Ar nosurge Plus: Ode to an Unborn Star review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Tecmo Koei America
Developer: Koei Tecmo/Gust
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

My first time playing Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star, I went in with no prior knowledge of the Ar Tonelico or Ciel nosurge universe. This was a mistake. I tried reading all the dialogues and cut scenes, but without reading up on the franchise’s expansive back story none of it made any sense.

For the game’s Vita release — the imaginatively-titled Ar nosurge Plus — I decided to take a different approach. This time around, I figured that rather than trying to piece everything together and understand every little thing that was being said, I figured I’d just go along with it all and see how that worked out. Let it all wash over me, and hope that it all eventually made sense.

(It probably says something about me that the thought of actually doing all that required reading never crossed my mind.)

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This…well, it didn’t work phenomenally well either. As you’d expect from a game that has a well-established mythology behind it, there’s a lot of detail here to absorb. Even if you don’t actively try to remember ever little bit of minutiae, the sheer volume of characters and places means that you’re bound to get stuck on all kinds of names and terminology, regardless of how much attention you pay to it all. Not only that, even if you ignore the story completely, there’s still a ridiculous amount of reading you have to do just to learn all the different gameplay mechanics. Turn-based battles, “Genometrics”, item creation and synthesis, “Purification”, something to do with creating menus at a restaurant: all of these are important (to varying degrees) to getting through Ar nosurge Plus, and all of them have loads upon loads of instructions. In other words, even taking a more laidback approach to the game requires a fair amount of dedication.

That said, I did notice a bit of a difference when I paid a little less attention to every single detail. While I can’t pretend I understood it all, I got the general idea: there’s a religious conflict, there are hostile alien life forms, and you have to fight them using “Song Magic”. Again, I wouldn’t be able to tell you who did what to who, but I at least understood that much. Understanding what was going on made a definite difference for the better.

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I don’t know that it made a huge difference when I was actually playing the game, mind you. The one thing I liked about Ar nosurge on the PS3 was the relatively speedy approach it took to combat; you can only expedite turn-based battles against wave after wave of enemies so much, but then — as now — the game found a way to make it fairly painless. They line up neatly, you build up big combos, they all vanish: it’s pretty simple, but it works.

Last time I reviewed Ar nosurge, I concluded that as fun as the combat may have been, the dense story meant that the game was only worth picking up if you were ready to immerse yourself in the mythology. For the release of Ar nosurge Plus, I pretty much stand by that: the combat is enjoyable, but the story is pretty demanding, no matter how much time and attention you’re willing to sink into it. I’m sure that if you’re willing to make the commitment, there’s some kind of payoff, but considering the size of my backlog and the multitude of other JRPGs out there that aren’t as dense, I can’t say it’s a commitment I’m willing to make.

Grade: B