Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology
Can a free-form dungeon crawler, with nods to Tales history and create-a-character elements, satiate fans of the franchise and their desire for more Tales adventures?
Tales of Eternia is still, perhaps, the rarest PSP game for someone in America. The remake was released for the PSP in Japan, Australia, and the UK, making it one of the few games with English dialog largely unavailable here in the States. Add to this Tales of the Tempest, the DS game that appeared ready to be released for what seemed like forever, and then it mysteriously dropped from the radar, and you can see why Tales fans might be having a bit of a fit around these parts. Luckily, in what is a very fashionable move, Namco Bandai finally decided to give the Tales franchise another shot, and they're hoping Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is exactly the game they need to make sure fans keep clamoring for more. Actually, that's pretty much going to happen regardless, but at least we know they're listening.
Fans should expect a little something different in Tales of the World though, as this is actually a spin-off series of its own. Released previously on the GBA only in Japan, the Tales of the World series has players mixing it up with their favorite characters from past Tales games, and taking on the mighty task of crawling in some dungeons. Before the hardcore kids faint though, let's make one thing clear: This is not just a dungeon crawler. You'll still be navigating a large over-arching story in a Tales setting, even if it is mostly filler. The game will still retain the vibrant and charming visual style of other Tales entries, so this isn't going to be a dark and gloomy trek through murky caverns and dungeons. Relying on the somewhat cliched catchphrase here, it looks PS2 good.
Those coming in from the PS2 should be happy as they'll be playing with many familiar faces. At least 19 characters from previous Tales games can join your party, either for a specific quest, or permanently if you can find out what is going to keep them happy and subservient as your monster-bashing cohorts. I suggest an occasional Rufee Colada, and then maybe kidnapping close family. That always does the trick for me. No word on whether Rufee Colada's are among the games 1000 items, but if they aren't you can always try your shot at crafting them in the same robust creation system that the Tales franchise has been using for years. With this system players can create weapons, ingredients for cooking, items, or equipment, and then with the games included wireless ad-hoc functionality, they can trade these among their friends.
All this extra content sounds good and exciting, but what about the meat of the game? The story, combat, and your character? Well, the character is going to be the most interesting aspect for Tales fans, as they'll be creating their own character for this journey. This all fits into the story as well, as the land of Terresia is being ravaged by an alien beast known cryptically as the Devourer. In a last ditch effort of hope, the World Tree decides to spit forth a new hero to combat this attack; obviously, this is you. Player creation is going to let you change your appearance (clothing and voice as well) to look just as interesting as any of the other Tales heroes, and you'll also be selecting one of four generic classes (Warrior, Thief, Priest, or Mage). Six other higher level classes will open as gameplay progresses. Each class will obviously have their own abilities and features, all of which will show in the previously used Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System.
Players should recognize this as the same system that was employed specifically in Tales of the Abyss. It allows the player free control over 3D character motion while the battle is raging all around. So, even if the dungeon crawling and quest-driven gameplay is getting stale in the waning hours of the game, at least the battles will still be fresh and exciting. This unfortunately might be the case for many, as the game works in a similar structure to other PSP games like Monster Hunter Freedom or Valhalla Knights, in which progress is dictated specifically by the completion of guild sponsored quests. There are 300 total quests in Tales of the World, and if nothing else, they at least lend themselves well to a portable setting in terms of being quick, self-enclosed gameplay sessions.
Those quick sessions can probably go on for quite some time, as 300 quests is a lot to get finished for most players. Also, the characters won't be finding themselves maxed at level 99, so feel free to keep frolicking around until somewhere right around level 255. This leaves the length of Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology up to the player, but it is undoubtedly one of the most fleshed-out PSP role-playing titles we've seen. Tales fans have been waiting for the next entry for a while, so here's hoping this one keeps them satiated when it drops this July, lest they turn into ravenous hordes seething with Tales-driven rage.