Old RPG Review #39: Tales of DestinyNuMetalManiak #CF128ComeBack
Yeah, I made that hashtag to see if CastlevaniaFanboy128 is reading this. He was a huge fan of the Tales series and was planning to review the games in it. But then he retired... Anyways, Tales of Destiny is the second main title in Namco's popular Tales series. It's not a direct sequel to Phantasia and is somewhat of a dark horse in the series, as it's probably the least talked-about in the series in comparison to others. Just a word before the review, if I'm playing a series, I will play in chronological order based on release date. This is why on my to-do list, I removed SaGa Frontier in place of Final Fantasy Legend, since that game comes first. Also it's the reason I haven't planned to play Illusion of Gaia yet (Soul Blazer is first).
Gameplay: The Linear Motion Battle System from Phantasia makes a return. The PSX interface makes it a lot easier, at least for me. Characters other than the main character will react on AI given by the player, but can also be told via menu, which is the only way to pause the action. I actually used the menu a lot, making my battles more strategic. A lot of characters in this one are actually melee fighters, so making them do stuff instead of having the AI do it helps. Spellcasting is done by way of Swordians, the main MacGuffins of the game, the talking swords, and they actually level up just like characters do. Only select characters can have them though, but since they level up alongside characters, this makes them generally tough. As for other things, Phantasia has already covered them, the food sack for refilling health, battle formation order and strategy, and spell and special techniques.
Outside of combat, it's typical JRPG stuff, although buying/selling multiple items in shops at once is a huge plus that Phantasia already showed. The world map is pretty typical, although it is ugly to look at, and as the plot goes, it doesn't get better. The rewards for defeating monsters aren't just money and EXP, but a special kind of currency called Lens which can be exchanged at certain shops for even more money. This game is quite linear, but it has quite a lot of sidequests and minigames. The good majority of them are optional. I can only recall one minigame which was required, but at least it was a fun one (a Galaga style one with boats). The ultimate sidequest is the Tower of Druaga, which is actually a homage to a game Namco made before Tales of Destiny. It's a 60-floor tower with maze layout, specific requirements for treasure, and incredibly tough monsters with loads of experience. Conquering this makes the endgame easy. Apparently an anime came out of it, but whatever. Overall, Tales of Destiny's gameplay continues in the footsteps of Tales of Phantasia rather well. Grade: B+
Characters: Up to 10 playable ones in this game. A headcount of 6, and optional ones can come and go, but for the most part, the Swordian users are the main characters of this game. Note that Swordian users can cast spells, while non-Swordian users cannot.
Stahn Aileron: A dumb main character in that he is always sleeping in all the time. But when he's not a sleepyhead he's an action guy, quick on the draw, and generally good. His Swordian is Dymlos, with an element of fire. Since he's the main character, Stahn is the one controlled by the player, and his techs are the ones most manually used.
Rutee Katrea: A Lens Hunter who runs an orphanage in her hometown, kinda like Billy from Xenogears. Except she's another Swordian wielder, wielding Atwight, of the water element. She does nice damage, but Atwight is good for both healing and water spells.
Garr Kelvin: The king of the snow nation of Phandaria, Garr is a late-joiner who's skilled with archery and swordsmanship. His Swordian Igtenos is of the wind element, and starts out weak. His overall techs aren't up to par with Stahn's, but he isn't generally weak.
Philia Felice: This lady is probably the main heroine, while Rutee's more of a love interest. Philia's got her motives right, and she gets the Swordian Clemente, with the most amount of magic power. It's not that good physically though, but Philia's mostly a mage.
Leon Magnus: Despite Tales of Destiny being somewhat of a dark horse in the series, Leon is quite possibly one of the most popular characters in the franchise. He's not playable forever, but when he is, he's about as good as Stahn if not better. His Swordian Chaltier is of the earth element.
Mary Argent: A fierce warrior, she's mostly a normal fighter who can't wield Swordians but her techs deal impressive damage. She's an early-game character but leaves a bit before Leon does. Great with most weapons.
Karyl Sheeden: The bard of the game, he's like Edward from Final Fantasy IV, not great as a combat character. His song techs are interesting, but ultimately there are better characters to use.
Chelsea Torn: Despite her low level and stamina, Chelsea is one of the most fun characters to use. She's an archer, and has techs that can go through enemies, which helps in getting at those pesky mages in the back.
Bruiser Khang: Arena champion, he believes in fighting for whomever beats him in a tournament and is of course, a physical powerhouse.
Lilith Aileron: Stahn's sister, it's surprising that she's a playable character, but ultimately cannot be played in-game unless a Gameshark code is used. Interestingly, she's surprisingly powerful.
Aside from playables, there's a number of NPCs, a vast majority of which backstab the player and ultimately end up as puppets for the main villain. The characters only have so much depth to be interesting, but I believe Leon as well as the non-Swordian users have their charm. Grade: B-
Plot: Tales of Destiny takes place mostly in a watery world. A lot of places need traversing by boat. There's the foreigner-hating Calvalese, the prosperous Fitzgald, the island nations of Aquaveil, the snowscapes of Phandaria, and the capital of Seinegald.
Two crewmen find Stahn the sleepyhead as a stowaway on a great ship known as Draconis, which is something you might see in a Final Fantasy game. They wake him up but everyone is attacked by monsters. Stahn finds Dymlos to defend himself, and gets thrown off the ship. In a Phandaria border town, he runs into Mary; together they help Rutee out in some ruins, but get into trouble and are arrested by Leon. There's a nonwinnable boss fight here, and apparently beating Leon leads to a special ending. Assuming that doesn't happen though, the three are sent into Seinegald, where Hugo Gilchrist and the king agree to have Leon take the three criminals on a mission, one for redemption, also to retrieve a central MacGuffin that becomes plot-related. At the presumed location, they find Philia who tells them that a guy called Lydon took the Eye of Atamoni (said MacGuffin). This party ends up journeying just about everywhere to get to Lydon, beating out some of his henchmen like Batista (an acquaintance of Philia) and King Tiberius of Aquaveil. After Lydon dies, the mission is basically over and everyone is fine.
With that said though, the Swordians themselves sleep until chaos is about to befall the land, so despite Stahn enjoying his home life, Philia comes in to address a new situation about that darn eye being stolen again. They get Rutee and Garr to help with the situation and find out that Hugo has taken it, along with a few NPCs that were met before who were apart of Oberon Corporation, the company that manufactures Lens and that Hugo is president. Leon is a part of this group, and plot twist! He's Hugo's son, his real name is Emilio Katrea, and he's Rutee's brother. He fights the party one last time but dies in the flood afterwards.
It's here the aeropolis shows up, and starts to wreak havoc upon the earth. Stahn's group formulates a plan for reaching it in the sky and get the help from Raiker, a mastermind in a lost city of ancient technology of which the Swordians are acquainted with. Up top, they fight off Rembrandt (Hugo's butler), Ilene (Fitzgald's Oberon CEO), Baruk (Calvalese's CEO), and then Hugo himself, all of them die, but then after Hugo, the real villain, Kronos, is revealed from his Swordian Berselius.
More havoc blackens the sky in this world afterwards, and more monsters appear in towns too. Stahn journeys to come up with a plan to infiltrate Dycroft (Kronos' base of operations), and from then on it's the simple heroes vs. main villain with a surprise and a one-winged-angel transformation. Oh my god, the world actually gets destroyed even with the Swordians' sacrifice. But then again, we see a happy bunch of characters at the end, so I guess everyone is still alive.
To be honest this plot feels a quite typical, with typical heroes with unique personalities, traitors, big guy shows up at darkest hour, makes said darkest hour even darker, and yet everyone is glad at the end. I've seen better, it's no wonder Destiny isn't really a well-received title in comparison to other Tales games. Grade: C-
Music: I'm glad there's a sound test in this game. It helps flesh out quite a few tunes that are good. There's quite a few good ones, mostly the town themes before everything gets dark, but also the dark, brooding theme that plays when there's no sunlight as well. One of the sad themes has an interesting scalular pattern which makes it among my favorite sad themes. There's a few good ones elsewhere. The ones titled "namco #" and so forth are silly, but made almost exclusively for the Tower of Druaga sidequest. Grade: B
Overall Grade: B-
I'll say it again, it's a dark horse in the Tales series. Nothing really awazing stands out with the exception of Leon as a character, but then again, there's not a whole lot that isn't truly horrible. Sure, the plot may be cookie-cutter, the main hero is kind of an idiot, and the world map looks ugly, but there's a lot of fun to find in this game if you're the kind of person who liked Tales of Phantasia or the other ones in the series. Stay tuned, I'm almost to #40! I bet we'll be wondering what that will be soon enough.
Good review, cvf deleted his account thpih - Skullkid755