The PSP has its fair share of role playing games, and there is one in particular that justifies the existence of Sony’s portable platform in Japan. Let’s face it, Monster Hunter games move thousands of PSPs with every iteration of the series and I cannot help but feel that Square Enix wanted a piece of this commuter culture pie. Thus, Lord of Arcana was born into existence. The game is a straight up clone of Monster Hunter and I would be doing both games a disservice if I didn’t compare and contrast them. Both games are similar, but there are some key differences that separate Lord of Arcana from the Capcom behemoth that rules this portable genre.
Lord of Arcana (LoA) is and action RPG that has you playing as a courageous warrior on a quest to collect the stones of Arcana. The basis of the game is to kill the seven minions who guard the Arcana stones. What they don’t tell you is that you will be collecting a whole lot more than just some Arcana stones. LoA comes with a heavy emphasis on character progression through the development of spells, weapons, and equipment. The catch for this style of game is that you get to craft all of the goodies yourself, and no one is going to sell you the materials. This means you have to traverse the dungeons, kill all within and use the body parts to craft equipment back in town. Sound familiar?
Do you have the stones to take this guy’s stone?
Everything begins from the hub town, from shops to crafting and more importantly grabbing quests from the Slayers Guild. When you accept a quest and you are instantly transported to the dungeon. The dungeons come in all different shapes and sizes from dank caverns to lush forests. As you travel throughout the dungeon you will encounter the minions in real time and this is where Lord of Arcana differs greatly from its Monster Hunter cousin. When you attack the minion in the dungeon you warp to an instanced battle that has you and the minion(s) in a battle circle pitted against each other. This style of encounter is a little jarring and takes you out of the immersion as you are constantly switching from the dungeon view to the battle screen between each fight. While in the actual battle you can move freely around the ring and need to be pretty quick on the controls, something that the PSP struggles with. Square Enix had the intuition to include a lock on targeting system in LoA which is a saving grace for the battle system, as I struggled with the camera throughout my whole time with the game. When you are not battling the camera you actually get to fight some minions and the battle mechanics are pretty enjoyable.
The actual quests themselves require some medial tasks such as fetching 20 of item ‘X’ all the way to killing 10 of minion ‘Y’, but the real action comes when you are sent to conquer one of the boss minions to free an Arcana stone. Boss battles quick turn into a slugfest ballet and your actions are limited to the ‘pulse’ bar which is essentially your stamina. Do too many awesome moves in succession and your character will be tired and will have to recover in the middle of battle - leaving you vulnerable for a period of time. The battles can become intense and the boss minions are exceptionally challenging because they have quick time events thrown into the mix, just to keep you on your toes. When you finish the battle by slaughtering everything you are rewarded with experience for your character as well as your much needed crafting materials.