Tales of Destiny

In 1995, Japanese gamers saw the beginning of Namco’s Tales series with Tales of Phantasia for the Super Famicom, a title that did not see release outside Japan, although a high-quality translation exists for it. Two years later came the franchise’s debut on the Sony PlayStation, Tales of Destiny, which saw its foreign release the following year, and marked the introduction to North American players of the series, and was a decent debut.

Like its predecessor, Destiny features random encounters, with players able to increase or decrease their occurrence with special items, catering both to those who like to grind and those who just want to skip fights and get the game over with. Fights themselves sport an enhanced version of the linear-motion combat system present in the first game, with the player having better control of the main character while the A.I. controls his allies. The A.I. works well for the most part, and while some characters can heal enemies with their spells, the player can turn them off in the game menus. However, the player cannot change weapons in the middle of battle, which would have been handy for a select few dungeons where, for instance, enemies can absorb damage from Stahn’s fire Swordian.

Five characters in the game can wield Swordians, special intelligent blades that have their own level alongside their wielders, and allow each of their Masters to use magic. Winning a battle nets all characters experience for occasional level-ups, money, lens that the player can exchange at special facilities for money, and maybe an item or two. Ultimately, the battle system works nicely for the most part, with a fixed yet tolerable difficulty level that’s generally in the easy range, at least for a Tales game, with only a few flaws such as the difficulty at times of attacking flying enemies from a fixed position.

Control is decent, with an easy menu system and controls, although a translation error made one certain puzzle unsolvable without a guide, and finding out how to advance can generally be difficult, given the poor direction at times. The lack of in-game maps, furthermore, is inexcusable, since the 16-bit Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past contained this feature, and consequentially, it can be easy to lose oneself in dungeons. Overall, interaction is okay, but could have definitely been better.

The story is actually fairly decent, focusing on a sleepy protagonist, Stahn Aileron, who obtains an intelligent sword named Dymlos and is thrust into a chain of events that threaten to destroy the world. Aside from the typical RPG goal of saving the world from destruction, the story is somewhat unique, with distinct events occurring throughout the game, and a likable cast of characters. The translation, aside from the aforementioned puzzle clue error, is largely passable, although there are some odd changes such as Woodrow to Garr, alongside the slight Bowdlerization of religious references, for instance, with the change of “Eye of God” to “Eye of Atamoni.” Otherwise, the storyline is a decent driving factor throughout the game.

Partners in crime Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura provide the soundtrack, which is, alongside the battle system, one of the game’s high points, with Namco leaving the voices in battle in Japanese, although they commit the typical sin of mispronouncing English words. Namco’s American branch also cut out much of the voice acting that occurred on the overworld, although saving at the final save point unlocks them for those who are fluent in Japanese. The localization team also axed the Japanese theme song during the opening anime. Still, an excellent-sounding game.

Destiny’s predecessor Tales of Phantasia had above-average visuals for a 16-bit RPG, although its first sequel doesn’t make many changes in the style, with small disproportionate character sprites in and out of battle, and a blocky-looking overworld. The battle visuals, alongside the opening anime and rare ones seen throughout the game and the town and dungeon scenery, are the high points of the graphics, which ultimately mesh well.

Finally, the game is fairly short, taking somewhere from fifteen to twenty-five hours to finish, with a few sidequests but not much reason to replay the game.

In the end Tales of Destiny was a nice introduction to the series for North American gamers upon its release, what with its solid Tales gameplay, nice music and graphics, and enjoyable narrative. The title would receive a direct sequel for the PlayStation 2, Tales of Destiny 2, although it would remain in Japan since Namco America idiotically renamed Tales of Eternia Tales of Destiny II. Nearly a decade later, furthermore, the game would receive a PS2 remake, although it too would remain in the Land of the Rising Sun thanks to Namco’s North American branch oddly not wishing to localize Tales titles that didn’t feature fully three-dimensional visuals. This all aside, while Tales of Destiny is by no means the best title of the series, it’s still a worthwhile experience.

The Good:
+Solid Tales gameplay.
+Nice music and graphics.
+Decent story.

The Bad:
-Some parts are difficult without a guide.
-Some content cut upon localization.
-Not much replay value.

The Bottom Line:
Good introduction of the Tales series to North American gamers.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 6/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 15-25 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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