Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World: Generic Yet Satisfying

By Jenni . November 26, 2008 . 10:50am

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World isn’t perfect. It can be cheesy and may not be as epic as expected. Despite that, it is still a Wii RPG, a game in a genre that is somewhat neglected on Nintendo’s latest system. If you go into the game without delusions of grandeur or elevated expectations, you’ll find an enjoyable spin-off of a classic entry in the Tales of series.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World takes place after the two worlds of Sylvarant and Tethe’alla have been saved and reunited by the Chosen of Regeneration Colette. There have been many environmental repercussions due to this, and the two societies that were abruptly forced to merge together are clashing. It is up to Emil, an introverted and verbally abused young man who suddenly becomes a Knight of Ratatosk and Marta Lualdi, a former Vanguard member who has Ratatosk’s core embedded into her forehead, to awaken the centurions like their associate Tenebrae so that Ratatosk can be woken up and balance can be restored to the new world.

 

At times, it almost seemed like Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World was designed for a younger audience, despite the Teen rating. The generic plot, the script that seems like it was written for Naruto or Inuyasha’s fanbase, the simple controls, the Pokemon-esque monster recruiting system – it all seems like it was designed for beginners, rather than the Tales of fans who have been playing the games for years. Sure, it is still satisfying to see our favorite Tales of Symphonia characters return, and learn what happened after the worlds were saved in the first game, but it somehow feels like it is missing some of the classic Tales of magic. It feels more like a spin-off than a true entry in the Tales of series.

 

Battle is fairly simple. At first I was a bit frustrated that just moving the directional stick on the nunchuk didn’t move Emil around the battlefield (who would think you’d have to hold Z as well?), but I can see the reasoning behind the control scheme. Personally, I’d have preferred some sort of scheme that used the directional button the remote and the B button for special attacks and the nunchuk’s directional stick used for movement, but I’ve learned to work with what is given.

I found that you can get by in most battles by pressing the A button three times in the row to trigger a standard combo, and then (after equipping your most powerful arte to the B button) pressing the B button to unleash a fourth, special attack strike. I didn’t find myself using the Z defend button at all, and only moved Emil around the battlefield if some of the other computer controlled characters got in his way. It all seemed rather rudimentary, and I think that after the first chapter, most players will have mastered battles.

 

The graphics can also be considered a bit dated, as Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World looks very much like the original Tales of Symphonia. You could call this a good thing, since it helps reinforce that you’re in the same environment and talking to the same characters, but you may also be wondering why a small update couldn’t have been done.

 

I liked the motion captured story scenes, that didn’t cut to animated sequences or flashy FMVs. I adore animated sequences and FMVs in games, but sometimes it can be too much, and can cause a bit of a disconnect when the game and characters that you’re playing as look nothing like the characters featured in the elaborate cutscenes. Everything looking the same, whether you’re wandering the world, in battle or engaging in a cut scene, helps the game flow better.

 

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World also has a pretty good English voice acting cast, and goes so far as to even have voice acting for the optional short skits. The two lead actors, Johnny Yong Bosch (Emil, Vash from Trigun, Ichigo from Bleach), Laura Bailey (Marta, Tohru from Fruits Basket), are both well known for their roles in both anime and other video games. The other voice actors also seem to fit their respective characters well. There aren’t any dreadful casting decisions here, which make you want to switch to the Japanese voice actors.

 

It is a shame that only Cam Clarke (Kratos), Heather Hogan (Colette) and Tara Strong (Presea) returned as voice actors from the previous game. If you played Tales of Symphonia recently, you may experience a bit of disconnect when hearing the new voice actors for returning characters. If you haven’t played Tales of Symphonia recently, then it may be easier to hear all new voices with the familiar faces.

One quirk that truly annoyed me were the quests that could be taken at the Katz Guild. Not the quests themselves, but the fact that if you fail, you lose that quest forever. Upon reaching chapter 2, my characters were at level seven and I really didn’t feel like level grinding them up to the suggested level of 12 for the quests. I’m lazy and the Chapter 1 dungeon wasn’t exactly thrilling. I did one quest and passed, so I figured the level suggestion was just that, a suggestion. Not so. I tried two other quests with both Emil and Marta at level 7 and failed them both. After each, I was taken back to the Katz Guild and informed that another group was now assigned to that quest and it was now unavailable.

 

I also missed cooking, which is now done exclusively at the Katz Guild and only for monsters. I remember truly enjoying having characters cook to make food that could later give an extra, needed boost in a dungeon in the earlier Tales of games. Now that it has been changed, I found myself only cooking when a monster needs to evolve.

 

As for monster catching, I didn’t focus much on it. It often seemed like the actual joining part was more about luck and chance than actually getting characters to cast the appropriate spells to make the gauge in the bottom left corner the correct color. If a monster joined me after a battle – good. If not, no big deal. I also didn’t form any kind of attachment to the monsters, like I do to actual party members. So the monsters expendable, rather than being valued party members.

 

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World does have some interesting extras, if you take the time to really complete the game, or if you took the time to complete the previous game. I liked that there were three endings that could be seen, depending on what choices you have Emil make and how you handle the final battle. The two optional dungeons were a nice touch as well. I also think that Namco Bandai was smart to make cleared Tales of Symphonia GameCube save data useful, since Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is a direct followup.

 

RPGs are scarce on the Wii. For that reason alone, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World will stand out and be granted a bit more leniency in terms of story, script, characters and quality. I mean, there’s Opoona, Baroque, Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon, Legend of Zelda The Twilight Princess, and if you don’t mind stretching the bounds a bit, Dokapon, Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility, Paper Mario and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. If this game appeared on the PS2, it would likely fall between the cracks. Since its on a system that is in desperate need of RPGs, that makes it more tolerable.

 

In general, the people who are going to appreciate Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World the most are fans of the Tales of series, patient RPG gamers looking for a title to play on their Wii or new gamers who have never actually played an RPG before. It has its moments and some charm, but isn’t as good as it could have been. If you take the time to play through it, despite its slow or frustrating parts, you’ll come to appreciate it for what it is, as opposed to what it isn’t.

 

Images courtesy of Namco Bandai.


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  • lostinblue

    How can be something “not as epic as expected” be satisfying? like you said, it’s not what was expected, promised and even then, it has ridiculous production values and premise.

    Let’s start with, how this project must have started:

    - “hey boss, we have to make a Wii game, our main team is stuck elsewhere and there’s these 5 year old assets and old engine lying around, what do we do with them?”

    “well, let’s copy paste them together, get a team of trainee’s together and let’s call it a new game to draw in the suckers!”

    And here’s the story for this even existing, a half assed way to cash-in on a market leading console, and not only that, more powerfull than those last gen systems; people mention FFX-2 often to justify this game, or trying to excuse it, but FFX-2 was made straight afterwards and by the same team (this wasn’t), had real improvements (the first one already used PS2, and now characters had detailed shadows in battle, now in ToSDotNW? laughable)… and lastly, it was for the same platform, not it’s sucessor.

    This? this is the same as if Square-Enix waited after they released FFXII and the PS2 sucessor the PS3, and only then had the crap idea of recycling FFX to do something for PS3 (and to make things worse, they’d also have the idea of putting that original A-String team doing software for something else). And fans would deem that as a insult, of course, like this IS, in fact.

    Satisfying? like hell as a client and as a fan I’m satisfied, I’m insulted. the game is not bad yes (they’d deserve a prize if they managed to screw the gameplay when they already had the engine and battle system at place), I’m mad pissed at Bandai Namco, and as a fan I feel they have to make it up for me.

    This said, Wii owners and the like, still should pick up this game (I have the japanese version, so I’ll pick it up a second time) but be satisfied? Sorry, but no, I don’t think we should.

  • Jenni

    @ lostinblue: True, it does have flaws. But I did enjoy playing it, and it is satisfying to evolve and build up a monster to some huge, damage dealing tank.

    I’ve been looking for a Wii RPG for a while, and I enjoyed the original Tales of Symphonia, so I did enjoy getting to see what would happen next and spend hours being entertained by Dawn of the New World.

  • lostinblue

    @ Jenni – I answered to that message you left in the comments for your ToS article, but it was late and the article was fast switching for the second page of the site, so yeah.

    Not that the content adds anything to what I said above, but… just because you might think I didn’t answer the last time.

    Now onto what you said now, I don’t have a problem with that kind of opinion (neither do I have anything to do with others opinions), and if I concluded it sucked I wouldn’t buy it a second time, probably (I say probably because I’ve bought bad tales games knowing they were “bad” before) but I honestly can’t praise it, or hear praise for it and sit still. I wouldn’t be lostinblue otherwise, it’s stronger than me.

    I don’t think the articles for it, here in Siliconera, are bad or wrong, and are probably better than the bash fest that I see myself giving it, but then again, from my point of view I think it deserves to be bashed for what it isn’t and should; since that is Bandai Namco’s approach fault, and… they even mislead us at first, purposefully.

    Even in the end result actually, I’ve seen the US release flash banners in websites, they’re passing it as Kosuke Fujishima’s work (writing his name in the banners), but in fact he wasn’t involved, because Namco didn’t want to pay him for this game (also because he was too busy with another higher budget tales) and, although I actually don’t give a damn about Fujishima, the fact that they were willing to pay his services for other stuff, but were clearly avoiding it on this one does a lot to show the priority and Namco approach to this one, I guess. But still, they mislead their fans, and played around with them, we’re not things or chess pieces on their game.

    So, and for a rabid Tales fan that I consider myself to be, seeing all these signals and misteps, felt like a trainwreck and a lack of respect, so I have some personal emotional involvement in all this, as silly as it might appear.

    On the game… I mild enjoyed what I played and will, hopefully enjoy it when I get my US version, but I can and will separate it, I can enjoy it, hence why I’ll buy it and for me judge it for what it is and not for what it isn’t, but I’ll never praise it, or let it off the hook, because as a game and as a end result I don’t think it deserves any of that. So really, I can’t be satisfied, or even content with the end result; entertained to a certain extent… well, It’ll have to do, since this is all the Tales I’m getting till the next one comes.

  • Jenni

    @ lostinblue: I understand completely. :D It is disappointing when a company doesn’t dedicate the effort fans feel a game is deserving of.

    I was more lenient on Dawn of the New World mainly because it was a sequel, and so I figured that the reusing of the same engine/graphics/etc wasn’t a sin that merited a bash-article. If it had been a totally new Tales of entry, I would have expressed the same sense of outrage and disapproval. Since it isn’t, I was more forgiving of Namco Bandai’s slacking off. (Especially since I was glad to see a true RPG.) I figured that the “generic” sentiment would cover the fact that many of the things in Dawn of the New World are places, battle systems, storyline, etc that people have seen before.

    I agree too that there is false advertising in the game ads concerning Kosuke Fujishima, which is why I didn’t mention his art or anything in the articles.

    If anything, the thing that annoyed me most was the way in which the monster collecting/raising was orchestrated in Dawn of the New World. I truly think that the Katz Guild’s quest execution was handled badly. If you mess up a quest, you shouldn’t be penalized by losing it forever.

  • lostinblue

    I didn’t experience the Katz Build yet, I played a few hours in japanese (stopped not because I was stuck but to not spoil it too much) and know what they are but thing is I can’t really read any written Japanese besides “yes” and “no”, so I avoided them like the plague knowing I’d probably have to select missions on random and the like.

    Reading what you’ve said on how it works it seems pulled off really bad though.

    There’s this Tales dungeon crawler for the PSP, Radiant Mythology where you go to city guilds for missions (and that alone basically makes the game “go there pick some potatoes”, “kill 5 wolfs in cave dungeon”, etc) and although the game is not that good I’m 200% positive that it doesn’t have that kind of issue. This to say that if they implemented that they should have know the aforementioned game and easily “dodged” that kind of frustrating approach.

    I might be wrong, but that approach seems to me like a thing to make you “unable” to complete and do everything on the game on the first playthrough. I can’t see anything like that making me play a game again though, but I picture it unsettling me to a certain extent (like loosing interest on that katz guild early on), I’ll still try it when playing the game in english though, now even more so.

  • Jenni

    The missions are usually really easy. Basically “beat up this guy”. :P It automatically takes you to the area, and you can’t leave unless you complete the mission or die.

    Actually, Radiant Mythology was one of my first PSP games. You’re right, it doesn’t have that issue. At least, I don’t think it does… its been a while since I played it and I only did about 75% of it. I kind of enjoy the Tales of spinoffs like that where all the characters mesh together (there was a great one the the GBA Narikiri Dungeon 2 I think). It had its moments, and it was fun to see Tales of characters from different games interacting. Plus, I’m a sucker for dungeon crawling.

    Dawn of the New World does have a new game + feature and three possible endings, so you’re right. It does almost seem like Namco Bandai wanted people to go back multiple times.

  • jeffx

    You lose your missions FOREVER if you fail? WTF?
    Can you at least save right before taking one on?

  • Jenni

    @jeffx: Yup, you can save before you take them. Each town’s inn tends to have a save point, where you can save before heading to the guild and taking a challenge.

  • Vrakanox

    I like your review Jenni, I’ve been playing the game with my gf and we finally got all the characters! then i had to go home for thanksgiving break =[. Had to leave my wii behind because I already brought home so much stuff. Probably will beat it sometime next week.

    The thing that I really like most about this game are the characters. Given most of them were in symphonia anyway, Marta and Emil are really kick ass characters. With all ten characters (there might be more but i don’t think so) there are many different possible party combinations.

    There were really only two things about this game that bugged me. #1 No “real” world map and #2 Characters are stuck at certain levels. Those two things ended up not being a big bother though because I can warp everywhere and I also noticed the game auto-equips my characters with extremely good equipment. I’ve been playing as Lloyd while my gf plays as Marta and we have been having a lot of fun. The monster catching thing isn’t entirely necessary but it adds some extra fun.

    Oh and about the catz guy, I never failed a mission so I never had that problem. Although recently I advanced the story too quickly and missed a few quests :’(

  • Chris

    You find anything about this game satisfying? Seeing the cameos from Symphonia 1 is the only remotely satisfying aspect of the game.

    I can’t get past the dialogue written for ten year olds and the clunky control scheme,nor the fact that any battle that’s actually hard turns into ‘Spam the heck out of unison attacks’.

    The plot is also just plain lazy. They took a world that already had elemental spirits that control mana and made up another type of elemental spirits that control mana. Centurians seem to be exactly the same as summon spirits only without the summoning. Also, they completely contradict the ending of Symphonia. Tethe’alla was reaching out peacefully to Sylvarant, then they decided ‘Nevermind, we’ll oppress them instead’? And that’s ignoring that Kratos was supposed to be leaving forever. I bet they also did stuff that contradicts the distant future of Phantasia. They contradict the ending of Symphonia so much, knowing Team Symphonia didn’t even design the game it’s hard to see DoTNW as more than Symphonia fanfic..

    None of the character motivations are believable either. I’m supposed to buy that a complete coward suddenly becomes courageous because some random guy he just met called him an animal?

    Lazy plot, clunky battle system. I might come back and finish it after I finish all the other games I’m playing now, but I don’t see why I should play it when I could play any of five or six other Tales games with better battle system and story. (DoTNW is even worse than Legendia on both counts).

  • Vrakanox

    The characters use dialogue that fits their age. You don’t see Regal saying immature things. However, we have already been over this. I never felt the need to use unison attacks although I do like the fact that they decided to implement them into the game.

    As for Emils motivation and him becoming courageous from what Richter says in the beginning. I’m 40+ hours into the game and Emil hasn’t changed too much. It’s a very gradual thing due to his experiences throughout the game.

  • Tinyguardian

    Firstly, I would like to say that I am not a ‘rabid fan’ of the Tales Of series. I like their work, because they mesh the Action and RPG genres nicely, as well as present Anime Style characters, epic plots and wonderful mechanics that everyone can agree they enjoy seeing in each subsequent installment (i.e.: Skits, Cooking, Cameo Battles, etc.)

    Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World makes multiple mistakes, that Fans of the series, or even to some extent, anyone who does their research about sequel (trying to make an informed purchase), will notice these slips.

    ToS presented a lot of interesting characters, that all of us enjoyed seeing together. More importantly, they all had wonderful voices. If a sequel comes out, even years later, they should make the effort to get the original voice actors back. What sort of sequel doesn’t have even 50% of the original voice actors? Did they die? Did they all happen to be really busy at the time of voice recording? No to both, and then some. Cam Clarke (my inspiration) does the voice of the ruggedly bad-ass Kratos. He was hired for the Cameo battle in Tales of Vesperia, but Namco decided to call him up for ToS2. And HE’S NOT EVEN IN THE GAME! I’ve concluded that the voice actors (Scott Menville, Colleen O’Shaunessy, Crispin Freeman, Jeniffer Hale, Shiloh Strong…) either COULDN’T be bothered to pay homage to their fans, OR they weren’t being paid enough. Which actually leads to the former reason. They probably didn’t care, because they weren’t being paid to care. No love for the fans. Personally, I would have done it for free, just for the fans. All the aforementioned VAs (except maybe for Shiloh Strong…one shot thingy), are all big hits. So it should be not problem showing up for a sequel. Xenosaga has three games in its series, and all of the have pretty much the same voice actors. It really hurts to know that people aren’t dedicated to the fans that made them what they are today.

    Next point, the attention. In recent years, it’s become really popular to simply slap on “concepts” onto a game (Harvest Moon +Diablo= Rune Factory for example), and claiming they’re doing it well. I’ll say it outright now: Japan is GODLY. They can do things really well. So when you find out that your next ‘canon’ Tales of game is gonna have a pokemon-like gimmick added to it, jaws drop and brows furrow. Fair enough. I think the big deal is moving the gameplay in such a contrary direction. When you’re told the focus of a game is no longer to work together with your team mates, but rather, to breed and train monsters (that you can’t control, btw.), it’s a big shock. I personally don’t like the monster system. Not because it doesn’t work, but because there are too many amendments made to MAKE IT WORK. Let’s see:

    1- To accomodate the monsters, you lose the 4-6 other plot related characters that would have joined Emil and Marta on their journey to awaken Ratatosk.
    2- The cooking system is now geared towards boosting your monster’s abilities. Which is not only convoluted (since you’re told to feed them once every level, and the monsters can only level up in dungeons, where you can’t cook.), it also means your party is losing a method of healing. This puts more strain on your items and healers.
    3-It splits the player’s friends up. ToS was always about the teamwork. Getting together with a bunch of pals and freaking out over dodging Meteor Storm, or getting out of Sword Dancer’s way, was THE main event of the game. Players 2-4 now have even less to do, since they have to wait for player 1 to find the original cast and then let them play. It doesn’t help that the OC (original cast) can’t level, or gain new techs.
    4-The monsters are integral to the plot, but don’t speak. Tenebrae is a neat character to play off of Emil’s insecurities and Marta’s flightiness, but he’s the only other character. The OC comes in once and again, but because we know what they’re about, fans are more likely to look for any discrepancies between ToS and its sequel.

    Aside from the monster system, I think the game itself does work hard at presenting something nice to its players. If one compares it to ToS, it has many wonderful additions, some that even Vesperia lacks. Motion capture. The characters do feel almost human in their behavior, despite their anime proportions. It has voiced skits, which until now ,was only found in Vesperia and the Radiant Mythology series and Legendia (sort of). This means that at the very least, every Tales of game to come out should have voiced skits as its staple. The combat has been enhanced: Free Run is now a standard, and the field of battle is larger too (along the lines of Abyss).

    It would be easy to simply slay Dawn of the new World for all its mistakes. But then again, everyone made fun of Legendia for doing things differently. But I can tell you now, that on its own, Legendia is a really good game. ToS2 loses out a lot for not treating its fans the way game companies should (Disgaea is a great example), and for placing more importance on Vesperia (because they wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary right away, they could only do so much with so few people). In the end, it’ll depend on whether you can play this game as a seperate entity, while keeping in mind that it is a sequel, or you play it as if it were a direct sequel to ToS1 (even though there’s a 4-5 year gap production-wise), and slam it for it’s fan dissing. I’m in the middle, but I’ll finish it a few times, and see if I still feel in the middle about it.

    It was a sad day for Tales Fans… because it made you feel like not being a fan anymore… I know I did when I found it there was no cameo battle.

    Tinyguardian

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