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February 13, 2006
Tales of Eternia - PSP Review
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TOE looks quite special.
If there's one thing the PSP has severely missed it's RPG's, or Role Playing Games to those unaware. In Japan any RPG release is met with much fanaticism and while the market is a lot smaller in America and Europe, it remains criminal that so long after the PSP's launch we are still waiting for a true RPG to be released. Well the wait is over with Namco, and Ubisoft publishing muscle, releasing Tales of Eternia in PAL territories this week.

This isn’t a new series at all. Tales of Eternia is actually the third game in the series following Tales of Phantasia which was released in January 1996 on Super Nintendo, and Tales of Destiny released on PSOne in 1997. Fortunately much like Square's Final Fantasy games there is no need to have played previous titles to jump into this one. Tales of Eternia was first released on PSOne in America in September 2001, but under the name Tales of Destiny II. Coming so late into the PSOne's life the game was one of the systems better looking, and playing, RPG's - and we should know as we owned, and played through, the original game some years ago. Does Namco’s title still hold up today, and how is the transition to PSP? Read on to find out…

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That's some nice graphics.
Reid Hershel, Farrah Oersted, and a mysterious girl named Meredy must embark on a journey to learn the truth on the fate of their world... The story begins when Reid and Farrah attend to the crash of a spaceship near their hometown, Rashea. As they investigate the place of the incident, a weird blue animal leads them to a young girl injured by the crash who speaks an unknown language.

Further on, Reid and Farrah learn that the mysterious girl, named Meredy, came here to prevent a deadly collision between her planet, Celestia, and Reid and Farrah’s world, Inferia. With the help of some friends picked up along the way, Reid, Farrah, and Meredy set out on a quest to collect a set of spiritual beings, their only hope to save both of their planets from a terrible disaster.

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Chatting on the bridge.
Tales of Eternia is a traditional RPG in the sense that it's choc full of stats, level-ups, weapons, and random battles. The world starts out small but soon enough the map turns into a monster. Traveling through the world is done on a 3D map from isometric viewpoint however when you enter a location the game switches to the 2D based backgrounds with sprite based characters. Speaking of characters they can be fully customised with items including weapons and protective shields which can be purchased at the numerous shops located around the world.

As I mentioned in the preview one of the highlights of this game is the combat system. Namco has dubbed the Linear Motion battle System and essentially looks like a side scrolling game as you attack and defend in real-time using a combination of directional and button presses. It's possible to select the formation of your group, split them up into two groups, or put the characters in order. To me this makes the battles much more interesting then the turn based structure of most other RPG's. Sadly, with Tales of Eternia being an older game in the series it not use the multiple planes as seen in the more recent PS2/Gamecube Tales titles.

Another of the interesting aspects to Tales of Eternia is the numerous mini-games. I loved these as a distraction to the main game. Be it rafting down a river, playing a game of Craymel Ball, Sushi eating contests or dancing to name a few. These are tremendous simplistic sure, but tremendous fun, and just as good as any other mini-games over the years.

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It may be old, but still looks great.
It's fair to say that this is a superb port of the PSOne game. In fact with the smaller screen the graphics appear even sharper and the developers have even eliminated virtually all loads, with only a brief second or so when moving between areas. The developers have also added in an option through the menu to save the game at any time, which is brilliant given the generally short playtimes most PSP owners will have.

There are a couple of issues I had with the game. The first is that at times it can get bogged down into endless conversations, many of which seem quite pointless, and the fact that some dialogue is only in text, while others are spoken seems a little strange. The game also has a mixture of being able to see enemies, so you can avoid the battles, but also enemies which occur on the map at random. It would have been nice if you could see them all I guess.

Graphics in Tales of Eternia are quite special. Sure there's no 3D polygons, mip-mapping or pixel shading. But who cares. This is a gorgeous game to look at. From the character design by Mutsumi Inomata to the gorgeous cut scenes this is a game which has translated stunningly to the PSP. Being an older game some aspects are perhaps a little low on detail, but it still ranks as one of the better RPG's and the LCD screen gives everything a razor sharp look.

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The mysterious Meredy...
Audio in the game is also quite impressive. We've already mentioned that it's a little disappointing that only some (well, about half) of the conversations are voiced, but the voice acting that is there is quite good. It's not A-grade, but given how old the game is it would have been quite brilliant in its day, and still holds up well. The music however sounds very synthesized compared to many of todays game and could have been improved, and the same is true of the audio effects. There's nothing bad here, don't get me wrong, it just isn't up to today's high standards.

I approached Tales of Eternia hoping for a decent port of the PSOne game and was certainly impressed by Namco's achievements. PSP owners should have no hesitation in picking up this RPG as even years after the initial release Tales of Eternia remains an engrossing title.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSGreat cut scenes and some of the best 2D graphics you'll ever see.
SOUNDDecent music, and solid voice acting - when it's actually implemented.
GAMEPLAYA great combat system, impressive story and engrossing gameplay.
VALUEAt around 40-50 hours this is the best value on PSP at the moment.
OVERALLTales of Eternia is, for RPG fans, an essential purchase on PSP. Even if you're only an occasional RPG player, or haven't spent time playing RPG's then there's no better time to start. Thanks Ubisoft for bringing this out in PAL territories - it's brilliant.

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