I've been busy lately and unable to play much, but I finally started Luminous Arc Infinity. Like I mentioned earlier, I haven't played the Luminous Arc series before. I knew to expect something similar to Stella Glow in terms of setting, and sure enough, the basic lore is extemely similar.
The protagonist this time is named Xird (and I would not have known how to spell his name if it wasn't written in romaji a couple places, it sounds like 'Seed' when they pronounce it in game). He's got a weak body due to a curse, and was trained by his adopted father to be a 'conductor', which is what they call the people who perform pre-performance maintenance on 'idols'. I put quotes around 'idols' because it's actually a silly acronymn for something, but basically these are our magical girls with witch's blood, now idol-themed and with plot excuses for why they need to have idol-like followings to replenish the crystal energy that everyone relies on with everyone's adoration and fan-love.
I kind of expected it, but so far it really does feel like a stereotypical harem anime setup. Xird seems to be the "everything is a pain, leave me alone, I'm tired, I want to sleep, you're all annoying" kind of reluctant lead character. I can't tell if it's charming or just annoying yet, which is probably not a good sign, but maybe it'll work out. Tagging along with him from the start is the obligatory 'younger sister who isn't related by blood' character Aqua, and an older protective knight woman named Ziorker (again, thank goodness for the romaji names in the game's gallery). The story starts off with a kidnapping attempt on Empress Brigitta which our heroes thwart, kicking off an international panic about these troublesome Amadeus folks who are trying to kidnap the idols in various countries - Brigitta holds a meeting and proposes gathering them all together in a flying fortress of a neutral territory to keep them safe. One grumpy old man points out that this is a bit risky, the world relies on having these girls alive and gathering them all together makes for a good target, which isn't a bad point. It's best to stay together instead of getting picked off one by one though.
After an attack on the international meeting drives home the need to combine forces to deal with the Amadeus threat home again, everyone agrees to entrust their country's idols to the neutral floating territory, where they should be relatively safe from harm in the sky. And of course, it will be Xird's job to be their conductor and keep them in tip-top idol shape. Our first stop is a desert country where we hop off to look for the idol there, her name is Rana. Xird finds her, chases her a bit and tells her to stop running and that she can't get away, which she takes as a marriage proposal and follows him back, calling him her husband. Yeah, just like that, with about 30 seconds of character interaction. I like her character design at least - she's tall (183cm) and very low-tension (she speaks v e e e r y s l o o o o w l y). We clear up the 'misunderstanding' but she insists on continuing to call him her husband, which pisses off Aqua because of course it does, why do I even bother wondering if she might be a normal sibling for once? The last games I played were Makaishin Trillion and Fire Emblem Fates which both also pushed sister characters on the protagonist. Trillon didn't even bother making them 'not actually related by blood', getting tired of your shit, JRPGs. Anyway, we're off to gather more idols to protect them from the Amadeus menace with Aqua, Ziorker, Brigitte and Rana in tow so far. Back in our floating island of a base, Xird can tune the idols in a touchscreen minigame which is basically a less risque version of the rubbing stuff in Compile Heart's monster-girl games, do good and their song magic channeling radius will be expanded next battle along with some other benefits.
There's an issue that I knew about before I bought the game, but it's really disconcerting to have dialogue randomly voiced. I don't mean randomly voiced like 'the characters only say the first word of the sentence' or 'only some scenes are voiced', I'm used to that kind of partial voicing. I mean that in the same scene, lines will randomly switch from being voiced and being unvoiced, seemingly at complete random. For example, maybe a scene has 26 lines between 3 characters, and maybe 7 out of the 26 lines are voiced at complete random, not in a row either, but scattered. There's no rhyme or reason to it. It's a bit jarring and the lines end up sounding bad and phoned-in sometimes because there's no flow to the dialogue.
About the battle system, it's too early to say whether it's good or bad - everything is idol-flavored in terms of naming (i.e. characters don't get knocked out, they 'retire', they don't get revived, they make a 'comeback', blah blah). I'm not an idol fan in real life or fiction so I don't even recognize some of the English terms used ('catchcopy'? I had to look this engrishy word up, apparently it means a 'catchphrase' or a signature appeal of some sort). Anyway, idols can do their catchcopy for experience, they can start channeling a song to provide some passive bonuses to people nearby them, and if multiple idols channel in the same area it expands to become a duo or a trio and the effects stack. No actual voiced songs so far, though. One of the girls is chosen as the 'center' idol in battles and gets big bonuses while in that role. Xird gets a turn in battle every now and then even though he's not a unit on the field, he can use a variety of support commands.
After each battle, characters can get bonus experience and skill points (called 'aura points' in this game) by being the best 'battler' (enemy killing), 'assistant' (healing, buffing, etc.), or 'performer' (song-related activities) in addition to their normal experience. Exp levels them up, and aura points can be used in a sphere-grid like system of choosing different idol-flavored paths to take for different skills and stat bonuses. All the idols are also ranked according to their current popularity under a variety of categories. I'm sure people familiar with idol culture appreciate this stuff more than I do, I just see skill trees and skill points.
It's way too early to make any hard judgements but so far it feels slightly disappointing - the random voicing mixes with the shameless harem anime setup to make everything feel kind of tacky so far. I realize most of these protagonists don't have good reasons for having a bunch of girls following them everywhere, but Rana just up and declaring Xird her husband after 30 seconds takes it to new levels. I guess some games you get to know the character for a while before they join your party, and others (this game) dump them on your party immediately and hope that eventually you'll get to like them. Also, Xird is supposed to be some sort of battlefield commander and I know this is just how tutorial levels work, but it's kind of sad how the idols can't seem to do anything without Xird telling them completely obvious things. Especially Ziorker, she's some hardnened knight (104 years old thanks to a demon curse that stopped her aging, in fact!) but she needs Xird to tell her how to put the stabby end of her sword into the fleshy part of the enemy, you get the feeling that she probably also needs detailed step-by-step instructions from him on how to take a fork, put food on it, bring it to her mouth, open mouth, insert food, chew, etc. I'll forgive that as just tutorial-battle out of character nonsense as long as it doesn't become a recurring theme, though. It's still early, so I want to give the game a fair chance - I haven't even gotten to chew on the battle system properly with a full party yet or hear any of the song magic, so I'm looking forward to that. Here's to hoping it picks up from here on out.
Random JRPG blogging about the games I'm currently playing.