You know you're in for a wild time when a tutorial ends with, "He who controls the stripping controls the battle!"
Combat takes a bit of a departure from previous games. The concept is still the same - protect your Reyvateil as she weaves Song Magic - though the turn-based system has been traded in for an action-based one. Each round, you're given a set number of attack points, which dictate how many times you can hit an enemy... or something like that. There's a system at play, though even after reading over the tutorials, I couldn't determine exactly how it works. It's a small element of combat and not worth pondering for long, though it does add a clunky feel. By instinct you'll want to just hack away, though you can't, which feels weird.
Whatever is going on under the hood, the system is really just around to keep combat from devolving into random button-mashing. Instead, your goal is to time attacks with the high points of the Reyvateil's song. Syncing attacks with her song builds up her excitement level, eventually allowing her to climax. The interplay between the two systems is neat and I can definitely see where the developers were trying to take it. At the same time, the system doesn't work as well as it should. The round trade-offs happen quickly and its hard to get a real sense of when you can attack or not. It's even harder to figure out how to match your attacks to the song bar. The meter is easy to read, but the guide bar and your attacks never seem to sync up the way they should.
Once your Reyvateil hits a certain level, she can Purge - leading us back to the bit about, "he who controls the stripping." When a Reyvateil Purges, she removes a layer of clothing. More skin offers more connection with the planet, equaling more powerful spells. The number of Purge levels is directly related to how well you get to know your Reyvateil during conversations and Dives. The catch is you're only allowed to go "all the way" with one Reyvateil, limiting your access to really powerful magic.
Deciding on a girl is harder than it initially seems. It's hard to not become just a little invested in the girl's personalities, so it's really difficult to decide exactly which one to choose. It's a neat tangling of story and play mechanics and one of the reasons Ar Tonelico Qoga is so enjoyable.
For all its sophomoric humor and clunk, Ar Tonelico Qoga is still a fun JRPG for fans. Like previous installments, the appeal is limited by what you're looking for in a game, but it's worth it just to see how well the story and gameplay mesh together.