The Arc the Lad series is Sony's answer to Tactics Ogre and Shining Force. Its first game launched with the PlayStation in 1995. Working Designs released a compilation of the first three games and a bonus arena-battling bonus disc in 2002. The last game in the series, End of Darkness, was released in 2004 (2005 in the United States via Namco) and was an online-enabled action RPG rather than a strategy game.The original Arc the Lad was a fun, albeit short T-RPG, which followed the adventures of a young lad called Arc Ricolne and his six traveling companions.Arc II, its direct sequel, follows the adventures of Elc, a bounty hunter who is the last survivor of a nation of fire users slaughtered by Seyra, the country Arc hails from. Being longer, more complex, and infinitely Darker and Edgier than the previous episode, Arc 2 has been lauded as the supreme game in the series and a legitimate contender for the title of "Game with the most Player Punches thrown."Two of the three other sequels (Arc 3, which takes place a few decades after the end of Arc 2, and Arc 4 , which takes place a thousand years after the original trilogy and has its own page) are usually considered inferior but still-decent games, while most of the negative criticism directed towards the series falls upon End of Darkness.While the games were never released outside of Japan at first, Working Designs made a box set of the first three games along with Arc Arena for the PlayStation. It's quite pricey nowadays, but the fourth and fifth games did see standalone releases on the PlayStation 2. A 26 episode anime ran from 1998-1999, based on Arc the Lad and Arc the Lad II, animated by Bee Train and directed by Itsuro Kawasaki.
This game series provides examples of:
Aerith and Bob: Most of the main cast's names are equally out-there, but important supporting characters such as Elena and Danny play it straight.
Angst Coma: At the end of the White House story arc, Elc ends up at the ground zero of an explosion which leave him half dead. While Kukuru manages to heal his physical wounds, he remains comatose as a result of the guilt he feels from being unable to protect/avenge his tribe nor save Mariel from the White House.
Anti-Hero: Arc Ricolne is very pragmatic, and will do whatever it takes to defeat Romalia, and while he does not willingly target civilians, he shows little concern for collateral damage when he or one of his allies start to blow things up.
Apocalypse How: Scope: planetary. Severity: societal collapse. It happened 3000 years before the first game. The reason Arc 2's ending isn't considered a downer ending is because this time it was only societal disruption.
Applied Phlebotinum: The spirit stones are the Arc-verse's main source of energy and the reason behind Romalia's wealth and power.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Usually only five characters are allowed on the battlefield at a time. Arc 1 is the exception, as all playable characters participate in every fight.
Ass Shove: In-game example in Twilight of Spirits, whenever you have Delma in you party. So, you're in a fight, maybe you're in trouble, one of your characters is in critical condition, you'd really need a healing item... Then you remember that you put one in Delma's inventory. Try and guess where she pulls it from.
Ax-Crazy: The Slasher, a monstrous serial killer who happens to be Ginie, one of Elc's childhood friends.
Black and Gray Morality: The bad guys are genocidal bastards, while Arc is a wanted terrorist by the second game. Keep in mind that this is not just propaganda: Arc Ricolne is very pragmatic, and will do whatever it takes to defeat Romalia, and while he does not willingly target civilians, he shows little concern for collateral damage when he or one of his allies start to blow things up.
Bullying a Dragon: During the slaughter of the Pyrenians, Seyras soldiers and researcher find a young Elc who proceeds to burn half a dozen of them to a crisp. The survivors then decide that such a prodigy would make a very good guinea pig. Three guesses at what happens when he turns into an adult...
Arc: "You... You're the one who killed my father!"
Ark Ghoul: "I have killed many, and your father may have been amongst them. But if I did slay him, his death was so unremarkable that I have no memory of it. But enough talk. It is time for YOUR ignominious end, boy."
Childhood Friend Romance: Unlucky Mariel, just... Mariel. Elc promised to save her from the White House, but when he finally found her, she was turned into a monster and he had to fight her under the playground where they played when they were kids. This is a subversion since Elc quite obviously loves her and is more than ready to reciprocate her affection. The problem is that he is still forced to kill her, while Gallarno watches him.
The Chosen One: Deconstructed. Arc was not chosen by the spirits; Yoshua, his father, contacted them and made a deal with them: they would give Arc control over the elements in order to use him as their proxy. The player is actually told about this before the first battle begins. What's interesting is that it foreshadows the many deconstructions of RPG cliché that will happen later.
Combat Medic: Arc and Poco in the first two games, and Alec and Cheryl in the third.
In Arc's defense, Romalia intentionally puts their doomsday devices in the middle of population centers, specifically to discredit their enemies. Civilian casualties are inevitable when fighting them.
Defector from Decadence: Many exemples: not all Romalians are happy about the way their country is behaving and form a resistance movement of their own; Choko may be a monster created to Kill All Humans, this does not stop her from becoming one of the greatest asset of the forces of good, and while Darc's Nakama may be composed of Deimos and monsters who hate or at least despise ordinary humans, they still choose to side with them against the Dark One.
Disc One Nuke: When the team from the first Arc the Lad show up during the second game, they are vastly more powerful than the other main characters and enemies. To avoid a Game Breaker situation, the plot makes sure you can only have one of them at a time in your team until much later in the game.
If you have a solid knowledge of Synthesis (or a decent FAQ) your trip to Society Village can produce a lot of these in Arc 3.
Disposable Woman: Kharg's mother. Said to be a great warrior, she gets killed without even having a chance to fight.
Doomed Hometown: Arc's hometown of Touvil is destroyed at the beginning of Arc 1. Elc's whole nation is slaughtered in the first minutes of Arc 2. Alec's hometown Romalia's capital city is destroyed in the first cutscene of Arc 3. Ironically, by the heroes of the previous episodes.
The Empire: Romalia is a Kingdom, but acts like a bona fide evil empire. It's actually a subversion since it has been a superpower for ten centuries, but became evil only one or two generations prior to the first game.
Everything's Better with Princesses: Sania is Millmana's princess, Kukuru, being Arc's betrothed, is technically Seyra's princess, Delma, being the Orcons' leader's sister might count as well.
Fantastic Racism: People from Holn are distrusted by the Game's expy of Switzerland because of their ability to communicate with monsters. In Twilight of the Spirits, Human and Deimos are locked into a cold war pretty close to heat up. Deimos are intelligent humanoid monsters... And also technically fully human: they can have children with humans and were created by altering the genetic material of humans gifted with spiritual powers
Faux Action Girl: Kharg's mother, see Disposable Woman. In Arc 2, Kukuru seems to have become this, but she later proves that she still can kick an enormous amount of ass when she manages to invert her Demonic Possession and takes control of the Big Bad's body long enough to allow Arc to seal it again, while she is already dead.
Green Aesop: Zig-zagged between this and a Space Whale Aesop: Overusing natural resources weakened the Guardian Spirits of the planet and modern lifestyle have made people complacent to the point of forgetting that the Eldritch Abomination which nearly destroyed the world 3000 years prior is still alive and about to break free from its Spirits-powered prison: that's the Space Whale part. On the other hand, during the course of the first two games, many subtle and not-so-subtle hints are dropped that overexerting natural resources is slowly but surely destroying the environment and that without change, Arc's World's modern civilization is doomed even without the Dark One readying itself for another genocidal rampage
Heroic Sacrifice: This is how Arc's father met his end, and later Arc and Kukuru do it as well.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Arc ends the first game and begins the second as a wanted criminal, accused of both regicide (he was framed) and terrorism (for blowing up mind control devices disguised as landmarks and otherwise fighting against the Empire).
Hold the Line: Shows up twice in Arc 2, first when you have to buy Shu some time to plant bombs, and again around the end of the game when you have to distract an army of monsters so The Resistance can safely infiltrate Romalia.
Hot-Blooded: Kharg, in Twilight of the Spirits, sounds like this sometimes.
Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Averted during battles, since characters can jump above almost anything when they are leveled enough, but played straight the rest of the time.
This actually becomes an important thing to keep in mind in Arc 2, as there are a few treasure chests up on ledges or behind walls that become inaccessible if you don't jump up and grab 'em during battles.
La Résistance: Comes in no less than three flavors in Arc 2: there are resistance movements in countries occupied by Romalia, their is a resistance In Romalia proper, made by Romalian who disagree with the imperialistic ways of their country, and Arc's team is a third independent and very mobile resistance.
Lady of War: Kukuru. Paulette and Delma from the fourth game might count as well.
Last of His Kind: Elc is the last living Pyrenian. Inverted in Twilight of the spirits: Darc and Kharg are the first Human/Deimos hybrids which is ironic since intelligent monsters where created by using kids with spiritual powers like Elc.
Lazy Backup: averted in the first game, where all your characters always take part in the fight. played straight in the other episodes: even when you have a dozen human characters and even more mons, they do not take part in the battle: sometimes justified when the characters try to infiltrate enemy facilities, but why would they no go all out when they openly attack the Big Bad stronghold?
Lethal Joke Character: Poco is a musician. A cowardly musician who probably does not know how to handle a gun correctly. He is also the most deadly soldier of Seyra's army (Arc and Kukuru are not soldiers, Tosh is para-military).
Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Inverted: Magic tends to be more useful early on, but physical attacks surpass them by the end of the games, when big bosses with tons of HP and great magical resistance appear.
Mad Scientist: Scientists in the Arc-verse do not seem to mind the fact that they are working for an Eldritch Abomination and that their technology is used to commit several genocides: they even go as far as experimenting on themselves without any hesitation. The Academy of Arc 3 is a little more idealistic and ready to help mankind, but in the end, they do not fare much better.
Although, the way the cabal treat Vilmer it's fair to say that not all scientists are enthusiastic about promoting Romalia's imperialism
Magic Music: Poco, a proud member of the Palencia army's... drum corps.
Magitek: Arc's world is close to the technology level of earth during the 90's, but the main source of energy are stones infused with the power of elemental spirits. Romalia uses mixes of genetic engineering and black magics to create its army of Super Soldiers.
Magnetic Hero: Arc. Lampshaded when he arrives to save Poco, and Poco comments afterward that, with Arc there to inspire him, he suddenly felt like he could fight with his cymbals, and so he did.
The Man Behind the Curtain: Gaidel, the King of Romalia is one of the only fully human antagonists of Arc 2 and has no supernatural power whatsoever. His lack of power other than political is an important plot point.
Modern Stasis: The industrial revolution happened 1000 years prior to the first Arc the Lad, yet appart from a few gadgets used by the Romalian military, technology never went beyond the level of the late twentieth century
Nintendo Hard: The games are pretty challenging for anyone who's not used to strategy RPGs, and the difficulty curve shoots through the roof with the final bosses.
Arc 2's final boss is so strong that about the only way to beat him without hours and hours of extra level grinding is with a Romancing stone equipped Choko.
No Biochemical Barriers: Deimos and humans can have children, justified since they were created from humans to begin with.
One-Man Army: Many characters follow this trope, and are usually Genre Savvy enough to include this into their plan. It is even lampshaded in the second game of the series:
Shu: "I know someone who's rowdy enough to hold off ten guards. He can be a decoy while I set the bombs." Tosh: "Who are you talking about?" Shu: "Uh, you, Tosh!"
Old Save Bonus: Arc 1 was written with the intent of being able to import a clear data file into Arc 2. If you do, when the cast of the first game joins your party, they'll have all of their experience and equipment from the first game. Arc 3 also gives some benefits if you load an Arc 2 save at the final save point.
End of Darkness also gives you a free character unlock Lilia for having clear data from Twilight of the Spirits.
One Game for the Price of Two: Arc 1 is essentially an extended prologue for Arc 2. The U.S. release, Arc The Lad Collection, packages them both together and also throws Arc 3 in as well, so only the Japanese players had to buy them separately.
Somewhat understandable in the case of Arc I and Arc II. The creators were originally intending to make it as a Playstation 1 launch title. Unfortunately, their ambitions grew beyond their resources (not to mention the amount of time available), so they split the project into two games. Arc I managed to make the Playstation launch, and Arc II came out later, and did the delay ever pay off.
Orphanage of Fear: the facility code-named White House: unlike most exemples of this trope, the kids are not openly mistreated by uncaring or sadistic by the people in charge (in fact, one of its former managers, Vilmer is shown to be a descent, loving grandfather), but when the employees are pretty much on Cthulhu's payroll, you know that the facility hides very dark, horrific secrets.
Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Subverted: Before meeting him, Kukuru is not happy at all with the prospect of marrying Arc, and her rebellion against tradition is what starts the whole mess. By the end of the first game, she has fallen in love with Arc, but they are now forced to become Star-Crossed Lovers because she has to stay in Seyra and maintain the weakening seal upon the Dark One while Arc keeps fighting Romalia all over the world, and, by the end of the second game, they can only be reunited in death.
Polluted Wasteland: the whole country of Zariban: once a very fertil land due to the fact that the Water Spirit dwelled there and one of the first places to be resettled by humans after the species was nearly wiped out during the first war against the Lord of the Dark Abyss 3000 years prior to Arc 1, by the time Arc arrives in the country for the first time, it has been reduced to a desert due to the excessive mining and processing of energy stones.
Pyrrhic Victory: The ending of Arc The Lad 2. Lets have Elc explain it shall we?
Really 3,000 Years Old: Gogen may look like an old man, but he's still in good shape for a guy who spent 30 centuries watching the prison of an Eldritch Abomination. Choko is one of the original monsters born during the games' Backstory and is therefore as old as Gogen
Rebellious Princess: Sania and Kukuru are princesses and wanted terrorists. You could hardly get more rebellious than that!
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Arc, Kukuru, Sania from the first two games, Kharg and Darc in Twilight of the Spirits (Kharg is still a prince despite the fact that his country abolished the monarchy, and Darc intended from the beginning to kill his way to the top)
Scenery Gorn: The ending of Arc 2 gives us a nice view of Romalia, which was the epicenter of the Dark Ones attack on the planet. Oh yeah, and the Sky Castle fell on it and exploded after you beat him.
Sequel Escalation: The first game is quite short, takes place entirely on a relatively small continent with a total of seven party members. Arc 2 has you going all over the world, more than doubles the cast of characters, throws in a ton of side quests, and is crazy long.
Schizo Tech (machinegun-toting, IED-tossing ninja terrorists fighting alongside medieval knights. It has to be seen to be believed.)
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The first two episodes go waaaaaaaay down the cynical end, the third tries to be a little more idealistic, the fourth is again more cynical (but not as much as the second), the fifth tries again to be more idealistic. On the whole, the series remains mostly on the cynical side.
Summon Magic: Chongara can summon supernatural beings, and Arc's power comes from his ability to summon guardian spirits.
Theo's Cardish ability in Arc 3.
Surprisingly Happy Ending: The anime of the game keeps many of the dark moments, but the ending is far happier than the game's. Arc and Kukuru live, and the Dark One is defeated without destroying the world.
Take Over the World: Subverted: The Big Bad does not want to control mankind: he already was in charge before becoming an Eldritch Abomination, and by controlling Romalia, he was once again the ruler of mankind at the beginning of Arc: the only problem is, this was not enough for him: wath he wanted was control over the whole planet, including the whole ecosystem, even if it meant remaking it from scratch
Arrival at Saryu village: for the first time we are shown the devastating effects of the industrialization of Arc's World, with one of its most ancient human dwellings slowly dying from the pollution caused by the extraction and processing of energy stones. Then, out of the blue, Romalia's airforce raze the village, send it's turned-into-monsters super-soldiers to finish the job and find the key to the water shrine: it's the first time Arc's team is facing Romalia directly, the first time Arc display some real anger and the first punch thrown at the player.
The last trip to Seyria: Andel fatally wounds Seyria's king, who confess that he is the one who sent Arc's father away in order to inherit the throne, Arc is framed for the King's murder, Seyria turns into a police state controlled by Andel. If this was not enough just after finding the Ark, Arc & co have to give it up to Andel who uses Arc's mother and the other residents of Touvil's lives as a bargaining chip, the seal on the Dark One starts breaking down: Kukuru has to remain hidden in Touvil ruins to maintain what remains of the seal in place while the rest of Arc's group become wanted fugitive: The first episode ends here
First scene of Arc 2: Elc's people get genocided by Seyria's military.
End of the White House story arc: Elc & co appear successful at first, rescuing Mariel and finding the other orphans, at which points Gallarno turns all the orphans into monsters, forcing Elc & co to kill them, after which he entraps Elc and Mariel, uses his Mind-Control Device to forces the two to fight, nearly destroying Mariel mind in the process. When she manages regain her consciousness because she refuses to hurt Elc, Gallarno uses a contingency plan and uses the bomb he had implanted in Mariel's body, critically injuring Eld and leaving him nearly dead.
Weapon of Choice: Played straight except in Arc 2, when characters have two or three weapons of choice.