Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Review for Nintendo Wii

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Review for Nintendo Wii

Tales of Symphonia (ToS) was a magical experience for many Gamecube owners. An epic gameplay offering and collection of characters who were easy to fall in love with, along with a battle system that defined “action-RPG,” made Symphonia a tale destined to leave its mark on many. With Dawn of the New World, fans get a chance to go back to the now-reunited worlds of Sylvarant and Tethe’alla and experience an all-new adventure on Wii.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World screenshot

The story in New World takes place about two years after the events of the first game, and though each of the main characters from the original Symphonia play a somewhat integral role here, it’s Emil and Marta who take center stage. Emil is a young boy from Palmacosta who, after witnessing the death of his parents at the hand of Lloyd Irving, is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Luin. He eventually meets up with Marta, a girl on the run from the newly formed Vanguard (a group of Sylvaranti rebels fighting against the now “oppressive” Tethe’allan regime), and Emil ultimately makes a pact to protect Marta with his life.

Gone are the Summon Spirits (well, not entirely) of the first game. New World takes a slightly different approach, one that allows you to recruit monsters to aid you in battle. Yup, that’s right. However, don’t concern yourself too much with the notion that Tales has gone Pokémon. Though there are quite a few elements lifted right out of both Pokémon and Dragon Quest Monsters, New World still plays very much as a Tales game, and your characters remain the driving force in battle.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World screenshot

In lieu of Summon Spirits, the game introduces new powers called the Centurions. Like the Summon Spirits, however, the Centurions are aligned with the elements of the world, and each oversees a specific aspect of it. When you meet Marta, she is accompanied by Tenebrae, the Centurion of Darkness. You play as Emil, and both Marta and Tenebrae will journey with you throughout the game. The adventure will take you back to many of the old haunts from the first game, though a lot has been added to make the experience feel new.

New World is an action-RPG, and if you haven’t played the first game, well, here’s the scoop: When traveling throughout dungeons, monsters will patrol various areas; if you run into one or one runs into you, you’ll enter battle. When you’re moving about dungeons or towns, you only have control over one character, but during battles, up to four people can play together.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World screenshot

You’ll have the option of setting characters to Auto (completely A.I. controlled), Semi-Auto (some functions, such as guarding, are done automatically) or Manual. Like the first ToS, battlefields are three-dimensional, though you’ll move along a 2D plane. However, borrowing from Tales of the Abyss, New World has added the Free Roam ability, which allows you to move in any direction while holding down the Z button (which also acts as the guard button when not moving the analog stick).

Combat is pretty straight-forward, but like the last game, there’s plenty of room to add depth to the experience. You’ll use both the Wii-mote and Nunchuk, and basic attacks are performed by pressing the A button. Most moves and attacks are mapped the same as they were in the last game, and Techs, now known as Artes (also lifted from Abyss), are executed using the B button and control stick. You can set shortcuts with the D-pad and jump by pressing up on the control stick.

Little has changed, though some things have been streamlined and others have been discarded altogether. If you played the last game, you know that Lloyd set out to rid the world of Ex-spheres, so they don’t play a role in this game. Additionally, there’s no more S or T-type Artes (Techs), and though there is still a great selection of moves and spells to learn, it’s an element of ToS we’re sad to see go. That said, other changes are a bit more welcome. The new overworld map and method of travel help to cut down on much of the tedium from the first game, and motion control has been relegated to a few, simple mini-games (as well as use of the Sorcerer’s Ring) that are mostly entertaining.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World screenshot

Monster collecting has also been implemented quite well, and it’s an element that plays an integral role in the story and, without a doubt, adds tons of replay value to the overall package. Remember the Katz? Well, this time around they’ve been put to especially good use as purveyors of quests and monster handling. If you, for whatever reason, simply can’t get enough from the main quest, the Katz have a list of things for you to do, all ranging in skill level. Additionally, Katz will hang on to any monsters (a lot like the computer in Pokémon games) you aren’t currently interested in having tag along with you, and you can swap monsters in and out by visiting any Katz vendor located in various towns and dungeons.

Most importantly, however, Katz allow you to feed your monsters, and by feeding them foods they like, they will gain points for various attributes. Monsters can also evolve, and there’s just no denying that, though not a new formula, the monster collecting and caretaking are addictive gameplay elements that will extend the experience beyond countable hours.

However, if you were expecting an amazing, new story, well, New World comes up a bit short. Lloyd is the main antagonist from the start, and it’s a premise that’s sure to drive Symphonia veterans on. But ultimately, this sequel is mostly an exercise in fan service. The dialogue is on par with the first game, but fans who enjoyed that game are older now and will likely find its prose haven’t aged along with them. The story is fairly derivative, and though there are multiple endings, most players should sense what’s coming next at almost every turn. No matter, fans will still likely be entertained by the way in which certain side ventures from the last game have been worked in as main elements of New World’s story.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World screenshot

The game’s production, too, is a rehash, and you’ll be hard-pressed to see changes in any of the backgrounds brought back from the first game. Character models are okay by PS2 standards, but even the Wii can push more detail than what’s offered here. Characters move stiffly when wandering about towns or during cutscenes, and when in battle, you’ll see many of the same animations over and over. Thankfully, load times are fairly short, and slowdown is rare. However, it just doesn’t feel like much effort went into giving fans something new to appreciate in terms of Symphonia’s look. Perhaps it was fear that ToS vets would reject anything that was too much of a departure from the first game, or maybe the budget just wasn’t there. Either way, though the graphics aren’t ever ugly, they’re simply last-gen in every way.

The game’s audio is also much the same as the first ToS, and it hasn’t aged all that well, either. Just about every theme you remember from towns and dungeons from the first Symphonia have been brought over to New World. It’s our understanding that the music has been remixed, but in most cases it’s nothing discernable. Sound effects are outdated and often make a very poor match for the actions they’re associated with. However, the voice work remains entertaining, and there’s tons of it. This time around, all of the game’s skits are voiced, and it definitely makes a marked change for the better.

There is so much more we could say about Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World – both good and not so good – but in the end, it’s one for the fans. It’s a love letter to those who found magic in the first game. And for those folks still smitten, New World is sure to touch your heart. Newcomers, however, will likely wonder at the game’s average production values and childish dialogue. Still, it’s difficult to find too much fault in the game, as it’s built upon one rock-solid foundation. There’s a lot to do and many dear places to revisit, even if it feels a bit like a Tales of Symphonia Light.

There’s nothing here that looks bad, really, it just all looks dated…and a little too familiar. 4.4 Control
Though the battle system is no longer innovative, it’s as tight as ever. Many gameplay elements are streamlined nicely, but the overall difficulty (with the exception of late bosses) has been tamed significantly. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects are more of the same – literally. The voice work, though, still impresses, if for no other reason than the sheer amount of it. 3.8

Play Value
Compared to other RPGs out there, New World does a fine job, especially considering the slim, RPG pickings on Wii. As a Tales game, though, it feels like a consolation prize. However, the game was made for a very specific audience (fans of the first game), and those folks should still get their money’s worth.

3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Classic Tales: Return to the world of Tales of Symphonia and discover the aftermath of the merging of the two worlds.
  • Over 200 unique monsters: Capture, collect, and feed monsters as they grow, gain experience and even evolve into completely new, more powerful beasts.
  • Enhanced for the Wii: Environments, characters, and effects look better than ever.

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