Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Review: Ar nosurge ode to an unborn star (Ps3)

A Sudden Urge To Sing!

Gust & Koei Tecmo have recently been known for pushing out the brilliant yet marmite games Atelier, here they are with a more JRPG focused game for fans of the criminally underrated RPG series Ar Tonelico.
Acting as a prequel to the series to welcome newcomers as well as fans how will Ar NoSurge fare in a market full of JRPG goodness? Number 1 hit or 1 time wonder?

Set on a giant ship in outer space the story is kick started with the loveable duo of Delta & Casty, Delta being your typical lazy and often picked on main character and Casty the loveable Tsundere, clumsy and harsh on Delta. You are quite literally thrown head first into a confusing tale which will take a few hours for you to figure out what is going on,
Delta has -Mock shock- AMNESIA and is currently at what seems to be quite a scandal as you find out he nearly damned the city of Felion by turning down a barrier keeping out your mortal enemies the Sharl.

Delta is drawn back into PLASMA, the cities defence unit in a mission to find an old friend who knows a little too much about Felion. She's been captured by the Genomiral Church, allies of the Sharl wanting to convert every human into one for ascension to god.

The story at a few points is often confusing, bogged down with keywords and references to events in a previous game. By my last statement I have to point out the game is a follow up to a Japanese only VN style game called CIEL NOSURGE, though nothing game breaking happens in it there are still plenty of references.
The keywords all have a handy feature where you can read all about them by pressing Triangle, though it's time consuming you won't get half the story without doing your homework.

There is also the case of it having a 2nd set of playable characters, this causes the story to stop and start at given points, usually just when it's heating up. Also I have to point out that Delta & Cass are miles ahead of the 2nd set in terms of likability and character development.

The secondary cast aswell are all brilliantly written, especially when traveling in the field the mini conversations can range from discussing the item you just picked up, enemy amount, current event and even body odor. You'll also activate Skits during Synthesizing items which are quite amusing and shows some of the stronger points of writing.

Battle are intense and enjoyable, instead of have just a few enemy to fight you will fight waves of enemies you have a set amount of turns to beat as many as you can.

Battle screen is a side view your square, triangle, X and circle button all have a attack set to them as well as holding down the R2 which will give your burst move which will eat up your song magic that you built up from attacking the enemy normally.

Battles are a turn based affair, you choose your attacks some of which are numbered which allows you to combo them, here you have the chance to Break, this stops the enemy from attacking giving you the extra advantage. Should your enemy attack you have to time your defense, not only this but if the enemy gets 6 turns in the field you are booted back to the field map and have to face more enemies at a later date.
If you clear them all out within the turn allowance you'll see no more random battles while you are in that area giving you chance to explore.

You need to also build your burst gauge that will allow you to burst and chain up your attacks.

Your partners song magic is very important, you need to build it in level by fighting monsters when you have built of your harmo level up and then you hit start and select the song magic. There is also the use of Friend Abilities, though not initially accessible they will help you in tougher fights and are worth remembering (Also come with a snazzy anime cutscene)

Graphically the game uses a Cell Shaded look much like the later Atelier games, this is a double edged knife as the main cast look and animate fairly well yet the NPCs for the best part are bleh. For the first 5/10 hours of the game it seems like the cast of sort of floating above the floor which gives it an unpolished feel but generally doesn't detract from the game too much.
Anyone who is familiar with Ar Tonelico knows that it has always had some really good music, the same applies here. The soundtrack is brilliant and keeps you plodding through the story, features some tracks from the original Ar Tonelico but what do you expect when one of the games major focus is music?.

Just something to quickly make mention as it's a guilty pleasure, whenever you synthasize something you get a screen like the above screenshot, the characters literally make a song and dance when creating your items!.
When using English Dub you don't get any lyrics so it's worth taking a trip to Japanese dub at some point to hear the songs with vocals.

Geometics are quite focal to your game aswell, to anyone coming in from Ar Tonelico you will know this as "Diving".
What this is in a nut shell is you access your Partner's brain, here you solve conflicts & experience different sides of your partner's emotions.This is all done via walls of texts and images, they are a mixed bag of interesting and downright confusing. To solve these you'll need to spend Dive Points which you get via battles, make the right choices and you progress the story and even sometimes get awarded gems.
The whole point of doing this is at the end of a story arc you'll be given another Song Magic to use in battle, these are devastating attacks so you'll want the very best, You are also given Gems which you can use to power the characters up.

Character development is also done via Purification, what this is boils down to the two characters taking a bath together and discussing life. It's strange but the conversations are mostly rewarding and the more you do it the more powerful your team will become so it's pretty important to the game.

For what seems to be a game on a budget Ar NOSURGE provides you with an above average RPG experience, a little on the talky side for those who enjoy battling but the battle system and character development more than make up for it. There are a few typos and the animations cause a rather unpolished feel about things plus the at times strange pacing knock this title down a little. If I had to describe this I would call it the little RPG that could!.


[Editor note - For those who haven't access to Ciel NoSurge you can find a synopsis HERE]

[Editor note #2 - This review is originally a little different than when it first posted, the re-edit 
was done by Andi for quality and consistency]

Who Should Buy? 

  • Gust fans
  • People who enjoy manga/anime
  • Ar Tonelico fans

Who Should Avoid? 

  • Looking for a big budget RPG
  • More action less talking 
  • Wanting short and simple 


  1. The review is mostly good, though I don't get how Ion is underdeveloped in comparison to Cas.

  2. Personally speaking I just felt a little more effort was put into Delta & Cass over the other duo

  3. When it's actually the reverse: Ion was given far more development than them. The difference is that the bulk of that development took place during Ciel nosurge, and having her go through all of would have been both jarring and rethreading old ground.
    As for Earthes, how can they make it develop if it's supposed to be a stand-in for the player?

  4. Due to being unable to read Japanese I haven't had chance to experience Ciel No Surge which is a shame.

    As I said it's my personal opinion that the duo of Cass & Delta I feel had a little more work put into the characteristics and mannerisms.

    Originally the review docked points for Ciel NoSurge not being released outside of Japan, when I took over the review I reviewed it in the mind set of it being a stand alone game, if the fact the better parts of Ion's character are missed in favour of being in Ciel expecting Ar players to just know this even when the source material isn't available in the region that unfortunately that is a problem.

    Yes, I know there is the synopsis attached but in terms of this review there are dates that need to be hit and unfortunately I never got the chance to read Ciel.

    It's not a huge hit against the game as I really enjoyed it myself as did the original reviewer but as per the site's motto I have to put my honest feelings about it.

  5. You seem very knowledgeable and passionate about the EXA Pico universe, if it's your thing I would love to discuss a couple of articles with you to inform people about the series

  6. Gladly. We can begin the discussion on these articles whenever you wish.

  7. Since you both seem to know about this JRPG universe quite well. I am new to the series but have been interested in joining it in a while. Is this the game I should purchase to join it? Or is there another that would be a better starting point?

  8. Personally, I think the best would be playing the Ar tonelico games first, or if you want the more direct approach, reading the Ciel nosurge summary.

    Ar nosurge is a good game, but a good part of its story and characters hinges on understanding the events that took place in Ciel nosurge. Ar tonelico isn't as important, but since there's a part in Ar nosurge that deals directly with the Ar tonelico 1 setting and one of its characters, it pays off to have played through it first.

  9. Ciel is the Japanese only VN? So story wise it'd better to go back to Ar tonelico, but what about game play wise? Is there still a good plot and combat system in the older one?

  10. The plots range from good to excellent in the entirety of the series, but combat is more of a mixed bag: average in AT1, good in AT2, mediocre in AT3 and good again in Ar nosurge.
    I'd advise you to check some gameplay videos for these games so you can have a better idea of what to expect from them.

  11. If you would be interested, we would love to host an article (or some depending on you) about EXA Pico titles & all the ins and outs.

    If you do fancy giving this a try email myself at otakugamersuk(at)outlook(dot)com (done like that to avoid Spam) and we can sort something out as obviously there is a lot of people interested in the universe and it'd be a shame not to educate and entertain with your knowledge