While browsing my favourite place to choose a retro title for today’s Blast from the Past I came across a peculiar title in the PlayStation store’s “retro” section on the PlayStation Vita. Now, being an RPG and, more especially, JRPG fan this title caught my attention immediately, Arc The Lad. Weirdly I did not recall playing this as a lad myself, and as any obsessed JRPG fan would then do, I did more research on the title which obviously then led to me purchasing the game.
Arc The Lad follows the story of a young man named Arc, seeking out the truth of the disappearance of his father that occurred ten years ago. Along his journey Arc meets several other characters with their own tragic stories to be told. What each of these characters do not expect, however, is that destiny has brought them together in unusual ways to fight against an evil plot bigger than any one of their own stories. They must now all join forces and travel across the lands of Seirya to locate the guardians, prove their bravery and courage so that they may seek the aid of the guardians in order to defend and trap the evil demon Ark Ghoul once again.
Arc The Lad is a tactical turn-based RPG that plays just as you’d expect from titles like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. Majority of the game is story-based and you’ll spend half of your time reading and the other half in battle trying to devise a strategy to overcome monsters and boss fights. Unlike Fire Emblem, for example, there is no main hub to customise your characters or check on their stats. However this is not removed from the game as you’ll still be able to check on your characters stats and customise their equipment… or rather item sets before every battle where you’ll be able to equip your character with special items that work in the same way that armour would work. Items cannot be bought in any shop as there aren’t any shops. Items are taken off monsters in battle, picked up in battle areas from treasure chests or found in certain areas that you’ll be able to go back to after a battle or cutscene.
Battles are fairly simple, although it can be painfully frustrating at the same time. It might be a turn-based tactical RPG, but make no mistake – battles can be quite fast-paced. Once you’ve selected the enemy that you’ll be attacking you’ll get the option of using a physical attack or magical attack. The fact that there’s not much customisation makes that simpler for players. The range of monsters are nothing to laugh at either. You’ll encounter anything from slime/blobs, zombies, ghosts and even something that resembles a clown that can only be found in nightmares, although I honestly doubt it was made to look like a clown. The boss battles are quite challenging at times as well and just like in any JRPG you’ll have to be willing to grind a little if you do not want to throw your console against the wall out of pure frustration. I did not find any specific patterns in boss battles but there are tricks that you’ll be able to utilise like utilising items to increase defense and attack stats for a limited period of time, and also keeping your healer at a safe distance to keep curing or healing your injured team members.
For a JRPG I found Arc The Lad extremely short, but this is to be expected as the game was designed this way to set up players for the sequels. You’ll be spending most of your time on a screen with a giant map allowing you to move on with the story by selecting newly opened areas or by going back to a battle spot for a bit more grinding. Although the game is not filled with as much content as you would expect in tactical-based RPGs, it definitely has the story to keep players hooked. This is most definitely a must play for all Fire Emblem and Tactical turn-based RPG fans out there.