I know that in the past few decades, Japanese imports of games have either been Japanese-language only or have been created at such a limited amount that only a few players were lucky enough to pick up the title. I hope the latter is not what happens to Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. It is one of the best RPG titles that I have had the chance to play in the last few years. Players continue on the same planet as in the original Ar Tonelico; beyond that, however, the game really molds itself to the desires and designs that players have. The character that the player creates is modified through interactions, and the game itself turns out to be unique, changing through each decision.
The battle system is interesting in its own right; â€œvanguardâ€ characters take the front line where Reyvateils (singing characters) unleash powerful magical spells. The attack and defense phases are broken out to be separate (and intuitive) systems, where the defense side of things is a minigame in which players have to time their responses correctly. The intuitive nature of the title extends to the story line present in the game; players do not need to be familiar with the first Ar Tonelico title in the slightest to understand what is going on in this title. The unique quality of the game allows these different additions to work as well; even when the game bounces over to something resembling a dating sim, there is enough humor and grace to keep players interested and playing.
One additional word about the dating sim aspect; this type of game is essential for players to delve into, as becoming closer to the Reyvateils is the only way to level the characters up, giving them stronger attacks. Make sure to purchase a copy of the title; at a price point under $40, one gets a new copy of the game, a beautiful book laying out more of the story with eye-popping art, and a soundtrack full of the songs from the game itself. Congrats, NIS, on making the RPG outlook for 2009 look even brighter than it already does. Hopefully NIS can continue to bring over titles that would normally (and in an earlier period were) forgotten in the space of a few years.
Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica (PS2) / 2009 NIS / http://www.nisamerica.com