Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia

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Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia

Post by Lupucillo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 8:38 pm

The culmination of 2D sprite game perfection was realized 16 years ago on the Sega Saturn. With the new wave of polygon-based games and 3D environments, 2D sprites took a backseat and were relegated as a style that belonged in the past. Yet, some bold companies such as Gust, Nippon Ichi Software and Banpresto, proved to the world that there will always be a place for 2D sprite-based games. And the physical incarnation of this is Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia for the PlayStation 2.

Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia is a combination of visual novel, dating sim and traditional turn-based RPG, all of it adorned in a charming and visually pleasing artistic design and seasoned with some of the best music in the video game medium. It tells the story of Lyner Barsett, a Knight who inhabits the Tower of Ar tonelico, at the center of a world made of islands floating in the sky above a sea of plasma clouds. In a desperate turn of events, the tower is attacked by powerful assailants and Lyner and his comrades-in-arms are unable to defeat them. Lyner escapes in an airship and crashlands in the lower world beneath the tower, only to find that his troubles and quest to save the Tower only begin to unfold.

Along the way, Lyner will meet maidens known as Reyvateils, powerful singers whose songs carry magical powers capable of both protecting and destroying. Magic is learned by 'diving' into the maidens' soulspace and communing with their inner mind and thus unleashing untold powers. Strong relationship building is essential for the success of Lyner's quest and will play a central role in the unfolding of the story.

Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia is one of those games that comes only once in a while, and is great for relaxing, sitting back and playing. The 2D sprites are well animated and expressive. The music is delightful and fitting for the exotic, dreamlike setting of the game world. The gameplay is familiar ground to anyone acquainted with Japanese role-playing games and dating sims. Battles are fought by entering commands and using song magic to defeat enemies and gain experience and money.

Perhaps the only minor flaw of the game is that animations in battle may be jerky at times, but this problem is due to the system's quirks rather than the game itself. The PlayStation 2, unlike the Saturn, Dreamcast and other consoles, was not optimized as a 2D system and had problems with accessing the cache memory while scheduling other processes such as random number generating. So instead of writing the sprite information into the cache, it is accessed from the disc each time an animation is required, creating a delay between commands and execution.

Aside from that, Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia is a fantastic game which should be experienced in order to truly understand the richness of its world and characters. A true gem buried under the coals.

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