A lad becomes a man.
If the Arc series were a movie trilogy, it would be something like Back to
the Future. Implausible time travel might not be the stuff from which epic
trilogies like The Godfather or Star Wars are made, but it’s still
Likewise, the games of Arc the Lad Collection are inescapably dated,
yet still fun. While the actual storylines don’t claim any new ground with their
old hat ‘good vs. evil’ plots, the manner in which the stories are told is interesting.
Add in a battle system that is at once direct and peppered with a nice amount
of strategy and a total quest taking up more than 100 hours, and you have a
pretty solid collection.
product is nothing if not robust. Arc The Lad Collection contains full
versions of Arc I, Arc II, and the new Arc III, as well
as the faster paced Arc Arena. That’s three RPGs in one handy pack.
Arc I tells the story of Arc as he quests to recover elemental spheres
and seal the evil Dark One away forever. Arc II takes place right after
I, but re-centers the story on the young Elc, a mercenary Hunter. Despite
their different focuses, Arc I is so short and Arc II is so long
that you are better off thinking of them as one game. In the original creation
of the first Arc, development times were cut short, so it was decided
to serialize the game into two parts. Arc I took me around 10 hours.
I poured in around 45 on Arc II.
A small problem in Arc II is the drawn-out ending. Right when you think
you’ve finally made it to the ‘ultimate’ evil, it turns out “the princess is
in another castle.” The dangling-carrot pacing, which repeatedly sets you up
for a final encounter only to force you back down near the end, can drive you
bonkers. It’s nice having a long adventure, but this one’s a little too
But of all the games in the collection, Arc II is also the most engrossing.
A large cast of characters is balanced with a moving storyline that transcends
the other Arcs. Though the maximum number of characters you can take
into battle is only 5, the whole game feels more polished than its predecessor.
Arc III is the follow-up adventure featuring a different protagonist.
This time it’s Alec, yet another hero with an oddly similar name, a would-be
Hunter who again must save the world from certain peril. The game is steeped
in science fiction elements, with the duplicitous “Academy” taking center stage
as the baddies.
The third adventure is less epic in scope and more lighthearted in its drama
than the older games. Characters from the other Arcs make more cameos
than a full season of VH1’s “Where Are They Now?”
The combat works on relatively the same turn-based system for all three games.
Characters have limited movement across the battle map and their attacks work
within certain strike zones. It’s straightforward and classic.
The strategy is simplified further in III, as most attacks cover a
wider range and don’t require a central grounding character. While there’s more
to do with item and weapon combining as well as ‘monster capturing’, the battles
feel too easy. Your total number of characters in battle is reduced yet again
down to 4.
other big change is in the graphics, which in Arc III have shifted to
polygons. Frankly, in this kind of game I’ll tale the warmth of the classic
sprites over the colder yet sharper polygonal environments. Even though the
sprite graphics of Arc I and II are heavily dated, they work fine
and capture a distinct style. The taller, non-deformed Arc III looks
a little silly in comparison.
Arc the Lad Collection allows continuos character growth. Saved games
from Arc I can be converted to Arc II, and then Arc II
into Arc III. The characters will thereby have adjusted stat boosts from
your earlier adventures.
The big bonus disk is Monster Arena, which allows you to fight the monsters
you’ve captured from Arc II. If you can get a friend to start capturing creatures
as well, you can fight one another in bloodied battles ala Pokemon. It’s
like a big mini-game more than a full game on its own, but it’s a decent addition.
While I love the idea of deluxe packaging and think that more American companies
should offer these sets like they do in Japan, the Arc extras are middling.
Paper cutout standees and analog stick covers are boring to me. There’s also
a memory card case that at the very least is useful.
Plus, the price is still a major consideration. Arc the Lad Collection
retails for 75 bucks – that’s more than the cost of the PSX itself. It’s very
hard to recommend Arc the Lad Collection at that enormous price point,
especially considering the fact that we’re talking about the PSX, a system that’s
on its way out. Most PSX games these days cost about 20 bucks. Is this worth
4 of them? It might be very robust, but I’m not sure it’s that burly. If you
can find it for cheaper – and I’m sure you
can – then this turns into more of a steal and less of a wallet burner.
Price notwithstanding, Arc the Lad Collection offers a good amount
of role-playing depth. You get a real sense of accomplishment saving the world
with three generations of heroes. All in all, this is a solid collection that
is worth a look, provided the price is right.