If you read that and snickered, go wash your hands.
Ar Tonelico… so we meet again. Do I remember you? Of course I remember you. I can't get some of your horrible
one-shots one-liners out of my head! The sheer amount of innocent filth confounds me to this day, and yet here you are - again - and you've decided to push the boundaries of acceptable to another, lower level. Oh, but at least not all the way through; that would take more effort now, wouldn't it?
[image1]Just as a reminder to some of you out there (though if you're like me, you're trying hard to forget), the whole point of this series is to be as vividly filthy as possible without any of the dirty words or images (though the images still show up). The story's premise is straightforward and standard, but the dialogue is just dripping with as much innuendo as writers could possibly fill it with. They were just cramming in as many naughty images as possible in every open space they could. Just forcing it in there.
But I guess they needed something to give the characters... character. They're the most generic batch of "RPG misfits off to save everything they love" I have ever come across. The main character is way too happy and naïve for his own good; the littlest girl is bubbly and obsessed with love; the tall, awkward girl is a tomboy; the standoffish best friend is sarcastic and hiding something; there are big fighters, little angsty samurai and traitors abound. If I didn't know better, I might think they were the real parody of the genre, and not the constant double-entendres.
[image2]The main draw this time around is the "new" battle system. What used to be a bland and basic turn-based grind has turned into a button-mashing, over-powered magic system. As you bash away at rival songstresses (known in the game as "Reyvateils"), your single songstress (as opposed to two on the field at a time in the last game) charges up her song, and can release it at any time to do damage to enemies. Along with the charging comes the ability to "Purge" at certain intervals which does two things: stores more energy faster and can do more damage more quickly, and removes clothes from the underage singer on the screen.
This game is a pixilated pedophiliac's RPG dream come true. All of the girls are wearing skin-tight outfits, and all of the ones that actually strip are under 18. It's less "hey, polygon girl is stripping" and more "where are that child's parents"? But while you're not mashing a single button over and over waiting for a nip-slip, you can help them power up by Diving, a process that thrusts you into their mind to help them work out their problems. Sometimes the Dive simply helps them to break out of a mental cell, but other times their minds - their Cosmospheres - are filled with random crap, like board games, candy houses, and even a used, unflushed toilet.
I kept checking back in to see if I could progress, but I was stuck… on the toilet… for a few visits before I could advance to the next stage. It wasn't even stupid-funny, it was just bringing up that the girl had taken a dump. Really. That was it. "I took a dump, but don't look at it! It's gross!"
[image3]The game does look pretty danggone nice, though, so credit where credit is due. But even the look, while very animé-driven and detailed, appears outdated; like PSOne RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII and Parasite Eve, the towns are done up with pre-rendered backgrounds that the 3D characters look like they're running on instead of running in. The characters themselves are reminiscent of the same time period, the main characters drawn with careful detail while everything else is just a slight variation and a palette swap (which is made all the more obvious when the same figure is standing next to itself in one color, complete with matching movement). If every character had some level of unique figure or pattern, instead of just the main characters, this could have really stood out. But as it stands, it looks lazy and uninspired, like the NPCs are only there to fill in space.
Even after playing the last game, Ar Tonelico Qoga is simply disappointing. If only Gust had decided to fix what was wrong with earlier incarnations - the non-intense battles, the remarkably "blah" characters, the below-average everything - they might have had something here. There are some cute ideas bouncing around, but unless the focus is placed on what makes a game fun instead of conveying innuendo, this series isn't going anywhere but the gutter.