Many stigmas are attached to a person when it becomes known they play MMOs. One of those stigmas is definitely not that the person in question has a budding social life or a significant other, to the contrary, the (in)famous South Park episode about WoW cemented that “monster in a cave” aesthetic instead. Lucent Heart doesn’t agree with such ideologies though and being a “dating” MMO it strives to draw people together and help love blossom. Does this successful Japanese MMO port over to the US well or is it just another peculiar novelty not worth the time to download?
Aesthetics - 5
Lucent Heart isn’t exactly a pretty game. Not only is the software a bit dated in 2011 but being a free to play game it doesn’t shoot to stun with impressive graphics and crazy visual flare. The name of the game is letting as many people play it as possible and crazy amounts of post-processing doesn’t accomplish such a goal. Likewise the visuals are heavily influenced by anime which is largely going to be a hit or miss affair for most players. The environs aren’t anything to write home about and the UI is rather bland and unalterable for the most part. One thing that the game excels at though is making extremely memorable and adorable moments occur. All over the cities there are couples congregating and interacting and groups of people dancing their way to success. In the same vein the little companion pets that are available from the cash shop are absolutely soul-crushingly cute. Even the burliest of manly men should be able to admit there is something to be said about a pet this charming.
On top of the mundane visuals the audio is rather annoying. While I didn’t mind the J-pop inspired music for dance offs the ambient noises are all too static and obtrusive while the combat sound effects aren’t visceral or engaging enough to warrant keeping them turned on. A custom soundtrack is a must during long play sessions.
Gameplay – 6.5
If you’ve played an MMO where abilities are put onto action bars then you’ve partaken of Lucent Heart’s combat before. Besides the standard MMO fair there does exist some interesting ideas like Zodiac armor (which is a temporary buff that grants near invulnerability and regeneration) and daily horoscopes that deem how well one’s character will fair at certain activities. Combat happens at a rather brisk pace luckily and beyond boss encounters fights remain relatively short and sweet. While there are multiple classes to choose from the way in which players gain access to them discourages experimentation as one can’t diversify until levels ten and thirty-six respectively. Were you wondering how the upgraded knight classes played? Well level two toons to 36 and you’ll know!
Speaking of levelling the experience bar’s fill rate has an inverse relationship with how much you play the game. The first 15 odd levels seem to fly by, whereas the next batch starts to crawl, then the forties start to really drag, so on and so forth. I found myself thanking the gods that there is an automatic locomotion feature built-in to whisk me from quest to quest. If ever there was a grindfest this may very well be one of them. The community tends to speculate that the first players to hit the new level cap of 75 (released with the last content patch) will happen somewhere in-between February and March of next year so clearly this progression curve only grows steeper.
On the other hand little to no grind is to be found within the crafting system. In order to rank up in a craft one simply must reach a certain level and complete a crafting quest to rank up! After that a slew of gear is available to craft for that new level and much of the materials are readily available for purchase. Rare gear recipes will have to be found on mobs and bosses but for the most part the WoWcraftian experience is nowhere to be seen, which is a relief. Another neat feature is being able to post recipes to the OEM board and have people request your services and pay you for it which is a step in the right direction as far as crafting is concerned.
Beyond the basics of combat there isn’t too much to partake of warfare-wise. There are plenty of dungeons to delve into thanks to the customizable dungeon feature which allows players to pick what environment, enemy types, and loot drops they’ll be working through and a looking for group feature helps to get parties together and rampaging. PvP is largely an empty void in the game besides the Guild versus Guild battles which, compared to other MMO PvP offerings, is stringent at best and downright disappointing for seasoned PvP players. Of course players can always get married in-game…as the reception turns into a giant free-for-all brawl!
Innovation – 7
While Lucent Heart may struggle when it comes to the typically steadfast qualities of MMOs it does a good job of appealing to its target audience; the social gamer. While social gaming is nothing new nowadays it was fresh back when this game launched to critical acclaim in Japan in 2006. Five years later and the emphasis on finding a partner and having fun hanging out in the hub cities is still a refreshing idea. Not many MMOs can tout that you’ll have more fun with the “MMO” portion of the “mmorpg” but I bet Lucent Heart could do just that. Be it the DDR-esque dance battle system, the server-wide trivia quizzes, the weddings, or the general bubbliness of the entire social scene I remain impressed by the social air within the game.
While the customizable dungeon idea doesn’t quite pan out the way I’d dreamed it would it remains an extremely neat idea that garners a good amount of game time from players.
Polish – 5.5
There isn’t much to say in regards to how polished the game is. There isn’t voice work to critique, nor are the graphics of an age that would necessitate any intimate analysis. In fact due to the aged appearance anything that would seem particularly polished at the time of creation has mostly been lost to the sands of time. There are some interesting tidbits to be had, such as emotes that spawn objects to interact with (I personally love the cool “spawn bench, sit on bench” emote), but overall the presentation is a relatively mundane affair aside from the occasional lighted dance show.
The one place that the game really “wows” though is in the dance creation system. Initially cloying and intimidating the sheer mechanical fortitude of the system astonished me as I delved into its nuances and intricacies. The developers have done a stellar job in creating a flexible and powerful tool kit for anyone wishing to create a dance for their avatar to boogie to. Be it the jumbled mixes I idly made or the masterpieces that are hosted on their dance competition website they are all testaments to the games crowning achievement, the dance system.
Longevity – 4
There is plenty of content to be had even if said content isn’t exactly “quality” content. Much headway can be made into the social aspect of the game without levelling up that much but without constantly levelling players won’t be able to get to the juicy parts of the crafting system or experience the more interesting world boss encounters or dungeons. As a solo player the grind can be overbearing and there isn’t much in the way of legitimate MMO gameplay to satiate my gaming hunger as it stands.
Even so the most compelling aspects of the game remain the quirky social features. Those will be the real determining factor in how long Lucent Heart can keep players interested.
Social – 9
As you’ve probably gleaned by now this is the game’s strong point, its magnum opus if you will. Running around town challenging people to dance competitions and just generally being social is great fun in Lucent Heart. The Christmas events are also rather hilarious and time-consuming (snowmen were invading the major cities!) and there is plenty to do when it comes to just wasting time in-game. The people you’ll meet are all extremely nice and helpful and taking on the sleep-inducing quests with a soul mate helps to liven things up a bit.
The written word can only do so much to convey how everything plays out in-game though, and enough can’t be said about a game that not only has an inviting player base, but an pleasurable one as well.
A little aside: as players level up they have a gift that they can unpack multiple times to garner items from it. At one point it gives players a llama on which to ride about the world in both extreme haste and style. This llama apparently times out after a few days and to mount again players will have to buy another one from the item mall. Needless to say that was a bit disappointing.
It is entirely possible to not pay a cent for your time in Lucent Heart, true enough. However a few dollars spent here and there will drastically improve one’s experience with the game. Be it from the increased movement speed or the cute clothes you can adorn your avatar with the little things make a big difference. If you’re willing to ante up some cash everything from maximum health to friend list size to crafting space can be temporarily raised.
Ultimately the value of the content can range from enormous to zilch depending on what you enjoy about the game and how much you spend to enhance that content.
Despite the lacklustre combat system and the incredibly generic grind associated with levelling Lucent Heart yet retains some uniqueness that might just lead to some fun. If you’re unafraid of a bit of mediocrity and eccentricity and you’re looking for something genuinely different from other MMOs (sans the combat) don’t hesitate to download Lucent Heart and visit the locals.
Who knows, you might just dance the night away.