The dubbed voices in Ar Tonelico Qoga give me a mixed reaction. Half of the characters’ voices in the game sound nice with their English voices, while the other half sounds cheesy, although this is typical of many dubbed games. However, listening to the dubbed version allowed me to understand more of the plot and pick up on the humor and dialogue that I would have missed otherwise.
Deep Driven Storylines
The Ar Tonelico series has been known for its deep driven stories for the individual characters in the game. In Qoga, you can expect the same thing. In Ar Tonelico Qoga, players will follow the story of Aoto as he protects the Reyveteil, a race of people that can use the power of songs to transform into energy. Each of the characters has his/her own story to tell, especially the Reyveteil’s, and Aoto can learn more about their personalities and backgrounds. Not only do conversations reveal a lot about the characters in the game, but the dialogue is often humorous and feels authentic.
New Battle System & Other Gameplay Elements
The battle system of Ar Tonelico Qoga is no longer turned-based like its predecessor. For fans of RPG games such as Star Ocean or the Tales series, you will find the battle system of Qoga quite similar. From the turned-based battle system, the game has now moved to real time. Instead of waiting for the Active Time Battle bar to fill up as in the past games, you are now free to attack anytime, run around the area, or spam enemies with attacks by pressing a single button. The new battle system is a great addition and helps liven up the combat.
In order for the Reyvetails to learn more songs that can aid them in battle, Aoto must dive into them via their Cosmospheres, i.e. diving inside their consciousness and unlocking their potential. Diving into these characters has already been introduced in the past two games, and in Qoga this aspect remains the same. For newcomers, diving inside these Reyvetails lets Aoto explore their unconscious minds and will allow you to see what they think. By getting to know these Reyvetails inside, you will engage in deeper conversations and if you have succeeded in knowing them better, they learn more songs that turn into abilities.
Almost all games that Gust released since the PS2 era involve alchemy, and this is true of Qoga also. By gathering and buying ingredients in stores, you are able to perform and craft powerful items and armor that will be very useful in battle. As money is kind of scarce in the game, you may want to rely on crafting your own items.
Ar Tonelico Qoga offers more than one ending, which is similar to its predecessor. Based on the things you do in the game, the ending will vary. Every decision you make regarding the Reyvatails in the game gives you the possibility of obtaining a different ending. The game can be finished in roughly 20 hours, and after finishing it you can go back again and play to explore the other endings. Some of the characters in the game have different endings and obtaining them all will require patience and a lot of time.
Perfect Musical Score
With a game that is focused on songs and hymns of the Reyvateils, Ar Tonelico Qoga offers one of the best soundtracks in the series. The tunes that you get to encounter will stick in your mind long after you’re done playing. The voice overs might be hit or miss, but the sound tracks will be something you will appreciate a lot.
Activating Songs for Reyvateils
When a Reyvateil is in the party, players can command them to use their song magic while in battle. In order to do that, the player must hold either of the shoulder buttons and shake the controller. While Gust tries to add some innovative controls to the game, it doesn’t work that well, and most of the time it doesn’t even respond.
Bland Dungeon Designs
Because the in-game graphics of Ar Tonelico Qoga look so good, the dungeons stand out as eyesores. The majority of the dungeons in the game look bland, and instead of focusing on the character, the camera often zooms out and makes it difficult to see. You can easily get annoyed with the designs of the dungeons, which get very repetitive. And without a map, there’s a high possibility you will get lost. Despite the overall good presentation of the other environments, at times it looks like textures get reused. Except for the towns, which are very colorful and crisp, other areas are just disappointing and stale, even though they’re in HD.
Battle System Needs More Improvement
Although the battle system has upgraded to real-time, it still needs a lot of improvement. With the game somehow more focused on the battle system, there are times that players might find the characters useless in battle. While the controls are straight forward, the overall experience of battling enemies is just flawed and feels like it’s lacking something.
For an NIS America title, Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel is probably a game you will not want to miss. Every NIS America game that I’ve played is mediocre or average at best, but in Ar Tonelico: Qoga, it’s guaranteed that you will get the solid JRPG experience that you’ve been craving for. The story and the humor that the game has is enough to warrant a purchase. If you’ve played the past two Ar Tonelico games on the PlayStation 2, you must definitely get Qoga, as this will be the last game in the series. I feel like NIS America, Gust, and Nippon Ichi did a worthy conclusion to its Ar Tonelico trilogy.
[Editor’s Note: Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel Review,