Tales of Eternia
With their “Tales” series, Namco has been harvesting quite a lot of success in Japan and the US for years now. These RPG games only share their name as the storylines are always completely different and we Europeans up to now have had to satisfy with Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube. Thanks to Ubisoft we now also got the second part from the series, and that on the platform that needs a good RPG the most: the PSP. Tales of Eternia may be a remake, but one that certainly has a lot going for it.
Reid and Farah one day see something spectacular in their quiet existence: a space ship from a nearby planet crashes in the bushes just ahead. Out of the craft crawls Meredy, a girl that starts up a whole lot of world-threatening events. The storyline is more than decent and will cluster you to your screen for about 40 hours. Keep those extra battery packs nearby.
What you immediately notice are the very cute graphics that may not be overwhelming in a technical way but are extremely creative. Very cute anime images and characters, beautiful cut-scenes, colorful surroundings, nice closeups to breathe life into the characters, hair sharp text balloons, etc. Also the 3D map is a pearl and on top of that everything is presented very clearly. A lust for the eye and that without disturbing loading times!
Also the sound is suprisingly good, especially knowing that everything needs to fit on one UMD. The dialogues sound very clear and also the music is pretty enjoyable. The first moments of the game you’ll no doubt sheer from excitement.
The gameplay is of course a bit less surprising. You complete missions, explore territory, talk to party members and a lot of other characters you meet and discover piece by piece the bigger picture. Random fights are present and offer the necessary experience to improve your men. These aren’t avoidable but luckily the combat system is well worked out and the fights are done in real-time.
During combat you get to control 1 character yourself (you can go on adventure with up to 4) and have the A.I. follow certain guidelines (use magic, defend, who to attack, how many times healing, etc) to use your colleagues most effectively. It’s idle hope to expect that some button-bashing will save you during these encounters. There’s combos, blocks, counters and numerous attacks and variations possible so that you not only have to fight quickly, but also tactically. The depth of this alone already will be enough for some players to buy this game. On top of that, you’re enemies are smart enough to offer a decent challenge and you can choose yourself to have the CPU make some of the above decisions. Both beginners and hardcore gamers will have more than enough to do here.
The same conclusions also can be used for the way how magic is used. Craymels are here the living organisms that will give you magical powers which you can upgrade and melt together and after a while you’ll also be able to call it out during combat. All sounds a bit complicated, and some getting used to is necessary, but the investment of time is most definitely worth the trouble!
Tales of Eternia is without a doubt a must have for any RPG fan and for everyone with a PSP in their backpack. Beautiful graphics, streamlined gameplay for both new and experienced gamers, a very deep real-time combat system and very short loading times make this game the first succesful RPG for Sony’s handheld. A pearl that you’ll finish with a smile on your face!