Ar tonelico is a surprisingly long game. I didn’t expect it to be a particularly long RPG; it’s not overly convoluted, it doesn’t throw new plot arcs at you all the time, and it’s a dating sim, for goodness’ sake. However, it’s easily a 60-hour game, most of which is taken up by excessively long random battles, and very little of which is taken up by loading screens or aimless walking.
The downside: the gameplay is too easy, despite how long it takes to finish random battles. Only one boss requires any actual strategy, and everything else can be beat as easily– or moreso– by the obvious standard way of fighting normal enemies. However, this default battle strategy is quite different from most RPGs, and I had at least the chance to try something new and unique; just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it isn’t innovative, and it was still a joy to explore because it was new to me.
On the other hand, though, the story and character development far surpassed my expectations. It started out with your typical group of heroes and heroines, just as I’d expected, acting predictable. However, the characters mature quite well, and the game becomes startlingly insightful about two-thirds of the way through. I had not expected any depth or maturity from the plot– as I said, dating sim whose best marketing point is its audiovisual (if not overly technical) prettiness– but I was quite pleasantly surprised.
Overall, I think I enjoyed this game much more than I was expecting to, and despite the long play-time and the lack of challenge, I would recommend it without the reservations I hesitated over previously. The catch is that it takes the characters time to come to mature and thoughtful conclusions; the player has to be patient with their early foolishness, and willing to stick with it.