|Title||:||Tales of Destiny II|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
With 128-bit game consoles now being standard fare, the death of the original PlayStation is inevitable. The system helped establish role-playing games as an acceptable genre in the American market, so perhaps it's fate that one of its last big games should be Tales of Destiny II, from Namco.
In this RPG sequel, peaceful life in the village of Rasheans is disrupted when a spacecraft crash-lands in the loca forest. Its sole occupant is a girl from a nearby planet who brings with her a warning of impending disaster. Two villagers and childhood friends, Reid and Farah, decide to help the girl unravel this mystery before it's too late for their world.
There are many perspectives in Tales of Destiny. The world map is depicted from a diagonal view which rotates and scales as the party moves, much as in Final Fantasy games. Entering a town or dungeon switches to a fixed perspective that resembles Chrono Trigger. Dangerous territory is beautifully drawn, with natural lighting falling through tree branches and other details landscaping the world. Sometimes, enemies are visible, and coming into contact will precipitate a battle – but usually, Reid and company can find themselves thrust into action with no warning at all. The game makes no distinction between areas pervaded with visible or invisible enemies. Either way, prepare for the fight of your life.
Encounters occur in real time on a two-dimensional side-scrolling plane. As in Zelda or other action-adventure games, characters respond immediately to your button pressing — leaping, striking, and casting spells at the enemy. Rewards are based on the number of combo hits, the duration of the round, and other factors commonly associated with fighting games, not RPGs.
There is plenty of preparation for battle. Each player can control one of four people in the party, but most likely you'll be playing alone and controlling just one hero. Aside from properly outfitting your party, A.I. strategies and battle positions must be determined. Such strategies often dissolve into button-mashing in the face of danger.
Many RPGs welcome newcomers to its battle system with in-game tutorials and training. Tales of Destiny offers a few words of advice from mentors, but otherwise leaves you to your own devices. You'd do best to study the manual and engage in some practice battles; even then, advice such as "Successfully fringe a Craymel to create new Craymel Artes" may seem more confusing than helpful.
Between battles, the plot is developed during the occasional event sequence, where the written word is accompanied by spoken dialogue. In most video games, voice acting is either superb (Escape from Monkey Island) or laughably terrible (the original Resident Evil). The producers of Tales of Destiny II chose excellent voice actors, but completely miscast them for this kind of game. The spoken dialogue is perfect for a PBS children's cartoon, which doesn't jive with the game's "Teen" rating. Please, turn it off!
What sets Tales of Destiny II apart from similar games is its battle system, which uniquely combines many genres and allows players to invoke tactics with both their brains and thumbs. Gamers who are dismayed by the lack of introductory explanation will also fail to be rewarded by this style of fighting. The rest of the game is fairly typical RPG, leaving it destined to sate the thirst of hungry PSOne gamers, and few others.
This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 24-Sep-01