Tales of Symphonia / Dawn of the New World: PS3 Review
Released by Bandai Namco
I have to admit this series passed me by when it was out previously on the PlayStation 2.
The Japanese role playing game has been remastered and is out now in a bundle with the two games thrown together - and if you're a fan of the genre, you'll love this.
The games go for epic and centre on two different protagonists who have to find their honour and courage as they face demons and try to bring mana back to the world of Sylvarant. In the first game, you play Lloyd and you negotiate an overland map and world as you travel; in the second (Dawn of the New World) you are tasked with being Emil who has to deal with the consequences of what Lloyd and his friends set in motion.
Luscious anime style opening titles really set the tone well and give a feel of the epic JRPG nature of the game, as well as recalling the visual style of the likes of TV Show Battle of the Planets from my younger years. In wandering around the worlds, you can go everywhere, exploring every nook and cranny and interact with every person within the realms. It's a nice touch and one that really gives you the feeling that the game makers have left it all open for you to explore.
The worlds are beautifully created as well - and the remaster actually makes them look animated and cartoon-like rather than a computer game. Even the HD port doesn't make you feel like you've lost a high amount of quality with the look not being sacrificed for a more high def feel.
There's plenty of fighting to do in both as well - either as individuals or in groups. It's a simple case of mashing buttons and taking on the enemies, be they one or more. However, in Dawn of the New World, you get to train some creatures too, giving the game a bit more scope than simply mash and bash.
You'll have to pay attention to the cut-scenes too, as they often drop clues as to what you need to do - which can be frustrating, given that they do tend to go on a lot longer than normal and pop up with frequency. Patience is rewarded, but I did lose my way because of my hurry to get through another staged scene.
Dawn of the New World is perhaps a tonally darker game, with Emil, the hero of the piece, being an orphaned and bullied boy, who's told by everyone he meets that he's a loser and a curse on the village. It takes a little time to warm to that - and makes the early stages of the game feel a trifle harder as no-one's willing to give you help, but once he begins to find his feet, the world starts to change. It's a narrative that's an arc and it shows a lot more depth than some games of a similar ilk. But the time it takes, may not be to everyone's liking - so you'll have to be a fan of the genre to fully embrace it.
All in all, this double pack proffers up a tantalising peek into the world of JRPG - it's one that I'd not been exposed to previously and while the game takes a while to settle into if you're unfamiliar with the genre, it soon shows a lot of storytelling depth to rival some of anime's finest.