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Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

Tales of Vesperia

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology

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Tales of Phantasia

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 Written by Jason Young  on July 31, 2006

Import Review: A PSP game without load times? Yea! No problem!!

Back in 2001, a game entitled Tales of Destiny II was released for the PSone, featuring traditional 2D-based anime-inspired characters along with a real-time battle system. While the game was critically praised for its first-rate battle system, the rest of the story relied on your stereotypical RPG conventions. I mean, how much more original can you get than a teenaged sword-wielding male protagonist with past resentments who suddenly discovers that he has to save the world from being wiped into oblivion? That pretty much describes almost every RPG character out there. Aaaaah, yes the beauty of overly used characters. Pick a new name, mix and match character backgrounds, bake for thirty seconds?and bam!!! A new RPG lead.

Nevertheless, Tales of Eternia does indeed a good job at doing what it was meant to do. Being a direct port that takes the player with a nostalgic trip to the time when dinosaurs and craeymels roamed Eternia. Keeping in tradition with the rest of Namco's Tales series, the game uses the ?Linear Motion Battle System' in order to create frantic paced battles. At times the game may even feel more like a hack and slash than a conventional RPG. The majority of your attacks are carried out by mashing on the circle button in some way or form, often along with pressing a button on the directional pad. Players are allowed to junction character skills before and during battle, allowing for strategic assaults amidst the chaos.

While players are only allowed to control one character at a time, players can switch between characters during the fight via the menu formation system. Although players will have to re-spec character skills if they want to switch during battle. Consequently, trying to manage all the characters during battle becomes a big deal of micromanagement and so most players will just opt for letting the computer control the other allies most of the time with players just occasionally throwing commands here and there. Thankfully though, the AI isn't that terrible. If a player wants the computer to spam spells and skills, they can otherwise they're normally conservative with their TP (tech points) use. Furthermore, the player can assign specific targets for the computer while still having the ability to force computer-controlled players to cast spells or use a specific skill.

Aside from the battle-system however, much of the game is rather disappointing. While the graphics may have been considered above average during the original's release, the game has started to show its age. Still the towns and world map are rendered quiet well on the PSP, although character sprites are another story. Often during fights, the backdrops are pixilated while characters on the other hand appear fuzzy and a bit blocky as well. Magic effects on the other hand are pretty much what you'd expect from a 2001 game, pretty but not spectacular. Of course, the game will lag on-screen at times considering the amount of activity that can occur simultaneously on-screen. Although that's pretty much expected in today's age. Even the FMVs aren't entirely free from the old-age curse. Instead of opting to re-render cutscenes, Namco directly took them from the original leaving the player with plenty of low quality videos to watch.

Though the graphics aren't on par with today's standards, the music still sounds as epic as it was in 2001. Although there aren't any particularly memorable tunes, each theme is synthesized wonderfully to suit every mood and town. You will want to wear headphones in order to enjoy the score to the max. The problem with the audio comes as a result of the horribly dubbed lines. Every voice actor in the game does a horrendous job, often underacting their parts to the point where dramatic scenes almost seem comedic at times. Specifically, I remember a scene where the dubbing was entirely out of sync with the words on-screen, leaving me in a stage of bewilderment. Thankfully though, the player is given the option to tune down their voices to a standstill. It's one of the first things that you'll want to do as soon as you power on the game, remember it's: customization, voice, and set to 0. Remember, I suffered through it so you don't have too. Don't let my sacrifice be in vain.

Still, despite the game's shortcomings, Namco did an exceptional job at a direct port. Control-wise, the game plays smoothly with almost unnoticeable load times during the game. Yes folks, a PSP game without loading. You'll never see one ?loading' screen in the game. Period. This is a VERY good thing, especially when you consider the grand-scale size of Eternia, the amount of towns, battles, and mini-games that have to be loaded all on the fly.

Beyond the battle system, my favorite aspect of the game were the min-games. Ranging from collecting hidden lenses to Eternia's own version of Uno, players can easily find themselves spending time away from the main quest and just spending time playing these games. Kudos to Namco for including the mini-games as part of the storyline as well.

All in all, Tales of Eternia provides hours of RPG entertainment (40- plus) on a system struggling for quality games. While the game does show it's age, it's still an essential for any PSP owner who wants to venture into a world of fantasy.

Bottom Line
Despite graphical and dubbing problems, Tales of Eternia is guaranteed to hold PSP RPG owners until the next big wave of games arrives for the system. While the game is only available in America through import, it's still reasonably priced through Ebay, Amazon, etc. Although there's no additional content for people who already played the original, besides the title change, people who have yet to experience a Tales game will be good to give it a go. Recommended.

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