Arc the Lad

   When the PlayStation launched in Japan in 1995, one of the first titles to garner attention was G-Craft's Arc the Lad. G-Craft had a solid track record as a developer, having created Front Mission for Squaresoft on the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately, despite critical acclaim, Sony's early "no 2D games" policy kept it firmly on Japanese shores. Now, in 2001--nearly 6 years after the Japanese release, and after the launch of the PlayStation 2--Arc the Lad is coming to the U.S. courtesy of Working Designs. Though the game clearly shows its age at times, it still plays surprisingly well.

 Arc + Junon = Archon?
Where have I seen this before?

   Arc the Lad begins when a rash young priestess named Kukuru plunges the realms of Heaven and Earth into darkness by extinguishing a flame that has burned for thousands of years. According to legend, a savior will rise up to lead the battle against the darkness and bring Heaven and Earth back into the light. That savior is Arc, and we first meet him in the small village of Touvil in the country of Samaria. There, he is charged with finding six companions: the aforementioned Kukuru, a ninja-like priestess; the musician Poco; the mysterious rebel guard, Tosh; the absent-minded magician, Gogen; the shifty priest, Iga; and the swarthy trader, Chongara--as well as five sacred stones in order to recover the Ark which houses the power of the gods.

Tiger-Skin Pillbox Rug
You may be wondering why I've called you here today

   Graphics consist of the hand-drawn 2D sprites one would expect to find in a first-generation title, but the level of detail is sharp, the colors bright, and the characters and enemies well-animated. The music also holds up surprisingly well; most songs are decent, and the music of several key scenes is performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Sound effects are mostly standard 16-bit fare, but characters have a decent amount of voice acting during battle. Working Designs will be redubbing the voices in English for the U.S. release, but may leave Tosh in Japanese to add to his mystery and character.

   Some would describe Arc the Lad as an "action strategy RPG"; though that sounds like an oxymoron, it describes Arc the Lad to a tee. The game contains very few towns or exploration sequences; the world map is of the encounterless "select your destination" variety. Instead, gamers get battles, and plenty of them. The gameplay is reminiscent of the Shining Force series; characters move about a large grid, attacking enemies, using items, and defending. Each character has access to several spells or abilities which can be upgraded. Chongara can use a special item to summon a monster that temporarily joins the party.

   The game has a few quirks that identify it as a first-generation title. There are no weapons or armor to speak of, though there are accessories that can slightly modify statistics. Shops and money are completely nonexistent, so your inventory of useable items is what you happen to pick up in battle. Finally, though it's ostensibly a strategy RPG, the original Japanese release didn't require much strategy: attacking with your most powerful characters and keeping your party well-healed seems to work in just about any skirmish. Working Designs promises to rebalance it for the U.S. release; hopefully, they can make it more difficult without making it any less fun.

   Arc the Lad has one final quirk: its extremely short length. The quest lasts about 10 hours for an average player, though a 50-floor bonus dungeon should help to beef up replay value. The game benefits from its inclusion as part of a collection; instead of a stand-alone title, gamers can see it as an appetizer for the more filling Arc the Lad II and III. With save data compatible across titles and all three games coming out at once, Arc the Lad serves as a splendid introduction to a classic RPG series.

Preview by Nich Maragos and Andrew Vestal, GIA.
Arc the Lad
Developer G-Craft
Publisher Sony
Genre Strategy RPG
Medium CD (?)
Platform PlayStation
Release Date  06.30.95
 Fall 2001
15 new screenshots
Main characters
Japanese packaging