Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (Cattle Call/Sony/2003) - New.
This is one of those games that I would never had started playing if I wasn't going through my collection alphabetically. What kind of name is "Arc" for an RPG character? And could there be a more archaic term than "Lad"? Honestly, I don't know what even possessed me to buy this game in the first place. It must have been during one of my Gamestop sweeps, probably during a B2G1F sale as a filler. I know I never specifically looked for this one.
But I should have.While not a classic, this one surprised me in a number of ways.
You alternately play as one of two sons (neither of which are named "Arc" or are called "Lad", so I still have no idea how the title works into the game) who were the product of a union between a human female and a male creature from a race called the Deimos. The "normal" son, Khrag, is determined to protect the humans from the Deimos monsters. The other son, Darc, didn't turn out entirely Deimos-like and is having a very tough time being accepted by anybody in the Deimos community. Of course, neither knows about the other. You can just see the brother-vs-brother battle brewing here!
On the good side, this game is building a very interesting story with characters you can care about in two entirely different environments. Battles in the game (it's a turn-based strategy design) use a unique system of zones of movement without grids, so you feel like you can move anywhere on the battlefield within your movement allowance. The fights I've had in the first two chapters have been challenging, but not punishing - something I appreciate, especially since there's no difficulty setting. And the "wandering" monsters have had some really wacky designs - gelatinous blobs with a single eyeball, eerie looking gnome/dwarf creatures, walking mushrooms with jack-o-lantern mouths, and very nimble rat/kangaroos. The monster designers were much more creative than the character designers - most of the two-legged models move very stiffly.
However, you can also see where this game suffered from Japanese-to-English localization. Some of the character names don't seem to fit - the leader of the local garrison is Lloyd, the guy in charge of the mining operation is Banjo - a bit out of place with other characters who have "exotic" names like Zev and Nafia. The voice acting isn't too bad overall, but there are a couple of characters I could gladly throttle. The worst part is during the battles. When your character or one of your teammates attacks (or defends) he/she says something that the programmers probably thought was clever. Being constantly repeated just makes it annoying. When they cast magic (the only way to do serious damage), there's a whole extra animation it goes through that gets old too with it's own grating sound bite. And why does Darc sound like Clint Eastwood with a sore throat?!
Overall, this Arc the Lad (there were two others for the PS1 and another for the PS2) was an enjoyable experience, but I'm afraid that I just can't handle the voice acting...or that irritating jungle kid. Time to move on.