Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica PS2 Review

It’s really quite extraordinary that even now, the PS2 is still getting RPG releases to join its already impressive library, and I’m glad that companies like NIS Europe and Koei are willing to take a chance at releasing already niche games into a diminishing market, even though such games can be frustratingly difficult to get hold of, but we can’t have everything now, can we?

A strength of Ar Tonelico II is its story, of which has complexity and poignant moments in abundance, truly assets of any great RPG plot. All of this is held back somewhat by a messy translation, one that is littered with stupid spelling mistakes.

The story centres on a virus I.P.D infecting Reyvateil (magic users, who through the power of song create their spells). The lead character is Croix and he’s the likable sort, but it’s the surrounding Reyvateil female characters of Cloche and Luca that get the most character development. On the surface Luca is the usual cheery sort, whilst Cloche is a stuck up highborn maiden, but it’s delving into the minds of these women that will really allow you to see them in a different and less clichéd light.

With Dive Points earned from fighting alongside the Reyvateils, the dive system essentially allows you to visit the minds of three of your companions, allowing you to see them for how messed up and complex they truly are and, at the same time, rewarding you with increasingly strong song magic. Within the three minds there are some clever plot devices, such as conflicting emotions being represented by two of one character, it‘s also Nippon Ichi levels of weirdness, which is always a good thing. Only one mind can be fully explored within a play through, allowing repeat plays of Ar Tornelico II to have at least a small degree of freshness that a lot of RPG’s just don’t offer.

The combat is split into two phases. The attack phase allows you to deal damage to your enemies, whilst, at the same time, building up strength of your selected song magic. Holding different directions whilst attacking will grant different effects: by holding up, you’ll increase the synchonity of your Reyvateils, allowing them to eventually unleash some powerful combo magic upon their enemies, whilst holding back will allow you to recover Reyvateils magic points. There’s also the emotion indicator to take into consideration, too. Essentially this is the needs of your Reyvateils, and if you fulfil it enough, later in the game you’re able to use EX special attacks. The defence phase tasks you with defending, through well timed button presses, your frail Reyvateils from enemy attack. Successful guards will not only increase the power of the currently selected song magic within that battle, but will increase the post battle rewards, too.

After a key plot point, Cloche obtains the Replakia ability, a hugely powerful attack fuelled by the songs of defeated and cured I.P.D. These I.P.D are found all over the world and after defeating them, before they join you, you first must cure them by answering questions, the objective being for you to choose the answer to their questions based on their personality traits.

Random battles are here, but not in large quantity and, much like Atelier Iris 2, each area also has a limited number of them, so there’s enough breaks from fighting to prevent the otherwise good battle system from becoming a potential annoyance. It’s just a shame that the dungeon design doesn’t remain as interesting throughout.

Upon victory in battle, you’re rewarded with the conventional RPG pat on the back of exp points, but not all of your characters receive such luxuries. The Rayvateils don’t level up in the traditional way, instead they increase in strength by, of all things, having a bath. The process sees you placing crystals within the water and then choosing the placement of each Rayvateil, then it’s seemingly by chance if they swim over the crystals or not to receive their effects. It’s a needless addition that is much more fiddly than the usual method.

Other ways of making your party more powerful is by buying and crafting items. Unlike Gust’s own Atelier and Mana Khemia games, crafting is by no means the focus and, as a result, the synthesis system we have here doesn’t have the depth or levels of compulsion that the other games have. Each shop allows you to get a Reyvateil to assist you in the creation of an item, and it’s those, rather than the ingredients, that determines just what the finished item will turn out to be.

The western translation is flawed, this PAL version has no 60hz mode and is plagued by big black borders, whilst dungeon design lacks variation, but almost every other facet is of a high standard. All of which results in Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica being a good game, that with just a bit of extra effort could have been a great one.