|System: PS3, Wii|
|Dev: Neverland Co.|
|Release: October 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p||Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol /td>|
In many ways, it's the small quality of life improvements like the overhauled farming system that help make Tides of Destiny fun and addictive. There's a shrine that allows the player to pay for useful services such as learning a townsperson's gift preferences or instantly teleporting Ymir to any location on the sea chart. There's a "sort" button available on every inventory screen. Storage space is plentiful and easy to expand. There are tons of quickslots available for frequently-used tools and items. All of these little touches remove frustration and tedium from the game, giving it even more of a "one more day" addictive quality.
Sounds great so far? Unfortunately, Tides of Destiny has a bit of a "people" problem. The main cast is somewhat bland, particularly after Rune Factory Frontier's excellent crew and Rune Factory 3's cast of loveable crazies. When Tides of Destiny's characters go eccentric, they do it in the wrong direction. The town priest, Father Gerard, deserves particular attention for being either a downright offensive homosexual stereotype or just plain creepy. The game also re-uses Rune Factory 3's "guy who likes his sister just a bit too much" gimmick, but while it was funny with the meatheaded and overprotective Carlos, it comes off as just plain wrong with Tides of Destiny's otherwise-normal James.
While many of the characters in Tides of Destiny grow on you a bit over time, it's a shame to see the series take such strides forward in gameplay while taking a major step backwards in terms of the cast of characters. The game's mediocre localization doesn't help. It's not awful, but it lacks polish and fails to give proper life to the characters. Natsume can (and did with Rune Factory 3) do better, so I'm not sure what happened here.
The other major weakness in Tides of Destiny is almost immediately apparent in the PlayStation 3 version. The graphics are obviously an upscaled version of those for the Wii version. Jaggies and blurry textures abound, marring the usually excellent graphic design found in the Rune Factory games. At least the game's dungeons are well-made and look far less generic than the dungeons in Rune Factory Frontier, but the PlayStation 3 version of the game should have spent more time in the cooker in order to take advantage of the machine's capabilities.
Sound is a mixed bag as well, with a lovely soundtrack but sub-par voice acting. The music is quite pleasant, sometimes hauntingly beautiful in dangerous areas, and is inoffensive to listen to over long gaming periods, a must in this particular genre. The character voices, on the other hand, often suffer from cheesy Saturday morning cartoon-level acting and poor voice direction that leads to stilted delivery. It's really time for studios to dump the over-the-top kiddie cartoon approach to video game voice acting, and this game is a great example of why that trend's time has long gone. This should be an all-ages game, but the voice acting makes it sound as though it's exclusively aimed at kids.
In the end, Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny has some great gameplay innovations and refinements, and can be quite fun and addictive to play. Unfortunately, the step backwards in terms of localization and character development combined with some issues with production value keep the game from being great. Fans of the genre/series will certainly enjoy it once the rocky beginning is over with, and even gamers who don't generally appreciate farming sims could find themselves getting hooked. Hopefully, the next Rune Factory game will incorporate the gameplay improvements from Tides of Destiny into a game with a stronger cast, better localization, and nicer graphics.
CCC Contributing Writer