Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Review

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is this generation’s offering to the continuation of the story after Tales of Symphonia for Gamecube, which garnered many critical acclaims as well as commercial success in a system almost devoid of RPG games. This game, like the last, also came out on a system completely devoid of RPG games, and for most, good games in general. How does this game stack up to its original?

Character Development
The shining example of this game is its character development. We follow Emil and Marta in their development throughout the game. Of course, that’s what we’ve come to recognize as an integral part of the game itself. This is exemplified with Abyss, Vesperia, the original Symphonia, etc. This is what we’ve come to define the Tales series itself.

Character Skits
A favourite of Tales of Symphonia (and on) were the character skits, where you can optionally press a button during a prompt to get to a small skit where characters in different frames talk with each other for a short time, usually about the content. This heavily expands on the character development as well as fleshing out the storyline better than if you did not see them. It helps that often times a bit of humour is injected in there as well.

Battle System
I love the battle system of the Tales series, and this delivers more of the same action-packed movements we’ve come to know in the series. Distinctively, it made some significant improvements upon the original, using the same battle engine as Abyss and Vesperia.

Monster Capture
This actually is a double-edged sword. The fact that your own monsters are part of the backbone of your party makes monster capturing rather integral to your game can actually enhance your experience. While there are issues with it, it’s still a welcoming addition to the game, especially since you can finally fight with your very own monsters (you know, monsters that you always wondered why they’re so awesome). Reincarnation is done fairly well, and the monsters catch up to your levels fairly quickly after sitting out for a few levels.

Usually people want me to talk about graphics. So I will. It’s last-gen.

Monster Capture
The issue with monster capture is that the system needs time to get the hang of, and also that usually you’ll just stick with the wolf you got in the beginning of the game, and perhaps a bear (the bear class is somewhere between broken and ridiculously broken. My bear guy, at the end of the playthrough, had about double Emil’s stats.). It’s not encouraging at all that you can easily fail capture sequences, where they run away, so you’ll have to fight more to get another attempt, and often many times in a row.

Tales of Symphonia Characters
What’s with the point of using them anyways? They’re completely useless in any mode harder than hard, precisely because of their level cap (they’re stuck at level 50 by the end of the game). You can’t change their equipment, and generally they’re just not as useful as a monster. Bad choice on their part there. It doesn’t help that the characters themselves seem more like tack on characters that are almost devoid of character development as well.

It’s been a problem since the original Symphonia game. They still haven’t fixed the incredibly bad AI in this game. Marta as a CPU is somewhere between “useless” and “better off dead,” while Emil as a CPU doesn’t attack nearly as quickly, carefully, or as TP efficient as you are. Good thing that he’s still at least OK compared to Marta. The monsters’ AI also tend to suffer as well. It doesn’t help that there is an incredible lack of tactical options compared to what you can have in the original Symphonia.

Recycled Everything
Seriously, nearly everything’s recycled. Every town and half of the dungeons were recycled, without change, from the original game. The amount of new material is staggeringly low for a sequel to one of the highest standard games in last generation.

Main Storyline

Fan Service
The starting point OF this game is fan service. I can’t say that this is a good starting point for any game. Then again, Dissidia, Super Smash Brawl, etc. all start with fan service in mind.

Verdict: If you like story and character development. Get it, but be aware that you’ll have to go through some fights playing as a girl in order for you to have something effective. If you want an epic, Final Fantasy-like RPG game, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for another Tales game, it’s well within your expectations. Just be sure that you haven’t played the first one in recent while, the similarities in the environments is rather frightening.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is currently out now for the Nintendo Wii, and is selling for something like $39.99.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Emil, Atypical Hero

Throughout many years of RPG gaming, we’ve come to associate ourselves as players with the main character to a particular storyline. As such our favourite characters tend to be the main character of that particular RPG. Of course, this also explains why so many main heroes of RPG stories are male. A strong example of such is Chrono Trigger, where Crono’s voice, while unheard of except in a single ending, coloured our own perception of him as a strong-willed person because we filled in the words for him. It is not a coincidence that the heroes of RPG games are all strong willed and powerful, it is how we feel these heroes should be like, and perhaps what we would also want to be like ourselves. What happens when this sort of feeling goes away?

“Nobody wants to play a wimp like Emil,” is a very common reality amongst players of Tales of Symphonia: dawn of the New World. This was apparent from the get-go of the story, when Emil has his first conversation with his Aunt. What we see here is what players would describe as a coward, a weakling. Even in the first battle, Emil’s sluggish movements and frustratingly slow capabilities further adds to the distaste we have to Emil. The sort of feeling that I’ve mentioned earlier on all but disappeared in the first five minutes of the game.

I think that one of the reasons why we are so against Emil in the first place is that he is weak, sluggish, and depressed. Depression is one of the most common ailments in the developed world. What we see here is a strong mirror between us (the depressed), and Emil (the powerless and depressed). The fact that he is the embodiment of who we are gives us a strong distaste for Emil in the first place. He feeds off our own negative feelings.

As far as the third battle, Emil gained the ability to be the “Knight of Ratatosk.” This is also no coincidence that we are introduced to the same strong-willed, generally powerful person we’ve all come to associate with time, but only in battle. We’re now given the incentive to battle to see more of this headstrong character.

As the game wears on, Emil begins to use his Ratatosk form more often until the Ratatosk “mode” completely takes over near the midpoint of the game. Like ourselves, Emil tries to cling onto what little bit of strength, and begins to rely on it more and more until eventually it takes over. Just like we want to escape from our real troubles in order to play a video game, Emil escapes from his own powerlessness by clinging onto his other, more powerful form.

Emil illuminates on our lives more clearly than most RPG heroes, yet we are the ones who clearly dislike him for being so. His most important function, however, is telling us that our own escapism from the world is just as harmful as Emil’s escapism from his own powerlessness. More importantly, however, is that Emil’s own struggles reveal a glimmer of hope for those that drown in the ocean of sadness: he took control of his own life, then so can you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sony wants to make things more user friendly

Awesome, clamshell packaging is always worthwhile, right? In any case, Sony wants to eliminate those stupid clamshells for something more environmentally friendly, and hopefully more user friendly.


Metal Big Planet

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tracing Source

Tracing Source 3u
Copy target instant, sorcery, or activated ability. You may choose new targets for the copy.
Transmute 1uu
Flashback 3uu

Probably overcosted for what it does. I'm sure it's great fun in multiplayer, since the 4 slot is filled with goodies. The 3 slot too, but w/e. Optimism ftw. XD

Monday, December 1, 2008

Knowledge Syphon

Knowledge Syphon ub
Target player discards a card.
Draw a card.

I know. It's ridiculous.