Tales of Innocence
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Alfa System
Genre: Traditional RPG
Format: Cartridge
Release: Japan 12/06/07
Official Website: Japanese Site

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Swing and a miss.
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Ruca, you are my only hope.
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Tales of Wild Arms?
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Sword vs. rifle.
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Neal Chandran
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Neal Chandran

Namco's "Tales of..." RPG series has become quite a prolific RPG series in recent years. Both Sony's and Nintendo's consoles have been blessed with one or more Tales games since the series' inception in 1995. The series is most noted for its realtime battle system that plays more like a fighting game than traditional turn-based RPG interfaces. Handheld consoles have seen the likes of the Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon games (prior generation Game Boys), Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP), a port of Tales of Phantasia (Game Boy Advance), and others (i.e. Tales of the Tempest was released on Nintendo's DS handheld but never left Japan). Tales of Innocence is another Tales game for Nintendo's popular handheld slated for a December 6th Japanese release with no announcement yet of a US release.

The character designs are by series stalwart Mutsumi Inomata. The protagonist is a silver-haired, sword wielding teenage boy named Ruca Milda. Joining him on his quest are teenage gunslinger girl Iria Animi, a teenage dual-sword wielding boy named Spada Belforma, rifleman Ricardo Soldato, a young female pugilist named Hermana Larmo, and mage Ange Serena. All of these characters appear on the game's Japanese box art, as well as a silver haired Sephiroth-esque fellow who is likely the main villain. The story appears to be a classic save-the-world RPG tale that the series does well. Footage on the official site indicates that the skits where characters talk to each other while traversing the overland make a return, and those often amusing skits are where a lot of the character development traditionally occurs in the series.

The visuals in the game are greatly improved over those in Tales of the Tempest. The gameplay graphics look very much like those in Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology for PSP, only optimized to work well with the DS' hardware. Characters and environments are rendered in 3D polygons and there is reportedly an option to have black outlines on the characters (for that cel-shaded look) or not. The video footage showed characters without that line and they looked quite good. The animation during the battle footage found on the game's official site is fast, frantic, and quite smooth. There is also footage of a lush explorable overland, something that many RPG players have lamented the absence of in recent RPGs. As expected, there is also a beautiful anime intro sequence: a Tales series hallmark. Tales of Innocence may be one of the best looking DS RPGs thus far.

The music in the game sounds like high quality MIDI. The general style seems to be epic fantasy RPG fare as evidenced by the orchestral piece in the game's official trailer along with some slightly more atmospheric fare heard in other videos. The opening song, "Follow the Nightingale," and ending song, "Say Goodbye & Good Day" are both by vocalist KOKIA. The use of J-Pop and J-Rock artists for quality opening and ending songs is another series tradition. Voice acting can be found in the game's overland skits and during important cutscenes. The Japanese voice acting is the typically good quality voice acting found in prior games of the series.

The realtime battle system, familiar to series fans, takes cues from Tales of the Abyss' Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System for movement along the full 3D plane rather than just back-and-forth like a side-scroller, and the Japanese Tales of Destiny 2's (not to be confused with Tales of Eternia, a.k.a Tales of Destiny 2 in the US) battle system for the ability to do air combo attacks. You can also combine special moves with other characters' special moves for devastating combos. Unlike other Tales games that allowed four members in a battle party, Tales of Innocence only allows three. The AI for teammates in battles is nicely customizable and has been more than competent in prior games. Outside of battle, cooking and item synthesis are present, which should please series fans. Menus and character growth mechanics look intuitive and easy to navigate. There is no word as to how the touch screen and stylus will or will not be used.

Tales of Innocence promises to be both a high quality RPG for Nintendo's DS and a high quality entry to this prolific RPG series. The game is slated for a December 6th release in Japan and Japanese preorders came with a Voice Adventure DVD that is reportedly a visual novel styled medium, and the disc itself has Tales of Symphonia's Zelos as part of the art. There is no word yet on a US release, though.


© 2007, 2008 Namco Bandai Games. All Rights Reserved.

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