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First Impressions of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

Posted 11-15-2008 at 12:39 AM by Moofey
For me, Tales of Symphonia was my first ever TO game. I had heard so many great things about it and for whatever reason whenever I heard of it Tales of Phantasia popped into my mind. (Despite me knowing nothing about the series and that ToP had never been released outside of Japan at that point.) When I finally got a Gamecube, it was one of the games that I picked up in the first few months.

For me, it was definitely one of the best RPGs I had ever played, if not THE best RPG. I definitely spent more of my fair share on the game; It was something I looked forward to every single day. Many memories were had with this game, including playing through a big chunk of the game for more than 8 hours straight as I had to put my bedsheets through an emergency wash (due to a flea-ridden cat. DON'T GET ANY IDEAS IN YOUR HEAD) until 2:00 in the morning, which was unheard of from me before I had Internet to my own room.

I was definitely surprised to hear they were making a sequel, and when it was announced for us, I needed to change my pants.

Needless to say, the decision for me to buy a Wii was partly because of this game, if not for some others as well. (-coughbrawlcough-) Of course, by the time I had picked up the game I wasn't expecting it to be leaps and bounds, as it is a spinoff sequel after all, but in my mind there was still no way anything in the series was going to top what ToS did.

But... does it work?

For the purposes of this, I'm going to skip over the story as I haven't played through enough to get a good grasp on the actual story, and to avoid spoilers.

The pros
Personally, from the get-go I think the game is well-done. Unfortunately there really wasn't much of an upgrade to the graphical aspect of the game but for someone like me who doesn't give two flying moose about graphics as long as I can see what I'm doing, it's good. Call it graphical "authenticity" if you will, seeing how the style hasn't changed in the past few days. (Although the actual character models are no longer cel-shaded but rather full 3D.)

Character development was alright. I personally disliked Emil for about the first hour and his clueless and seemingly emo demeanor from the get-go, but he seems to have cast aside most of that pretty quick. (I do expect it to resurface, though.) Marta I thought was a pretty cool character herself, and probably the better head of the two, but just looking at her instant clingy-clingyness I have a feeling that there's some character development to be done, too.

In some cases, older characters haven't changed: Colette still loves dogs, finds things by tripping, and is constantly apologizing. (Although at the beginning of the game, Emil's constant apologizing puts Colette to shame!) I'm personally not expecting to see much in the way of changes of the other characters, except for possibly Presea who has likely changed a lot since the events of ToS that "freed" her soul, but one seems to have changed a lot...

The game also makes good use of the Wii remote and its somewhat awkward remote+nunchuk control scheme, while also bringing motion controls into the picture as well. I personally would've preferred a GCN controller option but due to the complexity of some controls and how one minigame early on relies on motion sensitivity, I can see why it was left out. However, the controls aren't that perfect as I'll point out in a sec.

The battle system for the most part is pretty simple. The whole thing is for the most part based off of TotA's Flex Range LMBS but with the lack of overlimit and item auto-use. Much like the rest of the series from that point, techs (now under the name TotA made universal on all games after it: Artes) and skills are learned from leveling up instead of by pulling off certain achievements in battle. Unison attacks have been kept in but follow a different, simple system. Although this might seem stripped down for most TO veterans, it means not having to worry about much aside from the fight, which is never a bad thing.

While I'm on the subject of Artes and Skills, the EX skill system of ToS isn't used here in favor of the more simple AD skill-like system also used from Abyss. The difference here though is that each skill uses a certain amount of skill points, limiting the amount of skills you can have equipped at any given time. (However, you won't need a skill to be able to free run.)

And finally, the game's dialogue is just as great as in the previous installment, and then some. This is only the third TO game released in the US to have skits with English voiceovers, (behind Legendia and the recently released Vesperia) which add that much more to each already funny skit. As well, nearly every scene I've seen so far has been voiced as well. It's somewhat of a sign that Namco Bandai is starting to think more highly of their English TO releases, but at the same time there's another localization tradition that we don't like that you'll hear about.

Hit and Miss

Emil and Marta are the only two "permanent" party members. At times, characters from the previous game will join as guest characters but they cannot be developed as they don't gain EXP. However, most people say that those who finish the game on normal mode won't find this hindering their progress, and by the end of the game you'll have the full cast available to you. The rest of the time, the remainder of your party will be filled in by monsters that you form pacts with during battles. Yes, it seems like a pokemon ripoff but at the same time it gives this game a bit more playtime, and if you're a pokemon fan you probably won't mind trying to catch 'em all.

Monsters can be developed just like Emil and Marta, except that you can feed them to raise or lower their stats, or give them manuscripts for instant EXP. or even to learn certain artes. A lot of the time you can train certain monsters to become invaluable members of your party.

The fact that the original ToS characters are somewhat stripped down are what will make this game a disappointment for some, although some people will be willing to look by it.

Also, the world map has been brought down to a glorified menu screen. However, depending on your tastes, this can be a good or a bad thing. I personally don't mind myself. The only problem is that this cuts down on some leveling opportunity, and it shows quite quick when the game barely gives you any chance to level while following the story, then you get hammered by the next boss.

The cons:

I don't have many beefs about this game, but as for the beefs I do have, they almost all consist of in-battle things:

1. I haven't really seen this in other tales games, but I find there's a huge delay after I finish an attack combo. (Regardless of whether or not I used an arte.) It usually takes between 1-2 seconds for me to start a new combo again, which I guess is normal, but with the attack animations for Emil being so fast it's like he's just standing idle for that whole time, and this can really throw some people off.

2. The control stick is WAY too sensitive, mainly because of the analogue controls in a sense. I'm definitely not used to the "push lightly to walk, all the way to dash" but I have a real hard time getting Emil to do what I want, and it seems that if I move the control stick up at all, even just a very small bit, I jump. (Note: I always play on Manual.)

3. The control scheme in battle is... a bit awkward but that in part has to do with the remote and nunchuk configuration. It's definitely going to take some getting used to. If it helps anyone relate, play Brawl with the remote and nunchuk config and see; It's kind of the same awkwardness. I'm definitely not used to having my artes button above my right index, and my guard button (which is also your free run button) behind my left index. Arte shortcuts can be a pain too since they're on the control pad (though there wasn't really anywhere else to put them) but fortunately, they also added shortcut options where you can waggle the remote or the nunchuk instead. Sadly enough with me, my hands are big enough that I can manage to hit the Z and C buttons at the same time accidentially, which for me results in me doing a unison attack when I wanted to guard or free run.

4. Something that happens on occasion is an awkward camera angle or camera shift. I try to run to the left in free run mode, then suddenly the camera does a 180 and I'm running in the wrong direction.

The last thing has to do with Namco's tradition of giving the English version a crappy theme song. In case you didn't know, just about every TO game in Japan has a theme song recorded by a Japanese artist (usually female except for TotA) for the game itself. In the US version this gets usually replaced with some lame, instrumental song that is completely different. Now, lately Namco has been getting better with this, having instrumental versions of the actual theme songs in the US version of Tales of the Abyss and Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology, and then went on to create an actual English version of the theme song in Tales of Vesperia with Bonnie Pink's Ring A Bell. I was seriously disheartened to learn that Namco went back to their old roots by replacing the theme song with a lame, instrumental song that is completely different for Dawn of the New World.

And that's really all I have to say; I'm really liking this game so far, and I'm finding it just as hard to put down as the first. Heck... my family better be able to put up with my late night bouts I guess.

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