Lord of Arcana
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Format: UMD
Release: US TBD
Japan 10/14/10

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The game's battles take place in a separate arena like many turn-based titles.
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The graphics are colorful, but aren't up to the technical level of other Square-Enix PSP releases.
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The bosses look to be big. They also look to be mean.
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Characters have several options for personalization.
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Stephen Meyerink
Hands-On Preview
Stephen Meyerink

Lord of Arcana seems at first to be Square Enix's answer to God Eater and Monster Hunter. Early news on the game seemed to validate this theory, and having played it at TGS, I can say that while it is similar in many ways, Square Enix definitely has some ideas of its own in here.

As I sat down with the game, I was greeted by a character creation screen that was much the same as the one found in Phantasy Star Portable 2, albeit with a fewer number of customization options. I was able to customize my hair, face, skin tone, and class (along with a few other things). The character designs are anime-inspired but colorful and detailed. After configuring my appearance, I was prompted to select a weapon (and presumably, class). My choices ranged from swords of the two-handed and one-handed variety, to hammers, spears, and others. The game should be given some credit as well, as it allows the player to press select to test out the weapon, which should make it easier for players to pick a style that suits them.

The in-game graphics aren't incredible, and are definitely not up to the level of other Square Enix PSP releases such as Birth by Sleep and Crisis Core. However, they are by no means hard on the eyes-- the art design and monster design appears to be very solid. Unfortunately, a crowded TGS booth is no place to hear music, so I'm unable to comment on that at this time.

The gameplay is essentially dungeon-crawling action RPG. It appears that players will take missions (presumably from a hub area of some sort) and enter into a variety of locales to hunt monsters. In the TGS demo, I played through a somewhat bland-looking cave area, which was broken up into many small chunks (with small load times between each). In the field, your primary moves are swinging your weapon and dashing. You are able to open a quick menu for consumable items with the select button, as well. Your foes appear on the map, but I was surprised to discover that upon contact with them (either with your weapon or by smacking headfirst into them) you are transported to a separate battle screen, much like in the Tales series.

The battles play out in typical action-RPG fashion. You are able to use a normal attack which can chain into combos, a power attack, and a magical attack which depletes a massive MP bar at the bottom of the screen. Interestingly, repeatedly pressing the magic button will result in a combo, and if you press long enough your character will actually put his weapon down, the camera will shift, and you will get a little cinematic camera angle of your character firing off spells. As in the field, the R button is your dash move, and L allows you to lock-on to foes while using the D-pad to change targets. Pressing the power attack and magic button simultaneously initiates a charging sequence that ultimately results in an incredibly powerful summon attack (in my case, Bahamut). Combat is certainly not slow, but it definitely contains hints of the somewhat methodical style found in games such as Monster Hunter.

While beating on foes with particular fervor, onscreen prompts occasionally pop up that will allow you to press circle and instantly dispatch a foe. These animations are stylish but also appear to be limited to one per foe, and in my brief play time I saw a whole lot of repetition. Regardless, the move is certainly useful. At the end of the dungeon, I faced down a dragon boss who was powerful but fairly easy to defeat. I was able to target multiple body parts (and eventually sliced off the dragon's tail, preventing it from whipping me with it), which seems to suggest that there will be a good amount of cooperation and strategy required in the boss fights. During my boss fight, the instant dispatch command appeared and initiated a God of War-style quick-time event which resulted in my brutally defeating the dragon.

All in all, I enjoyed what I played of the Lord of Arcana demo. It is an interesting fusion of Square Enix-style role playing and the Monster Hunter series. The graphics aren't amazing, but the artistic style seems good enough to carry the game's visuals. It seems as if there will be a decent amount of customization in terms of appearance, equipment, and fighting style, and the combat is methodical and well paced and will likely entail some strategy, so perhaps when Lord of Arcana releases Monster Hunter fans will have a new hunt to take on.


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