Tales of Destiny
Review by Psycho Penguin
"Boy, it sure did come close.."
This review is dedicated to Geromino6776 so was smart enough to take me up on a bet that required me to do this review, which may get me back in the reviewing spirit. Thanks!
When going through a list of role playing games for the Playstation I had to play through a year ago (not really had to play, per se, more or less wanting to play them), one game struck my eye as being one I really wanted to play. That game? None other than Tales of Destiny. Made by Namco as the sequel to the classic Tales of Phantasia for the Super Famicom, Tales of Destiny, while being underrated in my book, is not really as great as some of its fans claim. Sure, most of the elements of the game are cool, and I really enjoyed most of the game, but it just didn't all click in my opinion.
This is still one of the top 10 role playing games on the Playstation no matter how you look at it, but don't be fooled by all the people out there that think this is some superb gift to the role playing game world. It certainly is a fun game, but really, don't fun RPG's come a dime a dozen now? This is definitely a great game, just don't think you HAVE to own it or anything. Besides, the sequel to this game, Tales of Eternia (Tales of Destiny 2) is FAR better anyways. And since this game is so good, you can just imagine how solid the sequel is.
Storyline wise, you could probably guess what the basic storyline has to do about. However, it is a lot deeper than the typical ''save the world/princess/town from the evil empire/villian/natural diaster'' storyline you have come to expect from the average role playing game. Basically, there are a few empires fighting for world domination. Stahn, the main protagonist in the game, is basically used throughout the game as a puppet to help one of the nicer empires to stave off the evil empires. Okay, so it is the average storyline, it seems. But trust me, it gets a lot deeper. The only problem I really had was the fact the game was kind of linear, which means the story was kind of linear as well, which really didn't help it out all that much. Regardless, I still enjoyed the story nevertheless, it just wasn't a classic one.
The graphics kind of suck, in my opinion. The character designs were pretty solid, but definitely could have stood to use a little fine tuning before the game was produced. I really liked the design of the main character, Stahn. He definitely looked like his character, as he was dressed up in rags for the most part. Most of the characters in the game were nicely designed, as were the enemies. The enemies were some of the best enemy designs I have seen in a game. There was a nice variety of them and they were all designed very nicely. The only problem with the enemy designs was the fact that sometimes the same design repeated, only the enemy had a different color, but that is so prevalent in so many role playing games nowadays I don't really consider that to be a major issue.
The major problem I had with the graphics in the game was the fact that the world map design was absolutely horrible and was single handedly the worst map design I have ever seen. Imagine Xenogears' world map, about ten times worse, and you have the world map in this game. Everything looks extremely muddy, and very poorly done. There is a ton of graphical breakup. I know the world map in a lot of role playing games looks kinda bad (Star Ocean 2, anyone?) but this game definitely cuts the cake in that regard. The fact that there was a little box that shows the characters while walking on the world map didn't help anything. It just made the world map seem a lot more cheesy than it already was.
The battle graphics were some of the better battle graphics I have seen and sort of made up for the crappy world map design. The enemy designs I have already discussed, but the animation in the battles was really good. There was hardly any graphical breakup at all, which is pretty surprising, considering some of the battles could get pretty intense. The magic spells animate pretty nicely, as well, and seeing a magic spell and a combo attack pierced together without any graphical breakup or slowdown, for a four year old game, really has to be seen to be believed. The only problem I had with the battle graphics was that red box which got annoying, it was like the Final Fantasy 7 box, but bigger. I like the Tales of Destiny 2 stat checker better, but it was good enough here.
Overall, I really was impressed by most of the graphics in the game, although the world map still drives me insane every time I play. There is nothing worse than walking around on a piss poor animated map, trying to figure out where to go next but not being able to because you have no idea and the map doesn't help. Otherwise, the graphics are solid, especially the battle animation and graphics, which really do have to be seen to be believed.
The music, while not being extraordinarly spectacular, gets the job done. I really enjoyed the battle themes in the game. Yeah, battle themes. There are quite a few battle themes in the game, as they change throughout the game. Also, there are usually two battle themes at one time. What do I mean? I mean the game randomly chooses a battle theme when you get into a battle, so you usually won't hear the same battle theme for more than a few battles at a time. I think this is a really cool idea that should be used in more games. Grandia kind of had the idea, but they only gave a regular theme, an ambushed theme, and a second regular theme which played halfway through the game.
The rest of the music in the game, well, the only problem with it was the fact nothing really stood out as memorable. Sure, most of the music was solid, but there was not really any themes that stood out from each other, which is really the only glaring fault with the soundtrack. Most role playing games for me had certain themes which I can never forget (Final Fantasy 7 was a prime example of this), but this one didn't. I can barely even remember the battle theme, which is quite sad, because I can remember the battle theme for games I haven't played in years. Regardless, the music was solid, yet it was too unspectacular.
Sound effect wise, there was not too much here to talk about. Most of the sound effects, as in a lot of role playing games, occured during battle, and those sound effects were pretty good, yet again, unspectacular. There goes that word again. Most of the sound effects were your basic role playing fare (swords clashing, enemies dying, etc.) but there was some nice sound effects in the forms of Swordians and other random battle effects that I liked. There just wasn't enough there for me to say that the sound effects were special. They were decent, but they were too limited and the ones that were featured just weren't anything special.
Overall, the music and sound effects in the game were solid, but too plain. None of the music stood out, but was all very well done. Think of it as a football team which wins 10-7. The team won, and won tough, but didn't really do anything spectacular. That's what the music in Tales of Destiny was like. It was solid, but there was no one theme that stood out. None of the music actively sucked, however, which is always a good thing, and the battle theme didn't get annoying halfway through the game, which is definitely a strong suit. Sound effects were the same thing, good but nothing special.
Control wise, this game controlled very smoothly, especially where it counted. Moving between the various menus was simple enough, both due to the responsiveness of the controls and the fluidity of the menu system. Nothing about it was complicated, besides maybe setting combos, which i got used to really quickly. This is simply one of the better menu systems I have ever come across, and it was so awesome how it controlled so well, as well. A combination of fluid control and a great menu system equals a happy Psycho Penguin.
As for the battle system, it is simply ingenious in how it is so complicated, yet so simple at the same time. You can use the triangle button to pull up a menu, which allows you to do everything from use an item to escape from battle. You use the circle button to do skills. There are four skills you can use. Pushing circle allows you to do one, down and circle lets you do another one, up and circle lets you do one, and left OR right AND circle lets you do one. X lets you do attacks, up and X allows you to do a jumping attack, and down and X while in the air allows you to thrust your sword downwards. Square allows you to defend an attack. You can set two special skills using the L2 and R2 buttons, and then you can combine those skills with your own skills to do powerful combos. The battle system is truly great, and the controls help in that regard.
I already discussed the battle system so I will continue. It is one of the best battle systems I have ever had the pleasure of playing. You basically fight on a left to right flat plane, with the enemies usually to the right. Sometimes, they are to the left, or to the left and right, but that is only when you are ambushed. You control Stahn, who is the main character, and you can't really control the other three characters, but you can use their combos using the L2 and R2 buttons if you set them up right. Using a special skill takes up TP, while using magic also takes up TP. Swordians play a big part in the game, as you can use them to your advantage during key battles. After winning a battle, you get experience, gald (gold), and lens (which can be exchanged for gald). You also get TP back after each battle, depending on how difficult the battle was (I think).
Other gameplay, well there isn't too much to really discuss. For all intents and purposes, this is just a typical role playing game. However, there are a few added ideas, and the unique Swordian system is an element I should Dicuss. Having a Swordian equipped means you can cast magic of the element that the Swordian is. Also, using Aura Discs allow you to use magic. Each Aura Disc contains a different spell, so you can basically use a few Aura Discs and have a few magic spells for each character. Aura Discs are limited (well, the more powerful ones are, anyways) so each character can't have all the same magic. That is definitely a great idea that should have been implemented into more role playing games.
The Skills system in the game is one of the best features, in my opinion. Each character can learn skills, and you learn them by levelling up. While this is not as cool as the skill building system in the sequel (you gain skills by using old ones), it is still a cool idea. The amount of skills in the game have to be seen to be believed, and you can combine skills to get something called Sacred Skills, which are even more powerful than the normal Skills. To get these, you have to be on a really high level, but they are well worth it. The best part about the Skills is the fact you can set what Skills you want each character to use, so you can sort of control them, as if they use a Skill you don't want them to use, you can just take that Skill off them.
Replay value in this game is kind of non existent, due to the fact that there is not a whole lot to do once you beat the game. The game is fun, but the fact of the matter is the sequel absolutely destroys this game. Also, there is not a large amount of mini games or secrets. So basically once you are done with the game, you have the prospect of starting over and doing the same exact thing you did before, only without having the chance to get more secrets (unless you missed some the first time through). The high amount of random battles certainly do not help in this regard.
This is not a very challenging game. Some of the battles are pretty tough but could be defeated with a little strategy instead of a ''keep doing combos and attacking'' mentality. However, that could be pretty tough to do, as I can admit I got so used to just hacking and slashing my way through the battles, by the time I got to some of the tougher battles I employed the same strategy and got my rear end handed to me. However, most of the battles weren't that tough. The dungeons got to be pretty tough, because some of the puzzles required me to use my brain, and some came out of nowhere and kind of challenged me. I even had to look at a walkthrough once! I perservered, however, and got the job done. The game wasn't too tough.
Overall, this is one of the most entertaining role playing games I have played, yet it does have some basic problems, mainly the fact there is nothing truly spectacular about it. The graphics weren't that great, the music was solid, and the storyline was linear and average. The gameplay rocked the house, but the game around it wasn't good enough to make this a classic. If the battle system was in a game like Final Fantasy 7, we'd have a real classic on our hands. Instead, we have a vision of what could have been. Tales of Destiny 2 is proof of what I am saying, since that has it all.
-The battle system is one of the best I have ever played.
-The controls in the game are fluid and responsive.
-The music is solid and varied.
-The battle animations are really solid.
Not So Good Points
-The sound effects in the game are nothing to write home about.
-There is not any music track that I remember. They're all too plain. Good, yet plain.
-The storyline could have been improved.
-The awful world map.
Storyline - 6.1/10
Graphics - 7.8/10
Music - 7.3/10
Sound Effects - 7.1/10
Control - 9.8/10
Gameplay - 9.4/10
Replay Value - Average
Challenge - Average
Rent or Buy? - Buy - Price - $20-25
Overall - 8.1/10
The Last Line
It could have been a true classic, but everything just came up a little short, save for the battle system and controls. It's still enough to warrant a purchase, don't expect an almighty game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/16/01, Updated 10/16/01
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