That’s some title, huh? Right off the bat, Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star will lure in JRPG players with its quirky name. But can this game appeal to a wider audience? Is that even its intended goal? Or does developer Gust know its audience and go right for them?
In the universe of Ar nosurge, a civilization was promised neverending tranquility in a new world, but when the time came to travel to it, something went horribly wrong. The people’s home planet was destroyed in the process, and they were forced to live out their existence aboard a giant space ship, looking for a new home. Our stories pick up after 2,000 years have passed since that fateful event, and strange creatures called Sharls are beginning to abduct people inhabiting the last protected city of Felion.
Ar nosurge does try to get you to care about their characters. Much like in the Ar tonelico series, you get to take Dives into the minds of your partners and other players. In this game, this is known as Genometrics. The game transitions from being a traditional RPG to more like a graphic novel where you are able to make choices. Make the right ones, and you unlock a Genometrica Crystal or Gem, which can be used to enhance your characters. This enhancement takes place in a Purification Ceremony, which is a rather odd interaction. You and your partner strip down to a bathing suit, and take a bath together. That portion of the ceremony appears to be a bit of fan service. Here, you can insert the crystals into various body parts, such as arms, legs, torso, abdomen, and the head. Not all locations are available to accept a gem, however – sometimes you have to have various discussions to have your partner trust you to accept a crystal. Other times, you may have to spend more time in Genometrics in order to build up that trust.
These Genometric worlds are about as eccentric as the game gets. They take place inside other characters’ heads, and include some pretty over-the-top scenarios, such as helping to stop two versions of one of the main characters, Cass, from fighting one another. All of this goes on while a giant version of another main character, Delta, is threatening to destroy the world. You are simply tasked with making the right decisions and saying the right things. Each action you take costs Dive Points, which are used only in these mental worlds. It’s certainly a change of pace from the combat, that’s for sure.
Speaking of combat, it’s a turn-based affair. During each turn, you have a limited number of times that you can perform your basic moves and attacks, which are mapped to the controller’s face buttons. If you manage to take out an enemy who was going to use an ability on their upcoming turn, as indicated by text and symbols over them, then you earn an extra turn. It is possible, and easy, to go through an entire battle in one turn. Enemies come in waves, and clearing a wave always nets you an extra turn. Honestly, the combat felt like filler material between story segments. I never felt challenged by the combat at any time. You can shield yourself from enemy attacks by hold Circle timed with the incoming assault, which just adds to the ease of battle. Almost every action you take builds up your special meter, and at any time you can unleash your “Song Magic,” which is music used as a weapon. At least, that’s what this game claims Song Magic is — you don’t see the Song Magic user singing, but simply attacking and wiping out all remaining waves of enemies. You are graded at the end of the battle depending on the damage you caused.
I think you already know if you want to purchase Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. The campaign is quite lengthy, there is a ton of story to read through, and there’s even essentially choose-your-own-adventure stories inside other characters’ minds. However, the story is very quirky, and although developer Gust attempted to go deeper in characterization, a lot of the drama that unfolds feels at about the high school level. If you like an RPG with a lot of reading and Japanese style, then by all means pick this up. But if you’re a Western RPG fan, best look elsewhere.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.