Tales of Destiny 2

Thanks to one of the most idiotic name changes in the history of roleplaying games, you may be reading the wrong review. If you’re interested in this reviewer’s opinion on a game released in North American as Tales of Destiny II, you’re actually interested in his opinion on Tales of Eternia (its name changed due to copyright conflicts with the owners of the He-Man franchise), which he refuses to call by its phony American moniker. This is a review of the real direct sequel, story-wise, to Tales of Destiny, entitled Tales of Destiny 2, initially released for the PlayStation 2, overlooked for localization, and both later ported to the PlayStation Portable and yet again passed over for translation (though complete English scripts exist online, and the PSP is region-free).

The sequel takes place eighteen years after the events of the first Tales of Destiny, with two of the heroes of that game, Stahn Aileron and Rutee Katrea, having a son named Kyle Dunamis, who yearns for adventure like his patriarch, and meets a mysterious girl in ruins near his hometown named Reala, which leads to his own journey, joined by adoptive brother Loni and the mysterious warrior Judas, among others. The plot is mostly continuity porn, and utilizes the often-used element of time travel prevalent in RPG land, although there are occasional good twists, and the sequel gives backstory to elements from its predecessor like the Swordians.

Tales of Destiny 2 shines better in its gameplay department, with randomly-encountered battles, the standard rate being a tad high, though mercifully, players can cut down their occurrence with Holy Bottles. Like most classic Tales titles, Destiny 2 features a linear motion battle system on a two-dimensional field resembling that in fighting games, where the player’s party of up to four characters occupy the left half of the field and the enemies the right. Kyle can hack away at foes with normal attacks, although players can map spells and physical moves to various button combinations, in addition to two shortcuts on the L and R buttons for accessing ally abilities.

As in most Tales games, the player can chain combos, and depending upon performance, will receive or lose Grade Points usable in the New Game+ to carry over elements from the initial playthrough. Each character also receives experience for occasional level-ups in addition to money. One way in which Destiny 2 tries to distinguish itself is that commands such as attacking, using skills, and consuming items reduces each character’s Spirit Points gauge, with more damage taken with less than half of one’s Spirit Points remaining, although the playable cast may randomly and temporarily gain infinite Spirit Points.

Like other Tales entries, the player can escape from combat by going to the left side of the battlefield and holding the left directional button, a gauge filling that allows evacuation when completely full, which luckily doesn’t take too much time. Another way the direct sequel is unique is that both the player and the enemy have their own zones, and when one of the player’s characters past beyond the leftmost adversary, their Spirit Point and Tech Point gauges will be reduced, recovered when they return to their own zone. The battle system works well for the most part, though Destiny 2 is one of the harder entries of its pantheon, given some tricky fights.

The menus are easy to navigate in spite of the language barrier, shopping is easy given the ability to buy different item types simultaneously, and when on the overworld, the game shows the next objective point. Granted, maps for dungeons would have been welcome, and Destiny 2 retains the long-dated system of having sporadic save points. There are also a few puzzles that span multiple chambers interrupted by random encounters. Overall, interaction certainly isn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but definitely leaves room for improvement.

Partners in crime Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura, as always, provide a nice soundtrack with plenty of rocky, orchestrated, or dramatic tracks, with a nice variety of battle themes that never get old. The Japanese voice acting largely fits the characters with some exceptions (with Kyle, for instance, sounding a bit older than he looks), and they commit the usual sin of botched pronunciation of English words, but otherwise, the sequel is fairly easy on the ears.

So, too, is the game easy on the eyes, with prerendered anime-style scenery and decently-proportioned character sprites, not to mention fluid battle visuals, with the overworld probably being the graphical low point, given some pixilation.

Finally, finishing the sequel will take players one to two days’ worth of total time, with a Grade Shop and New Game+ accessed upon completing the game.

Overall, Tales of Destiny 2 definitely deserved an English localization, although the title it would be sold under would definitely be a challenge in the Anglophone videogame market. The direct sequel hits many of the right points with regards to aspects such as the battle system, except for some cheap and/or tricky battles, a good indication of where to go next, an enjoyable soundtrack, pretty visuals, and plentiful lasting appeal. Perhaps the low point is the plotline, with players needing to have played its chronological predecessor to make some sense of things, and the lack of new ground broken, but those who still have their old PlayStation Portables will find this a good import, with the assistance of a translated script if they don’t know Japanese.

The Good:
+Solid Tales battle system.
+Decent indication of how to advance the plot.
+Complete English scripts exist.
+Nice soundtrack.
+Pretty visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Some tricky fights.
-A few annoying puzzles.
-Story doesn’t break new ground.

The Bottom Line:
Another enjoyable Tales game that deserved localization.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 8.5/10

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