Ar Tonelico 2: Melody of Metafalica - Reader Review  

Music, Magic, and Technology
by KnightTrain

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Very Easy
40-60 Hours
+ Enjoyable, heartwarming story
+ Fun and fast pace battles
+ Excellent musical score
- Battles are oftentimes glitchy
- Poor localization hurts overall presentation
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   Although the PS3 has been out for almost 3 years, its popular predecessor continues to be a strong and viable console for RPG developers and their games. The PS2 is nearing the end of its life as a current generation console, but before that, game developer Gust and publisher NIS America team together to release Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. Many aspects of this game were done very well: The story is heartwarming and well-told, the music is catchy, and the battle system is fun and fast pace. Unfortunately, AT2 is marred with glitches and bugs and a rushed localization that can ruin gameplay and tarnish a player's overall experience.

   Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica stars Croix Bartel, a romantically impaired soldier of the Neo Grand Bell army. He and his peers live on a "rim world" called Metafalss high above the surface of a life-starved planet. Here, certain beings exist called Reyvateils. These Reyvateils are artificial human girls who gain the ability to create and use song magic, which is a kind of technology based music system used heal or cause massive damage in battle. There is a legend in Metafalss that a day will come when two Reyvateils chosen by the goddess will be able to sing the song of Metafalica. On that day, a paradise only hinted of in legend will be created. While this is the foundation for the story of AT2, more attention is given to the relationships between Croix and his comrades. That said, the journey of Croix's team is more of a psychological one, where heartbreak and betrayal followed by spiritual bonding and ultimate forgiveness does more to move the story forward than anything else. Overall the story is very good. The dialogue is a little wishy-washy at times and is full of mature innuendoes that are humorously executed albeit a little peculiar based on the immature age of a few characters. But compared to some other JRPGs and anime stories, this is not that strange. So those who enjoy the types of stories prevalent in Japanese media will probably enjoy AT2's story very much. Those who are put off by them might need to look elsewhere.

Seriously, these things are everywhere. Seriously, these things are everywhere.

   The battle system in AT2 is a unique mix of action and turn-based. Upon a random encounter, a battle will take place with 1 to 4 enemies where both sides take turns attacking and defending. On the attack phase, player's have an alloted time perform as many different attacks as they can. If there are Reyvateils in the party, the combat performance of the front-line characters will increase the effects of their song magic. During the defense phase, the front-line characters (or "vanguards" as they are called) must protect their Reyvateil partners from oncoming attacks. This is essentially a timing game where a gauge will inform the player of an oncoming attack where pressing the corresponding button at the correct time will lessen the damage, and perfect timing will negate damage completely. The battles are fast pace, keeping the player on his/her toes. The battles can be very fun to play, but there are a few problems with it. First, there is absolutely no challenge whatsoever. This may not bother some players, but the fact of the matter is that there is nothing rewarding about boss battles that can be finished in three short turns, maybe even less for some. Secondly, battles can be glitchy during certain enemy attacks, throwing off the players timing during the defense phase. Lastly, battles will quickly become repetitive since every single battle requires the same strategy. Later in the game, each character learns a "finishing move" of sorts that looks cool visually, but in the end only prolongs the ending of a battle making it longer than is necessary.

   Outside of battles, there are quite a few interesting distractions from the main quest. First and foremost is the Dive System. This system allows Croix to "dive" into the consciousness of a Reyvateil partner and explore their inner world. By doing so, Reyvateils will be able to create stronger song magic to use during battle. These dives are played out like a typical Japanese visual novel. Croix's goal in each level of a Reyvateil's consciousness (or "cosmosphere" as it is called in game) is to help fix their inner turmoil and gain a deeper relationship with each Reyvateil partner. Deeper levels will yield even deeper understanding with one another and eventually turn into unconditional love. Other distractions include a synthesis system where items are created with the help of NPCs and entertaining dialogue, but the majority of items are only useful for completionist and have no other advantageous purpose. There is also the "Dualstall" system which players will have to use in order to level up their Reyvateils who do not do so by way of experience points. The Dualstall system is done by having the Reyvateils take a bath together with "dualithnode" crystals (purchased from shops or looted from enemy bosses). What a relaxing and kinky way to level up. Players are also able to add other things to the bath such as a rubber ducky or bath salts. These additions will sometimes induce conversations between the girls which will increase their friendship and overall performance together in battle. While some of these activities are more useful than others, each are pretty enjoyable if not simply amusing. They will definitely keep the player from getting too board since there is always something to do in between the main story.

   It is obvious that NIS America's localization was rushed. This is a very unfortunate error on their part because the game would have been a lot better if a little more care was put into the translation. As it stands, there are glaring grammatical errors present in the dialogue. There are even places where Japanese characters were inadvertently left in the script. Also, there is grievous error in the translation of the code that causes the game to completely freeze up if the third to last boss attempts to execute a particular attack. Only by defeating the boss within three turns or so (or by sheer luck if the boss doesn't use the attack on its third attack phase) will the player be able to bypass the bug and complete the game. Thankfully, this is not too hard to do since boss battles are so easy to complete quickly anyway.

Believe it or not, that pumpkin Believe it or not, that pumpkin's deadly.

   The music in AT2 is very well done and is pleasant to listen to. Music is very important to the game's theme, and many of the tracks do well of mixing sounds of magic and technology creating an overall enjoyable soundtrack. There are a few tracks that get a little repetitive, but most are good enough not to be overly annoying. The only real disappointment is that the music sounds much better on the original soundtrack that comes with the game than on the actual game itself. Voice acting is also present during key points in the story. While not the best voice work found in video games today, it's still a decent effort. However, There are a few voices that, while not bad per se, just don't seem to fit with the character their given to.

   Even though the PS2 is well-known for successfully pushing the limits visually, AT2 does not do so. The graphics, while perfectly fine in their own right, would probably work just fine on even the original Playstation. There is not a lot of variation between the different locations. Most forests looks exactly the same, as do the underground "caves". The characters' artwork and 2-D sprites are well-drawn, but look awkward running around a 3-D environment. There are anime FMVs as well, but most are very fleeting and don't show a lot of detail.

   Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica is a very easy game to complete. As mentioned before, there is absolutely no challenge at all. If the player is unsure of how to progress, selecting the "current objective" option at save points will alleviate confusion. There is also the option at each save point to "rest", completely restoring HP and MP. The distance between most save points is very small as well; players will never have to travel very far to heal their wounds at no cost. The game takes around 40 hours to complete, longer if the player explores all aspects of the game.

   Despite the lacking difficulty, unforgiving bugs, and minor grammatical errors, Ar Tonelico II is still a very enjoyable game. The battle system is fun to play, the music is excellent, and the story is unique and enjoyable all the way up to the end. It is regrettable that the game has the bugs that it does, otherwise higher marks might be given. Objectiveness aside, gamers will probably be able to ignore these localization mistakes and still enjoy the game. Ar Tonelico II definitely holds up very well with other games on newer consoles and is a decent addition to an RPGamer's library.

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