Too lazy to write anything legit so here are some afterthoughts for a game I played on and off for over a month. Luminous Arc Infinity is the latest entry in the Luminous Arc series produced by Marvelous. The developer of the original series, Imageepoch, had nothing to do with this entry as they were making Stella Glow and going bankrupt.
The funny thing is, the two games are very similar on paper as they are both bishoujo SRPGs with song magic, but you can tell that Imageepoch actually knows what they’re doing. Having played Luminous Arc 1-3, it easily shows that Stella Glow is the true successor to the series in terms of gameplay and writing, while Luminous Arc Infinity is something else entirely (it borrows like 3 terms from the original series). It’s developed by Felistella, a company composed of Flight-Plan staff (responsible for the Summon Night series). They are also the company that ported the first three Hyperdimension Neptunia games to the Vita. Summon Night is a series of SRPGs people often call chara-ge because the gameplay is easily broken and doesn’t evolve much with each entry (until 5 & 6 at least). They’re liked for their world and characters, and the gameplay is kind of just there to drive the plot, or at least that is my impression of it after hearing various comments and playing SN2.
This game is basically the same, as the system is very broken and shows little attempt at balance. The system design doesn’t feel like much thought went into it. First off, every character moves 3 tiles. There are buffs that increase movement, but otherwise everyone is as slow as the healer in every other SRPG. Magic range is a measly 2 tiles in radius or 3 tiles in a straight-line distance (4 directions only), so I often found myself using AoE skills to reach single enemies. The elemental system is very awkward, as all elemental attacks are treated as magic and all non-elemental attacks are physical. Characters whose skills consist mainly of elemental attacks but have a high attack, low magic build are completely useless (Feiran, looking at you). However, if their attack is high and their magic is not ridiculously low, their magic attacks will still do decent damage as somehow attack goes into the magic attack damage formula as well. So magic attacks are probably calculated with some % of the character’s attack and their magic stat. This leaves characters with both high attack and magic to be the best damage dealers (Alto, Sopra), and characters with a physical skill coupled with high attack and decent-enough magic to be the most versatile (Joker, Kasumi). Generally speaking, the game has a steep divide between characters who are either always useful or completely useless. Aqua is intended to be the token healer character, but so many superior attackers learn a decent healing spell or two that having a dedicated healing role is pointless. At the end of the game, my main party had 5/6 characters with an AoE heal and at least 2 characters with an AoE revive (not that I needed to revive much).
The distribution of elements and skills is pretty bizarre, too. The character with a ridiculously low magic stat is the only one who gets attacks of four different elements. When I was forced to use her, her regular attack did more damage than anything else even when matching the enemy’s weak element, so her skillset is basically pointless. Out of the 12 total playable characters, there are 4 with water-centric skills, 3 fire, 2 wind, 2 earth, and a robot (aforementioned quad-elemental character). 12 is a multiple of 4, so you’d think the devs would at least try to pretend to distribute the elements even among characters. Not that anything matters in the last third of the game where all the enemies are weak to light so you just wreck the map with Alto.
You get post-battle bonus exp so if you stick to one party, it’s pretty easy for them to keep leveling even if they’re overleveled.The setting of game is that the world is powered by nine Lapis and there are nine “idols” who have to power them through song magic. There’s an organization trying to kidnap the idols so you have to gather them all into one place onto your floating island to prevent them from being targeted individually. The plot is pretty straightforward and the enemy is the same organization from chapter 1 to chapter 23 so you know this isn’t a true Luminous Arc. The story and setting are vaguely presented to the point where it feels like they just added galge-ish SoL scenes and one-liner jokes to the story outline instead of fleshing out key events. The characters live through their sole joke or quirky trait, and the scenes where they could really have showed off the cool points of a heroine are over in a few underwhelming lines. Basically it feels like the entire game is driven by the worldview and character 設定 (fuck, I almost typed ‘setting’ here), as if the devs decided that crazy enough character 設定 will let the story write itself. The serious moments and emotional scenes were all incredibly dry, but at least some of the SoL scenes were entertaining and it really doesn’t feel bad to have a harem of 12 girls, personally speaking. But harem atmosphere aside, there isn’t any heroine that particularly stands out since their 活躍 is the story is whatever.
Maybe I’ve been playing too much eroge/stuff by former eroge makers, but the ADV scenes are too short. If you’re going to have entirely ADV 演出 with very few CG stills, might as well treat the writing part like an actual ADV (read: seriously). The game took 40 hours on the first playthrough, which I doubt is enough time for 12 heroines to take the stage properly. The protagonist had more good moments in the plot than the heroines, tbh.
Oh yeah, since the heroines are idols, there’s all sorts of extraneous gameplay elements that try to take advantage of this point. Each character has a produce plan, which is how they get their skills, and several routes to take which net you slightly different skills. The difference between them doesn’t seem too great; most of the time you just get different passives or the same skills in different orders. The produce plan has 4 paths to represent different charm points: PURE, COOL, BEAUTY, VARIETY. Each character starts on one path and continues linearly until they gain a “pose”, which then allows them to pick from 3 directions to proceed. You can have them divert from their starting charm point completely to gain poses of different types, go straight from beginning to end, or divert and come back. The major difference is the type of poses they gain. Poses are basically a way to gain aura points in battle, which are required to advance the produce plan to gain new skills/passives or upgrade existing ones. Different charm points are effective in different maps, which affects the amount of aura points you get. I gave no fucks about this part because doing a pose takes up a turn in battle that could be spent buffing or debuffing. You get more than enough aura points from battle rewards for your main party, anyway. You can also take pictures of the idol during battle to sell and increase their idol rank, but this also takes up a turn.
There’s some screen-touching minigame that powers up the idol for the next chapter. It’s the same every time and less lewd than Moero Chronicle, so it becomes a massive chore very quickly. The game incorporates the whole song magic thing into the gameplay by giving each character a “calling” command that basically makes them sing and generate buffing tiles around them (usually a radius of 1, temporarily increases to 2 after the minigame) until their next turn comes up. For how much song magic is hyped up, they certainly don’t feel as important as how Stella Glow implements them. Each heroine also has two vocal tracks that play during their first and second finishers (which are actually only a bit more powerful than normal skills), totaling 24 vocal tracks where you only hear a short part of during the attack animation. The preorder CD seems to come with the first set, but there’s no soundtrack release for the game so I guess there’s no convenient way to listen to the second set. There are also four different animated opening movies for each third of the plot (the second arc has two variations that justify two different movies), so it’s not like the game had no budget. The character 3D models and battle animations are actually quite decent (not to mention swimsuits and unique accessories actually reflect changes on the character model, and each character gets multiple swimsuits and lots of accessories), and Marvelous clearly had the resources but utilized them in odd ways. Utawarerumono 2 had better use of their 3D models and that’s the game with the extremely long ADV parts that can make you read for up to 3 hours before the next battle.
As an SRPG, the stage design is as lazy as one can get, as every battle feels the same. There were maybe 3 battles that weren’t “defeat the boss” or “defeat all enemies on the map” and one of them was optional. I used the same strategy everywhere, if you can call it that.
I managed to stick with the game for a full playthrough of 40 hours and my brain on autopilot, so at the end I guess I can’t hate it. I wasn’t expecting anything impressive, and didn’t get anything impressive. Even with the very awkward and clumsy execution in many aspects, it’s easy enough to digest and autopilot your brain through when you’re bored and don’t want to do work but also don’t want to immerse yourself in some really good game where you lose track of your time in fear of never being able to bring yourself back to the grey reality where you have a pile of assignments and a dim future ahead etc. etc.
Would I recommend it? Probably not, there are definitely a lot of better games to play even in the same genre (Stella Glow, for starters). I doubt the average person wants to dump 40 hours into a game like this. I did spend 40 hours with it without actively hating it and ended up even liking it somewhat by the end, but I’ve long stopped considering myself to be a normal person. Actually go play Luminous Arc 3 instead, the heroines were actually cute and the genius loli there is infinitely better.