The other thing working against (or maybe for some, for) the glut of strategy-style games on the DS is the inherent sameness of titles in the genre. You've got some dudes, a grid, and a lot of battles, once the good guys run into the bad on said grid. Because of that, everything else about the game is scrutinized heavily; after we've established that combat isn't broken and the game works in a strategic sort of sense, we're left studying controls, scripting, presentation, and just plain fun factor. Luckily, Luminous Arc 2 does manage to shine in those categories.
Gallery: Luminous Arc 2
Of course, we can't just stop at that initial recommendation. It's not like Luminous Arc 2 is perfect. We mentioned scripting as one of the important factors in a game like this, but that's a layered affair. Here, the little things are fantastic: the dialogue, the quirky characters, their often-gorgeous portraits. But the overriding story itself is a little on the bland side, and certainly not a page screen-flipper, but because of the array of characters, you won't want to rage through the story elements. The good thing is that it's not simply a rehash of the first game, so those of you who aren't new to the series won't feel like you're playing the first all over again. Just know that it involves a motley group of heroes doing heroic things. Did you expect a different sort of base story?
When so much of a game is about combat, how that combat is handled gets pretty important, from pacing to presentation. The first title started out pretty difficult and got easier; here, it seems to be the opposite, but those easier battles don't last for very long. Luminous Arc 2 is a very dense title, with a lot going on and a raft of characters to manage, and things get complicated quickly when Roland and company set out to end the Witch Conflict.
All that complication is helped along pretty spectacularly by the interface, however. If you want information, which is often your primary weapon in strategy, Luminous Arc will give it to you. As with its predecessor, Luminous Arc 2 shows the damage and hit percentage for each attack, and here, you can count on the info. You won't be demeaning the RNG here; if you've got a 75% chance to hit, you're gonna hit more often than you miss. Anyone who's ever suffered a particularly bad run of luck will appreciate that! At all times in battle, you can also see everyone's HP, enemies and allies alike, the order of battle. Since there's so much going on, you'll be grateful for that all information.
But that's the simple stuff. Several characters have hilarious attacks or weapons, and the main character, Roland, has an ability (when a witch is in party) called Engage. Not only is this ability -- which, yes, does involve the exchange of a ring -- dead useful, but it's amusing as well. Little touches like that really make this a unique experience.
Finally, one piece of advice: try it with headphones. It's not surprising that a game that retails with an included CD has pretty good music, but really, you'll want to pay attention here. The DS speakers alone don't give the soundtrack proper justice, so give it a real listen while you play.
Overall, Luminous Arc 2 is a tremendously enjoyable game that has managed to improve on the flaws of its predecessor (mainly with controls and pacing). The quirky humor and cliché story may turn some off, and it's still strategy-heaven, will may not appeal to the masses. But if you can get on board with those things, Luminous Arc 2 will give you a good ride.
Final Verdict: 8/10