Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World - Reader Review  

Symphonia has returned, it just looks a bit different
by Shawn Denney

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20-40 Hours
+ Great character movements
+ well written script
+ Nice battle system
- Monster capture is never worthwhile
- Not much old cast development
- Game won't make much sense to newcomers
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   The original Tales of Symphonia is my favorite game ever made. The art style, characters, story, battle system, overall epic feel. It was a masterpiece. When I heard that a true sequel was being made for it, I almost cried. I’m not even kidding, It was like winning the lottery! After years of hoping and waiting, the sequel has finally arrived under the name Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. I can’t exactly say it turned out to be what I wanted, but that isn’t to say it’s bad.

   What separates the “Tales of..” series from other RPG’s is its real-time battle system. It has been around since the series inception on the Super Famicom, though with every entry tweaks are made. This time's battle system plays the most similarly to “Tales of the Abyss”. This means real-time battles in a fully 3D environment. Characters are controlled on 2D planes between the enemy and you. You can snap off this 2D plane at any time by simply pressing a button. To attack, you simply press a button. To pull off a special attack, press a different button. The controls are responsive and work great. Also, Wii mote waggling is kept to an absolute minimum, so if that is your thing, this may not be the game for you. If you are into a more traditional control scheme, this is right up your alley. Oh, and for those of you who don’t know, the “Tales of..” games are multiplayer. That’s correct, A fully multiplayer RPG.

   The main addition to the battle system this time is the monster capture/training mechanic. It comes down to kicking an enemy’s ass, and then there is a chance that you will persuade it to join you. Once a monster joins, it can participate in battle with you. As an idea, it seems quite good. With the ability to use monsters, the already fun, fast paced battles would have nearly endless possible combinations. However, there are 2 problems with its implementation. First, is that monsters cannot be controlled by a human player. Thus, if you choose to use a monster in your party, the game is no longer 4 player. Secondly, is that the monsters are just never as strong as the normal characters. They have the possibility to become the strongest out of everyone, but the amount of time needed to make them useful will never be reached by just playing through the story. It would require serious grinding.

He wants you to love him He wants you to love him

   The game lets newcomers Emil and Marta come into contact and interact with returning cast from the original. This is where a lot of my hope for the game was smashed. The returning cast play minor roles that are only with Emil and Marta at specific times for short intervals. It left me wanting more. How have these characters changed in the 2 years since we last saw them? What have they been up to? Well, the game is kind enough to offer about one sentence per character. Sigh……….

   The music in this game is decent. There are no tracks that really stand out, and leave a lasting impression. Along with that though, there aren’t really any songs that would make you want to mute your TV either. The music gets the job done, but doesn’t put forth any effort beyond that. The voice work is actually quite well done. I do have a few complaints about the voice work though. First is that the returning cast got new voice actors. Bummer! But, the newbie’s do a fine job. Secondly, is that Emil is voiced by Johnny Yong Basch. Now don’t get me wrong, Mr. Basch always does a phenomenal job and is one of my favorite voice actors. However, Mr. Basch had already voiced the charcter Guy from Tales of the Abyss, and it was really weird to here the same voice for 2 completely different characters in the same series.

   Like its predecessor, Dawn of the New World borrows heavily from Norse Mythology. For this, it gets a big thumbs up, but it also means that its originality can’t be as strong as if it was an entirely new concept. The integration between the universe of Tales of Symphonia, and Norse Mythology is pulled off admirably and the authors deserve some serious credit.

   I actually found the story to be somewhat underwhelming. The setting is fabulous and full of possibilities, but it just felt like they ignored all that and went with a tried and true plot. It does have its variances, and the occasional plot twist, but it could have been so much more.

Kicking some blue buzzard ass Kicking some blue buzzard ass

   The visuals in this game ar a mixed bag. It displays in 480p and looks acceptable for a Wii game. The character movements are fabulous and models themselves alright. However, the environments didn’t receive the same love as the characters. This wasn’t a really big deal as you spend a lot more time looking at characters than the ground anyway. Lastly, why did they ditch the “chibi” like cel shading used in the original Tales of Symphonia? I loved that look! I can't really degrade the game for not using the style, but I think it would have “felt” much closer to the original if they had. The challenge in this game is on the moderate side. The game has a fairly deep questing system going on, and strongly encourages that you use it. If you choose not to do any side quests, technically your not missing out on anything related to the story. They just offer a deeper insight into the characters, net some items, and keeps your characters level up. Depending on how many of these side quests you do will have a direct proportion on how hard the game is. Overall, it plays at a nice pace and has a relatively balanced difficulty, with the exception of one boss that kicked my ass at least 5 times. I didn’t die anywhere else in the game; oh, and did i mention that it wasn’t even the end boss.

   When all is said and done, which should run you about 30 hours if you do all the side quests, the overall experience is a positive one, but it could have been so much more. After the ending though, the new game plus feature lets you carry over features to the next playthrough; such as earning double experience, get extra money per fight, or carrying over your monster book data. There is a whole list of options to tinker with. Also, upon completion, harder difficulty modes become unlocked to seriously increase replay value.

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