Ar nosurge: Ode To An Unborn Star Review

PS3_Cover_CSAr nosurge: Ode To An Unborn Star is the JRPG prequel to the Ar Tonelico video games as developed by Gust. Ar nosurge is published by Tecmo Koei and is a personal tale between a small community of characters and their personal plights during a war between humans and a race known as the Sharl. Players play as characters Delta and Cass, as well as Earthes and Ion, in a meta experience that may or may not seem like it's designed to sell a soundtrack. Players of the PSVita game, Ciel NoSurge, will remember Ion as the main character in that game. However, the interesting storyline is something that will keep players moving through all of the games layers. The story of Ar nosurge starts off with a pretty basic background, there's a war between Humans and a race called the Sharl on a spaceship that has been traveling through space for thousands of years after the destruction of the human homeworld. At it's core, the story of Ar nosurge is a personal tale between a group of characters that all seem to have some kind of connection to each other, the colony ship, the past and even alternative universes. What's interesting is that while the background story is between the conflicts of the humans and the sharl, the real story is much more personal and strange. All of the main characters in Ar nosurge share a history with each other, and this plays out across the games many acts. The characters themselves are motivated by their own goals, and it's these goals that manipulate the path of the story of the ship. As the story progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that this war is a ploy for some characters to take advantage of the situation for their own goals. For instance, this could be for one particular character to find a way back to their own universe, or for another character to atone for mankinds sins in destroying their own planet, or failing to protect it from an exploding sun and leading to the extinction of a race called the Genom. Ar nosurge is one of those games that start off really, really poorly, but somehow manages to draw you in the longer you play. Outside of the opening Anime OP cutscene and the mysterious opening video that showcases the player being inserted into the Ar nosurge world, the in game cinematic to follow took all of the expectations that were built and crushed them into nothingness. What's even more, is that it tries to setup a whole bunch of things at once, in the most boringest way possible. However, as the game goes on, the storytelling improves 1 million fold, and it increased our interest incredibly quickly. The first 10 minutes will feel like a let down, but, if you stick with it for at least an hour, you'll be hooked. It's a game that we didn't want to put down, we still don't want to put it down. It becomes amazingly involved, and it's easy to become attached to all of the characters that pop up and the story just becomes so involved that you'll want to keep on going "just until the next save". One of the ways that it keeps things involved for the player is the way that it draws you into each characters dramas within the story. As we mentioned above, each character has their own motivations within the game, and it becomes pretty easy to want to follow the storyline through just to see where those motivations take them. Those motivations push some pretty amazing outcomes within the story, some of the time they're unexpected, but other times they're just simply amazing. Although, at around the end of the first act and the beginning of the second, the story starts to move into the bizarre territory, but because it's handled through the characters, it's a very believable scenario. Without giving away too much, it goes into Evangelion territory at one point and the stakes just keep on getting higher and higher. At one point, the stakes are so high that the preservation of a growing planet is at stake due to the actions of one key character. ar-nosurge-sarly-friend-skill Something that was really quite fun, despite some of the serious implications of it down the line, was how meta the game gets with the player. Not the player character, but the player themselves. Eventually, in the storyline of the game, the characters are kind of aware that Delta is being controlled by an external force, and a major storyline point is made about severing that connection to the player. This is interesting because the game has the player working towards ending their own connection with the main character of the game. This concept isn't limited to this, however. Another moment that this concept pops up is at a point in the third act, the other main party, Ion and Earthes, have this moment where they are able to switch to Delta and Cass' channel for a brief moment, but it is then gone a moment later, before the player is even able to switch between the channels. This is later revealed to be because of another major character messing with a device, which was an interesting way to mess with the player, while also giving out hints on the story. The meta element is actually in the game since the very first cutscene, where it is shown that the player will be accessing another world by using some kind of terminal. This opening scene can potentially lead to questions about the context of the entire game, but these answers do eventually come. Channel switching in Ar nosurge is a concept that pops up within the first 10 hours of the game. Basically, after the player reaches a certain point in the storyline, a new channel opens up to the player. This new channel opens up after Cass and Delta's initial arc in the game and the player assumes the role of Ion and Earthes. Unlike Delta, Earthes is a robot avatar that serves as the players intermediary into the world (remember the meta stuff we mentioned). What's interesting about Ion and Earthes' storyline is that it draws many parallels to landscapes seen in Cass and Delta's side of the story, but it all has a unique look to it, considering they appear to be on some kind of world. This draws a lot of questions into the nature of the game, like, are there alternative dimensions? And, what's going on? These questions do get answered by the end of the act, but it's an interesting concept to see two different sides of something. Of course, players can switch between sides of the story at any time after they reach a certain point with Ion and Earthes, and can assume the life of Cass and Delta once again. It's worth noting that players can only really control Delta and Earthes independently, Cass and Ion are never directly controlled outside of calling for Song Magic. However, players are able to strengthen their bonds with each girl through a Bios shop that allows them to dive into the Bios of a girl and open up her feelings, which, in turn, opens up stronger Song Magic, which are functionally similar to summons in other JRPG games. The battle system in Ar nosurge is incredibly fluid by JRPG standards, and it flows incredibly well. The only downside to battling in this game is that it feels like fights are too easy and enemies aren't as threatening as they could be. In battle, the player character is teamed up with their supporting character against entire groups of enemy units. Players fight each of these groups one at a time until they run out of turns to battle, and the encounter automatically ends, or they are killed, and they get a game over. Fights in Ar nosurge are turn-based, but a turn consists of salvo's of attacks until the player is depleted or the hidden number is reached. To battle, players can choose a row to attack along by using the plus pad and then can attack by pressing one of the buttons on the controller. Attacks are preset, so the Square button is a characters basic DPS attack, X is a collision attack that will force an enemy unit backwards a column, Triangle is an AOE attack that hits all enemies in the same column and O opens a list of special attacks that each have their own uses. For the most part, special attacks are similar to their normal counterparts. If you've played a Mega Man Star Force game, it's sort of similar to that, but the perspective is a little different. ar-nosruge-assets-new-0023s Leveling up in Ar nosurge really does make the player character seem much more powerful in comparison to the gameworld. Leveling has significant effects on the battlefield, and there are also ways of increasing a players strength without leveling, but for the most part, leveling is the way to make the player character stronger. One of the ways in which the Player Character can feel stronger after leveling is how much more variety in what the player can do opens up. At first, it's obtaining basic attacks as the characters levels, but once the player character hits around lvl25-30 (which is pretty high in Ar nosurge), the supporting character will start automatically firing off Song Magic at enemy units without needing to be activated from the main menu. Eventually, battles just become this massive steamroll of DPS attacks and Song Magic that feels so satisfying to have achieved. The battle system was already a lot of fun, and this power factory that builds within the player character continues to add to that. Even in that rare losing battle (we've only died like two times, tops), the system itself was never boring, or even frustrating. Even more, unlike most JRPGs, the system never feels grindy, and it never feels like you're grinding to become stronger. In fact, battles actually feel pretty rare at times, they're not used for pacing, or to artificially bulk the playtime, which is a welcome change to the genre. Song Magic is a concept that has returned from the Ar Tonelico series that Ar nosurge is a prequel to. As a storyline element, Song Magic is able to do a lot of things, it is essentially a power that draws itself from other universes or something and can have drastic effects, like mind-control, or just basic uses like battling. As a game mechanic, the Song Magic primarily shows itself in battles as a kind of summon spell that is an established mechanic in JRPGs. What's interesting about Song Magic is that it is affected by the player characters partners personality type. Our version of Cass somehow ended up Masochistic, so the Song Magic that had her tied up until it was summoned was her strongest song. When starting a battle, players can choose which Song Magic to employ, and when it's used, they can choose another one to take its place. After a Song is played, it has to recharge, which happens after a battle. As the name suggests, different Song Magic songs have different songs that play when they are used. Some of these songs are really catchy, while some of them are probably best heard without all of the accompanying sound effects that go with the Animation that triggers when you use a Song Magic. In a game that's so focused on the power of song, it's nice to see that there is a nice accompanying soundtrack of amazing tunes that play throughout the game. These songs appear everywhere, from menus to battles. However, there are some instances where the music goes down into a generic curve, but these only make the highlight songs stand out that much more. These insert songs often appear in cutscenes, as both background tracks, and as songs that are sung by lead characters for storyline reasons. To be honest, it feels like Ar nosurge was developed to sell a soundtrack, but the game is so enjoyable that it makes it hard to make that call. Like, seriously, the insert songs are so good. As you have probably guessed so far, Ar nosurge is set on a traveling colony ship. What's interesting about the setting though, is that everything has this exaggerated and almost on the nose feel to it. It's like the people living on the ship have kind of built their lives around the ships components, rather than being left within the city that's on board. It's quite common to see massive light bulbs, screws and other bits and pieces pop up in the players travels. Even more, there is a serious amount of pseudo programming language thrown about in dialogue, that it almost feels like the characters, or their reality, could be (a) program(s) themselves (at times). The feel of the game itself is one of lighthearted seriousness, rather than a dark cyberpunk setting like in Deus Ex or something, for example. This feeling comes through all throughout the game as well. For example, there are plenty of lighthearted moments that are amazingly charming, and often hilarious, to watch. Like whenever the player Synthesises a new component as an upgrade, they'll be treated to a small dance routine with the main characters and the character they're interacting with. Quite often with Ar nosurge, it's the rule of cool, but quite often, it's also the rule of cute. The Synthesis is one of those rule of cute moments. Going from the rule of cute thing, players will find that Ar nosurge is filled with a lot of rather cute character designs. These are, of course, all of the female characters, that aren't generic background characters, in the game. However, in some cases, the rule of cute will lead into the rule of lewd, which is sure to please this games target audience, Gamer/Otaku hybrid players (like us!). This isn't just in some of the character designs, like Nay for example, but also in some of the things that players can unlock, like costumes and artwork. Quite often though, the story will move into the lewd territory on its own. Earthes even has some dialogue options that can make him seem like quite the womaniser. One of the more disappointing things about Ar nosurge is the blatant lack of editing or co-ordination in the English adaptation. While a couple of minor typos might slip by undetected in a game of this scale, it's a bit strange that the game is littered with them. In one particular scene, there were multiple boxes of dialogue text with issues. What's even stranger is that the localisation team is even inconsistent with character names. These aren't one off characters either, but major and significant characters that have multiple roles throughout the story. The best example of this is the character Zill. It could be because the draft got revised or different teams wrote the scripts or something, but every time her name is spoken, it is pronounced Jill. This pronunciation is consistent throughout the game, and might have something to do with difficulties in saying a Z noise in Japanese, but, it's a glaring issue when the spelling of name changes on multiple occasions. This has even happened in the same scene, one dialogue box after another. The scene is in the second act when the crew is confronting Zill with the Prime Minister in the party, without spoiling too much. However, given the franchises history, it's hard to say if this was intentional or not. However, this did detract from a rather significant scene in the game. Overall, Ar nosurge is an incredibly enjoyable experience. While it starts off looking like a generic JRPG with a generic plot, it quickly moves into a fun and interesting groove. It's one of those games where the more you play it, the more absorbed you become with it. Players outside of the target demographic may find some of the design choices questionable, particularly when it comes to sexualised depictions of girls that appear to be questionable but are actually thousands of years old, but players within that demographic will absolutely enjoy those same designs. The combat system is well designed and the storyline will keep you engaged. Ar nosurge is a serious contender in the JRPG market. Rating: Ionasal Kkll Presiel /10 -- Ar nosurge is published by Tecmo Koei and developed by GUST. It is the prequel to Ar Tonelico but plays completely differently. The title was given to us for reviewing purposes by Mindscape, the Australian distributor. We're massive fans of Anime and Gaming, but believe that JRPGs are growing stale. So this was like a breath of fresh air, so to say. Ar nosurge can be purchased on the Playstation Store online, or at your local retailer. Looking online it retails for around $69. Assets are official screenshots. Video was taken from Youtube user Snownya. Sadly, the English version removed the lyrics to the Synthesis song.
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  • aquagon

    Very good review.
    Just as a clarification, the “pseudo-programming language” is actually one of the languages that was made for Ciel nosurge and reused here, called REON-4213, and it’s used to access the main systems of the colony ship. That’s also why most of the lyrics to the in-game songs make extensive use of it.

    • Gaming Admiral

      I did not know that, thanks for clarifying!