Throwback Bit Thursday: Arc The Lad II

Arc the Lad II

Arc the Lad I and II, were some of the earliest PlayStation RPGs released in Japan. As such, they resembled SNES RPGs visually, and in their primitive character development.

The biggest problem for these games is that it took Working Designs over 6 years to bring them to our shores as part of the Arc The Lad: Collection package in 2002. By that time, the PlayStation 2 had been out for nearly two years, and most of us had already played Final Fantasy X, which looked, sounded, and played two full generations ahead of the first two Arc the Lad entries.

Arc The Lad II is the Continuation of Arc the Lad I

Arc The Lad I always felt like an incomplete title to me. Only 8 hours long, it was probably the shortest RPG that I had ever played, and I would have been incredibly bothered by its short length had it not come bundled within the Arc The Lad: Collection package with the other two games.  Arc The Lad II picked up right where the first one left off. Instead of Arc, you play as Elc, a “hunter”.

Elc is a bounty hunter of sorts, has a troubled past, and is thrust into a quest to destroy the evil Romalian Empire while trying to save damsel in distress, Mariel. Elc, being a separate character from the original game’s Arc, has his own set of companions, each with their own backstory.

On this regard, Arc The Lad II surpasses the first game’s bland character development and quick storyline. In fact, Arc the Lad II’s length makes the first Arc the Lad game feel like a prologue rather than its own thing.

The game’s developers tried hard to add ‘Final Fantasy VI’ like drama, and character development, but I felt that the game fell flat. The cast isn’t memorable enough, and as I noted in my original review of the game, nearly two decades ago, I was bored to death by the game’s story line at the 20 hour mark (less than half way through its run time).

The Game Play Expands Upon The First Game

Battles are still fought in a strategy/RPG format. These battles have some requirements, and you can have (depending on the requirements) 1 to 6 party members (or monsters) on the battle field at once.

What changes here from the first game is the fact that now there are towns, dungeons, and other environments to explore. Shops, and Hunter’s Guild are now available, lending the game a much longer play time, and more of a semblance to a traditional RPG than the first game had.

While I found the “Hunt” mechanic fun at first, I quickly grew tired of it. Hunts include battles, fetch quests, and other side missions that complement the game’s main plot line. Truly, if I hated the fact that the first game ended in just 8 short hours, conversely, I also felt the same way about Arc the Lad II forcing me to play for over 50 hours in order to see the final credits.

A Product of Its Time

Arc The Lad II dialogue
Arc the Lad II, visually, wasn’t much of a leap over late generation SNES JRPGs such as Chrono Trigger, and Final Fantasy VI.

My tone towards the game has been largely negative in this short recount of my experience with the game. I was bored by the outdated character development, and was greatly bothered by the fact that enemies leveled up with your party. It made the experience more tedious than it should have been.

The less I talk about the multi-hour long final boss battle, the better. The game had an issue with extra long boss battles that sucked the enjoyment out of the proceedings.

The visuals were pretty primitive, but I have enjoyed 2-D RPGs before and after 2002. However, I do feel that Arc The Lad II was a victim of Working Designs’ lateness in bringing the game over to the states. Had I played the game in 1996, perhaps then, I would have found many of the aspects that I felt were out dated in 2002 (storyline, grindy gameplay, and visuals) fresh, or at least tolerable.

But on good conscience, I can’t say that I enjoyed Arc The Lad II. In fact, only Dragon Warrior VII has been more tedious in my opinion.

Usually, my Throwback Bit Thursday segment has some good games (with good memories for me to share), but Arc the Lad II is one of the exceptions. Though, I can see how some of our readers might disagree with my take, as the game is polished enough, and some might have found enjoyment in its tale.

Is it Worth a Purchase?

Yes, and no. Yes, if you are a collector. Arc the Lad II comes packaged with the other two games, a battle arena disc, and a ‘making of’ disc, along with the usual Working Designs assortment of goodies. Currently it is $200 on Amazon, used. So the collection is likely to have good re-sale value for years to come.

The three games are largely pedestrian RPGs, but since they are bundled together (and save files carry over from the first game to the second), the entire experience might be worth the price of entry if you are a completist.

For everyone else, the answer (as to whether or not the game is worth a play) is a resounding “No”. The PlayStation had dozens of better J-RPGs that can still be found on Amazon and Ebay for lower prices. The PlayStation 2 entry in the series’ Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is a much better game in every which way. Thus, I highly recommend tracking down that title instead, as the story is unrelated to the original trilogy.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.