Luminous Arc is a tactical role-playing game and uses a battlefield grid viewed from an isometric perspective. The top screen is used to display unit information while movement and attacks are determined on the lower screen. Left- and right-handed touch-screen controls and D-pad control schemes are available. One of the special traits is the Flash Drive Gauge, which, when filled, allows a character to use a special attack. Between battles, players can view short sequences featuring the game's mascot, Kopin, and intermission sequences that will allow the player to get to know the characters in the party better. The game also includes a multiplayer battle mode.
Each time a player character makes an action, his or her Flash Meter will increase. The player can then use Flash Points to perform powerful attacks, called Flash Drives that may also cause status ailments to enemies. Some enemies in Luminous Arc can also use Flash Drives
It is important to note that, while normal attack skills can damage allies and healing skills can restore enemy HP, the effects of Flash Drives committed to their intended targets; for instance, it is impossible for a recovery Flash Drives to heal opponents. Flash Drives can be learned via leveling up, but several are learned as the story progresses.
Synergy attacks are a combination attack that can be used when all characters involved have their Flash Points filled up and are close to each other. However, not all characters can perform Synergy attacks, as they are unlocked via story arcs that revolve around certain characters bonding.
After each battle, the spoils of battle will be displayed on the screen, including gold, items, and Vitae. In addition, the player will be prompted to talk with one of the characters that took part in the battle. An Intermission scene occurs after the ensuing plot dialogue, in which the player can have a short conversation with the previously selected character. On the touch screen, a list of responses will appear with the chosen character's avatar on the top screen. If the choice was favorable, the main character, Alph, will develop a stronger bond with that character, which takes the form of evasion and hit rate bonuses if the two are placed next to each other in future battles. If the character particularly likes the player's response, he or she may give Alph a useful item. However, the player is given a finite number of opportunities to talk to each character, after which it will be impossible to improve the bond. If the player has made good choices throughout the various conversations with a character, there may be a special scene between Alph and that character featuring anime-style art and an additional voice-over. If you say the right thing, you could get an item from the person. As the bond between a character and Alph improve, the heart will continue to grow, and once the heart becomes blue, the character will no longer speak with Alph during Intermission.
There are also short cutscenes after every story battle featuring the game's mascot, Kopin. Though he claims that he will try to keep an eye on the characters and tell the story from his point of view, the player actually learns more about Kopin's personality, philosophy, and possible love interests.
Throughout the adventure, the player will obtain magical items called Vitae. According to the game's lore, Vitae obtain their magical properties from the ancient power of Rune, the same power used by the Witches to fuel their magic. In order to make use of a piece of Vitae, it must first be appraised at the workshop in the Witch Village. Once this has been accomplished, the Vitae can be used to add elemental and status effects to weapons. In addition, it is possible to ask other characters about what they know about Vitae. This will allow the player to learn the best combinations for developing items with different strengths.
Using the Wi-Fi option, players can choose to either battle against an anonymous and random opponent, or against a player whose friend code has been registered. Items are won for each game played against a random opponent, with more being earned if the player is victorious. Players can also play locally via the DS' wireless connection.
The story begins with a video type cutscene featuring the recently promoted 14-year-old Grand Cardinal Johannes along with Cardinal Kingston and some monks. The following scene introduces Alph, Theo, Cecille and Leon. The team is supposed to be training, but Leon is slacking off and keeps trying to hit on Cecille, while Alph and Theo are training too hard, much to Cecille's exasperation. Heath the Arc Knight and leader of the Garden Children returns and says that the Garden Children are finally commissioned to fight witches and monsters; miraculously there happen to be some nearby amidst citizens crying and running around in terror.
The next big development is the arrival of Lucia, a supposed maid who enjoys sweeping but hates actual cleaning. Later that night Alph is asleep and hears Lucia's voice, they have a conversation then (while asleep) and Lucia says Alph's a Rym and he goes "What the hell?" and wakes up. Earlier Lucia said she was sleeping in the forest so he gets up and goes there. While talking with Lucia, they are attacked by monsters because Alph forgot to cleanse the monster blood from his sword, as it attracts more monsters. Lucia uses Light magic, causing Alph finds out she's a witch but promises not to tell anyone because she reasons him with being the one who saved his life.
Soon afterwards, Alph's group travel to Carwee, a small town located south of the Ever Garden. It is here that they meet Andre, who belittles them for being younger and smaller, and Cardinal Kingston, who causes Lucia to leave the party in disgust due to his pompous nature and hatred of Witches. While attempting to reconvene with her, the group runs into Vanessa, the Witch of Immolation, an impulsive Witch who wields Fire magic and generally has heated responses to many situations, as shown when she sets her behemoths on the party, which they defeat. Shortly after the battle, Vanessa recognizes Lucia, and later attacks her after she tries to stop her. Alph intercepts the blow, and showing an unusual amount of power (his brother Theo says "Alph is... glowing?" when he sees it) turns it aside, saving Lucia and settling their debt. Afterwards, Lucia tells the party that she is a Witch and disappears with Mel, another Witch, but one who uses Water magic and has a hopelessly cheerful disposition.
After recruiting Saki and Nikolai and facing two more encounters with Vanessa, the party reunites with Lucia, who joins the group intending to reverse a curse Vanessa had accidentally placed on Theo, but during this task they are forced to fight Andre and Hugo, a researcher for the church who seek to capture Theo and research the curse placed on him. The party receive aid from Mel and drive them back, but they are declared traitors to the Church in the process.
Finally, the party reach the barrier protecting the Lethe Forest. Mel removes it, and they enter the Witch Village. Cecille feels at ease in the Village, which she finds strange. The party then meet Claire, the leader of the Witches who masters Lightning magic. The party is tested by her, Vivi and Mavi and pass the test, convincing Claire that the planet has chosen them. The group then catch wind of a peril to Lucia at a volcano near the village, and so with Vivi in tow they pursue her. On the way, Alph, Theo, Leon, Cecille, Saki and Nikolai learn that the planet is itself a sentient being: it is able to sense danger to itself, hence the recent earthquakes. They then find Lucia surrounded by monsters and rescue her. Fortunately, Lucia has found the last item they need to reverse Vanessa's spell: a draconic geode.
Mel then takes the group to see Payan, the great sage of the Lethe Forest, and his apprentice, Pollon. Shortly afterwards, Theo is cured, but with an unexpected side effect: he is able to tap into the dragon's power whenever he needs to. Lucia then tells Alph about the Rym: dragons who have formed a connection with Witches, and are thus stronger than ordinary dragons. She also tells him that the god of the Luminous Church will kill the planet if allowed to awaken, and one purpose of the Witches and the dragons is to stop him from doing this. The next day, Vanessa tries to steal the village Lapistier: she mentions to Claire that something odd is happening at the southern town of Jeidath, something which should not occur. Fortunately, the party turn up and dissuade her from this course: however, she goes to Jeidath without the Nature Lapistier, which is cause for Mavi and Pollon to tag along with the group: so they may stop her from leveling the town and putting many innocent people in unnecessary danger.
Sadly, the group arrive too late to stop the Jeidath research facility from being leveled. They find Vanessa and automatically jump to conclusions, sparking another confrontation. The battle is interrupted, however, by Kingston's sudden appearance. He has a girl with him, whom he introduces as Iris, the Steel Witch. This girl has Rune in her body and thus possesses the powers of a Witch: she has the Thunder Lapistier in her heart, much to Saki's disbelief. It was this girl, and not Vanessa, who destroyed the laboratory. Another battle ensues, this time with Vanessa assisting Alph's group. After defeating the Steel Witch, she unleashes her full power, but Vanessa and Mel teleport the group to safety.
The group travel to ruins located north of Jeidath. En route, they run into Heath, but he attacks the group to Alph's dismay. Fortunately, a survivor of the Eurus Knights, named Kai, joins the expanding party, though Lucia leaves. The group are then found by Andre. He reveals himself to be the killer of Leon's father. This is cause for Leon to break away from the group as he wishes to avenge his father. Upon reaching the ruins the party are found by Claire. They then find Lucia, but she is in dire straits: the Steel Witch has found her and she is no match for her alone. Alph rushes to Lucia's side, and then awakens as a Rym Hero: he is now able to tap into his draconic power. Alph and Theo's stones fuse into one, giving Alph more power. With this strength, Alph's group sends the Steel Witch packing. Claire then reveals the stone Alph now holds to be the Light Lapistier, which had broken into two pieces, which Alph and Theo had been holding the whole time, something Vanessa never realized. The group then decide to return to the Witch Village.
At this stage, a new character is introduced: Priel, an angel created by the God of the Luminous Church. She removes the barrier around the Lethe Forest with little effort, even as the party races back to the forest. They arrive too late to stop Priel from destroying Mother Lapis, an event which causes Cecille to collapse while whimpering in pain. Priel reveals that she was born exclusively to see to the god's rebirth, using any means necessary and as soon as possible. Fate has a surprise for everyone in attendance: Cecille is in fact the Twilight Witch, the one who masters Dark magic, and it is this form she takes even as Saki looks on. After driving off the angel, Cecille recovers the Dark Lapistier and then reveals why the Church never condemned her: she had sealed her memories and true powers away before she came to live in the Ever Garden. It should be noted that Cecille's more recent memories are still intact.
After this, the party races to stop the rebirth of Zehaal. Their next destination is the Altar of Souls, where a ritual to honor Zehaal was held in the past, one which entailed sacrificing lives to him. Cecille's attempt to seal the Altar of Souls is interrupted by the Steel Witch, whom the party battles one last time. After the battle, Heath arrives, followed by five hundred soldiers, and then by Kingston and Priel. Kingston intones the sacrificial rite, but Cecille and the Steel Witch's quick actions save the party and Heath. Unfortunately, the soldiers are not so lucky. The Steel Witch dies in Heath's arms, and then he clears things up with the party, joining them for the coming battles. The party then travels to San Reise, reuniting with Leon and permanently recruiting Vanessa along the way. They also discover that Kingston has been secretly building a device that would allow him to control God, but Priel destroys it. Unfortunately, the group fail to stop Zehaal's rebirth despite avenging the Eurus Knights by slaying Kingston. The group journey to the centre of the planet to prevent its destruction, encountering Priel, who reveals that humans were created by Zehaal. Nikolai counters this by saying that consuming the planet would destroy them as well, which is something the party would not allow. The party then battle Priel and defeat her, but are then forced to watch in horror as Zehaal consumes her.
In spite of the terror of this moment, the gang are more determined than ever to defeat Zehaal. Cecille reveals the ultimate Light Magic: Over Flash, a spell that combines the might of all seven witches and then releases it. The party find Zehaal at the heart of the world, and thus a battle ensues. Despite the gang's best efforts, they cannot kill Zehaal with their own powers. Lucia then attempts a final gamble: she casts the Over Flash spell. Alph combines the power of the Light Lapistier with his own draconic power and prevents the world's destruction, while Over Flash banishes Zehaal. In a post credits scene, Lucia is shown conversing with the others after one year.
The anime inspired chararacter designs are by Kaito Shibano, an illustrator for PC games and trading cards. Shibano said that he made the designs bright and with a light feel to brush off the stereotype of witches being gloomy.
The Garden Children are a special group of warriors trained by the Arc Knight Heath to fight monsters and condemn the Witches that have reappeared in the world after being sealed for a thousand years. The Garden Children get their name from the Ever Garden, where a majority of them have been living for most of their lives. The Ever Garden was founded 14 years before the game's story begins, in the same year that the Grand Cardinal Johannes was born. It was the last wish of the former Grand Cardinal that a group of humans be established to fight against the Witches, whose rebirth he foresaw. Each member of the group has special abilities that make him or her useful in combat, ranging from sword fighting and archery skills to the use of Church-approved magic.
According to the scriptures of the Luminous Church, the Witches and the Dragons fought an unending war until God descended from heaven and sealed them away. The Witches have a mysterious and innate power known only as Rune, and they use this power to cast unholy magic and cause chaos in the world. As they are always in competition with one another, the Witches want nothing more than to develop their abilities, and travel around the world looking for Lapistier, magic stones that feed on God's power and can amplify a Witch's power to terrifying levels. As such, it is up to special agents of the Luminous Church to travel around the world and condemn Witches and transport the Lapistier to the Church in order to have them cleansed of their evil energy.
The Witches themselves have a completely different philosophy. Born from a rainbow-colored stone called the Mother Lapis, Witches are born whenever the planet is in danger, and are then reabsorbed into the crystal when the threat has been extinguished. However, it also appears that the Earth has the ability to call back Witches who do not take their function seriously, as long as the different Runes are kept in balance. Indeed, Witches "represent the natural elements of the planet," and gather together to pool their powers in the war against what has become the God of the Luminous Church. Witches use the Lapistier not to boost their destructive power, but to fill themselves up with the energy of the earth itself when the time comes to fight. This group of Witches seems to have developed differently from those of the past, as they have all developed their own philosophies and battle styles.Ever Garden: The base of the Garden Children, the Ever Garden is on the western coast of the Eastern Continent. It consists of a dorm where the members of the group eat and sleep, and also serves as the training ground for the elite band of Witch-hunters. The Ever Garden is surrounded by woods but is not far from the nearby village of Carwee.
Ridget: Known as "the Emerald of the Eastern Continent," the port town of Ridget is the only gateway to the Saint Sea and to the world beyond. Though it was once a bustling village known for its strong trade industry, Ridget was attacked by Witches, and a majority of the property has been destroyed.
Dotruvar: A mining city in the frontier of the Western Continent, Dotruvar has a strong trade economy due to Rune in the local rock. Drotruvar's artisans are in constant competition with those of other villages on the Western Continent but recently have been enjoying success due to the Fire God, Hernas, who keeps the forges hot and the metal strong.
Lethe Forest: An enchanted forest in the Northern reaches of the Western Continent, the Lethe Forest is the subject of rumors and legends among the local people. Though the woods are said to be the home of Witches, it has been said that it has always been an odd place, long before their return. It is impossible for normal humans to enter the Lethe Forest, but Alph and company must do so to reach the Village of Witches deep in the trees.
Jeidath: a town next to a lake. The research facility here is owned by the Round Table Council and is famous for producing medicines, though there is an unofficial reason for its existence: the creation of the Steel Witch.
Madrasta: Called "the Town of Scriptures" by people around the world, Madrasta is known for its close ties to the Luminous Church. The people of this city, on the Western Continent, often have prophetic dreams about the circumstances surrounding God's second descent to the land below, and the reliability of the dreams is high due to the striking similarity among those accounts that have been documented. Madrasta is also the home base of the Zephyroth Knights, one of the Wings of the Luminous Church.
Altar of Souls: This is a ruin near the Lethe Forest. An ancient ritual performed in the honour of the God of the Luminous Church, though Claire reveals that it entails sacrificing human souls to the god.
San Reise: The centre of the Luminous Church, the Grand Cathedral, is here. The first part of the ritual to revive Zehaal is held in the Grand Cathedral.
Kursegrad: An ancient battlefield that has become an icy wasteland. The ancient Aldheld disaster and the war against Zehaal took place on this continent a thousand years ago. A great deal of arcane power is stored in this continent, enough power to revive the God of the Luminous Church.
The game was developed by Marvelous Interactive and "rookie development studio" imageepoch. The game's music was produced, mixed, and mastered by famed sound designer and composer Yasunori Mitsuda. He, along with Akari Kaida, Kazumi Mitome, and Shota Kageyama, composed the music for the game.
Luminous Arc was met with mixed reviews. HonestGamers gave the game a solid 8/10, saying, "I realised that it was exactly because Luminous Arc refused to take itself seriously that it was so much fun."
However, 1UP.com rated the game as "average", giving it a C. The editors called it a "Final Fantasy Tactics Advance clone" because of its similar gameplay and overall feel. While not impressed with the DS's touch screen capabilities used in the game, the editor wrote that "the game's biggest attraction, in theory, is wireless multiplayer, either locally or online". GamePro's 6/10 review noted, "It's a decent enough game but it isn't the grand strategy RPG experience that we've all been waiting for."
Japanese publication Famitsu gave the game a 28 out of 40. Luminous Arc managed to sell 25,676 copies during its debut week in Japan.