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Friday, November 30, 2007

Tales of the World - Radiant Mythology First Impressions

While I do understand that having played already 10 hours into a game can't really constitute a "first impression," my version of a first impression is really a review of an anime or a game that I'm currently in the middle of or haven't finished. I feel that a review can only be a review once one has thought hard after finishing and brought up a well thought opinion of the subject in question.
Mind you, I'll be under the assumption that you've played most, if not all, of the Tales games and understand the story. If you haven't and don't plan to, then that's fine. If you haven't and DO plan to, I'll be revealing spoilers that you may not like.

In short, I'd have to say that Tales of the World for the PSP was a big disappointment. I had heard of the new "Tales" game about a year ago and was psyched that they were recycling a bunch of the characters from the older games,(not just for Coliseum mind you.)but when I heard it was for the PSP, I knew that something was off. I'm well aware that Tales of the World was a spinoff game, but still, I didn't expect to be that much of a disappointment.

It starts off with the character creation screen, which showed promise for a good game. So I just picked the generic cold-looking woman with a ponytail and blue hair and then set her class as a thief (later changed to swordsman) and named her Nagi. (Kudos for those who get the reference, google won't help you here my friend) You, as the hero, are awakened by a flying cat with two tail/wings that flap around and keep him aloft, named Mormo, and are told that you are a "Descender" from the world tree to save the world that is in peril. You find a girl, named Kanonno, under attack and save her and later find out from Chester (from Tales of Phantasia) that you show promise for a group known as Ad Libitum. What is Ad Libitum? It's an organization spread out throughout the world that is there to help people and those in need. Not too bad for starting. Apparently, the town you spawned near, Ailily, has a tyrant ruler who keeps a firm grip on his citizens. You end up meeting with the head of the Ailily Ad Libitum Branch, Kratos (from Tales of Symphonia. Add cheering here) and join Ad Libitum, Etc etc.

Playing the first hour or so of it left me with a really bad taste in my mouth. Forgetting that Kratos was in the game, the story seems to have taken a turn where everyone is just unbelievably weak. First of all, the plot to begin with is reaaaally shaky. You're born to save the world that is in peril, so what's the first thing you do? Join a guild... Another problem is with the tyrant that's ruling over the city and the Ad Libitum sector that has been forced to go underground. (Mind you by this time, the Ailily Ad Libitum sector includes, Lloyd, Arche, Chester, Genis, Raine, Kratos, Luke, Tear, Raid (Reid) and Kanonno,whom you never see fighting so far.) Forget that the branch consists of Elite powerhouses who've saved the world, Kratos being an Arch Angel, and Luke having probably enough power to tear a hole in the world. It seems that they're unable to fend for themselves and overthrow this tyrant alone and are really just lying on their asses waiting for some noname god send with a familiar to find his/her way into town to help save the wo----oh wait... That's EXACTLY what they're doing. Also, all of these characters are also equipped with their strongest weapons from their respective games. Problem two (or is it three?), Mormo, that flying bugger that accompanies you is supposed to be a Descender like you are. He was summoned by his own world tree to save his world from peril. Thing is, he can't do squat. In the words of Cortana: "All you can do, is just sit there and sputter." This seems to make no sense, so you are this super strong character, yet another being in the same class as you is about 1/4 your size and 1/infinity-th your power. Even with the difference in the mana from the world trees (as they seem to have justified it) Mormo, can't do anything.

The gameplay is mediocre. Towns are split into menus that each consist of Guild, Inn, Tool shop, Blacksmith, Plaza, House 1, House 2. Every town. All the other Tales games have featured vast towns that you can explore and interact with. This staple of the series was just pulled as if it was insignificant. Second, after a while (not really) you start to get the feeling that it's more than just repetitious. If I had to compare Tales of the World with an analogy, it would be a Tales game with the style of Final Fantasy Tactics ADVANCE. All you do are petty quests by petty citizens over and over again. "Oh help, Monster X is ruining my flower garden! Kill X number of them!" or "I need X items." The cutscenes, while sometimes humorous, had "choices" which they gave for conversation but in reality weren't choices. Rather, they were two different sentences with the same implication and context applied.
The Battle system is like that of Abyss and Symphonia mixed, but there are a lot of elements that really bother me. They used the free run mode from Abyss but I've never seen any use for that. Since the Field of Fonons aren't in ToTW, there's really no point in free run. I mean, there are already many ways to avoid monster attacks (dash back, Dash forward, jump over) and if the monsters are stacking, re-targeting and taking out the closest one is probably the best decision anyway. While it was fun just running circles around the enemy while waiting for the run timer to deplete, there's really no use for it.
There's cooking in the game, but you can't use it right after battle, and there aren't any variations to the recipes you're given.... Ok, so what's the point of cooking then?

My main issue with Tales of the World is with the characters in the game. Now, this is from a "purist" stand-point so my words are beyond bias right now.
Recycling characters? Awesome, changing everything about the characters that made them awesome? not so much awesome... One example would be Genis. In Tales of Symphonia, he was seen as a child prodigy who had fun with his magic (Like when he yells "Pancake time" before casting Stalagmite), and while he had a slight complex pertaining to his age and how people perceived him, I didn't see it as an issue. In Tales of the World, he's seen as this uber-diligent kid who has a BIG issue with how people perceive him because of his age. In the end, he ends up looking like a real brat.

Other issues would probably be voices. While they were able to get Raine, Kratos, Luke and Tear's original voice actors, the others hired for this game were... ehhh... There were some recently popular voice actors casted, but for the characters that I usually didn't use... (For example, Raid (Reid)'s VA is the same with Krious's voice actor from Growlanser: Heritage of War) Another character issue I had would be when the team decided to cut the story for the characters and place them in Tales of the World. Luke, for example, happens to be at the stage where he's that spoiled, aristocratic ass that he is when he enters the game. But for Tales of Symphonia, there's a suggestion that the symphonia party entered the game after one as beaten it since there are many times where you feel an awkward tension every time someone mentions how Kratos talks to Lloyd like how a father does to his son...

The development team's decisions for which characters to put in conflict with my own views. Generally, I think that for a game like this, you need a lot of strong (character-wise) characters who can add a nice variety into the game. Generally, I'm more or less fine with most (except for Raine, Eugene, Senel, Chester, and The Tales of Destiny crew) but I feel they didn't really pick that big of a range of characters. Despite the amount of classes you have, you don't really have a "hero" character than can correspond to each class. Warriors are apparently brute force wail the enemy down with axes kinda people. There's no one for that. Honestly, I would have loved it if Presea was added as she not only would be the archetype to go for, but her personality would put a spin on the game. There aren't any ninjas, Bishops or fighters. A good example of a fighter (hand-to-hand) in my opinion would be Anise. Along with her unusual style of fighting, her personality is one of my favorites. She's a money hungry girl who acts all sweet in front of Luke to try and marry into the family but has another side to her that yells brazen assassin. (She yells "I'll kill you bastards!" at the start of the battle whenever Luke isn't present, and makes death threats to people she doesn't like)

I've been bitching about this game for a while, so let's now get to the good parts.
Kratos. Despite what people say about how hard Zelos was, I still had Kratos 'till the end. While a generic character, he's a good generic character and one that I'll stick with as a nice choice for the game. The equipment in the game make it fun to customize your character. While it is frustrating when a piece of armor that you're particularly fond of is trampled by far superior armor, in the end it's all about looks. Stats are only an issue if you're really bad at these Tales games. In my opinion, the opening cut scene was very nicely done. I had a blast watching it. Some things worth mentioning are how the "main character's" face is never really seen until the last 10 seconds where they flash a bunch of possible faces. Another nice part is when Raine lectures Raid and Chester in the Symphonia school house.
Graphics aren't bad. Since it is a Tales game, it gets extra points for its battle system. The cooking aspect has expanded to tool making, weapon refining and cooking which gives a bit more stuff to burn time with. But what really made a lot of the Tales games were the "hidden" cut scenes that activated when you met certain requirements. Mostly purely for comical relief, this is what usually kept me hooked on a Tales game.

I won't say that Tales of the World stoops to the barbaric atrocity of what Tales of Legendia for the PS2 was, but it isn't really note-worthy either. You lose nothing skipping this game and you don't really gain nothing beating it. On a final note, the lack of gender sensitivity seems like a really poor part on the dev team. (Mind you that I'm still the blue haired female swordsman with a ponytail named Nagi) Kanonno more or less professes her love to you and I'm kinda stuck there going "what...?" I have nothing against lesbians, it's just that I feel that with such a lack of difference in dialogue between the two genders (There's no date-gossiping with Arche if your a guy or a girl) something like this wasn't actually intended.

Yes... You may hit me now for writing such an obscenely long post.

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