The Let's Play Archive

Arc the Lad

by Syrg and Wanton Spoon

Part 1

So this thread is a wee bit experimental. A buddy and I got the idea to do a Let's Play. Only issue is he has the damn game, and he's gone off to college elsewhere. (Bastard.) So this sorta put the kibosh on us VLPing it or anything with the setup we have. Instead, we decided on the following: he'll be doing the "playing through" and "being funny" parts, and I'll supply the "weak banter", "formatting fixes" and "actually making the fucking posts work" parts. Anything you see in bold is from me, and the rest is how he sends this stuff to me before I scrape it together. Expect it to sound schizophrenic until we get this together, okay?

Greetings, friends! My alleged name is Wanton Spoon and today we will be examining a very special strategy RPG.
And I'm still Syrg. Sorry.

Arc the Lad was initially released in 1995 in Japan, making it one of the earliest RPGs for the Playstation, sharing this honor with the likes of Suikoden and the always classic Beyond the Beyond. However, America wasn't graced with its presence until six years later, when Working Designs translated it alongside its two sequels and put them all into a nice box set, which included a hardcover instruction book and disturbing analog stick covers and similar junk that they always feel compelled to attach to their games.
I want my copy back before this ends, by the way. It's a goddamn awesome box.

Some quick tidbits about the gameplay if you're completely new to this. Arc the Lad is not a class/party-customizable strategy RPG like Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea. It's more along the likes of Shining Force or Fire Emblem, where characters are stuck with their individual traits but you have more than enough to work with so it's not a big deal. Also worth noting is that the game is incredibly short; you could beat it in less than ten hours if you know what you're doing (hint: don't level anyone except Arc). Unless you plan on playing the other two games. Damn, that handicapped the shit out of me when I got into the second and Arc was the only one who wasn't dying. We'll be trying to take it at a reletively slow pace in this thread, however. There's some optional dungeons worth going through, partially because it's worth seeing the extra "story" bits (as much as this first title HAD a story), and partially because of another unique feature of this game--if you save your progress after beating the game, you can carry your save file into Arc the Lad II, where you're provided with all your old items and character stats. So yeah, if this all goes well I'll probably end up doing AtL2 as well. Admittedly, for PC gamers, this is a little bit old, but for a console? I can only think of two other games to do this (a few Armored Core titles and the Xenosaga games), and Xenosaga only let you get a free item or two, not keep your levels and gear.

God, I wish I could have carried my gear over from game to game.

But enough exposition. Let's begin!

Arc the Lad! Starring...

Generic Hero!

Generic Love Interest!

Stupid Newbie!

Bishounen Man!

Tellah Clone #57! (We've replaced his eyeballs with hair. Let's see if he notices.)

Racist Stereotype! And...

The Amazing Man-Boobs!

That pretty much covers the entire opening sequence. The rest is just gameplay clips rendered in movie format. Way to waste disc space, G-Craft. Yeah, because there's so much on this disc that the FMV kept them from adding. (Cool orchestral music, though. You guys should probably check out the soundtrack if possible.)

Mayor: Yes, yes, my dear. It is regrettable, but you are aware of the legacy you have inherited.
Mayor: The path is clear. To start the prophecy's fulfillment, you must ascend the mountain and...
: I know. You needn't speak it again. I am prepared to do what I must.

If I were feeling more creatively broke, I'd add a zipper sound effect or something here, but no. I think we'll just leave the innuendo in the dialogue to itself.

Well, aside from me going "ascend the mountain, oh, yeah, ascend it harder, faster, YEAAAAAHHHH". She dresses like a damn concubine, I might as well pretend she is one until we see character development... two games later.

: No. This is no time to doubt. I have chosen to cast aside the sacred writings.
I love her logic here. "I wish I knew why I have to do this. Maybe it'd be easier. Oh well, no time to think about why, I'm just going to fuck it all up instead."
: When the new year dawns, I'll be summoned to Palencia Castle, in the tradition of our clan, to be wed to the prince.
: And all because of some ancient nonsense that my lineage is divine.
: "...the Sacred Clan of priests and sages." Pfft. I sure don't feel sacred...
: This cursed flame is the only thing holding me back from the freedom of choice I deserve.

: I have grown to detest its very existence, and to detest the light it radiates down upon the village.
: And now my new destiny is to extinguish it and free my clan from the chains of tradition. One day, they shall thank me...

Wooooo! You go girlfriend!

Kukuru, you've just unleased an ancient demon on the world and will likely regret it for the rest your life. What are you going to do next?
Admittedly, in any other game, "the rest of her life" would be much shorter now.

Walk away casually. Yeah, I guess I would too.

Man, this is some kind of crappy mayor. What are we doing with an elected official in this time of clans and kingdoms, anyway?
I just pretend it's his actual name. The birth certificate says something like "Mayor Mayor Mayor", and then he took on the title just to complete the image.

...That's a new term of endearment. I actually had to look it up, and it seems by "trifle" he could be referring to an English cake dessert, a thing of little importance, or "a kind of pewter of medium hardness." I'm going to assume it's the last one.
Easy joke #2: "Medium hardness" is about the most you can get from looking at Kukuru.

: ...? ..?
Mayor: What's the matter, my child?
: A v...voice, I heard a horrid voice. I...I feel sick. Like something terrible is about to happen...
Mayor: My! I didn't know you were so sensitive. I'm certain it is nothing of import.
Mayor: In the morning, it shall be forgotten. Trust me, sweet child.
: I shall trust what you say, though I can't shake this feeling of impending doom...

Let's recap here. She figured the best way to avoid marrying a prince was to put out the fire in some unknown manner (let's just say peeing on it for now, that's the easiest way to stop both the "sacred" and "firey" parts of the seal), then she hears a voice going "Hi, I'm evil, and you're all going to pay because of it", and to top it all off, she tells someone this and they go "No worries, sweet cheeks" AND SHE'S OKAY WITH THIS?! Can she at least pick out whether she's supposed to be subservient or not from minute to minute?

I really hate Kukuru, by the way. This is why I'm only the backup funny.

I'm not entirely sure why those pedestals look like that, but I find them disturbingly erotic.

Finally, our intrepid hero. We'll be seeing his face a lot, which makes you wonder why they didn't decide to make him look slightly less like a sullen ten-year-old.
Because if I recall, he WAS a ten-year old at this point in the series. 12 tops. I could check IF I HAD MY MANUAL IN THE COOL BOX.

Of course he still lives with his mom. This trait has become far too standard for my tastes. Come on, guys, you're heroes of the world, set a better example for the kids.

: If I go to the mountain tonight, perhaps I can learn what happened to Father.
Mother: Your father perished long ago...You must accept that, Arc.
: I won't believe it. I just can't believe he died so needlessly...
Mother: Arc, there is no way to know how your father met his end that night.
Mother: On that dreadful mountain lie all manner of terrifying beasts. One of them must have taken your father's life.
: Whether he met his end or not, I must know what became of him, and tonight is the night. I feel it.

You know, Arc, it HAS been ten years. He's probably decomposed by now. Or just vanished with a "woosh" noise.

: If by chance I find the person or beast that killed him, I will have my revenge as well.
: Not knowing if he lives or has died is worse than knowing the truth, and so tonight the uncertainty ends.
Mother: Oh, Arc...

God, just make out already.

Uh oh! The world's turning yellow, it must be time for FLASHBACK SEQUENCE.

Father: Darling, if there were another way, I would gladly take it.
Father: The future of our world...hangs in the balance of this very night.
Mother: But why...w...what will Arc and I do after you leave?
Father: Live. Carry on. Make my sacrifice meaningful.
Mother: No! This can't be happening! Why must you torture me so? I didn't mean to wed a martyr!
Father: Alas, the path we must walk is not clear from the start.
Father: And this is where the road we have chosen to travel has led. All I can buy now is time.
Father: On this very day 10 years from now, the seal shall be broken, and the mountain will tremble.
Father: Arc, who will have grown strong in your loving care, will then depart.
Mother: The mountain will tremble?
Father: The black seal will be compromised, and the terrors released once more.
Mother: Such grim boy Arc! Stop this nonsense. It's madness!
Father: Polta, until that time comes you have nothing to fear.
Father: Raise our son well. Help him grow strong. Prepare him for that day.
Father: I leave Arc in your gentle hands now, my darling. Know that I will always love you both.
Father: Farewell.

Aww. Well, back to things that actually matter.

What? ARC is evolving!

ARC evolved to ARC THE LAD!

Like in most RPGs, they hide stuff in pots in the map. Unlike most RPGs, there are no shops or anything, so aside from monster drops resources are limited. Conclusion? You pick up everything you can damn well find.

We appear to be in Lucca's house. TIME PARADOX

There's no portrait accompanying the first text box, and Mom's not looking. So who's talking? And why is there a stone in what appears to be a toilet? Unless... NO ARC DON'T TOUCH IT

Received a Kaiser Glove!
Received a Revival Tonic!
Received an Energy Fruit!
Received some Sacred Water.

Nice change in punctuation. Like in real life, you're thankful for the first few items your mom gives you when you go out, but by the time she gets to the Sacred Water you're just kind of annoyed.

: I am Arc. And you? Why are you out in a storm like this?
: My name is Kukuru. I'm protecting the shrine.
: Or rather, I was SUPPOSED to be protecting the shrine.
: I was upset because I was being sent out from my clan to marry the prince...
: ...and I sort of...well...put out a 3,000-year-old flame.

Yeah, it sounds pretty fucking stupid when you say it like that, huh?
: After I did it, I heard a voice and the snow started. I think I have to light it again...
: Yes, the Flame must be lit again, but I shall do it.
: What? No! I extinguished the Flame. You have no idea what dangers lurk up there.
: When I was last up there, I heard that creepy, terrible voice coming from nowhere!

Maybe this means you should be looking for happy pills while someone responsible does something. Maybe that's just me.
: I'm certain putting out the Flame had something to do with it.
: I cannot let you go in my place. It's my fault. I should...
: If there are monsters up there, they must be the ones that killed my father 10 years ago.
: I'm going, with or without the torch. So, you might as well let me relight the Flame.

"Move over, woman, this is a MAN'S work. Now get back to the kitchen."
Christ, I wish she would. Every skill she has will end up done better by another character.

Yep, Arc just grabbed the torch out of Kukuru's hands and walked off with it. More forceful than I'm used to, but it gets the story moving along.
AND takes her out of the picture for a while.

Uh... way to be a hero, Arc. You died before getting into any battles.

We're suddenly treated to a cool shot of the moon...

...slooooowly pan down as the snow stops...

...and we're back at Arc's corpse. It was the cutaway that actually wasn't a cutaway at all.

Oh no! It's the hole in the ozone layer! Run from the ultraviolet rays, Arc!

That is some Superman shit right there. Or maybe Birdman. Yeah, on second thought, this is more of a Birdman deus ex machina. "Agh, I just got my ass handed to me... oh look, convenient hole in the clouds!"

: W...who Speaks?
Ozone Hole: I have kept watch over the Flame Cion, which holds the seal of the Ark.
Ozone Hole: Ascend to the Shrine at the peak. Light the Flame Cion once more.

Don't do it Arc! It just wants to increase global warming!

Ozone Hole: Once the Cion's flame burns brightly again, the Ark Ghoul shall vanish.
: I was on my way to do that when it attacked me.
Ozone Hole: Very well, Ignite the Flame. Just know that later, you shall return to extinguish it once more.


: What? Why?
Ozone Hole: It is your destiny.
: My...destiny?
Ozone Hole: Humankind is rushing toward the blackness of the abyss.
Ozone Hole: It is your destiny to avert that fate.
Ozone Hole: By using the power of the Ark...

That's right. The character's name is Arc, and he's looking for an Ark. This is probably why the game wasn't translated until it got two sequels.

: I can stop the end of all humankind?
Ozone Hole: Your father made a pact with us to prevent the death of your race.
Ozone Hole: That is why you are here on this very day. We've awaited your coming.
Ozone Hole: In keeping with that promise, I bestow upon you the power to defeat all manner of monsters.
: I don't understand! What are you talking about?
Ozone Hole: All shall be clear soon enough. Good luck.

Do stuff, save the world. Seems clear enough to me.

And now, our first battle!

It has to ask us this at the beginning of every fight, since I don't think you can access the equipment menu outside the battlefield. Nnnnope. Mostly to prevent abuse later on, when you get "prevents X status" items, or "add +2 to jump" things that suck otherwise and so you have to keep them on all through the fight except they lower your defense so much that it's unnecessarily hard and...

Oops. Flashback.

Here's the equipment/status screen. The left panel shows level, movement points, HP, MP, attack power, magic power, defense, agility, experience, jumping ability, throwing ability, chance of counterattacking, and chance of catching stuff. The massive right panel shows all of our one item. We'll be filling this out as time goes by. For now, we'll have to work with...

This thing. I was expecting a boost to attack power, but this will do until we get something that doesn't suck.
Admittedly, this sort of points out why Arc died so fast. For fuck's sake, he needs help to throw things. And this is after getting the power of the Guardian.

You'll probably be able to guess the general workings of things from this screenshot alone. Your turn comes around, you can move to any of the highlighted spaces. Then you can attack an enemy, but that will automatically end your turn, so you have to worry more about whether you're ready to throw yourself into something like that. After attacking or otherwise ending your turn, the enemy gets to do the same thing, and then

Oops. Have to go through all that dialogue again.

Now let's watch Arc's awesome attacks.

Smacking enemies causes orange sparks to fly off of them.

Not many games feature a jumping slash as a standard attack animation... Especially when the guy jumps three times his height to do it. Needless to say, the slimes can't handle Arc's sheer level of badassedness and dissolve from one hit.

Uh oh. Asexual reproduction can create some pretty dangerous situations. It does halve the enemy's health, if I recall correctly, so you can more easily take them out with a group spell that way. Still, it doesn't change the fact that there are more enemies who'll gang up on you.

But it does mean more experience! Arc managed to level up in the middle of this battle and learn his first spell. We'll be seeing it in a second, but while we're on the topic I'd just like to say that the levelling system might be the most lenient one I've ever seen. The first level takes 50 experience to get to, then 100 to get to the next level, then 150. From then on, it just keeps adding fifty to the amount you need to get for the next level, so each experience requirement is proportionally less than the one before it. It's kind of tough at the beginning, since level 3 takes twice as much experience to get to as level 2, but by the time the experience requirement gets to be around 1000 (level 20) the experience requirements between levels become essentially the same.
All this and I could still never be arsed to level up anyone but Arc in the first game. It really wasn't that balanced. Too bad they fixed that and fucked us all over later on.

Treasure! In this game, most battle locations can only be visited ONCE, so you grab these as soon as you can, particularly the ones that contain precious equipment. This one contains a fruit that's probably far beyond ripe at this point, but in this game we take everything we can get.

Now let's try out that attack!

You swipe your sword across the ground, have visions of a California Raisin on fire, cause LAVA TO COME FROM FUCKING NOWHERE, and then the enemy EXPLODES.
 We learn what the funky tiki-like thing is later. Muuuuuch later. But expect to see a lot of those strange shapes for the game. 

Only one, though. I tried to come up with an explanation for how all that works, taking physics into consideration, but I can't.
Be silly, then. Uh, hmm. The slime is a... heatsink, yes. So one of them absorbs the blaze to keep everything ELSE from burning. It's how the snow stays there.

Anyway, we won. Crosses represent number of enemies killed, the little puffy dots represent experience. We also get to see all the individual herbs we got from the slimes on the right, as well as the fruit picked up from the treasure chest.

Kukuru apparently doesn't have anything else to do and has been standing there the entire time. RPG heroes really don't have lives.
This is not the last example of her chronic stupidity, oh no. I'm gonna harp on this shit for a while, folks.

I love that line. I try to work things like "This is my love letter to your miserable clan!" into my daily conversations. This is probably why I do not have many valentines each year.

Hold me.

Arc successfully places a gigantic fluorescent lightbulb on top of the mountain, defeating the final boss and beating the game. And that's as good a place as any to stop, I think.

Up next on Arc the Lad: Arc and Kukuru make out! Maybe!