The second thing I have to say is if you liked Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, you do pretty much owe it to yourself to look into this one, because I am not even kidding, the similarities are abound, but this game came out 5 years earlier. Also, unlike Trails in the Sky, Arc the Lad 3 is the END of it's trilogy.
So, Arc the Lad 3 picks up something like 10-15 years after Arc the Lad 2 left off. Humanity is recovering from the great disaster, which did serious damage to the world's technology, peoples, and overall geography. A young lad named Alec lives in a village on an isolated island, with dreams of becoming like the Hunter who saved him and eventually gets pulled into a deeper set of shenanigans, okay yeah, it is pretty cliched, but in spite of this, it manages to be compelling. Incidentally, if you have played Arc the Lad 2, you will put two and two together alot faster than the main characters ever will, as they vary between being very young or not born when the great disaster happened. Honestly, I really have to say if you are considering this, play Arc 1 and 2 beforehand anyway, even if the save import bonuses aren't as good, because having played all three now, I see why Working Designs released them as a trilogy.
Anyway, the general vibe and feel of Arc the Lad 3 is a lot more upbeat than the first two games, and a lot more optimistic. The change in feel can be a bit jarring, but after the ride that is Arc 1 and 2, it's better for it. While saving the world eventually comes into effect, the main characters motivation remains pretty solid and unwavering. And while the characters do mature, they don't become different people. I don't know if it's as compelling as Arc 2, but I certainly spent more than a few nights going 'just one more mission'. Pretty much the entire game is handled through the Hunter's Guild, again from Arc the Lad 2. But while Hunter's Guild quests were mostly sidequests in Arc 2, in Arc 3 they pretty much guide the story entirely. What I did find neat is that, since the sidequests were mostly optional, and it was possible to miss them, characters react differently depending on whether you did previous missions or not. You have to do a certain number of sidequests to open up new story missions, but all of them have their own stories, and are often interconnected. It made the game world feel more... full, I suppose. Which is a good thing, since the world has shrunk significantly from Arc 2.
They've gone for a more realistic art style this time around, and while it took some getting used, I think I ultimately prefer it. The game looks much prettier, and unlike the last game, characters actually make appearances in cutscenes. While they've dropped the battle party size to 4 members, the game has far fewer playable characters, and they are more distinct from each other. The roles aren't initially what I expected either. While the main character is a swordsman, he's primarily good for healing and later magic. The summoner is a somewhat squishy guy with a spear. The hitter for most of the game is young woman with a variety of pistols, machineguns, shotguns, and grenade launchers. Ultimately, you can have seven permanent party members, one of them a secret character to make completionists heads explode, and you occasionally get guest characters, who are sadly not worth bothering with except for the fun of it. The gameplay feels a lot smoother, and technically I think it's a much better game than Arc 1 or 2.
Really, though, it's a game that pulled me in quite a bit, even if cameos from previous games felt a bit forced, it did show in general that characters from the past games had changed and matured a bit on their own. The missions give a few odd but often fun gameplay changes and minigames, but it's overall a pretty great experience, and if you're like me, you might find yourself going 'okay, seriously, what was that in the last game'. I did tear up a bit at the end, but that's because i am a big girl's blouse. Really, though, I enjoyed all three games, and do recommend them. Also, the Opening Theme for the games has seriously grown on me.
Now, I can definitely call these games a success, I think I might break operation backlog rules and skip ahead to the game that actually got me into this series and give that a play knowing what I know now.