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Tales of Destiny 2 - Review

What a Battle System Should Be

By: Paul Koehler


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 4
   Plot 6
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Moderate
   Time to Complete

45-60 Hours

 
Overall
number
Criteria

Title Screen

   It's a great thing to see an excellent series of games continue, but it's even better when the latest game improves on most of its elements. Namco has succeeded in doing so with the third installment of the Tales series: Tales of Destiny 2. Not only is the game a great improvement in terms of its graphics and battle system, it's also a lot of fun to play.

   Why is it so fun? One of the reasons is the battle system, which can be argued as one of the best for a console RPG. Like the previous two Tales games, characters fight in a 2D environment similar to Street Fighter or Valkyrie Profile. Battles are actually timed (my average at the end of the game was around 20 seconds per battle), and characters have the opportunity to carry out extravagant 30-hit combos. Several of the characters have a wide variety of battle skills to use, and most settings that can be changed in the status screen can be changed in battles as well. While it may seem strange for a character to swap weapons, armor, and skills in the middle of a battle, the options are necessary. Battles are quick, and you have to be prepared, or at the very least adaptable. Compared to other real-time systems, even random enemy encounters can overwhelm a new player. This is especially the case with boss battles, some of which can last for 5 minutes, depending on the game's difficulty level.

   Tales' interface provides a few additional options that help the party in the field. Of note are the Craymel system (magic), and cooking. Magic is created in the game by using a system called "fringing", in were different "Craymel Artes" are created by merging two spirits together. For example, fringing Rem (Light Elemental) at Level 1 and Undine (Water Elemental) at any level will create the Resurrection spell, among others. Cooking is great because it enables the party to create dishes that restore the party in the field. To streamline the process, each character can be set to "auto cook" based on a variety of conditions, like if a party member drops below half of his hit points, and so on. To find these recipes, a player needs to seek out the "Wonder Chef" in different towns. Fortunately, the game is a kleptomaniac's heaven, as most of the environments are interactive to the point where an item can be found in almost every room.


Silly Little Comment on Screen
Reid laying the smackdown with his Aurora Arte. Use with caution.  

   In addition to having interactive environments, each town has a great deal of citizens who use proper English. While the game did not have a large amount of dialogue, there were no huge errors in the game's translation. As an extra, many of the important scenes throughout the game had voiceover dialogue, which was surprisingly well done. Probably the best use of this was in the introduction of the game. The actors' narration was an excellent supplement to the opening FMV, which raised the graphical standards of the Tales series by a considerable amount.

   Unlike Tales of Destiny, the game takes advantage of the Playstation's hardware and makes the game look good and run fast. While the visuals are not up to Squaresoft standards, they're not ugly either. Thankfully, unlike many Squaresoft games, Tales' graphics load quickly. This was a wise decision by the developers, who realized that it could make the game run fast without sacrificing visual quality.

   It's a shame that the music was not of the same caliber as the rest of the game, but the boss tracks are worthy of mentioning. Longtime fans will appreciate the track for the Time Elemental Sekundes, as it is the battle track from Tales of Phantasia. The audio voiceovers for the game are well done, but the battle voiceovers are horrible, mainly because each character calls out their skill or spell before using, similar to a kung-fu movie. However, the sound effects were put to good use in the battles, and with summons this was particularly effective. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing one of the elemental spirits annihilating monsters, and considering the amount of effort it takes to obtain each elemental, the player can hear (and feel, thanks to controller vibration effects) every last earth shard or ice bolt thrown. And true to the way the game works, the summons do not take a long time to cast. Other sound effects used in the game are involved with the mini-games, which provide a small diversion to the game's story.

   Though enjoyable, most of the mini-games are not central to the plot. This is because it fits very well, as it is a story that actually provides some very interesting characters, while not restricting itself to stereotypes. The entire concept of a freedom fighter that fights to "rule the world" is great, as Max is a strange character to begin with. Like the rest of the party, however, he has an inner side to which is revealed throughout the course of the game. Sometimes it's hard to believe how far RPG's have come in terms of background story, but throughout the game, each character has a chance to explore themselves, remember their pasts, and improve upon their flaws. While not the most original idea, it was executed well, and the story was unique enough to hold an identity of its own.


You know the deal-title it.
This type of insanity is common.

   All of this is packaged in a game that can run anywhere from 45-60 hours, depending on the amount of side-quests one chooses to explore. For RPGamers looking for an extra challenge, there are also two higher difficulty settings for the battles, and a secret dungeon waiting to be explored. In addition to the eight main elementals collected in the game, there are two optional elementals and a wicked summon. Not only that, but certain combos performed in battle will start an anime-style sequence.

   Unlike the game before it, Tales of Destiny 2 is a winner in its own right. The battle system of the Tales series, a gem in itself, has been taken to new heights and can be as hectic as a fighting game. With this and a solid quest behind it, Namco has a winner. Hopefully the Tales series will continue, but at least the game proves to be one of the best of the last generation of Playstation RPG's.





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