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Old 09-02-2004, 12:20 PM   #802
Icarus4578
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Tales of Destiny II - PlayStation - Rating 8
Depending on who you ask, many, including myself, would admit that these past few months have been rather uneventful for gaming. The store shelves haven't exactly been piling up with glowing new software. And it's interesting to note that now more than ever the US market more closely resembles its Japanese counterpart. Less than a decade ago there was a myriad of software which never made it to our shores, especially those softs which were considered 'too Japanese', or 'too different'. Games such as Policenauts, Pulseman and the original Tales of Phantasia were never released stateside. Due to the current lack of interesting software, I've had to make a return to the past for most of my gaming kicks. Anybody up for a game of Samurai Shodown 4? Duck Tales?
No matter. This holiday season should bring a smile to your face, and with such softs as Astro Boy (GBA), Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (PS2/X-Box), Metroid Echoes (GC), and Gradius V (PS2) making the rounds it can be said that gaming is taking on a reflective posture. Plus, there's always the new stuff to whet your appetite: Dead or Alive Ultimate (X-Box), Paper Mario 2 (GC) and Devil May Cry 3 (PS2).
I apologize for beginning with what sounds like the opening for an editorial but this small humble thread is my sole podium to let my voice be heard.

Known as Tales of Eternia in Japan, Tales of Destiny II is uber-quality action RPGing through and through. You want cool characters and good story progression? ToDII has you covered. Want an RPG that allows for actual gameplay mechanics instead of mundane exercises in point-&-click contraptions? Here's your game. Awesome 2D artwork and solid animation? Check. Fitting music and fanfare? Yup. No joke--this game screams "quality" from the rooftops and is yet another shining jewel in Namco's crown.
The storyline is quite involving throughout all 3 discs, even if the outline of the plot has been done before many times. Reid is a hero by chance of circumstances. He's reluctant to doing anything besides hunting, eating and living a normal everyday life in his home village of Rasheans along with his childhood friend and companion, the tomboy Farah. She's headstrong and realistic, plus she knows martial arts. I think she resembles Akane Tendo of Ranma 1/2 fame in more ways than one.
Anyway, one day a mysterious spacecraft crashes into the nearby forest, so Reid and Farah go investigating. They eventually discover the ruins of the spacecraft, along with a young girl who speaks in a foreign tongue named Meredy. Eventually, all three of them return to Rasheans only to be attacked while conversing in the mayor's home by a strange person. Fearing further impending trouble, Reid and company are promptly told by the mayor to pack up and leave (Can you say "Secret of Mana"?).
That's not really the plot of the game, but I'll leave the rest for you to discover for yourself.
Just once, I'd like for an RPG to try something different than the usual 'save the world' premise. ToDII does put a few good spins on the typical premise, and does tackle subjects in a refreshing way, but still....
They could always try and make an RPG that's set in China like in all those period kung fu films by Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest. But then all the dialogue would sound like this:

Person A ~ "But sir, you must pay me for that."
Person B ~ "Pay? Why not kill you instead?"

Or perhaps:

Person A ~ "You are good, who's your teacher?"
Person B ~ "You're no match for my iron fists!"
Person A ~ "We'll see about that!"

Further complicating matters is that virtually everybody in those films wants to kill somebody, so you'd probably have to fight 2/3rds of the population.

Person A ~ "How are you?"
Person B ~ "Very clever. Now you must die!"

I digress. There's comedy and light-hearted moments throughout the journey. One part which occurs in the Ruins of Volt had me laughing my socks off! Of course, there's drama throughout, including betrayl, hidden inner powers, and secret pasts.
The only other PSone 2D RPGs that compare graphically which I can recall would be Breath of Fire III & IV. You will appreciate the art style, attention to detail and animation. If Tales of Phantasia is an old Volvo then ToDII is a new Porsche. Namco has improved the winning formula which has made ToP such an enthusiast's treat, and - best of all - you don't get into a fight every two steps! Thank you Namco for caring. Note that I cannot comment on the graphical contrasts between this and the prequel which is also a PSone title since I haven't played it.
The shining star of this game is its intuitive battle system. You're actually allowed to move around freely and pull off attacks, combos, juggles, special attacks, etc. Once you've acquired the ability to use manual controls (which won't take long at all), turn it on immediately. [*note* There's Auto, Semi-Auto and Manual control settings.] While you're controlling your character the CPU controls the others. You can program in commands for them, both on an individual level and as a group, such as Conserve TP (magic and special attacks), Attack Distant Enemies, Cover You, and much more. You can also adjust the frequency of attacks, specials and healing. There's summons you will obtain called Craymels which can be fused to ascertain yet more magic skills. Even though I've given a good description of what to expect, expect much more as I've covered only a small portion of content. It gets very deep. There's 256 enemies to encounter and you'll acquire the Monster Collection book to keep track of every single one of 'em you've faced. And all of this action couldn't be contained on just one world map....
Interestingly, you can adjust battle difficulty between Normal and Hard settings at any point during the game. I opted for the full experience (Hard) and let me tell you--this game takes no prisoners. Get ready to die and die often.
Another great addition is the sound test which you can even use during the game. This feature is relatively foreign to most RPGs, and once again I'd like to thank Namco for incorporating this. There's 110 music tracks, plus a few little jingles in the SE section~ SE 150 is a short but nice harmonic sequence, and SE 268 (the jingle which plays at the end of a certain game of roulette) immediately makes me recall to mind the music which typifies most TG16 HuCards. Tinnsia is an upbeat city song, and Celestia Battle sounds very similar to battle music in a Phantasy Star. In fact, as soon as Disc 2 begins you'll think "Celestia Battle sounds very similar to battle music in a Phantasy Star." ;) Overall, the music and sound effects are very good, though it never approaches the sterling quality of something such as Final Fantasy IV or Phantasy Star IV. It is good stuff nonetheless. However, I could not tolerate the voice acting so I opted to shut it off at the beginning.
Namco is on a roll with all these new installments in the Tales series. I just hope there's more where this came from because I really, really like the refreshing change of pace from the mundane point-&-click cinemas which I've grown accustomed to seeing everywhere. With Square's recent RPGs not living up to expectations, there's free room at the top for any company to inhabit. Namco looks to be gaining ground nicely in the genre. I just hope that this great series doesn't fall into the same death trap of repetition as Final Fantasy.

For more on ToDII check out these sections in AllRPG.com, rpgamer.com, rpgclassics.com, and these sections within www.rpgfan.com ~
Here's another glowing review, some screen shots and artwork, including concept sketches.

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Last edited by Icarus4578; 09-05-2004 at 12:56 AM.
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