Review by Psycho Penguin
The Tales series finally hits its zenith after two solid titles.
Tales of Destiny II is a bit of a misleading title, as the game really has nothing to do with the original title that was released a few years prior to this one. You see, Namco got the brilliant idea to rename their Japanese title "Tales of Eternia" into a more noticable title to attract sales and attention from stubborn Americans. It didn't work, as the game didn't sell too many copies, and it just led to confusion, especially when the real Tales of Destiny 2, an actual sequel to the original, came out in Japan for the Playstation 2 a year or two ago. Thanks, Namco.
Regardless of any naming issues this game has, the fact remains that it's one of the most engrossing and entertaining video games ever created. One of the reasons for it being my fourth favorite video game of all time is the riveting storyline. You start off with Reid and Farah, two childhood friends who are using a telescope to stare out at the stars one night, when suddenly a spaceship crashes in their backyard. Little do they know that the little girl they discover in the spaceship will end up being the key to unlocking a mystery that involves inter-planetary wars. The lack of major plot twists is a bummer, but otherwise the story is interesting enough to keep you into it.
A lot of people don't really like the graphics in this game, but I couldn't tell you why. Namco chose to use the typical 2D look for the series, and the outstanding quality cannot be denied. Everything is well detailed and the amount of colors has to be seen to be believed. Battles are flawlessly designed, as enemy and character designs mesh together quite well with the backgrounds, which never get too annoying. Everything may seem a little small at first, but you'll get used to it. Think of this game as an updated Chrono Trigger in terms of graphical design. Accompanying these great graphics is a solid soundtrack that may not be the highlight of the game, but will provide some solid listening through the long journey.
And let me tell you, this journey is LONG. This is by far the longest Tales title yet, with over 30 dungeons to complete. Fortunately, the game never proves to be a drag due to the outstanding battle system, which is one of the best battle systems to ever come from a role playing game. You fight on a 2D grid, moving left to right. You push buttons to do different things. Pushing X does an attack, pushing circle and a direction does a special attack, pushing triangle brings up a menu, etc. It definitely brings a much-needed feeling of actually controlling a character, and the battles definitely prove to be more interesting than the "Push X over and over" battle system that sadly are far too common in role playing games.
The real time battle system works a lot like the previous two games in the series, as you still get to do special attacks. The way to perform them in this game is pretty simple yet effective. Each time you do a special attack, its count goes up by 1. After you perform a certain move a certain amount of times, it unlocks a new move. I think this system works quite well and is one of the better ways to unlock spells and skills. Learning them at level up doesn't make sense and buying them from shops is pretty pointless. Therefore, this system works out pretty well, and it's a lot of fun to perform them during battle, as you get a choice of four different moves to perform during battle, depending on what direction you push before pushing circle.
Summons are one of the few additions to the game, but they provide some interesting things that haven't been tried yet. Craymel cages are something that I've never seen outside of this game. Basically, you can combine two craymels together to learn a new summon spell. You get craymels by defeating major element bosses, usually. You can only summon monsters when a person's element is fully charged. This may sound confusing but it's really not. Let's say Meredy wants to cast a fire summon. Just have her cast fire magic a lot and then she'll light up and be able to perform the fire summon. This makes the game balanced, as you can't just cast summons over and over. The game is actually somewhat challenging as a result.
Outside of battles, the game provides a lot of replay value due to the amount of secrets and side quests to be found. The wonder chefs are back this time, and they're a lot of fun to find. They always hide out in weird places, and you can usually tell by the fact that the object they're hiding in is out of place. They then teach you new dishes that you can cook. Lenses are also hidden throughout the game, and finding all of them nets you some awesome accessories. There's also a ton of mini games which will keep you interested, especially the ones that are intergrated right into the game.
This game definitely has a ton of replay value due to the aforementioned things, as well as the awesome battle system. Battling is a ton of fun and will keep you hooked throughout the game. I love playing this game and never get bored of it due to all the things you can do. Also, the game is pretty challenging which definitely helps. The bosses can prove to be troublesome if you aren't careful, and button mashing definitely won't get you anywhere in this game. There's also a harder challenge mode to complete once you finish the game, which makes enemies even tougher. Leveling up doesn't really work too well if you don't know what you're doing, so this game is more strategic than most role playing games.
Tales of Destiny II is my fourth favorite game of all time, and for good reason. The battles are truly awesome, the storyline feels epic and never gets boring, and the amount of side quests and mini games means tons of replay value. This is one of the few games that I can play over and over again without getting bored, and it truly gets my highest recommendation, no matter how much it costs to buy. It's definitely worth the price.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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