Title : Arc the Lad Collection
Developer : G-Craft aka Arc Entertainment
Publisher : Working Designs
US Release Date : April 18th 2002
Platform :Playstation
Genre : Strategy/Tactical RPG


Arc the Lad was originally released for the Playstation in Japan in 1995, making it one of the first RPGs on the system. Despite a fairly good reception in Japan, the game didn't make it stateside at first. Two Japanese sequels and a spin-off game were released between 1996 and 1999 and the series grew in popularity. Eventually Working Designs, picked up the translation rights and decided to release US versions of all three games and the Monster game together in this box set collection. The game suffered many delays (like many other Working Designs titles before it) and the release date slipped and slipped until its eventual release in 2002.

The Games

Arc the Lad
In Arc the Lad, you play the titular Arc, a young lad (see?) who is searching for the truth behind his father's disappearance/alleged death. As the first game in the series, it does a great job of setting up the world and characters. The battle system is similar to those of the Shining Force series: a turn based strategy RPG system using an overhead view. The system benefits from being simpler than some other strategy RPGs, making it easy for newcomers to the genre to pick up and play. Graphics are functional, fairly basic. However, the game lacks in depth, with many 'RPG staples' - for example, shops - not present, and an extraordinarily short length of 5-10 hours. The game ends on a cliffhanger ending, and it comes as no surprise to me to learn during the research for this write-up that the story of Arc the Lad 1 and 2 was originally supposed to be realised in just one game, which was broken into two segments due to scheduling issues. It is also awfully linear, simply sending you between battle and cutscene without any room for exploration. The game serves as an introduction to its sequel, but not a lot more. However, I would still definitely recommend that this be played first.

Arc the Lad II
The second game in the series is considered by many to be the best. In complete contrast to the first, the game is an epic, which can take anything up to 100 hours to complete. Your data from the first game can be loaded into the second game, carrying over some of your items and levels. The story takes place shortly after the original left off, but begins from the perspective of another young lad, Elc. Thus a new cast of characters is gradually introduced. However, one of the main strong points of the game, is that in addition to these new characters, many of the old characters from the first game return some way into the game, and remain in your party. Rather than just being cameos as in many series', they are developed further alongside their new comrades. In this game, there is simply more to do than in the first. Sidequests are abundant, for example via the 'Hunter's Guild' you obtain 'jobs' which basically involve you going on a small quest for a character for money and merits - the game's way of handing out kudos. These range from finding a lost child to battling local criminals. You can also capture monsters to fight alongside you, find power units for the robot member of your party by navigating large ruins, and many more.

Arc the Lad III
The third game in the series, released in 1999, makes the move to polygonal graphics. The characters are still represented by sprites, thus placing 2d characters in a 3d world. Nice FMVs also punctuate the gameplay. However, despite this graphical upgrade, the game is a bit of a disappointment. The battle system has been somewhat dumbed down, for example weapon and magic levels are no longer present, and there tend to be less enemies present in each battle. The Hunter's Guild job system returns, but instead of being simply a fun sidequest it is now the focus of the game, and becomes more tedious as a result. The plot is also weak in comparison to its predecessors, and although some characters from the previous games are playable, this is not handled as well as in Arc II.

The Extras

Working Designs traditionally package their games with many extras (some say to appease their fans for the delays they have to suffer) and the Arc Collection is no different. It comes in a large cardboard sleeve similar to the Lunar remakes which contains a leather-bound instruction manual and omake box. The omake box includes four analog stick covers, cardboard standees of the main characters and a special Arc memory card holder. Also included with the collection is a Making-Of disc and the aforementioned spin-off game, Arc Arena (which basically enables you to battle your captured monsters from Arc II with a friend). US gamers who preordered the collection also received a limited edition Arc watch.

Arc the Lad Series Timeline

Arc the Lad (JP, 1995) - Arc the Lad II (JP, 1996) - Arc Arena (JP, 1997) - Arc the Lad III (JP, 1999) - Arc the Lad Collection (US, 2001) - Arc the Lad : Twilight Of The Spirits (JP/US, 2003)

Sources : my own experience of the game, www.gamefaqs.com, www.rpgfan.com, www.rpgamer.com, www.workingdesigns.com

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