Review by ZFactor
"The RPG Masterpiece... On GameCube?"
For those of you that are clueless of the Tales Phenomenon (Otherwise known as those not from Japan) there is a Series from Namco that exploded in Japan. For good reason. It had a completely new feel, one that gave the player completely control of a character in an RPG. It was like a 2D fighter woven into an amazingly deep RPG. With a good story, interesting characters, awesome RPGness, and One of Coolest Battle Systems concieved it was brilliant. Stateside however few people caught on and success was minimal. But if there is a fair and loving God he would allow this marvelous game to succeed in the way that it has so justly deserved. But then again the Cube has never gotten much respect in the Hardcore Gamers, even less in the RPG section (The most decent one being Skies of Arcadia, the Dreamcast Port that was great but was doomed to be overlooked on the Cube I suggest getting it, it was easily better than FF:CC). However At this point I must say that this is the second best RPG for the new generation, if not best (Compared to FFX, IMO).
The Graphics are very cool, following up on the Cel Shading Bandwagon that has captured awesome games everywhere. But if you thought Link's shading was nice wait till you see this. Although it lacks the magic of Zelda's title it offers plenty of detail that the previous did not. Everything looks crisp and detailed and the animation is ultra fluid. The backgrounds and character designs are lovely and the add to the ultimate effect. Most of the Game is breathtaking. A minor quip though is that the characters are always too... short. I mean with cel shading they are expected to be, but in some scenes the look way too ... short. It's less of Graphics as preference and it didn't take anything out of the game so I won't subtract points. They are a magnificent example of celshading and even graphics in general.
The game sounds fantastic. Sound effects are accurate and without flaw. But the really star of the sound is the voice acting. It is much higher than you average game, above average game anything. I might say that it is only out done by Metal Gear Solid (Check out that one too). Let me put it this way if they made an anime of this game where voice acting count about 600X more than a video game (Case in point parts of FFX, Sonic Adventure 2, you know them) they would use the same voice actors, they all fit and they are all great voice actors. The music is orchestrated but interestingly enough it is never very loud or overbearing so you probably won't notice it too much. The music is mainly on par bringing it down just a bit.
Basically the same old same old. The world of Sylvarant is always underseige by Desians, Half-Elves who believe themselves superior to humans, so they enslave and breed them to make and find junk for them, EX spheres and the like, which are magically amulet type things which bestow latent powers, just like in other RPGs. They are also alot more powerful with huge armed forces. Inevitably pushing Mankind back to the incredibly cliche point of villages and sharp pointy weapons. So the Chosen arrives once in awhile for the journey to become an angel and kick the Desian's asses and bring all sorts of peace so then eventually the villages can start their own wars yay (not actually said). So your Lloyd who is your typical Headstrong Swordsman who isn't that bright with his magic casting half elfling pal who is bright, Genis. Then you escort Collete the bubbly chosen who must unlock alot of seals and to commence ass kicking. Needless to say you meet all sorts of interesting characters and bad ass bosses. While I make it seem bad it really isnt so. They characters are cool or at least interesting with plenty of interesting locals plot developement and at sometimes even humor. But Genericness hammers down the score. Nothings perfect.
Ooookaay. Let's Start with towns and crap. Town navigation is great. Of course you have all your weapons and armor. Standard. There is also an interesting customization feature that requires you to save some of you old weapons and armor to get the zenith of attack and defense. Of course you also need rare items from enemies, or you can buy them for grade... which will come later. Another interesting feature to be bought are ingrediants to Recipes. The dish on cooking is that there is a wonder chef hidden in almost everytown who will teach you recipes. Which you can cook if you have required ingrediants. You choose which character, all have different cooking levels to decide whether you will botch the item or not, and extraingrediants possible for added effects. choosing people is more or less pointless since Genis is your best (so far) chef that can include all sorts of extras. The use of them is different for each recipe (duh) ranging from cure poison (useless of course) for the whole party, to healing (not so useless).
In the Overworld map your enemies aren't random, you see them as blobs (As to keep it a surprise) which you can seek or avoid pretty easily, the ones with legs are more difficult. Your sight is limited, but that can be changed by finding a guide post in each area so you can ride your (Dog?) around with extended vision and speed, but you won't find treasures, but those are rare so don't stress about it.
Dungeons work like the overworld without blobs, they're usually worms or birds and the like. You must solve pretty simple puzzles with your sorcerors ring to set stuff on fire and electocute crap along with pushable blocks.
BATTLES: The heart and soul. You control Lloyd, but wait you don't have too. One of the cooler things is that you can take complete control of your party even though you can only control one. You choose which one appears on screen for good times with NPC's but you also choose who you want to control in battle. You always spend some time with Lloyd being to most fun hack and slash person not to mention being th main protaganist you are forced at sometime. but there is nothing stoping you from going to town with some magic. You can also get your friends to play as your teammates. Depending on if your friends are morons or not this can be awesome or craptacular. You can move forward and back from you targeted enemy selected by R, Jump, block, attack and throw the smackdown with several techniques. As your character you may run up and attack enemies to regain TP or inflict damage and put in the big numbers with TP consuming Techniques. Your Magic user will stand off in the side doing his business coming in to attack to regain TP. Lloyd will run up and unleash his combo fury (2 swords are better than 1 right?) and others will whatever. At the end when you take those suckers to school you the usual and Grade which is unique currency given depending on how well you did (Usually from -3 to 3). It buys all sorts of goodies. Other Features include Character classes obtained through the story and accomplishments, EX skills which are confusing, basically when you get an EX Jewel it will give you certain powers which you can combine with other ones to make really good powers, yeah. Unison Attacks are great too, after you charge up you bar with either taunts or combos you will be able to perform an attack where all you characters can chip in a technique on enemy free of cost, thus wailing on them until its dead. You also get special bonus techniques for using the right one. The Game also give you deep control on how your teammates act which is crucial.
Gameplay is so Deep, deeper than almost any RPG I can think of, with so much crap it really is hard to get bored. You'd have to sit through a lot of battles with the same place to get tired of killing those suckers, managing your party and having a good time. Though it seems excesive now it is surprisingly simple after a while
Here's another Great part. It has an almost exact amount of difficulty for any seasoned RPG player. If you like to take on every enemy you will get by bosses, but usually by the skin of your teeth if your like me, its really exciting. If you train alot they will still put up a good fight and entertain you. If you skip most of your battles you may have find a sure fire strategy and pull off some spectacular win but its possible with skill, but usually you'll train, which is fine because of the never tiring battles.
Don't trust me on this one but I've heard good things. I'm not done yet cuz its been 2 days and I've slept. From what I've heard. If you are amazing you could do it in 30 or so hours. If you like to suckle every last drop with training side quests and exploration, maybe 70ish. It sounds great. It won't be the longest you've played but it is sure worth you buck. There is an awesome feature of New Game Plus where you can keep some of you stuff and replay it, maybe us mainly Collete this time? Who knows its got good potential. But if you want the best New Game Plus you gotta buy it. Using your stockpiled Grade buy your Classes for it, maybe buy all you weapons. If your a big spender buy some extras like X10 EXP and wail on enemies like never before. Play on Hardcore Mode this time (Harder Fights) God knows since your Godly at this point you can spare the difficulty.
I'm not a fluffer, I tell it like it is, but this game casts a certain magic, It's deep and fluid. Its an Amazing game, and I advise all Tales fans to get a Gamecube and Get this game (only 99$) if you loved the first 2. Any person who has played an RPG and has a Gamecube needs this game. One word of advice, although the graphics are misleading, this is not a game for the young or inexperienced (not the naughty words). You will want to start playing RPGs on some friendlier territory, probably older turn based ones to get in the groove, since the sheer amount of options and possibilities has swamped even me.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 07/16/04
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