Tales of Destiny is Namco's first foray into the next-generation of RPG's,
and it is apparent that they haven't lost their touch. Tales of Destiny is
the sequel to the popular, but Japanese only, Tales of Phantasia for the
Super Famicom system. It packs a classic style of game into a cutting edge
package that is sure to please old and new RPG players. Namco has put
everything into this one, including a beautiful full color manual that will
please every RPG collector.
"Enemy on high."
A thousand years ago a comet with special energies crashed onto the planet.
The world's axis was thrown off and countries suffered from great floods.
And dust from the impact covered the skies creating a nuclear winter,
freezing the planet.
The survivors built floating cities to reach past the clouds to the sun.
And a new form of energy, LENS, was formed from the material of the comet.
The first Aeropolis (floating city) was Dycroft, but only a select few were
allowed to live on it, as it could not carry the population of the planet.
As time passed, those living on Dycroft began to separate themselves from
those on the ground, calling themselves Aethereans and those on the ground
were named E'rthers. With the power of LENS the Aetherians developed
Belcrant; a powerful weapon designed to punish any E'rthers that dared defy
Eventually rebellion ensued despite the tremendous advantage the Aetherians
held. An advantage that was brief though, as scientists that helped
develop Belcrant defected to the E'rthers because of the tyrannical ways of
the Aetherians in power. These scientists used their knowledge of LENS to
develop the Swordians; sentient weapons designed to defeat Belcrant and the
Aetherians. Due to the efforts of the Swordian Masters, the floating
cities of the Aeropolis were destroyed one by one and sank into the sea.
After the E'rther victory, the Swordians were placed into stasis until the
time came when evil once again rose to the skies...
The story in Tales of Destiny is told well, slowly pulling the player in
and letting them get to know the characters before letting the plot with
all its twists and turns kick in. You control Stahn Aileron, a young and
naive farm boy with a heart as big as all outdoors. While stowing away on
a transport ship, Stahn is captured by the crew. After being assigned to
swabbing the deck, monsters seize the transport ship and Stahn must find a
way to defend himself. Deep in the cargo hold he comes across an old
sword. To his surprise, the sword begins to communicate to him. It is a
Swordian, and Stahn is its new master. Thus begins this epic adventure, as
the Swordian masters must once again vanquish a terrible evil.
The characters in the game are strong, and the developers do a good job of
keeping them in character. The dialogue is well written and never seems to
wander off track. It is also sprinkled with humor and it isn't a chore to
talk to the townspeople as they usually have something interesting to say
even if it isn't something important. Its only downfall is that it tends
to fall short on the emotional scenes, as the dialogue sometimes feels
forced or simply not there during these scenes. There are times when more
needs to be said, and times when too much is said. Otherwise the dialogue
is right on and very well translated, easily on par with Working Designs.
Another problem I had with the story was that too many of the characters
were too 1-dimensional, especially Stahn. It gets to the point that the
reactions of the characters are predictable. We never get more than what
is just on the surface. A few characters have some deep secrets and show
genuine emotion, but it is too few and far-between to really make you care
that much for the characters or even wonder what may become of them. The
characters almost seem secondary to the main story line. They could have
improved this by giving you some dialogue choices for Stahn that would
effect character relationships, but the story sticks tightly to the script.
A little too tightly maybe.
The plot itself starts out very slowly and it will unfortunately turn many
people off before they get to the heart of it. Because of the blandness of
the characters and the extremely linear nature of the plot, it is difficult
to get through those first 5 or 10 hours of gameplay. The A to B to C
adventuring gets very tedious when there is nothing of any real interest
happening between those points. But after the first 10 or so hours, the
plot really kicks in and begins twisting and turning. The A to B to C
gameplay doesn't bother you as much because you want to know what happens
next. The second half of the game is wonderfully paced and will leave you
wanting more when it is all over.
While the story does have its problems early on, it leaves you more than
satisfied and a bit emotional at the end. It is a fun ride, not taking
itself too seriously and just delivering an interesting world to surround
the skeleton of the gameplay.
"Old Fashioned Beauty."
The graphics in Tales of Destiny will at times send you into a nostalgic
whirlwind to the glory days of the 16-bit era. At other times it will
simply amaze you and leave no doubt that this is a next-generation game
despite being 2D. 2D isn't dead, just not enough people are pushing it to
the next level.
The game opens with a beautiful anime sequence, which is of very high
quality. Wonderfully animated and worth watching every time the game boots
up. There are other anime story sequences sprinkled throughout the game,
but none can match the intro.
The over-world and town graphics are very simple and the only detriment to
this game graphically. The landscapes look squished and very bland, not
even as good as some of the SNES RPG's. The lack of detail really hurts
the graphics, as a lot of time is spent walking and fighting. With nothing
nice to look at it gets very tedious going from place to place. It is also
very hard to navigate as you really can't see very far around your
character and the map is small and ambiguous. The town graphics are also
fairly bland, mainly because of the simplistic color schemes and lack of
detail. One town runs into the next with very little to set one apart from
the next. Occasionally you will gasp at the little touches that they
included like reflections in the water, ripples and footprints, but those
only impress once or twice and your still left with very dull towns that
you have to search.
The graphics improve and show some great creativity in some of the mazes
you must explore. It really shows that most of the effort went into these
areas. Transparencies, lighting, reflections and beautifully drawn
textures make each area interesting to look. And not only are they fun to
look at but they are usually functional and enhance the gameplay. 3
dimensional layered puzzles, reflected enemies and colored teleportation
mirrors only scratch the surface.
Where the graphics really shine is during battle. Super-deformed
characters fight it out in extremely fluid animation, nearly on par with
Capcom's 2D fighting games. The characters could fit right into their
Pocket Fighter game because the animation is that good. These aren't old
school graphics, they aren't retro. This is cutting edge 2D and is
incredible for the Playstation. Some special attacks have maybe 20 to 30
frames of animation each. Spells use a variety of tricks from transparent
sprites to polygonal effects. When everyone is attacking at once it is an
unbelievable cacophony of sight and sound.
The music in Tales of Destiny is also very nostalgic. The arrangements are
simple and catchy. They do the job but won't necessarily impress you or
stay with you long after the game is over. Some of the tunes are very
annoying and are far too boisterous when it isn't necessary. The battle
music also tends to get on your nerves after awhile, and that isn't good
for a 30 + hour game.
Thankfully Namco decided to just keep all the Japanese voice-overs instead
of doing shoddy dubs. And the voice is mainly confined to battles so it
doesn't interfere with your enjoyment of the game, only enhancing it. The
winning exclamations are all well done and really get you into the battles.
The gameplay in Tales of Destiny combines classic exploring and puzzle
solving aspects with an incredibly intense and innovative battle system.
The puzzles themselves aren't all that hard to figure out, but a few will
keep you guessing for awhile. Because of the sheer number of options you
have to solve the puzzles, it makes it more difficult. Characters can push
or pull objects, move floor plates, use special rings or throw switches to
open up new areas. The mazes are somewhat complex though never really
forcing you into really long dead ends. You mainly have to backtrack a
lot, throwing a switch then moving an object, then going back to throw the
switch again. Or you might have to break through weak walls or use a
certain ring to trigger something somewhere else. The mazes never weigh
you down with their immensity or leave clues that are much too vague.
The battle system is simply a blast to play. And I'll tell you a secret.
If you have a multi-tap and you can find three copies of a certain
accessory, you can have up to 4 friends fighting together in battle. I was
only able to find 2 of the accessories but it is still a major blast
playing an RPG with a friend. Battles are all fought in real time. There
is no time bar or countdown clock. You attack as fast as you can, and you
better be fast because the enemy is. You have a regular attack with the
circle button, and that attack can hit high, slash to do more damage or
thrust to hit from a distance if you have a staff type weapon or hit
multiple targets with a sword if they're bunched together. The X button
performs a special attack. You earn these as you gain levels and they
usually hit more than once. Special attacks are perfect for pulling off
big combos with the other characters. And once you find a certain item,
you can gain extra experience for each combo you complete. The more times
you hit, the more experience you get. To get the really big combos you
need to time your attacks right with another character doing a special
attack and you need to be fighting a strong opponent. If the enemy is weak
they will die before the attack is over. You can string special attacks
together as the game is in real time, so those combos can get very high if
the timing stays right and your teammates keep attacking as well. The
square button lets you defend against physical attacks. It is wise to
defend and then immediately attack after your opponent, as you will catch
them off guard.
If you hit the triangle button in battle a menu will come up. This is
where you can use magic. Only characters equipped with a Swordian can use
magic. The Swordians will gain experience along with you and will gain new
spells as well as becoming stronger. Spells take some time to charge and
the stronger the spell, the longer it takes. If you are hit by an enemy
while you are charging the spell will cancel itself. You can also issue
commands to your teammates from this menu. You can tell them to step back
and let you handle it alone, ask them to help you out or try to escape.
You can also set the disposition of your teammates from here or in the menu
out of battle. You can have them attack with their strongest spells and
special, or hold back and conserve their energy. You can also choose
whether they will attack near or far enemies, or attack enemies with high
or low hit points. The in-battle menu is also where you use items. Items
will be used regardless of whether or not you are hit while using them so
take the enemy's position into consideration before using an item or a
The gameplay is very well balanced with easy battles early on that let you
get used to the set-up. And you'll need the warm up as some of the later
battles are very intense and will have you thinking fast. Since it is all
in real time you can't really thin too much while fighting. You can pause
the game but the situations change so quickly that you really have to
choose what to do almost instantaneously. You can be on one side of the
enemies or they may surround you. You can reverse formation in battle with
the L1 button and you can target specific foes with the R1 button. It
makes for extremely entertaining and intense battles. If you aren't paying
attention you could be dead before you even knew what happened. If things
get too intense for you there is the option of letting the computer take
over completely. The computer controlled character fight fairly well but
will sometimes make stupid decisions like searching for Gald on the floor
when you need them to heal someone. The computer could probably win the
game on its own, but that wouldn't be very entertaining. This game is a
joy to play because of this battle system and the fights never really get
boring as you are always trying to improve your timing and trying to choose
the proper attacks. The battles flow smoothly and once you learn to flow
with them it will be hard to go back to the simple turn based systems in
There are tons of secrets scattered throughout the game. Some are easy to
find and figure out while others pretty much require you to have some kind
of guide. I'm getting a bit tired of these impossible to find secrets that
are only there to sell strategy guides. Thankfully I have the Internet at
my disposal and as many secret guides as I need at my fingertips. One
secret in the game combines the best of both worlds. It is easy to find
and a blast once you find it, but impossible to beat without some kind of
Tales of Destiny is a very well made RPG and one of the best I've had the
pleasure to play this year. While it sticks to traditions and gives fans
of the classics something to get excited about, it also manages to take
RPG's another step into the future with its innovative battle system. It
certainly has its flaws and there are things I would have personally liked
to have been handled differently, especially character relationships, but
it is a solid and entertaining game. Real-time RPG's are the future and
the future is here. Prepare to be entertained as the days of pressing the
same button over and over while you fall asleep staring at the screen are
over. Time to wake up and smell the butt kicking.