Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is not your typical Tales game. That can either be good or bad depending upon your expectations. Tales of the World takes the battle system from Tales of the Abyss, blends it with characters from multiple games in the series, and adds in a helping of dungeon crawling. This isn't the first of this blended sub-series, as other Tales of the World games were released in Japan; though this is the first one that has made it to North American shores. The end result might not appeal to everyone, but it's still quite a solid experience. Even though this isn't a conventional Tales title, it does still maintain the spirit of the series.
The first major change is that the main character is user-created. Players are given the option of picking either a male or female persona. At that point, you can choose from five different face style, five hair colors, and three unique voices. You must also name your character and pick a starting job class. Warrior, Thief, Mage, and Priest are the first four jobs that are available. Considering that for the first few levels of the game you will be without party members, the melee jobs are much more durable for beginners. Mage jobs are rather frail, but are still highly capable over time in the right hands. Jobs can be changed, but each has its own level; so a level fourteen Warrior that wanted to become a Thief would be starting the new job at level one. Thankfully, the Warrior job retains its level, so it's not like starting completely over as you can switch back. New advanced jobs become available over time and tend to be more useful than the four starting jobs, though they do require starting at level one and working back up.
Depending on your job, you are restricted to specific types of equipment and have access to unique Artes. These Artes are special moves that require TP and are related to the chosen job, such as a Thief being able to steal or a Priest having healing magic. Combat is handled with you controlling the created character and AI managing any party members you might have. You can attack enemies from the front or attempt to sneak around behind them. This action-based combat also allows for the player to attack at mid-level or to attack high for flying enemies or low for those closer to the ground. Unison attacks are available as well, which have your character and party members joining together to focus special attacks on a specfic enemy. All in all, the combat system is simple to pick up and offers many options.
"Even though this isn't a conventional Tales title, it still maintains the spirit of the series."
Your created character is known as a Descender, one born from the Mana Tree to defend the world from destruction. You start in a dungeon with no memories and are greeted by a cute, flying creature called Mormo. A Descender from another world, Mormo greets you and explains that you must help stop the evil Devourer who destroyed Mormo's world and has its eye set on your world, Terresia. Just as you are starting to get overwhelmed, you hear a scream and run to help. Before long, your quest to stop the Devourer leads you to help out a number of Tales characters as they attempt to rid their town of its oppressive ruler. The story doesn't seem as deep or cohesive as other main entries, but it does a wonderful job of mixing personalities from prior titles into this new world. Over time, this game does start to come out from under the shadow of the main series and take on a life of its own.
Tales of the World's greatest deviation comes from the fact that the entire game is driven through missions. In order to progress you must take on an available mission, which could range from defeating a certain type of enemy to gathering a specific material. Over time more difficult missions, as well as those that advance the plot, become available. You can hire party members, which can include Tales characters and generic mercenaries, to join you on these quests. These quests have you exploring dungeons over and over completing different tasks each time. Thankfully, there is a crafting system that will make some of these trips more tolerable, as you can create many unique items through the different areas of crafting. There is no explorable world at all, just towns and dungeons. Towns cannot even be traversed, as all you have is a menu to select different places within the town. Everything operates smoothly, but it does make the game extremely linear.
Radiant Mythology looks extremely nice on the widescreen of the PSP. Though it features little in the way of animation, character portraits help to bring personalities to life. So, with quality voice acting helping to maintain the traditional style of the Tales series, this game both looks and sounds good. The music is decent, but doesn't really offer much in terms of variety, so it can grow stale rather quickly. Loading times are not bad either, with the only real delay coming when entering towns or dungeons. Battles load quickly and have next to no delay when completed. The overall package might not appeal to those wanting a classic Tales experience, but it does offer enough to make things entertaining. Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology not only gives the fans something to enjoy; it could help to open up a whole new fanbase for the series.