Before you read this review or play this title, let it be known that Tales of the World: Radiant Mytholody (“TOTW”) is actually a spin off from the famed “Tales of” series created by Namco. Revolving around a concept which screams “FAN SERVICE”, TOTW is an obvious excuse by the developer to feature the characters from hits such as Destiny and Symphonia; in a “What if we put all the favourite characters together?” scenario. If you’re a fan, there’s really no excuse for not getting this. If you’re not… read on to find out.
And before we proceed any further… YES, I’m a fan.
Expected A Better Story
Let’s start off with the disappointing bit first. For all the hype surrounding this title, and the fact that this is a “Tales of” RPG (possibly my favourite RPG franchise of all time), I really really expected a better story. I know the recent Tales of games have been on a downward spiral as far as their plots are concerned, but still, the lack of effort in this one is too evident to be ignored.
A little on the background. In TOTW, you are known as a Descender, a sacred warrior born to save the world from the steady depletion of mana. In the beginning of the game, you are awakened by a creature known as Mormo, whose duty is to help you complete your all important agenda. Unlike previous Tales of stories, you TOTW protagonist is not predetermined. In fact, your hero is literally a newborn in the beginning of the game, and you even have to choose how your character looks and sounds like, as well as what class he or she belongs to. For an RPG game, it’s all looking good up till this point.
Following the somewhat promising opening, however, the story starts to water down, to the point that you would soon realize that plot-wise, TOTW really has nothing much to offer. You won’t find a sudden twist of plot or a complex main storyline to keep you going. As far as the story is concern, the plot is as generic as it gets – a hero leading his band of warriors to fight for the good of the world. If not for the interesting characters and hilarious dialogues, it would have been a chore to play this title. And this is coming from a fan.
With the lack of a intriguing storyline, TOTW attempts to make it up by introducing MISSIONS, and that is exactly how you progress through the game. In a nutshell, your hero gets to choose from a variety of quests, which ranges from the depressing (deliver package to point A to point B) to the actually fun (challenge your favourite character from previous Tales of RPG anyone?). This would have been all good if not for the fact that the former far outnumbers the latter. In fact, youâ€™ll be doing so many errand missions you’ll be asking yourself what the #$% is a sacred hero, accompanied by some of the most-badass fighters to ever grace the Tales of universe, spending all his time imitating a DHL delivery boy. It’s sad… but true.
Still, fan boys like me would continue to slog on because of two words – Ad Libitum. Basically, Ad Libitum is a band of mercenaries in the world of TOTW that accept jobs to help the commoners, and most importantly, it is a group that consists of some of the all-time favourites from the previous Tales of RPGs. In TOTW, you not only get to fight along with the members of Ad Libitum, you also get to interact with them (ie. you can choose what to say during some of the dialogue scenes). If you are a fan of the series, you would probably be so engrossed with interacting and fighting with your favourite Tale of characters, that you won’t even notice the beating you’re getting from Namco in terms of the weak story they’ve come up with.
The Tales of franchise has always been typified by its customization. In fact, it’s what made the game so fun to play. In TOTW, the customization begins right from the beginning when you are given options to define the gender, class, looks and voice of your hero. Depending on your choices, your hero might resemble a beefed-up, axe-wielding, spiky-haired warrior dude; or a staff-waving blonde mage who looks like she can be blown over by a gust of wind. The options are plenty enough to give you a few variations, but you won’t be able to create, say, a Cloud look-alike from FFVII.
Much like previous Tales of RPGs, TOTW still requires you to customize your battle moves on specific buttons of your controller. By pressing the corresponding buttons during battles, you can then perform various pre-allocated attacks or combos. This should be easy enough for Tales of fans but it might prove a slight headache for the uninitiated. In fact, I believe this is the single biggest reason why many casual gamers are turned off by the Tales of franchise. After all, it’s hard enough to juggle your depleting HP while fighting some of the frigging tough bosses in a Tales of RPG, let alone trying to memorize and execute moves assigned to specific buttons at split-second intervals. But as they say, it’s in the eyes of the beholder.
An interesting addition in TOTW is that the hero isn’t confined to a fixed class like the previous Tale of titles. In TOTW, you can swap across various classes throughout the game, which include, generally speaking, fighter, magician, and healer type characters. Since you can switch class anytime, you are free to develop and customize your character in any way you want. However, switching class isn’t as simple as just pressing a button. When you swap to a new class, you are essentially training a brand new character all over again because you have to start over from level 1 (If you switch back, you retain the level of your previous class). For the casual gamer, you probably won’t be swapping classes for this reason alone.
And the customization doesn’t end here. In TOTW, you also get to customize your party (as opposed to choosing 4 out of 8 predetermined characters in previous titles) because you get to choose from a selection of Tales of characters to tag along on your adventure. When you meet specific Tales of characters in TOTW, you’ll be able to recruit him or her given you have enough reputation, which is in turn determined by the options you chose during the conversation scenes and the missions you’ve accomplished. If you like, you can also recruit generic characters who are not from previous Tale of titles. Take note, however, that the Tales of characters for hire are pretty limited though (probably 2-3 characters per titles). You won’t be spoilt for choice but there’s a good variation for you to enjoy the game.
To add icing to your customization cake, TOTW’s customization system continues with the “Craft” command, which allows you to cook stats-enhancing food, forge useful tools, create items, and modify weapons. And the more you use a specific craft, the higher your rank gets in that category. If you quite fancy yourself the alchemist, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the Craft scene. Obviously, a casual gamer might choose to ignore this altogether or risk fracturing his skull trying to figure out the amount of things you can tweak and tune in TOTW. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted (measured on a customization-geek scale).
I wasn’t expecting any revolution in the battle department when I got TOTW simply because the previous Tales of battles have been largely well-done and perfected over the years. Generally speaking, the battle system is similar to the newer Tales of titles (such as Abyss). The battle is real-time, action-based and is fought on a 3D plane. You control one character and are free to roam around the battlefield and execute battle moves. The rest of your party is AI-controlled, as are your enemies. Enemies are pretty well-done, meaning they’re not overly hard but you won’t be killing them with mindless button mashing either. The battles are also reasonably fast-paced so you won’t be pulling your hair out dealing with 10-minute battles with small fries. It’s all pretty standard stuff but the important thing is that it works.
Having said that, I do foresee some slight issue for newbie. If you are a fan, you would probably be so fluent in the battle system by now you won’t even notice the preparation work you need to do for the battles (ie. such as assigning skills to the respective buttons). If you are not, however, the move customization might give you a small headache, especially in the beginning stages. I wouldn’t call this a flaw but I suspect really casual gamers might be put off by all the groundwork. Still, after you figured out the system, you’ll realize just how solid the battle really is.
Looking And Sounding Good
I always feel graphic isn’t that important a factor in RPGs (ie, the story is what counts, after all), but graphically speaking, TOTW has proven once again just how powerful the PSP is. In fact, the graphics here are so good they resemble those from Tales of the Abyss, which I recently played on the PS2! Character modelling is well done and looks crisp, and the worldview is detailed and nice to look at. The developer has also put in the extra effort of reflecting the equipments you wear, which is a joy because there are so many different ones to choose from. You’ll be having hours of fun changing equipments not because of the stats but just to see how your character looks like.
Sound-wise, the voice-acting in TOTW gets a special mention because it is really, really well-done. The Tales of series has always been known for its excellent voice and TOTW definitely does not disappoint in this respect. The voices really do give the characters personalities that will either make you love or hate them. It’s that good. Music, too, are also nicely executed, not to the point of being memorable, but they are easy on the ears to say the least. Themes from previous Tales of titles are used here and there to good effect. If you played that particular title, it really does give you a sense of nostalgia.
If I really want to be critical, however, the opening does not quite give you the same impact as the older classics like “Tales of Destiny 2″. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still well executed with a catchy theme music, but I suppose I’m just being over critical here. Still…all in all, I have no complains with the looks or sounds of TOTW.
Start A New Life With Your Old Stats
Part of the charm of previous Tales of titles is its replayability. TOTW continues with this tradition by introducing a new game plus with enhanced difficulty after you beat it first time. Significantly, you can transfer all previously acquired items, levels, experience and equipments into your new game, and you can also buy previously hidden options with the grade points you accumulated during your first run. With these value-added services, playing the game again isn’t as taxing as it may be. In fact, it actually drives you to give the game a second go, especially if you have missed out on certain paths or characters during your first play. In this respect, TOTW is real value of money as you could potentially be spending hundreds of hours… if you can look past playing the repetitive missions again, that is.
Playable… But Lacking “Umph!”
In conclusion, TOTW is a great game (especially for fans) due to the number of all-time favourite characters you get to interact and use from the Tale of Universe. Customization is unbelievably comprehensive and complex, allowing you to do almost anything you want with your equipments and items. Battles are relatively fun because of the interesting skills you get, as well as the party characters you can choose to recruit. Most importantly, TOTW is pleasing to the eyes and ears in every way.
Downside to the game, however, is that it is bogged down by a paper-thin storyline and Namco’s decision to use missions to progress the game. For the thousandth time, mission is NOT a good way to develop an RPG, because it makes you feel like you’re playing an action title, and mission also tends to give you a feeling of repetition very quickly (ie. Accept mission. Complete mission. Repeat.). Non-fans may also be all confused as to who’s who in the game, and if you are looking for a story-propelled title, you will not be pleased with TOTW at all.
To put things into perspective, if you are a fan of the series, the characters alone are enough to warrant PSPHyper giving this an addictive 4 out of 5 stars.
If this is your first time playing a Tales of title, a lack of storyline and repetitive missions means we’ll have to settle with a playable 3 out of 5 stars.