Working Designs is responsible for lovingly localizing some of the best, and most underrated, RPG’s of the 90’s and 00’s (oughts?). After the phenomenal ports of Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, Victor Ireland & co. released what is the best collection, nay series that successfully achieved something years before Mass Effect attempted and in some ways failed to do. Porting save files.
Arc the Lad Collection is a tactical-RPG series that tells an expanding, contiguous story that continues to grow across three games. What makes the series special is the ability to port your save file from game to game. Each game features a new cast of characters, with the previous ones joining the team with their stats and weapons intact. The collection, released at the end of the Playstation’s life in 2002, included four games along with Working Designs’s trademark packaging. Easily 200 hours worth of gameplay.
The first game, Arc the Lad, stars a, er, lad, named Arc. The name is the worst part. Honest. This is the weakest game in the series, with a linear plot and only 12 – 15 hours of gameplay. While the battle system is tight, and there’s a difficult secret dungeon, overall it’s a little lacking on its own. It’s the second game where things get real. I have no idea why I said that. Get real? Sigh.
Arc the Lad II introduces a bevy of changes, and is the best game of the series, much like Mass Effect 2 for that series. A new cast was introduced, including new lead Elc, with the previous cast branded outlaws. As the game progresses, new characters join the group, with the original cast eventually as well. Aside from characters, II also adds an open world map and a plethora of sidequests via the guild. This entry is easily 60 hours.
Finally, there’s Arc the Lad III. This follows protagonists Alec and Lutz. While still a solid game, a few too many changes were introduced. Rather than a driving narrative, everything was driven by jobs via the guild. Previous characters made cameos and occasionally joined battles rather than joining outright.
Also included was a Pokemon type game called Arc Arena: Monster Tournament. Capturing monsters in II was a major feature. They could be ported to this game to do battle. Honestly, I don’t think I spent more than 10 minutes with it.
Few Playstation 1 games hold up. Arc the Lad is completely sprite based, reminiscent of a sharp SNES game. While some of the design was bland and boring, the characters were still eye catching. The localization was wonderfully done, with no Engrish to be found. Adding to the atmosphere, the original Japanese battlecries were kept. You can’t tell me that Gogen yelling out spell names in Japanese isn’t cool.
Arc the Lad II was so popular when it released in Japan in 1996, it was eventually adapted into a 26 episode anime in 1999. Surprisingly, it wasn’t half bad. If you have the choice though, play the game.
Sidenote: There were two sort of sequels (in name only) for the PS2. We will not speak of either.
There’s something about simple, sprite based tactical-RPG’s that I love. Shining Force II, Vandal Hearts and this are some of my favorites. It’s sad that collections like this, lovingly crafted, aren’t produced today. All the PS1 Arc games are available on PSN, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. If you’re a fan of genre, this is one you can’t pass up.
Think Arc was better than Mass Effect (save transfer-wise)? Which entry was best? Comment below!
Shu was a badass.