You’d be forgiven for not knowing a great deal about the Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. Not simply because of the release and subsequent hype over Destiny this week, or that the annual FIFA has finally hit the shelves. You’d be forgiven because Ar Nosurge has had hardly any exposure or advertising, at least outside of Asia. JRPG’s are a very interesting genre. The likes of Persona, Tales of Zestiria and of course the most famous – Final Fantasy, are extremely popular, and have all enjoyed commercial success. Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star is the latest installment in the JRPG genre, and while it doesn’t reach the same heights of some of its most well known predecessors, it certainly makes up for it by matching their ambition.
Developed by Gust, and the continuation of Ciel Nosurge. Ar Nosurge is the prequel to the Ar Tonelico series. The history of Ar Nosurge is explained in a brief but beautifully presented intro. A powerful and much loved Empress has helped keep her world – Ra Ciela – in harmony for many years, with the aid of her magical melodies, but sadly for her and her people, catastrophe is about to strike. The empress’s world becomes threatened by an expanding sun named Bezel, which is about to obliterate the entire planet. She promises to protect the world’s inhabitants and lead them to safety, but unfortunately that doesn’t go to plan, and the majority of her people vanish into obscurity. With this disaster, the power of the song is also lost as Genom – who creates miracles from songs – perishes with the planet.
Thankfully all is not lost, as the empress manages to save a few of her people, with the survivors drifting across the universe in search of a new home in their ship for hundreds of years, until another tragedy befalls the humans. Life forms called Sharl viciously attack the human survivors, and try to wipe them out. Some of the humans decide to fight back against the Sharl from the city of Felion, while others decide to religiously worship them. In Felion, a defence unit called PLASMA (a team of special agents) protects the people from the Sharl, with the city being enclosed by an impenetrable barrier. You take the role of two pairs of characters in the game – Delta and Cass, who are protectors of the world, and Earthes and Ion, who are trying to find Ion a way home to Earth. As the game progresses you are able to switch between the two sets of characters as their stories begin to unfold and combine.
Ar nosurge consists of a lot of combat, and a lot of dialogue. The combat is turn based like many JRPG’s, meaning quite simply, you take turns dishing out as much damage as you can to your opponent while they defend, before having the roles reversed. Before each fight, you pick a magic song to use, which is basically a strong finisher, which when executed, consists of a pretty cut scene, backed up by some nice music. There are a set amount of actions to utilize in combat, dependent on which button you are pressing (square, X, Triangle).
The enemy attacks the heroine (Cass / Ion), while the male plays the protagonist (Delta / Earthes). By pressing circle you put up a barrier to protect her at the exact moment the enemies strike is going to make a connection. If you are being successful when in combat, the Synchro rate with the female rises, meaning the harmonics level increases resulting in the ability to activate the song magic you selected prior to the battle commencing. Enemy waves that can be defeated with song magic are coloured in red, except during special battles. At first the combat system can come across as a bit confusing, but once you get the general idea of how to execute it proficiently, it becomes quite easy. There is also the option to upgrade weapons, spells and armour throughout the game.
As the relationships between the characters develop, your performances in battle will improve. Entering the Soulspace (Genometrics) of a protagonist’s character whom they have a bond with, can influence the bond they have with their partner for better or worse. Successfully exploring it in detail can unlock new magic songs and strengthen the bond they have. The Soulspace (mental world) is included from the Ar Tonelico series, where diving into your partners Soulspace results in a visual novel where you have to read the events taking place and take appropriate action.
Purification consists of both characters getting into their swim suits and taking a bath in hot spring water. They then have deep conversations with each other. This is where you can increase the powers of each character by inserting Genometrica Crystals into certain parts of their body. The crystals are collected from a successful dive into a Soulspace. As you may have guessed, there are numerous conversations to have with those who populate each area you play in, and between the two pairs of characters you play as.
Thankfully, the audio has been dubbed in English, otherwise you may quickly get fed up of reading walls of text. Graphically, the Ar Nosurge isn’t challenging the PS3 processor, but that doesn’t mean that it is bad. In fact, the game is presented very nicely. It is sleek, colourful and the music is composed and produced rather well.
Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star is a beautiful game, however, the story is very heavy. There is an abundance of content to process, which can be slightly overwhelming if this is your first venture into the series. However, those who are familiar with the previous installments in the series shouldn’t have too many problems. If you really want to explore and engage into Ar Nosurge’s world then you will get a great amount of enjoyment from it. If you don’t have the time to get really involved in the game then you will struggle understanding the concept of the entire story.
It’s definitely a game which requires 100% attention. If that sounds like something you are prepared to do, then you will reap the rewards, if you’re looking for a title to simply pick up casually, then it’s going to be a struggle to achieve any kind of appreciation towards the game. Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star is a decent entry into the JRPG genre, and worth a visit.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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