Luminous Arc 3: Eyes is the only game in the Luminous Arc series to not get localized, and also happens to be the best one. It is the most polished in terms of gameplay, and compared to the first and probably the second game, LA3 can actually stand on its own ground to appeal to a greater mass as an SRPG rather than a easy game with a very bad system that only a small fanbase charmed by its characters can love. Okay, screw it, trying to sound semi-decent isn’t working out for me. What I’m trying to say is, LA3 is a great improvement over previous games in terms of gameplay. It’s not a ground-breaking revolutionary kami-ge that will be remember by lots of people 10 years after release, but it is a very solid SRPG with the same appeal as previous games in terms of character interaction.
Instead of being set with witches again, LA3 brings us to a magic academy setting. Our protagonist, Refi, is a guy living at a church who only cares about getting stronger and really doesn’t give a fuck about anything else. He wants to be a Magi and get into the Ulgard (how else do I romanize Urugarudo?) Academy for magic knights, but he can’t use magic so he’s stuck in swinging swords in the woods and hanging out with his childhood friend, Lily, who wants to become the world’s best doctor. One day, they get attacked by the Felicia, fairy-like monsters who hunt humans in search of the power of Eyes, which grant humans magic. Riinharuto (Reenhart? Rinhart? I have no idea how to romanize these names, bear with me), the Felicia leading the attack, kills Lily and Refi’s magical Eye powers awaken. 3 months later, he enrolls into Urugarudo and gets into the school’s special force called Magus, which consists of transforming magic knights that fight against the Felicia.
If you’ve stuck with the Luminous arc series enough to be interested in 3, then you’re probably either A) starved for SRPGs on the DS or B) in it for the “After Breaks,” which serve as a means of getting the hero to interact with and become closer to party members (and ultimately get their CG) after battle. You may even be in it for both like I am, but either way, LA3 is good news since both the battle system and the interaction with party members have been improved on. First off, for anyone complaining about the lack of difficulty in previous games, there is a Hard Mode in LA3 with increased enemy stats. Normal mode is probably the same as Luminous Arc 2 in terms of difficulty, although I do recall 2 being a bit easier (especially the final boss).
The battles hold much similarities with LA2, but it is improved in the fact that the character units are much more balanced. The characters are all usable, and no one is absolutely broken unless you do the stat-raising training with Refi (I forgot about this until second playthrough, and never used it anyway). Character turns are based on action order (AO) and how quickly their next turn comes up is also dependent on the action they took this turn. The game actually shows you how far back the next turn will be pushed to, allowing you to properly strategize. It’s basically a more polished version of the previous game’s battle system. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary, being a pretty standard but polished SRPG.
The game is much more organized than its predecessors in general, as you operate from a central base (the school) rather than travelling across the country. The shops are in one constant place with items for sale increasing as you get further into the plot. The quests (the grinding maps) are all neat in one place, and you can access the entire list of them from a single NPC. You also get to save before the After Breaks and wander around the school talking to people. The storyline is divided into chapters, and in each chapter you have a day segment and a night segment. Daytime is when the plot happens, and night is when you can have After Breaks with the people of your choice. You get 3 hourglasses of time at night, and anyone with an event that can be viewed will have exclamation marks floating above their head. The number of exclamation marks indicates how many hourglasses of time the event will take up, and you’ll automatically advance to the next chapter when the time is up.
Since you can freely wander around campus at night, there is more than just After Breaks with party members. Some NPCs get After Breaks too, and there are hidden sidequest battles to be fought that reveal some details about plot or characters (I don’t think they’re intended to be hidden, but they’re very easily missed even if you know Japanese). There’s also scenes with characters in the school baths for some fanservice that doesn’t add towards completion.
Unlike previous games, 3 actually has an ending for each party member, so you have a total of 12 endings instead of the pseudo-endings in LA2 where a girl seemingly confesses to the MC but he ends up choosing either Althea or Fatima for the ending.
The text to gameplay ratio, like LA2, is pretty high. A knowledge of Japanese is recommended for maximum enjoyment, although LA3 doesn’t use very complicated Japanese so it shouldn’t be too painful to read.
Plot is pretty much fluctuating between cliche and ridiculous like the other two games. If you’ve played previous games then you can see the major plot twist from miles away. The story is as bad as LA2 so if you sat through that happily like I did then you should have the same amount of enjoyment. I do give LA3 credit for having better character development and motives though. There are still things that sound like complete asspulls, but at least the final boss made sense (read: you could see it coming) unlike the second game. Either way, the narrative in the Luminous Arc series is at best mediocre and this game is no different.
I think I’ve said “plot sucks, but characters are likeable” every freaking time I positively reviewed an RPG with bad plot (which is quite often, considering the amount of video games that actually have good plot), but I’ll say it here again. Anyone who actually liked the previous Luminous Arc games would probably agree that they enjoyed it for the characters. They fall into your standard RPG/anime tropes, but each with their own charms and development (some more than others). With the After Break system being such an important part of the game, it’s no surprise that character interactions are where it’s at. Things like After Breaks and bath events are MADE for the characters, not the plot.
My favorite characters is definitely Sara. A delicious kuudere loli with a sharp tongue is WANT. The playable characters also have great chemistry, and I still can’t stop thinking about them even after beating the game. I’m definitely going back for a second playthrough.
Luminous Arc 3 still uses 2D sprites on isometric maps, but the environments have better details. The battle screen also looks cleaner and less cluttered. The skill animations are still very dull. Definitely not a high-budget in terms of looks, but it’s decent enough and a plus for anyone who likes 2D sprites.
Character designs are more ridiculous than previous games. While in LA2 the girls all had nice outfits and great character design, the artist seems to have developed some sort of fetish for poofy pants here. DO NOT WANT. Some of the designs are pretty nice-looking like Ashley and Elulu, but LA2 wins in terms of attractiveness. Refi looked nice at first, but his post sprite-change design is just derpy. The girls’ uniform looks great on Ashley and Inaruna, decent on Sara, but just plain doesn’t fit with Elulu or Shion.
I quite like the music here. I expected boring tracks like previous games, but I got treated to some nice tunes here. I love Ashley’s theme, as well as Dino’s. The final boss battle music was also good.
This was definitey a fun game to play, with high replay value because it’s impossible to do all events in one playthrough. The hot spring battles are back as the real optional challenges, and there’s also Hard mode for those complaining about the lack of difficulty in previous games. If you enjoyed the previous Luminous Arc games then LA3 is a no-brainer. If you’re looking for an SRPG, then definitely give this a go. If you are looking for an RPG with dating sim elements or multiple endings then this game is great as well. It’s not a ground-breaking game, but it is solid in many departments and a great SRPG for the DS.