Arcana Revisited

I probably have more interesting things to talk about (going to PAX, playing through Starcraft 2, enjoying Persona 3 Portable among others) but I’d rather talk about Arcana.  So let’s do that, shall we?

I originally posted about Arcana some time ago – indeed, more than four years ago.  Since that post I had looked for the game each time I went to a brick and mortar store.  There’s something that just feels right about finding it someplace physical rather than going on eBay and picking it up for a little more (or likely less).  The local Game Xchange, Spokane’s (otherwise very nice) Trade-A-Game, and the occasional not-very-likely Play-N-Trade were all candidates, and all failed me.

What actually succeeded in selling me a copy of the game – and yes, I’m aware this is not a very interesting accomplishment – was the Pink Gorilla booth at PAX.  Yes, that’s right – I had the opportunity to play Portal 2, Retro City Rampage, Metroid: Other M, and, might I add, did none of these things (lines too long / not interesting enough to me) and the first thing I post about is buying a SNES game that nobody cares about.Anyway, long story short, I played it for 10 hours or so and my GOTD was probably a little optimistic.  Arcana is clunky, has sparse plot at best (yes, dark, all 10 lines of it) and is frustrating.  Jay has told me he beat it, so I’m not allowed to say it’s harder than Phantasy Star 2.  I will say it’s a worse game, though.

Phantasy Star 2 is hard, but it’s very hard to ‘wipe’ (lose your whole party with no recourse) after the first 30 minutes of the game.  In Arcana, any of your human characters dying is a game over.  Retreating almost never works, and ambushes are frequent.  So if you’re in, say, the 7th floor of the Stavery Tower and your party members are all over 150 HP (well in the “white” range – we’re talking 50% health or more), and you get into a battle with 6 mages and a warrior and all the mages cast Flame 2 – sorry bub, you just lost 45 minutes.

The card motif is interesting, the magic system is “all right”, but ultimately the crushing random encounter rate and the maze-like dungeons (these I can say are worse than Phantasy Star 2 if not 1) bring it down to a “maybe better than 7th Saga or Drakkhen” level.  It’s definitely less playable than Drakkhen, which takes doing.  There are still worse games, if you can believe that – Tecmo’s Secret of the Stars is incredibly bad – but not as many as I’d thought.

Anyway, you can guess why I’m not likely to play the game again.  There are so many better games out there that Arcana only means “nostalgia” to me (and Nostalgia does not automatically mean a good game in either context).

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