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   Tales of Destiny II - Staff Retroview  

Meredy and the Masters of the Universe
by Adriaan den Ouden

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
PS1
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
20-40 Hours
OVERALL
4.0/5
+ Excellent fast-paced battle system.
+ Great character customization.
+ Many Tales staples started here.
- Ramped up difficulty can sometimes be frustrating.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Released in Japan as Tales of Eternia, the power of Greyskull's lawyers caused copyright issues when it came time to bring it stateside. Banking on the previously released Tales of Destiny, Tales of Eternia became Tales of Destiny II. A few years later, it became a giant headache when an actual Tales of Destiny II was created, though that game never left Japan. Although this is likely always going to be Tales of Destiny II's legacy (and for the sake of clarity, I'll be referring to it as Eternia from here on in), it's also an extremely solid game and a terrific swan-song for the original PlayStation.

   Tales of Eternia tells the story of Reid and Farah, a pair of teenagers from a country village. One day a mysterious girl literally falls out of the sky, only speaking a long-dead language and producing a strange light whenever she gets near Reid. The pair take it upon themselves to discover the girl's origins, enlisting the help of scholar and childhood friend, Keele. The adventure that ensues spans two worlds whose mutual destruction is assured in a cataclysmic event called the Grand Fall, unless they intervene.

   Eternia's storyline is far more subdued than its predecessor, Tales of Destiny's. It tends to be far less over the top, and is generally quite enjoyable. The characters in particular are quite memorable, most notably Meredy, the mysterious girl who falls from the sky. It's clear from the writing that a lot of effort went into the localization process for Eternia, which is a treatment that neither Phantasia nor Destiny received. Meredy is particularly notable, as her speech patterns (once you can understand her) tend to flow like those of a foreigner, using broken English and even reverting back to her native tongue on occasion. Eternia features full voice acting throughout the game (a first for the series), and although most of it is only decent, Meredy is voiced perfectly, thoroughly defining the character.

   As PlayStation games go, Tales of Eternia is probably one of the most technically impressive titles out there, though not in the ways one might expect. Although the visuals are an attractive mix of 2D and 3D art, they can't compare to some of Squaresoft's more polished offerings. No, Eternia's technical proficiency comes from its fast-paced, real time combat system. Like previous Tales titles, combat takes place in real-time on a linear plane, much like a fighting game. However, unlike a fighting game, there are four characters and potentially even more enemies all battling it out at once. Throw in fancy skill and spell animations, and the amount of action on the screen at any given moment is incredible.

Spectacular spell effects. Spectacular spell effects.

   The sprites and animations are also much more detailed than they were in Destiny, and other improvements, such as real-time spell effects, make the combat faster and more enjoyable than ever before. The difficulty of the game has also been ramped up significantly, making Eternia one of, if not the, hardest Tales game in existence, and that's counting the ones that came after. This isn't always a good thing, unfortunately, as often the excessive amount of action on the screen can lead to deaths that seem cheap and unavoidable.

   Character customization also reaches new highs with Tales of Eternia. Reid and Farah both learn a huge number of skills, and new skills are learned based on "slash and thrust" or "fist and foot" levels respectively. Whenever either character attacks, they gain experience with either slash, thrust, fist, or foot, depending on the type of attack used. Once they gain enough experience using a particular type of attack, it levels up, and new skills are unlocked based on that. Similarly, using different skills a certain number of times can unlock new, more powerful versions, as well as combination skills that combine them into one.

   For the spellcasters, Meredy and Keele, the Fringe system comes into play, which is just terrific. As the game progresses, the player will come into possession of Craymels, elemental spirits that can grant the characters special spells. The Craymels are stored in Craymel Cages, and each character possesses one. Where things get interesting is how you decide to split the Craymels up between them. Each Craymel learns one spell on its own, but when they are "fringed" with Craymels in the opposite cage, new spells are unlocked. All told, there are seven Craymels that are acquired as part of the story, and an additional three that can be acquired through side quests. Because of the many different possible combinations, it's impossible to have every spell available at the same time. Instead, players must decide which Craymels to give to each character, splitting them up to gain access to whatever specific spells may be desired.

Isn Isn't she afraid someone's going to look up her dress?

   Eternia also introduces the modern cooking system that has been present in nearly every series title since. More importantly, it also introduces the Wonder Chef, an eccentric traveling cook who has a strange penchant for disguising himself as common household objects and granting recipes to anyone who discovers him. These recipes can be cooked between battles to restore HP and TP, and characters can become more proficient at making them the more they cook. The most impressive aspect of Eternia's cooking system is the automatic settings that can be activated. These settings let you set up rudimentary AI to cook specific meals after battle when the right conditions are met, such as HP being below a certain threshold or a character having a status ailment. This feature is sadly missing from later games in the series, which is disappointing, as cooking is more useful in Eternia than in any other game in the series because of it.

   It's also worth mentioning the save system, which is unquestionably the best in the series. Instead of providing save points as most RPGs do, Tales of Eternia has load points. The game allows you to save anywhere you'd like, and when you load your save file, you'll start from the last load point you reached. Because of this, even if you don't have time to complete a dungeon, you can still save all the experience and items you've acquired, even if you do have to traverse it again. This is easily one of the best compromises between "save anywhere" systems and "save point" systems I've seen, and it's a real shame that it wasn't utilized in later titles.

   As is typical for Tales games, Eternia's soundtrack is good, but not great. Motoi Sakuraba's compositions are catchy and work well with the game, but as Tales fans are surely all too familiar, few manage to stand out. As mentioned previously, Eternia features a full vocal track, and although it's not terrific, it's still surprisingly good. Unfortunately, some of the audio files cut off prematurely, and it can make the transition between sections of dialogue somewhat jarring.

   Although Tales of Eternia doesn't diverge significantly from what Phantasia and Destiny started, it offers up a number of innovations, many of which have since become series staples, and others which disappointingly have not. The level of difficulty is challenging, but not overbearing, and the game ends up being a blast to play. Tales of Eternia is a great game and definitely not one to be missed.

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