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Publisher: Nis America/Bandai
Rating: Teen [There’s some innuendo and mild violence]
Actually, the whole “Dive” scenario is kind of cool, insofar that players can venture through the Reyvateils’ minds and unlock hidden abilities and extra costumes within their own Cosmosphere. This generally enables stronger attacks, more magical abilities, better team abilities and more powerful songs. The downside to “Diving” is that you don’t actually play – scenarios play out between the characters that don’t involve players...well, playing. A mini-game of sorts would have graciously helped in this way.
Aesthetically, Ar Tonelico isn’t the greatest looking PS2 RPG. The game consists of decent looking sprites, with the majority of its visual splendor coming through with the Reyvateil’s song magic specials. Fighting is a grade above the standard take-turn scheme; combos and counters mixed with flashy skill attacks can create some hair-raising bouts. The voice acting is also sub-par, with hit and miss sequences that are pretty much like the standard fare anime. And the soundtrack is actually darn good enough to round out the game’s old-school feel of immersion. The theme song is especially well done and the world map music is almost equivalent to some of Hiroki Kikuta’s classic work.
Overall, Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia is a decent attempt at being a great RPG. But limited playability (you don’t actually walk around on the world map), constant long dialogue sequences, one too many soap-opera moments, and limited character customization can sort of leave a bland taste in the mouth of gamers who aren’t heavy RPG fans. However, the song magic and Grathmelding add some needed (and addictive) flavors to an otherwise mediocre RPG. While it’s a tough call to make, I must go with my gut feeling on the final verdict for this ambitiously pricey tale. So read it and weep.