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Bewitching Niche- Ar Tonelico 2 Reviewed

Although most game critics claim to be free of bias, complete impartiality is near impossible. When a journalist reviews a sports game, the degree of enjoyment of the diversion will likely factor into the critique. I’ve spoke to a few reviewers who have knocked a baseball game, as the title failed to simulate the minutiae of the beloved pastime; less savant-like fans wouldn’t have noticed any mishandlings. My bias is niche games- the greater the risk a title takes, the more likely I am to enjoy it. Perhaps this stems from the countless hours spent reviewing formulaic titles; I find a bit of novelty quite refreshing.  While journalistic integrity prohibits me from enjoying a title on originality alone, I can’t help but adore Ar Tonelico 2: Melody of Metafalica.

As the game opens, two factions have divergent opinions on how to deal with a tyrannical goddess that is limiting the fertility of their lands.  The Grand Bell seeks to obliterate the goddess, and create their own kingdom, free of oppression. Conversely, the Sacred Hand wants to avoid any conflict with the goddess; they believe that eliminating the deity may initiate the destruction of their existing world. At first, the game’s narrative seems convoluted.  I didn’t initially comprehend the concept of Reyvateil- artificial life forms that can dabble in ‘song magic’. As I learned the vehicular of the game, I found myself becoming more drawn into the plot, and relished in its moral dilemmas.

One of the most obscure elements of the game is how Reyvatail are leveled up. Unlike Vanguards (humans) whose experience growth is accumulated in typical RPG fashion, you have to venture into the minds of these ladies. Reyvatail’s grow stronger as they bond with their partners, so players must navigate a grid of conversational elements. Your partner will make a comment, and the player must pick an appropriate response. Choose a reply too jarring, and you’ll get kicked out of her mind. While this element could have easily seemed unnatural and creepy, the game carefully avoids awkwardness.  

Ar Tonelico 2’s battle system is nearly as unique as its mind probing. When battle erupts, your fighters hold the front lines, while the player’s Reyvatail are in the flank. Conflict is divided into two sections: an attack and defense stage. During the attack stage, players can choose from an array of attacks while a counter rapidly drains.  Heavy attacks take more time, but deliver more damage so an intriguing risk/reward system challenges players. When the enemy attacks, players must sync the timing of the square button with on-screen meter. If your timing is correct, damage may be reduced or nullified. 

Graphically, the game has some minor blemishes. Character art is stretched quite thin- there’s plenty of Vanguard and Reyvatail duplication. While individual units show a respectable amount of detail, each character was a minimal amount of animation frames. The game allows either English or Japanese voice work, but dialogue is inconsistently delivered. Some scenes feature spoken conversation, but others didn’t. The only other gripe was the occasional battle that presented an unforeseen spike in difficulty. The old RPG adage of saving at every available location should be heeded here.

Overall, Ar Tonelico 2: Melody of Metafalica is one of the most original JRPGs we have played. The title is delightfully niche-y, and is a welcome alternative to the typical cookie-cutter fantasy dungeon crawl. From probing the minds of the game’s protagonists, to its rhythmic battle system, Ar Tonelico 2 offers a unique role playing experience that PS2 fans shouldn’t miss.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

40 comments

  1. Sounds great. Hey I though the last must-get PS2 game was Persona 4…

  2. Are there sexy anime witches in? I find them irresistible.

  3. Did you ever play the first one, DE?

  4. Really clear graphics for a PS2 game. Are those taken from an upscaled PS3 or something?

  5. I want to play this, just to see what on the mind of busty anime girls. Yep, I’m a perv that way.

  6. Saw third pic, and must buy. Anyone know the cheapest price for this on the interwebs?

  7. I completely agree with that first paragraph; I recall one reviewer dismissing Kane and Lynch not for the gameplay, but because the characters were so dark and brutal. Maybe he needed to play Little Big Planet or something.

  8. Plot sounds fairly easy to understand. Where was the problem?

  9. Yep, any reviewer you claims to be completely unbiased is full of it. I’ve wrote at least 50 reviews, and would occasionally be assigned games I had little interest in. More than likely, that would flavor my assessment.

  10. I bought the game and haven’t opened it yet. I didn’t know it had a Japanese language option. cool.

  11. So what’s the price on this?

  12. $39.99 across the board. Amazon is probably your best best with free shipping and no tax.

  13. You guys have gone all RPG on me!

  14. Awesome review. I am also a sucker for the weird japanese games.

  15. Hell, yeah! keep it up.

  16. This one plays nicely on the PS3 right? First game had that horrible bug…

  17. I’ll wait till $19.99

  18. Sounds absolutely f’ing crazy. I’m looking for it today!

  19. After reading, the game sounds like a typical RPG with only a few interesting elements. meh.

  20. Bought it, I’ll probably open this baby today.

  21. No Gamestops in my area have this gme in stock. WTF????

  22. Sounds like the best game eva. I need practice getting into the mind of a woman. My girlfriend is driving me crazy; I need to level her out (and up). LOL.

  23. Solid review, DE. You’re winning me over with your RPG love.

  24. I am broke right now, but I will pick this up soon. I loved the first one. I didn’t know the sequel was out yet.

  25. I may have to pull my PS2 out of storage for this one.

  26. So what’s in those cute little girls minds anyway….

  27. I remember hearing about the first one, but I just thought it was a typical JRPG, this review has me intrigued. Now, do you have to know the first one’s storyline to enjoy this?

  28. Love those niche games, too.

  29. Use amazon. Most stores only got 1-2 copies each.

  30. Thanks for the review. I love wacky, Japanese games that are a breath of fresh air. I’ll likely be grabbing this one during the week.

    BTW Do any bonuses come with the game?

  31. So male characters are too superficial to ‘probe’? 😉

  32. I’m going to have to buy this. I never got a change to play the first one. Anyone know where I should start?

  33. Sounds interesting

  34. Sounds like its different, but most RPG’s put me to sleep. Someone needs to make a quirky Japanese-style FPS. That’s something I could get into.

  35. Only the most feminine ones. LOL.

  36. The first game is still $29.99 You could be in for a long wait.

    Trust me, the games are worth it.

  37. Nice review.

  38. Hopefully, other cute little girls 😉

  39. Bought this today, really nice looking PS2 game, but yeah the animation is lacking.

  40. Sounds freaking awesome!