Review by TripleJump
As expected, a bit of a disappointment.
Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube was without a doubt one of my favorite games of all time. To a lot of people it wasn't really that special, maybe it was because it was my first RPG that I enjoyed it so much. Nevertheless, it was a good game that was a savior to the RPG starved library of the GameCube. Then Namco announced a sequel and we (I) squealed and couldn't wait to play it. Was it worth the wait? Well... not as much as you'd hope.
First off, let me begin by saying DO NOT buy this until you have played the first game. The first game was better and you will probably have much of the first game spoiled if you haven't played it, as well as you won't know what's going on for the most part.
All the playable characters from the first game make an appearance in this game (although not all are playable). This is another reason why I recommend you play the first one- just the attachment I felt from the characters and the jokes they make give you a magical nostalgic feeling that will make the experience all the more enjoyable. The final reason to play the first one is that you'll know your way around all the towns and it will be easier to find out where characters are if you need to find someone if you know of their past experiences.
The story in Dawn of the New World is better in all the aspects that Symphonia's was lacking, but worse in the areas that Symphonia fluorished. Let this be clear: this is a spin-off game and NOT a true sequel, meaning that it's not the longest game with a huge budget like other Tales mothership titles.
The story revolves around the New World. Although the world that was split in two is now back to it's true form, unforseen problems have occurred. Lakes have dried up, arctic environments have melted and deserts have begun to receive snow. The people from Tethe'alla also look down upon the Sylvaranti as inferior due to their poor technology. The Sylvaranti have made a radical resistance organization known as the Vanguard.
With a new game comes new characters, namely Emil. Emil is from Palmacosta, and his parents were killed in a massacre known as "The Purge of Blood". Lloyd Irving from the previous game allegedly led the massacre with forces from the Church of Martel. After moving to Luin he meets a girl named Marta and the two are on the run to protect the core of the previous Tree's spirit, Ratatosk. Throughout their travels they meet the previous characters and try to find out why Lloyd massacred the people. The past characters all have their voice actors changed however, so they may sound annoying at first but you get used to it.
The main thing this story has is that it's unpredictable. Symphonia had some major cliches that were a bit obvious, but in Dawn of the New World there are some huge twists that nobody will have seen coming. These twists are unique and all lead up to the ending, which can either be a tragedy, sad or happy ending depending on your actions throughout the game. If you're expecting an epic showdown, think again. The final few battles are very easy and not in the least epic.
To be honest at some points the gameplay was rather bland and I was looking forward to finding out what happened in the story more than I was to fighting the next boss. This is probably due to my enjoyment of the past game and drive to understand what motivated Lloyd. The story is suspenseful to the point it almost gets annoying at times as it won't reveal a whole lot until the end, although other revelations are made along the way.
Emil and Marta, the newcomers aren't that great. Emil spends most of the game acting like an even more pathetic Napoleon Dynamite and Marta sounds like a bubbly 7 year old that makes really uncomfortable comments. They do get better as the game goes along. However, they do provide something that the original Symphonia didn't: they actually develop a relationship at one point. Whether it works out or not I won't say.
The gameplay was rather dissapointing, the battles get very repetitive and are either pathetically easy or frustratingly difficult. In essentials, the control in a town or a dungeon is the same as the last although you no longer can use the Sorcerer's Ring to stun enemies, which will get annoying as you will be fighting more battles than you want to.
I do think the travelling system was a bit better, you don't have to spend time on the overworld now running around and dodging enemies as you will instantly travel there once you choose the town. This time you save travelling seems to be given back to you in the form of cutscenes, which are abundant and at times overrused. However, like I said the story seemed to be driving my interest at the game at one point so it wasn't terrible.
Techs are now called Artes, and you get them as you level up instead of previous technique usage. I preferred the original way as you had so many to choose from and in this you have a limited selection.
As you battle, you can recruit Monsters along the way and train them. Basically, think of Pokemon and thats what you get. However, exactly how to get the monsters I still don't understand after beating it and it's not really that useful in the long run as you'll usually have 2 Tales members to go along with Emil and Marta. Basically, after you catch 3 monsters you'll be good. You can evolve them as well but I don't really see the point of this as it just makes them weaker and you'll have to level them up all over again. You can also only have 4 monsters with you and this is annoying as you have to choose who you want.
You can fight alongside the Tales of Symphonia characters however you MUST have Marta or Emil in your party as well as three others. You can't control one of the Tales characters unless you start the battle, pause and switch. This will get really annoying and isn't worth it, so why couldn't we just play as them. Also, they don't level up, they have set levels that should be sufficient to fight against the opponents you will find in the next area.
In terms of your menus and setting up your characters: there are very few titles to collect (unlike the last game) and you can only set titles and equipment for Emil and Marta and any monsters you can collect. You can however set the skills for your players, skill are acquired as you level up and are the same as EX-Gems as the last one. However instead of having a maximum number of skills each skill takes up a certain amount of "Skill Points" and you can use as many skills as you want until thats full. There are a few skills that really matter, one will be your Special. This will let you perform a "Mystic Arte" which will do a ton of damage or do a significant amount of healing later, and replaces the need for Unison Attacks which have become seriously underpowered. The original Tales Characters also have the best of these Mystic Artes and since you can't control them you'll have to switch whenever you want to use one.
After all that there's a few minor gripes: In combat, it's essentially the same except you can run freely around when holding a button. However, if you hold this button down at all and get hit while moving, you take critical damage. This is very annoying if you are fighting someone with a ranged weapon. After a battle, I'm fairly certain you don't get any TP or HP back like you did in the past game so you will constantly find yourself trying use artes but are unable to. The game tries to remedy this by allowing you to replenish health at some save points just by saving which works okay but there's not always one available.
The difficulty curve is a bit off as well, it's all easy at the start but eventually gets really hard and pretty soon you are completely dependent on items and at one point I had to spend three days gaining 10 levels as I couldn't seem to win a battle and I was even higher levelled than my Symphonia characters.
Like I said earlier, the voice actors have changed for all the characters and it's a difficult change to accept as they sound really strange. It doesn't ruin the game, however as you'll become accustomed to it. Emil and Marta both have rather annoying voices but like I said, you get used to it. In Symphonia, about 60% of the game was voiced. In Dawn of the New World about 95% is voiced including the Optional Skits. This was VERY nice as in the first Symphonia they were sometimes boring to read but I looked forward to seeing these ones.
Battle effects are decent, with Characters shouting various things to each other and yelling out the names of their Techs. Some things can get repetitive (such as Emil screaming "IT'S OVER!" every time he initates a Unison Attack) and lots of the battle quotes from the original Symphonia are in it, but lose their charm when another voice actor says them.
The music is mainly recycled from Tales of Symphonia, however they didn't take too many of the songs. For every sad scene, they play the same song and for every happy scene there's the same one and so on. The last game had about 100 songs but this one seems to have maybe 20. The few new ones aren't that great as they seem to be cheap synthesized tracks that they spewed out as quick as they can. They could be a lot worse I suppose.
The game isn't cell-shaded like the last one, and the visuals are still nice. I first thought everyone looked a little strange but as I grew more familiar with it I began to see the last game as a bit strange. They are no Crysis, but they are a bit better. The Cutscenes are also a little less embarassing, as some in the first game were absolutely pathetic as they tried to portray a lot of action in a single motion. We don't end up with those as often.
There isn't really anything to look forwards to in the graphics except the Mystic Arte of Emil, the thing is very cinematic and epic and you will seriously get your heart pounding when you use it. As expected, the Wii is the worst system for Graphics and you shouldn't be expecting a lot.
Overall, this game is pretty much only worth it if you've played the previous game. It's mainly fanservice and probably won't last long or mean anything to anyone else who has played the first game.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (US, 11/11/08)
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