Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel

  • Released on Mar 15, 2011
  • By Gust for PS3

Ar tonelico Qoga: Knell of Ar Ciel review
The Godfather 3


Developer: Gust
Publisher: Namco Bandai/Nippon Ichi Software America

Released almost basically alongside Hyperdimension Neptunia, Ar Tonelico Qoga: Knell Of Ar Ciel is a JRPG that overindulges tropes common to newer anime. From ridiculous dialogue to objectifying women... god, I'm glad I've become extremely selective with what anime I waste money and time on. I could just end my review by saying "if you don't like modern day anime, you'll dislike this too", but to be fair, it's actually not a bad game. Certainly better than that... other game... in fact, playing this game somehow washes out the bad taste left by Hyperdimension Neptunia, and yet, out of the Ar Tonelico series, this is the most sexual innuendo laden one of the bunch, not to mention, it's probably the worst in the series overall... that's actually pretty impressive. However, I must be honest... it's pretty mediocre.

Aoto, an apprentice builder, has just had his life take a turn for something rather juicy. He has to take a girl named Saki to somewhere safe, away from some bad guys. Why is Saki under attack? Because she is a Reyvateil, a being that can convert song into magical power, and as you'll eventually learn, they and the human race are at war. Ouch. What ends up happening to Aoto as a result of protecting this girl? He embarks on an adventure to return Saki home to restore her memory and save the world. Throughout this adventure, he'll run into another Reyvateil and learn more about them, as well as said war between Reyvateils and humans.

Ugh... the story isn't anything to shake a stick at, because it's nothing more than your typical “save the world” JRPG storyline, and it doesn't do much to make this concept refreshing in any way. It's unable to make up its mind on the pacing – half the time, it feels like it's either moving too slowly or too fast, but whether it's the incessant droning or rushing, when it can't find the right pace, the story just loses momentum and stops being worth a damn. When it does find its feet, it's... just mediocre. The problem is that while it's trying to satisfy the folks that played through the first two Ar Tonelico games, it's also attempting to rope in newcomers, so oftentimes, it finds itself trying to find a happy medium in trying to satisfy both markets – sadly, as a result, the story feels fragmented with some pretty bad pacing issues.

However, the interaction between Aoto and the Reyvateils that join your party is what saves the game, because what you learn about them adds a lot of depth to the game, not only in the sense that you gain more Song Magic, but also because it allows you to care about the characters... going by the actual story alone, the characters are... okay, I guess, although after getting into the Reyvateils' Cosmospheres and speaking with them in the inns, it just feels like not enough is developed, that there's hardly a reason to care (even less if you haven't played through the series up to this point).

Not to mention, you have the raunchy humor, full of sexual innuendos. While the first two games had them in spades to spice things up, this game has more sex jokes than Bulletstorm. Every so often, there has to be an instance where Aoto feels awkward around Saki when she strips to vanquish her enemies, or where there's implied paedophilia (she looks like she's 12 for *bleep*s sake). Say what you want about Bulletstorm cramming in a million dick jokes where it should be serious, at least it has that brofist atmosphere, like “yeah man that was *bleep*ing siiiick”; Knell Of Ar Ciel, on the other hand, is the kind of game you should be playing alone. Stay classy, Japan.

As expected for an RPG, gameplay consists of walking around places, occasionally opening up treasure chests, and fighting enemies. Those mainstays do have their variations in this game from the norm, but it also keeps traditions, such as having to walk through a linear world while running into enemies to initiate battle, and having you stop at towns to rest in inns, buy stuff, synthesise items and talk to the townsfolk. Oh, and not to mention the Dive Shops where you can spend Dive Points to learn more about the Reyvateils... but honestly, the best I can say about these elements is that they work, which just doesn't cut it.

The dungeons in this game *bleep*ing blow. They're either so linear that they put Final Fantasy XIII to shame, or so frustrating that Tales Of Symphonia would get envious. There is no happy medium, and these two extremes are not good. The super linear dungeons are boring to go through, and the less linear ones end up getting so confusing to navigate, that it's very easy to just give up after a while.

Battling is... well, the idea is good, in that it's real time like Star Ocean, and that it's based on rhythm. Unfortunately, the execution is far less than stellar, mostly because most of the fighters are just useless. In each battle, you have to build up the purge meter so that the Reyvateil can unleash her power. To do this, you must press X in a rhythm that matches the set of bars below.. basically, press X when they're high. Through this, it becomes evident that you'll have to pay more attention to the scrolling bars than to the actual battle itself. Suffice it to say, battling just gets pretty tedious after a while due to this. At least in other games that emphasize rhythm, it's because you have to catch the enemies off guard and you actually have to pay attention to your surroundings, not because you have to get your Reyvateil to use a super attack and NOT pay attention to your surroundings! Good god, what were they thinking?

Ooh, but your other fighters can use special attacks after the Reyvateil strips –err, I mean “purges” a few times. So what? Why not just let them use special attacks from the get go? Hell, why not just, I don't know, let us fight without having to worry with keeping to a rhythm? Sure, it'll be like Star Ocean, but Star Ocean is awesome, so let's just go with that. But no, Ar Tonelico wants to be different because different automatically equals good... right...

The graphics are actually mixed. On the 3D side of things, it looks mediocre. In fact, it looks like they just took a PS2 game and went along with it. The textures are flat, the colors are a little too vivid, and the animations just look really half assed, like all they could do is walk across flat ground, look up and swing their swords in like 2 ways... and have the boobies jiggle oh so perfectly! But thankfully, they also decided on some 2D graphics, and whether it's like a visual novel in that there are detailed portraits and snapshots of important events or anime cutscenes that are pretty damn good (almost to the point where I'm surprised that not all of the cutscenes are anime... at least it's not a huge cocktease like Tales Of Symphonia's literal handful of them). So yeah, while 3D looks bland and boring, 2D looks excellent. Reminds me of a certain other game with the Nippon Ichi Software logo...

The soundtrack is fantastic. Going between rock, chorus-like orchestras and hymns sung in the game's own language, it manages to maintain your interest while providing the correct ambiance. The only problem is that a few songs are overplayed. The voice acting is also pretty good, until some of them decide to overact, which just pulls you right out of the story, especially during a dramatic moment, and especially when it just doesn't sound right. It's also a little amusing to find some spelling and grammatical errors...

Games like this make me worry about the state of JRPGs. Although it's certainly better than Hyperdimension Neptunia, it's still a pretty underwhelming game. It's nice that the interaction between hero and heroines are still rather interesting... because that gives the game at least something to excel in.. and soundtrack, too. Beyond the soundtrack and interaction, this game is below average. Deplorable combat, horrible dungeons and mediocre storytelling hold this game back.


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