Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: November 11, 2008
Of all the games coming out for the Wii this year, none of the first-party titles really captured my attention. I checked out Animal Crossing and Wii Music at PAX, but the one game — besides MadWorld, which wasn't playable — about which I'm most excited is the sequel to 2004's GameCube RPG, Tales of Symphonia, known as Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World.
Set two years after the unification of the two worlds in the original game, tensions have risen between the denizens of the two worlds, and it appears that the efforts made by the previous protagonist, Lloyd Irving, are to blame. Now it's up to a new hero, Emil, and his friend, Marta, to right the wrongs. In addition to the new characters, all of the main characters from the original cast will appear in Dawn of the New World and be playable.
The PAX demo showed a world map that is vastly different from that of the first game. Instead of traveling the world on foot, the map appears as a menu, and you just select the area you wish to visit. The main focus of the demo was a forest environment that appears fairly early in the game. My party consisted of Emil and Marta, as well as Genis and Raine from the original game. I also had two animal companions who could take the places of two party members. These creatures played a specific role in the story, but later in the game, you can capture and use certain monsters in battle; the only way to recruit them is to meet specific goals in battle.
Speaking of battles, Dawn of the New World uses a fairly normal control mechanic; it's similar to the first game. Dawn of the New World uses the free movement mechanic from Tales of the Abyss, where characters aren't restricted to the rail. Normal attacks are executed by pressing the A button, and special attacks are unleashed with the B button. Other features from the original include Unison Attacks, where party members use special attacks simultaneously and build up epic combos. All in all, the battle system remains the highlight of the game.
Outside of battle, you can control Emil with the analog stick or pointing and clicking the cursor in the direction you want to go. The cursor is also used for aiming the iconic Sorcerer's Ring at objects to activate them or enemies to stun them. Other than the point-and-click aspect, there's not a whole lot of motion control in the title. The developer mentioned that there's an instance where players will have to wave down someone with the Wiimote in a mini-game event.
One draw of the series was the art style and use of anime-like cut scenes. The graphics in the game utilize cel-shading, and characters look a more colorful in this entry than in its predecessor. Likewise, character voices are pretty good, but it hasn't been confirmed whether all of the original actors will reprise their roles. One major improvement is the inclusion of character voices during the cut scenes throughout the game. This feature has always been part of the Japanese versions, but it was notably missing from North American releases.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is shaping up to be one of the better games for the Wii and one of the better RPGs for 2008. Of all the games that were playable on the PAX show floor, this was my favorite game to play. If you're a fan of the original GameCube Tales of Symphonia, then you'll be very pleased with this sequel, which hits store shelves this November.
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