Tales of destiny
Tales of Destiny is the sequel to Tales of Phantasia for the Super Famicom (which was never released in North America). In this game you play as Stahn Aileron and his companions as you try to save the world from being destroyed (sounds like a standard story, huh?). The game starts with Stahn waking up on the flying ship Draconis. The captain doesn't like stow-aways, but when enemies attack Stahn helps out, and thus starts a grand adventure. If you haven't played Tales of Phantasia or Tales of Eternia (Tales of Destiny II in North America), the game this is most similar to is Star Ocean or Star Ocean II. It's really a quite fun game.
This is more or less your standard RPG game, with a somewhat unique combat system. As you wander around the map you can only see Stahn (I guess everyone else is hiding behind him). In towns and dungeons, you see a standard 2-D overhead view. Outside on the world map is a semi-3d view. It's not really 3-D, but it's not exactly 2-D either, in fact it looks a lot like the mode 7 effects for the SNES (but it isn't).
The menu is easy to navigate around. You can use items, cast spells, equip stuff, etc. When you go to equip items, you can see what affect the item will have on your stats without equipping it, which is always a nice feature. In addition, it has an option for automatically equipping the most powerful equipment, another nice feature. Although, there are two different types of attack power, slash and thrust, so you may need to decide which weapon to equip your self. Overall, the menu is nicely laid out, plus it has some nice pictures of the characters in their status screen.
However, the combat is where this game is separated from most other RPGs. It's not your standard turn based or Active Time battle (like in the Final Fantasy games). Instead, it's real time, where you can control your character, and move around attacking the enemies. The combat is a 2-D side view, and you can move you character back and forth and attack the enemies. Although it is possible to control the other characters, for the most part you'll only be controlling Stahn. The other characters will be controlled by the AI.
This brings up the point of the lousy AI for your characters. You can set different strategies for each character, but no matter what you pick they'll mostly just sit there doing nothing. Early on in the game it was relatively common for me to win a battle with the other characters doing absolutely nothing the during entire battle. Later on as they get more skills and spells, they started becoming more useful. But, even at the end, I still did as much with only character as the other 3 characters did combined.
In combat there are quite a few different options that you can choose. You can move left and right, to get into a good position to attack the enemy. Once you are close you have 3 different types of attacks, a slash, a thrust, and an upward thrust. If you attack when running, you can also do a jump attack. You can also defend. If you want, you can also set control to semi-auto, where pressing the attack button makes Stahn run over and attack the enemy if it's to far away. There really are a lot of choices.
If that wasn't enough, you also have skills and spells to choose from. You can set up to 4 different skills to different button combinations. Using these skills takes MP, but they are usually more powerful that a standard attack (nothing new here). To cast spells you have to choose them from a menu in combat, but you can also make the other characters cast their spells from this menu. From this menu you can also use various items that you have acquired. Overall, it's a pretty interesting combat system, that gives you a lot of control, and a lot of choices of what to do.
Another interesting aspect of the game is the Swordians, which are intelligent swords. Although this is mostly a story element, it affects gameplay as well. Each character has a specific Swordian that they can use (well, some characters can't use a Swordian). You won't necessarily always have the Swordian for the characters though. These weapons gain experience and become more powerful as they gain levels. In addition, you can find discs to equip that make them even stronger. The most useful part of the Swordians however is their spells. As they level up they gain new spells, since these spells are part of the Swordians, you can only use them when the Swordian is equipped.
There are skills for each character as well. You get these as you level up (with exception of one character, who has items that teach him new skills). From the menu you can select which skills you want you allies to use in combat. This is helpful, so that you can customize you allies' actions. In addition Stahn has sacred skills that he can learn. As you progress though the game you'll come across stones that have writing on them (they look a lot like gravestones to me). You'll need to be a certain level to read them though, and you'll quite often have to come back later to read them. Once you read them, you learn the Sacred Skill on them. These skills are even more powerful.
There are quite a few puzzles in the dungeons. These range from having to push blocks, to figuring out a password, or riding on one-way treadmills, and other strange things. Nothing too hard, or really fancy, but it adds a fun aspect to the game. There are also a lot of different mini-games, such as playing tag, or answering trivia questions. There's even a super hard bonus dungeon.
The battles in Tales of Destiny are for the most part very easy. With such incompetent allies you would think the battles would be difficult but they aren't. Personally I feel this distracted from the gameplay. There are a lot of different choices in combat, but the battles are so easy that you never need to worry about it. For about 95% of the battles, I simply changed Stahn to semi-manual, and then held down the attack button on turbo. Later on, some of the battles were a little harder because of the insanely powerful spells that a few the enemies cast. However, all you need to do is hit them to stop them from casting the spell. Overall, however the battles were quite easy, even the boss battles.
Though there were two battles that I actually lost the first time I tried them. Probably the only reason I lost though, was that I was expecting a super easy battle, and by the time I noticed the battle was going badly, I wasn't able to recover.
The game also has a fairly high random encounter rate. Although this may seem as if it would make it harder, it actually makes it easier. It allows you to get tons of XP, and become too powerful. Since you gain back a small number of MP after each battle, you can fight almost indefinitely once you get a heal spell. There's also an item that lets you slowly recover HP in battle, making it even easier.
The puzzles weren't too hard either. Although they weren't trivially easy in most cases. There was one exception, that was quite tricky, but only because of a cheap trick. I had a lot of trouble with it, and judging from the message boards and FAQs at GameFAQS, so did almost everyone else.
The game has a fairly good level of replayability. There are a lot of different secrets to find, especially the bonus dungeon, plus there are the neat little mini-games to play through. I think it really is worth playing a second time to try and find the things you missed the first time.
As the story goes, a comet crashed into the planet a long time ago. This basically rendered the planet unlivable. However, it was discovered that the comet contained a source of energy called Lens. With this discovery, the people were able to build flying cities called Aeropolis. The problem is that the people living above, called Aethereans, began to tryanically rule over the people living below, called the E'rthers. The E'rthers built living swords called Swordians, and with them were able to overthrow the Aetherians.
1000 years later, Stahn and his companions must stop the Aeropolis from being revived, and destroying the world below. At first you don't have any idea that the world is in such danger, but once you are arrested by the king, the story starts to unfold. The eye of Atamoni was stolen, and the king wants you to get it back. This eye is what powered Belcrant, a powerful weapon of destruction used during the Aether wars. But, that is just the start of this adventure. As you play through the game you learn what is really going on, and you must save the world. Nothing special, but it isn't stupid either.
Although, there is a lot of story development, there isn't a whole lot of character development. You do get to learn more about the characters as the game progresses though. One feature that really showed the personality of the characters was removed in the North America version. This was the feature where you could talk to you other characters, and they would give hints on what to do next. This was probably removed because it had voice acting, and none of the voice acting in the game was translated (it's still in Japanese).
Tales of Destiny has some pretty good 2-D graphics. The characters' sprites are fairly large and well animated. The monsters look nice too. I really like the look of some of the towns too. However, I don't really like how the world map looks. The 3-D view is kind of annoying, and the graphics are somewhat plain.
I like the music and sound effects in this game. There a lot of different tunes in the game. There is also a sound test option, where you can listen to the music and sound effects of the game. I think all games should have this feature. As I already mentioned, all of the voice acting is still in Japanese. Whether you like this or not, it's something that could have a lot of effect on your enjoyment of the game, as there is voice acting for all the actions you character's take.
Overall Rating: 9/10
While not the best game ever, I really do recommend this game. It's fun to play through, and has enough reasons to play through it again, not to mention it's fairly long. I only have two real concerns with the game. The first is how easy it is. The second concern is the completely inept AI. With better AI, and harder battles (and less of them), I definitely would have given the game a 10. Still, it's a fun game, certainly worth picking up.<!/page>