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PSP Fanboy review: Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology

Games in the Tales franchise are about a dime a dozen anymore, but did you know back in the day they sold incredibly poorly and were incredibly niche? I know that, because since the very first Tales title hit US shores, I was hooked and looked forward to every sequel, until they started to seemingly grow on trees. The latest title to make its way to our PSP is Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology and we've got quite a few things to say about this game: how does it stack up against the other titles, what does it bring new to the table, and most importantly, does it suck? This review hopes to cover all these bases and more.

A more appropriate way to title Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology would be Tales All-Stars. It's not so much a new Tales game, rather, it pulls a weak story together about a creature destroying worlds and you, the main character, born from the Life Tree to put a stop to it. Inexplicably, in this world you are born into, different characters from a plethora of Tales games make appearances to team up with you and explore a handful of dungeons. The characters are part of a group named Ad Libitum (get it?) and their purpose is to help people, via quests. Yep, a quest-based, dungeon-crawling Tales All-Stars. The absolute best way to describe this game would be a mix between Grandia Xtreme and Final Fantasy XII, plus all the Tales battle-system treats we've come to moderately enjoy. It's a weird mix of games and the result is shaken, not stirred.

Let's take it from the top. You create your own character, which I like. You give them a gender, a hair color, a voice, and a class, basically. I actually have zero complaints with the character creation system because, while not the most intense creation system known to man, it works. An added touch is the fact every piece of equipment you buy will change your appearance -- a perk we can't pinpoint in history, but mostly recognize the touch from Legend of Legaia. It's a fantastic touch and bravo to Namco Bandai for implementing it. The class system is only as varied as most MMORPG's out there: Thief, Warrior, Mage, and Priest to start with, then the addition of elite classes later on like Fighter or Swordsman. Switching classes comes with a price: your experience level resets for each class, much like the love-it-or-hate-it MMO Final Fantasy XI. You keep your experience level for each class, but every one will initially start you back at level one.

As I said, the game is much more of a Tales All-Stars game, so right away long-time fans are going to get a much bigger kick from the title than RPG or Tales newbies. Having Stahn fight alongside someone like Raine or Lloyd is entertaining, even more so when odd conversations happen between characters from different games. It's a lot of fun for vets of the franchise, but it gives nothing to new players to really latch onto. The story is weak at best, but most of the Tales games have had similar stories ... except for Tales of Destiny. The writing style and tone of that game is very distinct from the later installments. They loved exclamation points. But that's another discussion for another day.

Visually, the game is average. Tales games never have pushed the limits of any system and Radiant Mythology is no exception. If the game were set in, say, high-res 2D, we'd sing a different tune, but they chose to keep up with the battle system from Symphonia and Abyss -- a strange 2D/3D hybrid that only works some of the time. As far as memory serves, no Tales battle system has really done it for me beyond Tales of Eternia (that's Tales of Destiny 2 in the US). The side-scroller formation was unique and refreshing, but now it just feels like a stale Star Ocean rip off. And I don't like Star Ocean. Horrid dialogue. Oops, another discussion for yet another day. Outside of battle, though, the camera actually works well in dungeons. I hardly had to recenter it, or use the awkward R-trigger+D-pad to rotate it. It was strange to have to swap between the nub and the D-pad from the field to battle, but that's a minor gripe at best.

As you play the game, you'll start taking on quests to drive the story ahead. These quests work a lot like quests in any game with quests -- take the job, talk to the client, complete the task, report to client, get reward. It's tedious since you can only take one job at a time and a lot of them are complete throwaways. "What's that, you want three rocks? Lucky for you, I have fifteen. Let's go do another job with the same parameters, but different items!" Yep, a lot of jobs are item collections. Other tasks include delivery (in dungeons or just around town), or extermination ("We're overrun by Generic Monster R! If we kill 4, we should magically be fine!"). Nothing spectacular, but there's not really much else to do. Our gripe is that for the first few hours of the game, you can't form a party. You're on your own and it can really, really suck if you chose a class other than Warrior or Thief. Once you can form a party, though, things pick up and the game gets radically easier.

Tales All-Stars
is an interesting game if you're really itching to see some of your old favorites again (although I'm damn sure Reid worked better with an axe than a sword), even if you can't change their equipment. If you haven't played a Tales game, but are interested in the mechanics behind it, you should stay away from this iteration. It shows what I feel is the weakest battle system (next to Legendia), a paltry storyline, an annoying quest system and a dungeon crawl where the dungeons aren't even randomly generated (a blessing for some, an ailment for others). Do I dislike the game? Hell no; I can hardly put it down long enough to write this review and it certainly makes me want to play the old games again. Do I recommend the game to people who aren't as avid an RPG fan as me? Hell no again.

Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is a good game for long time fans, giving a large selection of characters from the best Tales games. Making your own character into what you desire is the most fun aspect besides some of the more challenging battles. Though the other RPG's on the PSP aren't stellar, this game ranks right up with the better ones. Pick it up when it's cheap to get some quick action, but don't expect anything to blow you away, even if you're a long-time fan.

PSP Fanboy Score: 7.0

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