Some of the intro story for Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star
is a little confusing, and seems to get contradicted later in the game. For these reasons, it takes a while to get the ball rolling, but generally the story follows a people fleeing their dying home world. When all should have been safe, they found themselves attacked by the mysterious Sharl, an alien race that resembles different kinds of fairies. A faction of the survivors split off, and began worshipping the Sharl. The group known as PLASMA now protects the city of Ferion from the Sharl and watches over the barrier that keeps them out. You come in as Delta, an ex PLASMA member, and Cass, a member of PLASMA who possesses song magic, who work together to run a mission for PLASMA. All is not as it seems, and as you infiltrate the opposing Sharl supporters, you discover that there might be deception on both sides. You also discover that there might be more to Cass and Deltaís relationship than even they realize.
Thereís some interesting world-building here as you discover what song magic really means, and how the people are connected to the ancient world they had to flee. Delta and Cass become unlikely partners. The two have to connect in whatís called a "Dive" into the songstressís head. Think drift compatibility from Pacific Rim. The more the partners sync, the more embarrassing, awful, and unsightly parts of each other they see, so it ends up being a trust issue that is hard for many to get past. Itís all set up in a way that gets you invested in learning more about Cass and Delta, and trying to persuade her mind to let you in. And thatís a great way to get you invested in the gameís dialogue and story. The relationship between the singer heroine and the defender hero should be familiar to anyone who has played Ar Tonelico or any of the other Ar games.
It should be mentioned that dialogue with anyone other than the main characters is a little pointless though. Talking to people on the street (NPCs) has a long tradition in RPGs of yielding valuable information or interesting side stories. Unfortunately in this game, it seems that people often have split personalities, talking about one thing and then switching suddenly to completely different topics. After a while, it feels like talking to them is a bit of a chore since itís hard to decipher whether their dialogue was written intentionally or just pasted together from different grab bags of dialogue.
Another thing to mention is that a lot of Japanese cultural elements in this game are left pretty much untranslated. For anime fans and JRPG fans, it should be no problem following terms like tsundere and moe. For everyone else, however, youíre going to want to keep a Google search handy as you traverse through this game.
Thereís a pretty ugly issue hiding in this game though. So this is the type of game that goes to the "peek in the shower" scene more than once. It's pretty clearly intended to be voyeuristic. What makes it a problem and not simply naughty fun is that thereís some "underdeveloped" looking girls in a lot of these scenes. Many companies who try to import materials containing this sort of content from Japan to the US often try to say the girls depicted in the scenes are over 18. But itís a cartoon, so how can you really tell but from the appearance? One particular scene depicts a girl who, in the game, is described to be of an unknown age, but older than the two main characters. Sheís also not fully human, but sheís depicted as such. It may be a gray area for some, but there are problems here, and theyíre big enough that it was difficult for me to continue playing this game. In many games, thereís adult content, thereís mischievous perverted undertones (the game has those too), and games are rated as such. But these scenes are just plain disturbing, and ratings donít tend to make fine distinctions on things such as child nudity. And no, you canít really skip these scenes when you stumble upon them. Theyíre accompanied by fairly lengthy conversations that take a while to skip through.
Itís a shame because despite that drawback, and in addition to a good story and world, thereís also a really good fighting system to this RPG as well. Again, longtime fans of the Ar series will be familiar with this, but thereís a lot happening during fights that will keep you engaged. You essentially need to protect your heroine at all times. She possesses powerful song magic that can wipe out scores of enemies, but it takes a while to charge this magic. During this time, youíll control the hero, who has several decisions to make. You can build combos to maximize damage to enemies. You can also selectively take out enemies so they wonít be a problem during the next turn. The hero can also put up a barrier to prevent damage to the heroine, but like the combos, it requires good timing to pull off. You wonít be falling asleep during any of these fights, to say the least. Then of course, thereís the satisfaction of taking out scores of enemies with song magic at the end of the fight.