Tales of Destiny - Staff Retroview  

Tales 2: The Coif of Stahn
by Adriaan den Ouden

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Very Easy
20-40 Hours
+ Great cast of characters.
+ Ridiculously silly plotline.
- High random encounter rate.
- Terrible AI.
- Poor visuals.
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   Although Tales of Phantasia was the first entry in the ever-growing series, North American gamers were first introduced to the Tales franchise in 1998, when Tales of Destiny was released on the Sony PlayStation. As the first title to cross the ocean, Tales of Destiny proves to be the most primitive of the titles we received (Phantasia GBA was based on late 1998's PlayStation port.) But despite many flaws, Tales of Destiny still manages to radiate a strange charm that is enjoyable at times, but more often than not falls flat.

   When Stahn, a country bumpkin with incredibly fantastic hair, stows away on board an airship headed for the big city, an assault on the vessel leads him to Dymlos, a powerful sword of legend... that can talk. Dymlos is only one of several talking swords, the aptly named Swordians, and thanks to a series of missteps and ill-advised alliances, the pair end up being forced — yes, forced — to save the world.

   As a late-90's RPG, the script for Tales of Destiny is typical for the period, filled with awkward dialogue and faux-mature "cursing." Despite the poor writing quality, the story manages to be endearing thanks to a strong cast of psychotic characters and a ridiculous plotline that makes the Power Rangers look like a serious drama. Stahn is a charmingly naive and oddly shy country boy that gets swept along with the tide in a way that's rare for a protagonist. Leon is an arrogant prick that you just want to smack around and Rutee is an ego-centric dolt, and the two get in each others' faces constantly. Mary has ADD and has a tendency to wander off in the middle of important conversations if she happens to see something shiny in the distance, Chelsea is a twelve year old who thinks she's thirty, Karyl is Bono, and Khang has a strong desire to beat the crap out of Stahn and differentiate himself from Final Fantasy IV's Yang, who looks absolutely nothing like him. Only Garr and Philia fail to make a strong impression.

The world map. The world map.

   Equally primitive is the combat system. As the second implementation of the Tales trademark Linear Motion Battle System, it definitely lacks the complexity of later entries. For example, Stahn is only capable of performing a single regular attack rather than a string of them as in later games. The AI is also incredibly poor, even worse than the GBA port of Phantasia. No matter what settings you use, many characters will just stand behind Stahn doing nothing during battle. Party order ends up being more important than AI settings, as the only way to force them into action is to make them stand close to the enemy by manipulating the formation.

   Luckily, the game is also incredibly easy. The chances of dying are almost nonexistent, which makes the poor AI mostly a non-issue, since Stahn is more than capable of taking most enemy groups out alone. Of course, having additional attackers helps speed battles up, which is a good thing considering the rather high random encounter rate. Even using a Holy Bottle, an item that reduces the rate of random encounters, they still occur extremely frequently, and it gets frustrating in the more complicated dungeons. In fact, the random encounter rate is probably one of the game's weakest points, as it all but ruins the enjoyment of the game's terrifically designed dungeons. The puzzles are intriguing and complex, but often involve a lot of backtracking and exploring, which the encounter rate hinders.

   Despite all this, the battles are still moderately enjoyable. The combo system is in full force, and it's very easy to link two special skills together, which makes up for the single normal attack. TP costs are also fairly low, while the maximum TP for each character is very high, allowing you to spam skills without consequence. Although the game's lack of difficulty doesn't make for very exciting battles, the combat is fast and engaging.

Stahn Stahn's hair would make Akira Toriyama jealous.

   Returning to the primitive theme, the visuals don't stand out as being particularly impressive. The sprites are of low quality, and although they're fairly recognizable, it seems like the artists attempted to cram too many details into too few pixels, making them appear very rough around the edges. In battle they look much better, and the animations are terrific. The environments are much more attractive, but still lack the detail of other PlayStation RPGs from the same era. Overall, the game looks only slightly better than top-end SNES titles, which is disappointing.

   The audio, however, is a huge step up from Tales of Phantasia, and indeed most of the rest of the series. Destiny doesn't rely on the same rehashed tunes that see play in nearly every Tales game, and its original soundtrack is peppy and enjoyable, though still fairly unremarkable. Like Phantasia, Destiny features minimal voicework during battle, but it hasn't been translated, so the silly post-battle remarks that the Tales series has become well-known for cannot be enjoyed by an English-speaking audience. This is a particular shame for Karyl, as each of the songs he can use in battle have their own lyrics, which I'm certain are probably rather hilarious. Even so, the voice actors are fairly over the top, and they help to add a bit of personality to each character, even if they aren't in English.

   As the first Tales game to make it to North America, Destiny isn't the greatest example of the series. It's not surprising that it took a while for the Tales brand to get a foothold here, since this wasn't the best start it could get. A better translation and lower encounter rate would have gone a long way to making the game more palatable (and a bit harder, as well), but as it stands, Tales of Destiny is a moderately enjoyable, but sub-par game that can be safely overlooked.

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