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A Tale of Two Worlds
By: Michael Beckett
As the third Tales game in the series and only the second to make it to the USA, Tales of Destiny 2 is only the most recent in a string of consistently excellent games which we in the states have been largely deprived of. Called Tales of Eternia in Japan, Tales of Destiny 2 is a bit of a black sheep amongst its brethren. Most of the major credits - music, direction, and so forth - go to different people than usual, and although most of the game mechanics have roots in earlier installments of the series, they've been tweaked to give ToD2 a somewhat more frantic texture. Despite an extra helping of melodrama, Tales of Destiny 2 is a wonderfully designed and executed game, and well worth a look.
The 'Tales of' series has always had an extremely enjoyable combat system, and Tales of Destiny 2 tweaks the Enhanced Linear Motion Battle system to a fine-tuned machine. With multi-hit combos and a nearly full range of motion, plus four characters to take care of, combat can quickly become a frantic rush to set and reset your battle orders. The games' above average artificial intelligence helps smooth this out with preset orders for healing, attacking and abilities, all of which can be changed as needed. Even random encounters can be fairly difficult if you're not paying attention, while boss fights are nothing short of mayhem. Despite the trouble inherent in commanding four characters all at the same time, and all in real-time, ToD2's combat system is a delight to play, enjoyable and exciting.
Throughout the game, the interface is good and solid, and the control and hit detection is a marked improvement over Tales of Destiny. Menus are easy to navigate and surprisingly in-depth.
Though far from perfect, the music - composed by Hideki Yamamoto - is good enough to set each scene. There are only one or two points in the game where the music sounds out of place. The voice acting, however, is the most dramatic area of improvement over Tales of Destiny. Fully translated into English this time, the voice acting is good and consistent, and never seems unprofessional. It is, however, uncomfortably melodramatic at times. My only real complaint is that the Tales series' usual composer, Motoi Sakuraba, is nowhere to be found.
Despite being the third in a series, Tales of Destiny 2 has a little trouble setting itself apart from its forbears. Instead of attempting to distance itself from them, it uses the nostalgia factor to its advantage. There are several spells that are in every Tales game, but with a slight twist - for example, the Resurrection spell summons Mint from Tales of Phantasia to raise a character. There's even a whole side quest involving recovering a sword that lets you summon the cast of Tales of Destiny. Fans of the series will notice several references to Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Destiny, both in the course of the plot and in some of the many mini-games and side quests.
The overall message of Tales of Destiny 2 has to do with dealing with change. It delivers this message deftly, and though its plot is standard "Save the World" faire, the manner in which its characters deal with this tremendous challenge more than makes up for its inability to deflect the most deep-seated RPG cliché of all. I'm also very fond of the world that Team Wolf designed for Tales of Eternia. It's a very imaginative and original setting.
The translation on Tales of Destiny 2 is well done, and I'm glad Namco finally decided to fully translate a Tales game. Tales of Destiny suffered greatly from the decision to exclude the mini dramas and other voice-only extras. Inexplicably, the only part of Tales of Destiny 2 that wasn't translated is the opening theme, flying, which is a disheartening loss. The song is quite good even in its un-translated form.
Replay value on ToD2 is unusually high, due in large part to the huge number of mini-games, a multi-player option and a New Game + feature that opens new attacks and difficulty levels. I seriously recommend playing Tales of Destiny 2 with as many friends as you can get in the same room together.
The visuals in ToD2 are above average, and though a number of spells and abilities have been carried over from the past two Tales games, they have been given all new animations to set them apart. The town and dungeon backgrounds appear to have been done largely by hand, and it shows in bright colors and crisp visuals. All in all, kudos to the programmers and artists for preserving the feel of the Tales games while still keeping pace with improving technology.
The difficulty for ToD2 is moderate, due to a couple of nasty boss fights, and time to complete sits between thirty to forty hours. The game can actually go on for quite a lot longer than that, due to the New Game + feature and the extensive and difficult side quests.
While not a terribly long or overly challenging game, Tales of Destiny 2 is a high quality game. With an original setting and some high-quality artwork, I found Tales of Destiny 2 a joy to play, and earns my recommendation for anyone who enjoys hectic, fast paced combat, imaginative worlds, and deep-seated melodrama.
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