Review by HolyLancer9
Tales of a solid port, of a solid game.
Tales of Destiny 2 was originally released on the Playstation 2 in 2002, and is actually one of the earliest games in Namco's Long-standing "Tales of" series. It is the direct sequel to the original Tales of Destiny, on the Playstation (and shouldn't be confused with the North American "Tales of Destiny II," which is just a renamed Tales of Eternia). This game is simply a port of the Playstation 2 ToD2, with some new added features, and has couple of tweaked gameplay issues.
Tales of Destiny 2 gets mixed views, even within the Tales community, for it's somewhat convoluted, if not confusing at times, plot, and even creates what feel like a few inconsistencies with it's prequel. Regardless of that, it has a pretty unique battle system, and a few gameplay features that make it stand out not only from other RPGs, but also many of the other Tales games.
Graphics - 9/10
Somewhat surprisingly, the graphics almost look better on the PSP. Maybe it's just because of the fact that the screen is just....smaller....but some of the sprites and things look a bit less pixelated and sharper than the PS2 version. Even when the game came out five years ago, it was considered to have great-looking 2-D graphics. Namco does an exceptional job with it's 2-D Tales games (Thankfully so, since most of the games are 2-D anyway) and is just slightly under the Destiny remake and Rebirth as having the best looking visuals in the series. The character and enemy sprites are all nicely designed and rendered within the game, and has very appealing backgrounds and area designs as well. The colors used are also very vibrant and appealing. Much like the other Tales games, ToD2 does great job conveying mood in certain areas. There are dreary dungeons, and rainy, dilapidated ruins, as well as upbeat towns and ports.
Before ToD Remake came out, ToD2 was heralded as one of the (if not THE) Tales game with the flashiest attacks and spells. There's not shortage at all of Spell, skill, and special attack variety and effect, and some of the screen-filling hidden attacks are mostly unrivaled in appearance. The Tales series, among other things, is known for it's flashy "Hi-ougi" attacks--Hidden super attacks that can only be executed under certain conditions, and these attacks are pure eye candy to see.
Overall, the game is definitely very nice, visually. It has beautiful 2-D graphics. Few games are better, and even today it still maintains a strong and solid appearance. Thankfully, even as a port nothing really seems to have been lost, with the exception of some of the ugly, jagged edges that some sprites and things had in the PS2 version.
Story - 8/10
The story stars Kyle, the son of Stan and Rutee, who were two of the main characters from the original Tales of Destiny. Kyle has dreams of becoming a great hero like his father, but also has a somewhat whiny, childish personality. One fateful day, he and his "brother," Loni, decide to explore some ruins near their hometown of Cresta. After some events unfold, a girl emerges from a giant piece of Lens (which is part of a large meteor that fell to the planet in ancient times, and it's fragments are often used as a power/energy source) The girl is apparently looking for the true hero, and decides Kyle isn't it, much to his dismay, and she runs off. Kyle and Loni are then captured. The story then goes from there, as you meet new characters who join you, while you search for the girl, Reala, and your quest eventually takes traveling through time to stop a sort of demi-Godess, Elraine, from altering timelines, and destroying humanity.
ToD2's story kind of falters in a few areas. It's focal point is time travel, which is always a plus in my book, but it creates some confusion and inconsistencies in itself, and with it's prequel. The basic gist of the story, is that Elraine has been causing deviations from the original timeline by changing events in the past and present, and this causes some questionable consistency issues, that have been debated often. The result is a plot and progression of events that's not entirely solid, but it is interesting seeing the different timelines, and how they are related through the changes that are made to them. So, don't get me wrong, it's mostly solid, but there are a couple concerns here or there.
Control - 10/10
There's really nothing wrong with this. The Tales games in general have a really solid and easy-to-understand interface and control. Menus are easy to navigate, and everything is arranged in a reasonable way on the status screen. Skills and shortcuts can be assigned to certain buttons, just like in virtually every other Tales game, and all of the other commands like attacking, defending, and pulling up the battle menu are all familiar and easy. All in all, there's really no problem here.
Battles - 8/10
For the most part, battles are mostly similar to the other 2-D Tales installments. You fight battles real-time, on a 2-D plane, in an almost fighting game or beat-'em-up style. You assign skills to a button, which you can execute in conjunction with the D-pad. However, there are a number of things in ToD2 which set it apart from the other Tales games in their "approaching a button masher" nature. For one, ToD2 is largely combo-based. Rather than relying on single attacks, you do greater damage by performing large combos. Instead of each attack dealing an individual amount of damage, each hit contributes to one larger number. This is somewhat confusing, and a bit weird at first, and some people don't really like it, but you get used to it. Also, the brunt of damage comes almost exclusively from spells in this game. Melee attacks do almost laughable damage, and what's more, few enemies stun easily from melee attacks. This means you pretty much have to rely on your spell-casters to stun the enemy, while you control a physical fighter up front doing nothing but defending until the spell-casters create an open for you to combo the enemy. In most Tales games, you can almost get by with three melee characters just pummeling your enemy until they're subdued, while a mage stays in the back casting offensive magic, and healing your melees, but in ToD2, it's almost the opposite: You're better off using two or three magic users, while you have one melee character in the front keeping the enemies from getting to your casters.
Anybody familiar with the Tales series is probably also familiar with the standard TP system. TP is what allows you to cast spells and use skills, and you generally gain more by simply leveling up. In ToD2, your TP is set to 100, which means constantly spamming high-end attacks isn't always a great idea. What's more, the game introduces a new stat, SP, which further prohibits you. The SP bar is similar to features in other games, in the effect that it decreases with every action you take. Attacking and using items costs "X" amount of SP, and when you're out of SP, you can't attack anymore. Like TP, your SP is set to 100, and although you can't increase the max of either, you can alter the reduction rates, and the rate at which your TP and SP recover (and they'll do so gradually as you do nothing.) And there in sort of lies the problem. If you run out of SP, you're open to attack, unless you run away from the enemies, and wait for it to refill on it's own. And, although there are items to refill TP, there aren't any ways to refill SP aside from...not acting, so it's something that you kind of have to work around, or at least be aware of.
ToD2 also has a pretty interesting customization system, both of it's equipment and skills. For your skills, your allowed to equip passive abilities, and "Action Enchants." Some of the passive skills do things like, allow you to steal items with certain attacks, or raise chances of stunning the enemy, while enchants do things like extend the number of hits the skill does if you press the button at the right time. They also allow you to preform Hi-Ougi once you're in Spirits Blaster (SB) mode, or under other strict conditions. Spirits Blaster mode occurs under specific conditions, such as giving/receiving a certain amount of damage, etc. A character will begin flashing purple when they're about to go into SB mode, and then they will shine and create after-images once they've entered into it. For the duration of SB mode, you don't lose any SP for performing any attacks, and you're also impervious to knock-down. It also allows you to execute a Hi-Ougi, but doing so will cause you to come out of SB mode.
For equipment, you're allowed to customize certain items, by attaching "slots" to them. Some items are not customizable, but many items that you can buy, or are dropped are. By using the Refine option in the status screen, you can use rune bottles to either alter an item, or if you select two items, you can combine them, which will carry the slots over to the new item, and you can have up to two slots per item. These slots do a number of things, including (but not limited to) giving characters HP and/or TP regeneration, raising certain stats, raising protection against status anomalies, giving weapons certain elemental properties, or altering TP/SP reduction rates, among many, many other things.
Also, titles (which are a feature in most Tales games) in ToD2 deserve mention because they allow you to alter your character's stats, and the way they function allows you to shape your characters considerably, since the stat bonuses are applied on level up, and some titles enhance stats to the point where you can cast spells incredibly fast, or otherwise change their stat growth rate.
So there's really quite a lot of involvement in the battle system in this game. It's mostly similar to many of the other Tales games, but also includes a few new and interesting elements. The refine system, and titles allow a great deal of customization in characters and equipment, and it's fun to experiment with these features. On the flipside, the SP and TP system can feel a bit restricting, but it just means that you have to be a bit more mindful of the actions you take. The lop-sidedness of spells and melees is a bit unfortunate too, as there's little incentive to actively use many melee characters, since spells tend to do about ten times as much damage as melee attacks or more.
Music - 9/10
ToD2 has quite a bit of great music. Lots of great battle themes, and some remixed/redone music from the original ToD can be found in the game (which is fitting, since you revisit some of the areas from the first.) Like most Tales games, the BGMs and such really help fit the mood. Like I said in the graphical section, the presentation and nature of the graphics really enhance the gameplay experience in some areas, and the music only serves to enhance that.
Replay - 9/10
Being a Tales game, ToD2 has the grade shop, where you can spend points that you've accumulated from battles, and can buy things that carry over to your second+ playthroughs. There are also a few things that can only be unlocked after your first playthrough, so playing through the game multiple times is mandatory if you want to see everything anyway. But there is a lot to do in the game. Multiple difficulties, and a bonus dungeon and arena which will keep you busy (even though they can be done on the first playthrough) and the equipment and character customization systems mean that you can alter your characters so that they play considerably differently on subsequent playthroughs. There have even been a few things thrown into the PSP version that weren't present in the original, including a few new (cameo) battles, as well as a few new items and things.
Overall - 8/10
Tales of Destiny 2 is a very solid game, to say the least. The port from PS2 to PSP was accomplished quite successfully, and it continues to be a very solid and fun game. The only issues are an an imbalance in the battle system, some questionable issues with the plot, and characters that seem to be hit-or-miss for most players. Despite that, the game is fun to play, and offers quite a bit of freedom in how you want to develop your characters. It also continues to be one of the most challenging games in the series, and surprisingly, has quite competent enemy and ally AI, for the most part. It's a great game for on the go, and it's transition to handheld has been almost flawless. It's definitely a game worth playing, if you don't mind the language barrier. It's a shame that it's one of those games that somehow fell under the localization scope, even back on the PS2. Maybe someday Namco will see the error in their thinking and bring this exceptional port (along with some of the other remaining Japan-only Tales games) to the US...
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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