If you search for “Arc Symphony” on Twitter, you’ll find a lot of nostalgia.
“Was just reorganizing my games library when I found this gem,” tweeted Toronto game developer Damian Sommer, member of the design group Gloam Collective. “Anyone else remember this game?”
Thinking back on it, Arc Symphony’s approach to world building has really seeped into my own process. Weird.— Damian Sommer (@DamianSommer) May 14, 2017
A photo of an old PlayStation case with classic, Final Fantasy-style cover art accompanied the tweet, along with many others of a similar tone. Replies to these posts are filled with fans waxing nostalgic over Arc Symphony, a PlayStation game from the 1990s that flew under the radar, despite its influential design.
I found this in a vintage clothes store. What is this game????? pic.twitter.com/vfgxD371LG— Daniel ✈️ Toronto (@C418) May 13, 2017
Found this game again! One of our biggest inspirations as a team for Drop Dead Gorgeous! pic.twitter.com/GqPJwqAmGH— Bespoke Games @ TCAF (@bespoke_games) May 13, 2017
favorite JRPG on PS1?— Kevin Snow (@bravemule) May 14, 2017
Yet for as many people who sing Arc Symphony’s praises, there’s a building contingent who have never heard of the game. Those people may seem to be in the minority, but here’s the thing: Arc Symphony isn’t real.
At least, it’s not an actual classic PlayStation role-playing game, as various game designers and self-proclaimed fans suggest on social media. Both NeoGAF users and members of the Game Detectives subreddit went to work to find out the truth behind this mysterious, extremely obscure game over the weekend — and their findings point to it all being an elaborate, amusing marketing tactic.
“For the first 10 minutes or so of seeing the tweets I thought this was some obscure jrpg but I was like how does this PSX jrpg that all these people (5 or so ) are saying ‘oh man yea I remember that game so good’ and tweeting pictures of a case art ive never seen,” wrote Reddit user RCnoob69 this weekend, as the Arc Symphony love on Twitter began to take off. “Like theres no way I wouldn’t have heard of it.”
Some quick Googling of both the game and its apparent developer, Aether Interactive, turns up next to nothing. There’s only tweets and a fan site for the game, which bears a striking resemblance to the retro GeoCities pages of yore. (It’s even hosted on a platform inspired by the old-school web service called Neocities.)
The Arc Symphony fan site gives some background on this nonexistent JRPG:
One of the most important games of the last generation, Arc Symphony was first released on a 24 megabit cartridge to massive acclaim. Ever since, you can find it on CD, on newsstands, and (I hear) there's even a movie in the works.
If you've ever played it, you'd know why Arc Symphony is so important. It's one of the most engaging stories to come out of Japan: on the Arc Symphony, a great airship protecting its denizens from the Great Flood below, Satoshi Davis, a young member of the King's Guard has his world turned upside down.
There are two tipoffs that Arc Symphony’s mind tricks are in service of a forthcoming game project. The majority of those planting the seeds of this game that never was are members of the Toronto indie community; Arc Symphony was supposedly sold at this weekend’s Toronto Comics and Art Festival.
Most intriguing of all is a countdown timer on the fan site’s console client page. It’s set to go off around noon ET today — and our best guess is that whatever Arc Symphony is will make its grand debut right then. We’ll update if that’s the case. For now, we’ll continue to be amazed at how easy it is to manipulate people’s memories.
Update: Arc Symphony is now live on Sophia Park’s itch.io page. It’s a Twine game, not an RPG — but it’s an amusing and quirky project that doesn’t take too long to play.