Here we are once again, the Respawning gods have issued me an anime game that doesn’t feature Goku, Naruto or any other member of the Shonen gang (Not even Jotaro). Very funny guys… However, I’m a respectable gaming journalist, hell I even have a press pass to prove it! With that in mind let’s have a little talk about a strange game called Arc of Alchemist.
As an action RPG this seemed to fit my ballpark a little better than most JRPGS, but that is about as much as I can say for it winning me over. AoA looks and handles like something released at the latter end of the PS2’s life cycle, in fact while playing I found myself making several art and game play comparisons to Dark Chronicle, a game I never played myself but I watched fellow Respawning members play to death for years, however while the characters look like they would be at home standing shoulder to shoulder with Max and Monica they don’t have the same charm at all.
Those of you who watched my stream on this title might remember that when it came to my party of chibi heroes, the only one I showed any real love for was the tallest and buffest one, Jester, the manliest anime hero… Other than him the entire cast seems to be made up of a group of whiney neurotic losers who would rather argue about who fancies who than the events happening around them; worst of all being leading lady Quinn, who feels the need to internally monologue about whatever dumb thing seems to be happening around her at any given moment, grinding the game to a halt for nearly five minutes at a time. We get it Quinn, you’re angsty.
As is common for a JRPG, Arc of Alchemist takes place is a dystopian world which seems to be almost entirely inhabited by teenagers and monsters. In another shocking twist to the norm, the previous society would appear to have been made up of incredible technologically advanced gods and all that is left is suspiciously steampunk looking remains of a once grand city. Quinn and her gang are out and about in this slightly less than kind world looking for some kind of prophecy fulfilling power which could help them rebuild the world, oddly however early on it is mentioned that Quinn’s magical jewellery (a vital component in controlling said super power) wouldn’t be able to handle the magic without 4 stones, which by the end of chapter one you only have 2 of, so god knows why she took her rowdy band of camping enthusiasts on this trip when they couldn’t even harness the power they were looking for? It’s not even a revelation, Quinn openly talks about this failing early on like it’s common knowledge, I’d be asking more questions of her leadership style before I ended up in a desert full of robots and hate scorpions.
Speaking of, the enemy design. Full Angsty Alchemist features a fairly varied cast of mobs to make your trips through the broken down world all the more deadly, early on it seems like all you’ll ever find are large scorpions but soon I was being accosted by mask wearing monkeys, bulldozers and even a floating gun turret that was able to one shot me before I even realised what I was looking at, who knew a chibi anime girl would be weak to a fucking gun?! Those baddies themselves are varied and interesting, the combat to fend them off is anything but…. AoA has a fairly slow and dull battle style with most attacks being sweeping and boring and even the magic having about as much impact as gently blowing on the enemy through a straw, the ultimate abilities of each character don’t warrant the amount of time taken to build them up, and good luck hitting anything, since lock on is a pipe dream. Your best bet is to wail in the general direction of the monster and just hope you’re doing something more than giving them a few paper cuts.
If you grow weary of the battles, and you will, you can use the checkpoints dotted throughout the world to take you back to your home base. Which is basically a fortress with a giant damn light bulb in the middle of it… I never learned the purpose of this nightlight, but I assume it was so Quinn could show off how amazing her next idea would be. Here you can use your hard earned cash and resources to build up your base, giving you access to better character equipment and items, at first this seemed like a hard slog, then I realised I could apparently sell gold dust for ALL THE MONEY and immediately went on a spending spree, turning my base into a scale model of Manhattan and giving myself access to a “Viking axe” so obviously I’d won the game. This is another comparison time since Dark Chronicle obviously included the town building mechanic, though in that case it was far more in-depth and intuitive and with the time travel element allowing you to see how your village would do in the future, AoA just leaves you feeling like it’s a chore, the case with basically the entire game…
And that’s all I can say, Arc of Alchemist is just another JRPG in a sea of others that have just done it better, there’s nothing new or exciting here and the story was so cut and paste that really, I had no interest in seeing where it went. If you want to experience a charming chibi JRPG, do what I say above, and just pick up an old copy of Dark Chronicle. They got this shit right way back in 2003…
Arc of Alchemist gets a: