Ar Nosurge Plus is a 3rd Person RPG set aboard a colony spacecraft several thousands of years after humanity’s planet has exploded. We start off our journey as Delta, a very feminine looking protagonist and his partner named Cass. They live on the last human outpost named Felion due to a race of creatures known as Sharl wreaking havoc. Delta lowered the force field that protected the town for reasons unknown and it nearly got overrun by Sharl due to his actions causing everyone to have feelings of distrust towards him. He claims not to remember doing it and seems to have lost all his memories that preceded that event. It seems like a typical amnesia story so overused in games these days but it has a pretty good explanation behind it and makes you question if you can trust your character as well. At the beginning of the game we are simply working as chef for our own unpopular restaurant until mysterious disappearances start to grow out of control and we are hired as a mercenary to go spy on a cult that worships the Sharl.
From that opening paragraph you’d think this was a very serious game but it in fact also incorporates lots of humor and light hearted moments when the chance is right. Mixing seriousness and humor can be a difficult thing to balance but this game knows exactly when the right time to be tongue in cheek without having it feel out of place. All characters are voice acted in both Japanese and English which you can toggle between at any time in the options menu. Even if you do not speak a lick of Japanese you will definitely want to choose it as the English voice actors are nothing short of cringe-worthy. Not all dialogue is voice acted and most of it is pure text. If you are not one that enjoys tons of reading I would not even consider this title as there is just an absurd amount of talking and character interaction. In fact most of your time will be reading making feel like a Visual Novel of sorts and luckily the story here is good though wavers a bit towards the end. Delta’s partner Cass will be your companion throughout the length of the game and is his love interest. She cares very deeply for Delta but also distrusts him for good reason. Cass is a very solid and memorable character though unfortunately she is pretty much the only character in this game with little to no character development. She starts off as a “Tsundere” and never really moves on from that character stereotype.
After a few hours into the game you will be introduced to a new protagonist, a robot called Earthes that is tasked with protecting a girl called Ion who has very powerful song magic. In the game’s universe there exists both artificially and natural born beings that can transmit their emotions into a song that can have various effects on others such as healing them or devastating all those within earshot of the song. Both Delta’s partner Cass and Earthe’s partner Ion possess the ability use song magic, making them very rare and useful tools of war against the Sharl or any foe. They are defenseless while singing so they require a partner to protect them in battle until their song is complete which means they usually grow a strong bond of trust between them. Why I bring this up now is that the character Ion seems like your typical holier than thou naive type of character that wouldn’t hurt a fly. She starts off as a rather boring to be around character since she is so cliché that you will know what she will say before she even opens her mouth. Most of the entertainment you get from her side of the story early on is that she explores a really unique environment that is a far cry from the metallic surroundings of the pair of Delta & Cass.
Unlike Delta, Earthes is usually given various ways to respond to people which makes him a ton more of fun to play as since you can creep people out, be a complete pervert and generally change the tone of a scene as you say something completely out of place much to Ion’s discontent. As the story goes on and the two characters start being more open to each other they turn out to be much more than meets the eye and surprisingly enough Ion turns out to be a really interesting character. This game features a shop that allows you to enter the mind of people in order to grow a stronger bond between each other as well as weaving new song magics while in their minds. The main story reveals very little about Ion other than showing her as an extreme optimist but diving into her mind shows a completely different side of her that grants you a whole new appreciation of her character as well as getting you to actually want to protect her. Diving into Ion’s mind is much more difficult than any other of the characters and is completely optional so I’d highly suggest looking up online how to get her to accept you since I would not have figured out how if I hadn’t done so myself.
You can switch between Earthes and Delta via the save points scattered around so if you are stuck it is likely due to needing to accomplish something as the other. While Earth’s fights with guns and Delta fights with some kind of giant nun-chuck thing they both have the same moves that work exactly the same. Combat in this game is basically a semi puzzle game where you are given a limited amount of moves to destroy the enemies that are going to attack once you run out of actions. Destroying them before they get the chance to attack nets you an extra turn allowing you to press the attack until you fail to destroy the enemies that are about to launch their retaliation. If you fail to destroy an enemy that is about the attack in your turn they will direct their assault toward your singing partner be it Ion or Cass and you must block their projectiles with the circle button. This requires good timing and massively reduces the damage your partner will take but at the beginning of the game you can only block three times per turn so it does require a bit of strategy as to which attacks you are willing to let hit your partner in case there are heavy hitting attacks that you may not be able to block if you use up all your actions on weak attacks. This won’t really be a problem on Normal mode as the game is extremely easy on this default difficult setting and you’ll annihilate most enemies far before they get a change to attack you.
If you want any kind of challenge you’ll need to turn up the difficulty or if you are in it for the story then leave it as is and breeze through the game. Enemies come at you at waves and there can be up to fifty waves to fight through later in the game. Each wave consists of various different enemies in different formations which is where the puzzle like feel of the game comes in. You can use a Crusher attack to push an enemy back a lane, a Semi-Auto attack that will harm everyone on that lane and a simple attack that targets a single enemy. How much of each attack you have in a turn depends on your characters equipment which I’ll cover in a bit. These attacks and your efforts are more for buying time than to actually win the battle since your partner will be singing the entire fight and once her meter is charged she can unleash a devastating song that will completely destroy waves upon waves of enemies. Activating the song is kind of annoying since you have to press the start button and then choose it which feels kind of unnecessary considering how much buttons go unused during combat. In that start menu you can also activate a friend skill that damages a wave of enemies and should be used when you need it most since it’s a single use per battle, you’ll also be able to use items here to restore health, increase damage and other effects like increasing singing speed. The ‘Activate Song’ is the very first thing on this menu so be careful what button you press after opening the menu or you’ll end up using your song magic far too early.
Once your partner has enough trust in you she will actively start helping you during battle by randomly flinging a small orb spell at enemies which can be really useful when you yourself can’t reach a back line enemy but her attacks kill them for you. You can’t tell her who to attack sadly but you’ll definitely want to go into her mind sooner rather than later in order to gain more of their trust and her aid in combat as well as more powerful songs to sing. One thing that annoyed me from the very start is how often our partners talk during combat, they say things so often that it’s not uncommon for their voices to relapse over herself making her say multiple things at the same time. It is not gamebreaking by any means but they really need to tone down the amount of lines they yell each turn. You have a limited amount of turns so if you fail to rack up lots of extra ones by defeating the enemy before he attacks it will cause you to be kicked from the battle and thrown back into where you where before you were randomly attacked. This does not mean you’ve lost however, it simply means you may be attacked again by the group of stragglers you left alive. Defeating all of the waves means you will no longer have to fear random battles and can explore the environment freely until you fast travel or return to a settlement.
Winning a fight gets you experience points, money and Dive point which are essentially the amount of trust you’ve gained from your partner allowing you to have a much bigger effect in her mind using these points. Both Delta & Earthes level up separately though they both share items and money. Combat is no doubt unique but it does feel like an afterthought and often makes you think “why are you fighting these people” or “what are they doing here”. As the story progresses the feeling of it not belonging gets stronger and stronger though thankfully combat will take up a small amount of your time. A large portion of your time may be spent with the optional crafting of items or weapons with the help of another character which is unexpectedly fun to do since after making a new item for the first time there will be a rather comedic banter between them every time. Each of these different characters that help you craft stuff have their own side stories going on and as you build more items these interesting stories will progress as well as allow you to learn more about them. I found myself building stuff just for the laughs the dialogue provides or to see what happens next in the side story, not for the useful gear or items. These also unlock a lot of topics to talk about the next time you get in the bath with your partner.
Yep, your partner will put on a swim suit and hop into a bath with you pretty much as soon as you meet them. This is done in order to purify both of your bodies and inserting your thoughts into whichever part of her body you choose (>.>). These thoughts are earned while you dive into her mind and carry positive effects for combat once inserted into her. This would be a good time to mention that this game features quite a bit of fan-service and lewd stuff like the Empress of Humanity wearing extremely little clothing. Nothing too sexual or over the top but it is there for better or worse depending on the person. You can get in the bath with pretty much any female in this game which is especially weird when you’re playing as Earthes, the giant robot designed for combat. They all have their own unique things to talk about with either Delta or Earthes. This is completely optional and you gain nothing from this but it is fun to play as Earthes just to say dumb things to them. All the characters in this title are pretty interesting thankfully since you can spent a lot of time learning about them via crafting, bathing with them or diving into their minds. Diving into people’s mind are the best parts of this game as they take off the restraints of the main story and crank the insanity to 11. Peoples minds can range from extremely funny to unexpectedly dark though you can always count on them being a ton of fun to go through.
While diving into people’s minds you can make decisions that can alter a few things but in the end there is really only one way through it. There is no combat inside of peoples mind so these sections and the extent of control you have is choosing one of various options to respond or act with. The amount of things to do besides the main story makes it very easy to get distracted. That’s not to say the main story isn’t interesting. It is quite a different feeling from most games to be forced to keep fighting while knowing that we are both victims of the war being manipulated by an external party. There is no typical evil just for the sake of it type of clichés here, everyone has their reasons for doing what they are doing. One thing did bug me to no end however, imagine capturing Hitler and literally playing hide ‘n seek with him. It should be obvious what would happen and with humanity at the state it is in the game it just felt extremely dumb. Another problem that stems from their budget is the lack of character models. It is hard to care about thousands upon thousands dying while there are dozens of their clones walking around regardless. It looks especially terrible when a scene requires a crowd and it is the same few people copy and pasted over and over.
Another issue lies with the equipment descriptions. They will say things like “Migation lvl 1” or “Harmo Break +2” and failing to say what these mean or what they do. The final problem I can think of comes in the form of a clone of a character that comes from another dimension just to conveniently have baths with you late into the game. If you do not want the ending spoiled do not talk to her. The graphics of this game are alright for the Vita and the environments you explore are rather small and split up into separate areas that require a bit of loading to transition between. Music is really great and I’ve never heard anything like it. It is a strange mix of Tribal and Futuristic that go really well together surprisingly enough along with female vocals occasionally thrown into the mix which ended up blending together really well to create an unforgettably unique soundtrack. The soundtrack, concept art and various other goodies can be unlocked once you finish the game. At the end of the day the words “unforgettably unique” sums up my thoughts of Ar Nosurge Plus perfectly. It has its flaws and was clearly made with a small budget but it has a ton of heart. After playing this title that I never even heard of or remember how it got onto my Vita I must say it’s surprising to me just how much I enjoyed Ar Nosurge. Great characters, tons of mind blowing moments and a fantastic mix of both seriousness and light heartedness make this a must play game for anyone into RPGs with a ton of dialogue.