Review by onionring1988

"A Game That Will Eternally Remain The Same"

Initially called Tales of Destiny II due to copyright issues, the only main difference between the PS1 version and the PSP version of Tales of Eternia is the name. Sad to say, Tales of Eternia is a direct port of the PS1 game with no added scenes to expand the story, updated graphics, rearranged music, or special dungeons. What you get is what you see, but does a game originally released in 2000 hold up 9 years later? Read to find out!

Story:

Before delving into the cliche-ridden story, there is something I must mention. A big staple in the Tales of… franchise seems to be devoid in this entry. One is the skits, which are present in the Japanese version. Why these skits were taken out is unknown. Due to the skits being removed, much character development is unapparent. While the characters do develop throughout the story, games like Tales of Symphonia, Legendia, and Abyss all have a number of skits that show the unique traits in the cast. I am not going to hold this against the story, but I feel like anyone who has played a Tales of… game should be aware that this element is missing.

Now onto the plot. We are introduced to the red-haired, seventeen year old protagonist wearing a skin-clad-belly-revealing outfit talking to his male-sounding, more masculine dressed confidant and childhood friend, Farah. The two are off enjoying the sunny day, in their home town, when all of the sudden a pod crashes. Emerging from the pod is a purple-haired woman who seems to be talking a language that will not make sense to anyone, regardless of where you come from. The foreigner is out of this world. Literally.

The girl, speaking what I thought was jibberish, has something very important to say. It's up to these childhood friends to decipher her language. While they do this, they discover that they need to save the world from some evil people who have some evil plans. Yes, it is this cliche. I will not provide any more details in fear of spoiling a story that has been told many times before.

Despite the story being pretty bland, the story is told well and we learn why the characters act the way that they do. Reid is the archetype hero, having the incessant need to help everyone, while Farah acts the same way because she used to be a little troublemaker. Keele, a blue-haired, mage is the serious one, yet a comic relief, due to his sarcastic attitude and his physical incompetence. At the end of the day, these characters do not stray far from the stereotypes and the story does not introduce any new elements.

During this twenty hour adventure, as Reid and co traverse an array of locals to satisfy the needs of an animal-hating sailor or all of humanity who depend on them to save the world, will the graphics draw you in?

Graphics:

Using sprite-based graphics, each character, town, and dungeon look rather unique. There is a definite attention of detail, as the character's anime-styled hair will sway in the wind or boxes will have labels of its contents on the outside.

Each town and dungeon has a distinct visual flair. From playing my fair share of RPGs, I expect most dungeons and towns to fall under a certain cliche. For example, this game, like many, has a mysterious forest where everything is one big fog. However, I must admit that I liked the town and dungeon design. The towns were relatively unique and each one felt different in terms of architecture and style. The dungeons, while falling under stereotypes, had some nice puzzles and were varied. By going from place to place, I felt a real sense of progression.

On the other hand, the CGI look rather awkward. While the in-game graphics are usually very vibrant and colorful, the CGI scenes are in 3D that has a completely different art direction. As a player of several RPGs, I would've appreciated for the CGI to be in anime style, like in Star Ocean: First Departure. The consistency would've made the sequences have a better transition.

Thankfully, the graphics do not take a hit during the fast-paced battle system.

Game play:

The battle system is the best thing about the game. Again, small attention to detail is recognized during battle as Reid will look different depending on the equipment you give him. Such detail is transitioned into battle as each character has a unique move set that will be either controlled by you or the competent AI. From the “skills” menu, you will have to map each skill to a button. For example, the O button can be a skill while down + O will be another skill. To make things even easier, the L+O and L+X buttons can be mapped to skills of ANY character, which can allow you to heal on the fly or give your controlled character more skills to choose from.

In order to use a skill, though, you need to have TP. TP is this games version of magic. After each battle, every character participating in battle will gain a bit of TP back so this kind of encourages spamming. Furthermore, using skills are essential to win battles against the bosses, some of whom have a lot, and I mean, a lot, of HP. HP is also known as health points and is what keeps your character alive. When HP hits 0, then the character falls unconscious and needs to be revived either by another character, an item, or by sleeping in an inn. If all characters in battle fall, then its game over.

Following the Tales of… tradition, battles are relatively easy, but there is something I want to mention. The player does not fully control the character. What I mean by this is that the character will jump back after an attack, which becomes really annoying after awhile. Also, this sometimes may lead your character to jump back into an enemy's attack. Each character will have a role in battle, as the team will usually be two melee fighters with two mages providing backup. The mages, though, are given “Craymel Cages,” which grants them stronger magic depending on which “Craymel” you obtain during the adventure.

Craymel are summons, like Bahamut from Final Fantasy. Each Craymel is associated with an element, like Undine is water. Each one has a unique attack and will grant a mage certain spells depending on which cage they are in. Because you have two mages with two cages, the “fringe” option becomes available once you get the second Craymel. By “fringing” you are essentially combining Craymel's powers to unlock new spells. This leads to some customization as you can switch a Craymel from one cage to another to see what spells Keele and Meredy get.

The AI is relatively good at casting the right spells and staying alive. The player can further customize each battle through the "strategy" screen on the menu where the player can tell a certain character how much TP to use, how offensive to be, or to only cast defensive spells. Furthermore, the player can position each character before a battle starts to ensure that a mage starts off in a back while the melee characters can easily charge the enemy.

At the end of each battle, you will be awarded “points”. In the other Tales of… installments, this was called a grade. At the end of the game, you usually were able to spend your grade points to buy items for new game plus (like exp x2), but no option is available during this game. This makes me wonder what its function is…

Besides battling, you control Reid as he traverses through the world map, town, and dungeons. Town exploration is rather simple as you can talk to non playable characters for random conversation, hints, or storyline progression. You can also sleep at inns to recover health, go to the equipment shop to update equipment, go to the item shop to buy items, and go to the grocery store to buy cooking items.

A staple in the Tales of… franchise is cooking! Like items, cooking allows each character to regain HP, TP, or cure status afflictions. The main differences between items and cooking is that you need several ingredients (like milk, cheese, bread, etc…), the recipe has to be obtained by finding a chef (disguised as weird objects), the item affects everyone, and that cooking cannot be used repeatedly.

Another staple that is present are “titles,” which are nicknames that the characters give each other. While in other installments, titles gave a character stat boosts, they seem to only have a humorous function in Tales of Eternia. Some will automatically be unlocked by progressing through the story, while others will only be unlocked during certain circumstances.

During this twenty hour adventure, not a single track will be memorable, stand out, or set the mood appropriately.

Sound:

While I never believed that any of the Tales of… installments had exceptional soundtracks (besides Tales of Legendia) the tracks in Tales of Eternia seem awfully generic.

The battle theme does not pump the player up to mash buttons over and over, the emotional themes do not invoke emotions, and the town themes are only distinct enough that the player actually feels like he or she is in a different area.

If anyone has played Golden Sun or Valkyrie Profile, one will notice an odd familiarity between the tracks. Yes, each one is composed by Motoi Sakuraba, but the ‘better' tracks in the game seem to be blatant rip offs from those games.

Besides the mediocre soundtrack, the battle quotes and sounds become awfully annoying. The same voice clips during battle will be heard time and time again. That brings me to the voice acting, which is a mixed bag.

For some reason, the character's voices don't fit their personality. Reid, who is supposed to be strong and stern, sounds like he is being voiced by an adolescent boy. Meredy has a thick accent that is kind of hard to understand. Keele, though, is tolerable, while Farah's voice actress is fine as well. However, the problem I have with each one of them is that none of them convey the mood well. During the scenes where one would think the character should act emotional, the character just reads the line. As I listened to the cast convey the plot, I felt very aware I was watching a video game. I would think a good cast would immerse me into the game's world, to make me care about their discussion.

Replay Value:

Like other Tales of… games, a new game plus is available. In the new game plus, the player can fight additional bosses. Because the game only lasts about twenty hours, going through the new game plus probably will take even less time.

Closing Thoughts:

After finishing the game, I wasn't satisfied. Due to the fact that this is a port of a decade old game, it's extremely disappointing to see that Namco did not put in any effort to put in extras like new playable characters or dungeons.

Compared to several RPGs available on the PSP, I do not believe that this one stands out. What is further disappointing is that if you compare Tales of Eternia to other games that have been ported, like Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile, both received some extra content. The only plus to Tales of Eternia is if the player favors portability, as Tales of Destiny II does not only cost less, but could be obtained more easily.

Another note is that, from reading several posts, there are two versions of this game, one of which is NOT PLAYABLE. If the player receives a version that is under 2.5, then he or she will not be able to get past a certain Craymel, who asks you to pull a switch that will forever leave the game hanging. How this was not caught during testing bewilders me.

Final Score: 6.5/10

Quick Summary (Recap):

Story: A simplistic story that has been told several times before with a cast of characters that never get fully developed. However, the story does not leave the player confused as to where to go next, but may leave them unsatisfied once it's over.

Graphics: The 2D sprite graphics are very vibrant and colorful as each location has a distinctive flair. The CGI, though frequent, look awkward in comparison.

Gameplay: Easily the best part of the game. The player will have a blast mashing buttons to chain combos, but how one cannot fully control the character leaves much to be desired.

Sound: Easily the worst part of the game, as there is not one memorable track. While the soundtrack sounds like background music, it will not either enhance or detract the mood.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 08/03/09

Game Release: Tales of Eternia (EU, 02/10/06)


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