Game Guide: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

Logo_Tales_of_Symphonia_Dawn_of_the_new_World

I’ve written a guide for a video game! My Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World walkthrough can be found hosted on GameFAQs.com and I can tick one thing off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do. The guide is designed to help you get the most out of the game, finding all the goodies and hidden items as well as meeting all the requirements for unlocking trophies and accessing optional dungeons. It is hopefully written in a clear and easy to follow manner, there’s no fluff or fanciful writing just plain, straight forward instructions. If you have any comments on it feel free to contact me. The guide itself can be found here: http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps3/765389-tales-of-symphonia-dawn-of-the-new-world/faqs/71534. Catch it while it’s still got that spangly *new* symbol next to it.

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (such an unnecessarily long title!) is the sequel to one of Namco Bandai’s most popular and successful releases, you guessed it, Tales of Symphonia. The sequel was most recently released as a bundle on PS3, with the original, titled Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. Originally it was released on the Wii though this is very definitely just a port of the game and not a remake.

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles Boxart

Graphically it stands up well but there are no outstanding visuals involved. As a sequel game there are a lot of cut corners. The game takes place in most of the same areas as the original Tales of Symphonia and feature the same layout and design, though some look a bit different due to the strange weather effects currently affecting the land and have a few extra rooms added. The enemies in the dungeons whilst different to the original game, are mostly the same as those featured in Tales of the Abyss. The story suffers from a major case of ‘How come we never heard about this in the first game?’ with a whole new mythos surrounding a being called Ratatosk being brought up. The actual antagonist of the game is somewhat more well rounded and has a much more interesting motivation. Throughout the game you will be seeing the entirety of the original main cast, to the point that you may begin to wonder why this game bothered to introduce newbie’s Emil and Marta. Especially since in the first half of the game the pair will do their best to be as annoying as possible.

Seeing the old characters again is a double edged sword, if you enjoyed them the first time around then the sequel gives you more of their personalities and querks to enjoy, particularly in skits, but at the same time you might not appreciate their lack of development between titles, the occasional changed voiced actor or Lloyd’s involvement in the plot, the reason of which is doubtless worked out by the player within the first few minutes of the game but thought of by any of the cast. The other significant point of Dawn of the New World is the decision to include monster capturing and the ability to use monsters in your battle party. The system is sound, if simple, though there is very little encouragement to really utilise it. The game’s difficulty doesn’t tend to force much skill or tactical thinking out of the player and since you have two main characters, one of which must be used at all times, and usually a choice of two out of nine guest characters you may well find yourself rarely using monsters except for a few brief moments when no one else is available.

Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World

All in all Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is an acceptable game. It’s nowhere near outstanding, but there is also nothing that can be described as truly terrible in it either. Fans of the original game should give it a go, but remember to take it with a pinch of salt. If you’ve never played the original, or you’re looking for your first Tales game, then this one isn’t for you.

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The Growth of a Game: Shadow Hearts

For many video games series the challenge is for the developers to create something new and innovative whilst retaining the core gameplay that the series fans have been longing for since the last instalment. Often this means an entirely new plot is developed with similar but tweaked gameplay. Long running series like Final Fantasy and Call of Duty drift along with varying levels of difference but following the baseline rules of their core gameplay. Over time these little tweaks and additions, and sometimes a complete genre shift, evolve a series into something quite a bit different from its predecessors.

 

Shadow Hearts is a trilogy of games that has become something of a cult classic taking more than a little inspiration from Lovecraftian literature. Unlike the above examples Shadow Hearts takes pride in its direct sequel nature using cameos, references and reappearing characters to firmly link each title together. Its origins, however, begins with a very different game: Koudelka. Released on the original Playstation in 2000, the game is a blend of a traditional RPG with survival Horror elements.

 

KoudelkaThe game follows Koudelka Iasant, the game’s namesake, as she arrives at Nemeton Monastery in Wales to discover the place crawling with occult creatures and evil spirits. Unlike most RPGs the game has a very dark tone including vengeful ghosts, walking patchwork corpses, murderous caretakers and a ritual fuelled by hundreds of dismembered sacrifices (All, of course, built upon an old prison that brutally tortured its inmates.). On the RPG side of things Koudelka features a standard level up system, with the player making stat distribution choices, basic puzzle solving utilising a variety of inexplicably collected key items and those infamous random encounters. The survival horror element is not completely forgotten though as the entire game takes place within the haunted grounds of the empty monastery and NPCs, which are few and far between are confined to cutscenes creating a lonely atmosphere. With no shops to be seen, weapon breakages, limited ammunition and infrequent healing spaces the survival aspect of the game is clear. A downside to the game is the slow pace of its battles. Grid-based combat makes positioning an additional tactical consideration but at a high cost to speed of gameplay.

 

So there we have our original title, a twisted and dark RPG with strong character development across a small, misfit cast; namely a gypsy, a poet and a bishop.

 

Shadow HeartsIn 2001, and on the Playstation 2, came the first of the official trilogy to be released: Shadow Hearts. In this game Yuri Hyuga is sent on a quest by the mysterious voice in his head to protect the heroine Alice and ultimately protect the world from destruction by the villain. Discarding almost completely any notion of survival horror the game does retain the occult themes and dark fantasy genre of its predecessor. Somewhat unique among RPGs the game is set in the real world, albeit a real world in which every creepy and evil mythological creature is out to get you. As an RPG the game takes up the mantle of its genre defining ancestors with turn-based combat (no grid), NPCs and shops, sidequests galore and level-ups. The roaming around of a creepy monastery is traded out in favour of the more traditional RPG journey across multiple locales and for this game the group of misfits becomes larger and more diverse, a ‘It’s a Small World’ cultural collection. Both Koudelka and Roger Bacon return for this instalment in significant roles while the influence of and references to the previous game are strong and frequent including a return trip to the now collapsed ruins of Nemeton Monastery. The game includes some unique elements all of its own such as the judgement ring, a kind of quick time style task that dictates the success of every action in battle and quite a few out of battle, as well as the probably H.P. Lovecraft inspired sanity points system in which characters are driven insane, and berserk, during protracted fights against the many abyssal horrors they face.

 

Shadow Hearts Covenant2004 saw the release of the sequel, Shadow Hearts Covenant. Several characters make cameo appearances and fill more significant returning roles. Being a direct sequel the game features Yuri Hyuga as the returning main character, once again on a quest to stop the world from destruction via various occult dangers. Most elements of gameplay remain the same for this instalment retaining its dark and serious plotline though the locations themselves are generally less dark and grim in appearance and conception. The characters are once again a diverse group though this time the term misfit has a more literal meaning, the group includes the lost princess Anastasia and a superhero, wrestler, vampire. Whilst the previous game was far from devoid of comedy, often dipping into slapstick and perverted old man territory, the sequel plays the comedy angle up more including a curry themed wrestling club and colourful, almost supervillain-esque designs. Gameplay wise little has changed apart from refinements to the returning judgement ring and sanity point systems. Battles feature open roaming, though positioning is out of the player’s direct control, and a series of hit area specifics that allow for combos and combo magic. The playable characters once again have their own unique skills and abilities whilst spells, via crests, are much more customizable and usable by, almost, everyone.

 

Shadow Hearts From The New WorldShadow Hearts: From The New World was the last of the series to be produced and took a departure from the story of the first two games of the trilogy leaving Yuri behind and focusing on new characters Johnny and Shania, though it remains connected through various little links and cameos. Building upon the trend in Covenant, From The New World delves even further into slapstick and downright silly comedy creating a much more light hearted, and often literally brighter, game world. The adventuring gang of misfits is now wholly weird and wonderful, featuring a Brazilian ninja and his master a giant talking cat and master of drunk fu. The plot is still technically dark but lacks the occult grimness of its predecessors and the battle system remains largely the same with some tweaks in the combo system and new reasoning behind the use and distribution of magical powers, now in the form of stellar charts.

 

The series as a whole has done well to remain connected and does a fascinating job of creating a fantastical history in which real-life characters like Roger Bacon are revealed to have been involved in mysterious and magical occurrences. The dark quality of the games’ stories remains throughout but is diluted and traded with comedy as the series progresses and the horror aspect is almost completely gone by the final edition. Meanwhile the core gameplay is left largely alone (ignoring the complete change from Koudelka to Shadow Hearts) only to be improved upon with each instalment.

The Scariest Game I’ve Ever Played

I’m not talking about Dead Space, no, the scariest game I’ve ever played is Might and Magic VI. Not a scary game in any traditional sense, it’s not a thriller or survival horror or even a murder mystery. But there are certain qualities of it that have me on the edge of my seat with tension building in my throat and a nervous fluttering in my chest as I play it.

MM6

Not actual gameplay.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game it’s a first-person, dungeon crawler, sandbox game, akin to a computer version of tabletop Dungeons and Dragons, or a very early version of Skyrim. It’s also an old game with a graphics quality that is laughable by today’s standards. You create a team of four characters choosing their classes and starting stats and a portrait to represent each one. After a bit of story fluff you’re hurled into the starting town and left to your own devices. After which you’ll do the typical Morrowind and Baldur’s Gate stuff: talk to NPCs, kill random monsters, explore dungeons and loot everything that isn’t nailed to the floor.

Nothing particularly scary so far, but the first thing to learn is that death lurks behind every corner. The game can be quite difficult, perhaps due to its free-range approach allowing you to get in over your head rapidly. It’s not uncommon to find yourself surrounded by bloodthirsty enemies, the situation not being helped by the explosions and slash effects being writ large across your computer screen every time you take a hit, which happens a lot.

Goblins

“Oh, hello…Didn’t see you there…Having a little party? We’ll be going then…Bye!”

Just like Doom, MM6 has a first-person perspective, and a lot of walls and corners, often with monsters waiting behind them and creeping up behind you. It’s not uncommon to turn around and see a monster in your face. Except, sometimes there won’t be a monster there, as every scary masterpiece knows, the expected isn’t scary so you’ll find yourself constantly checking over your shoulder to see nothing until the one time you don’t check…

What about the sound, surely that would give away a monster following you? It might well do, the problem is you’ll hear a lot of monster noises and they could be far away or right beside you. The noises ultimately just make you more nervous as you experience that feeling of there being someone there but you don’t know where, like a bump in the night.

There is another way to track nearby monsters, the game gives you a small gemstone for each character that changes colour. If it’s green you’re safe. Yellow means there’s something hostile nearby and red means it’s on top of you. It’ll be red more often than not though, early 3D systems rarely included height in distance calculations meaning the monsters on the floors above and below will be detected. It’ll also pick up enemies on the other side of a door, great! Except that you once again enter into that element of, ‘I know something’s there, but I don’t know what’. It could be a feeble rat creature, or a psychopathic, inferno wielding devil.

So we’ve got dark dungeons, surprise monsters, a lot of suspense and the unknown. What about vicious, all-powerful monsters that kill you in one hit? As I mentioned earlier, the free roaming element of the game can get you in over your head. There’s one particular way you might do that when utilising a cheat, or rather Easter egg, in the game. There’s a hidden teleporter in the first town that takes you to the developer’s room, where you can collect infinite money. What’s the catch? The teleporter doesn’t drop you in the room, it takes you outside an altar which teleports you to the room. Outside the altar just happens to be an enormous desert filled with hungry dragons eager to munch on some foolhardy adventurers. They’ll breath fireballs at you and almost certainly kill you in a single hit. The trick then is to pause the game immediately on teleportation, hold down the run button, unpause, and spam the spacebar like nobodies business to ensure you activate the altar teleport before you get hit.

It can’t all be nerve wracking danger, what about the safe areas? Well firstly, the safe areas are often close enough to the monsters that your gemstone will be glowing a permanent yellow, alerting you to the fact that nowhere is safe. A chest, no matter how innocent its location, will invariably be trapped and you will be treated to a large, acidic purple splat on your screen. And the NPCs aren’t much better, should you innocently murder one of them with a stray keyboard click the entire village will turn on you, and nothing says psycho village more than discovering every single villager has been hiding a knife in their pocket.

Chances are, you’ll die, a lot. And when you do, with the portraits of your entire team being replaced by gravestones, you’ll be treated to meeting Death in person. (I regret that I couldn’t find a clip or picture of this.)

He’ll take your money, tell you it’s not your time yet and boot you back to the beginning village. The first time you see him, pretty scary. Though admittedly after that it becomes quite laughable and I spent some time deliberately dying to see if he ever said something different.

I never finished this game, it took too much of a toll on my psyche to explore the dungeons with death lurking behind every corner and in every shadow. Some games are scary, deliberately so, but I reckon the scariest game for each individual probably wasn’t meant to be scary in the first place, so comment and tell me what’s your scariest game and why?

Driving You Mad

I’d just liked to preface this post by pointing out that I don’t play games competitively online so people are spared my annoying habits (or quirks as I like to call them).

What annoying habit do I have? Many probably, but the one I’m particularly talking about involves first-person shooters and in particular shooters that give you access to vehicles. The best example of this is Halo, where you can play deathmatches on foot with conventional weaponry or hop into the nearest armoured vehicle and have a tank off.

Halo Quad Bike

What do you mean this is a war zone?

Now this is where I step in and say “I reject your notions of warfare,” find myself a vehicle and drive it around haphazardly. Now granted a tank is an awesome instrument of destruction, but I find the same appeal in driving a quad bike around the battlefield like a maniac, honking the horn and occasionally scoring points by running other players over. Other activities include: driving up walls and into supposedly inaccessible areas in a Warthog and loop-de-looping in a Banshee until you find the top of the map.

You can probably tell that I’m not very competitive and it doesn’t take too many kills from a hidden sniper to turn me away from the path of war. Or, alternatively, to hop in a tank blowing up everything in sight and imagining the sniper watching through his scope as the tank turret turns ominously in his direction.

There’s always something silly to do in shooters if you look hard enough. Another of my favourites: the sticky mines in Timesplitters, which I liberally apply not just to the floors but also the walls, the ceiling and especially other player’s faces.

What about you? Are you deadly serious in these games or do you have a habit of straying from the strategically sound and into the certifiably insane?

Life Goals in 4X

For anyone unfamiliar with the term 4X it refers to a subgenre of games based on four ‘x’ words: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. These games typically involve you building an empire from its humble beginnings by managing a combination of military, domestic and scientific affairs.

Alpha Centauri Forest

When nature strikes back!…slowly…over millions of years.

I have a habit of setting self-imposed achievements in these games. I’m referring to tasks beyond aiming for the cultural or scientific victories in the Civilization games. For example, in Civilization’s sci-fi spin off Alpha Centauri, I constantly find myself overcome with an urge to cover the entire planet in forest. To the extent that I will continue playing the game long after the other factions have been exterminated and long after all technology has been researched. Why? Because I can.

Civ City

These cities are too close, they should be outside the two tile radius!

Civilization is not exempt, from creating an efficient mass-production empire on which every tile is farmed or mined to its fullest, to spreading every possible religion to every possible city in an attempt to make a pan-religious empire. Such is the extent of my obsession with these little (or indeed large) goals that I get very irked with the computer who doesn’t seem to agree and insists on building cities where I don’t want them.

I’ve mostly referred to Civilization but it happens in other games, such as Warlock: Master of the Arcane and a need to build cities everywhere including the empty planes. You’ll also find my idiosyncrasy in other genres; long have I had a dream of constructing a base in a Command and Conquer game that is neat, ordered, with wall and gates that make it generally aesthetically pleasing. Unfortunately the enemy has a curious notion of attacking my base while it’s still in development and avoids the designated turret defence zones.

C&C Turret

“Excellent, now build the next turret over there.”
“But sir, there’s no enemies there.”
“Yes, but this way it’ll be symmetrical.”

You’ve heard mine now tell me yours. What obscure goals do you chase in what games and why do you do it?

A Thought on Final Fantasy IX

Spoiler Warning: for those who haven’t played it.

I very much enjoy the Final Fantasy series, so much so that I can pick holes in it as easily as a voodoo doll, one full of love of course. To me there is a moment of staggering gameplay and story segregation in Final Fantasy IX at a heightened point of the games plot.

Some context:

Birdwatching was more dangerous than Kuja realised.

Birdwatching was more dangerous than Kuja realised.

During the course of the game Queen Brahne is given various destructive magical weapons by the antagonist Kuja. She quickly becomes power mad and on acquiring the usage of the summoned eidolons she targets Kuja as her next victim. Amassing an armada of ships she tracks him down and orders the summoning of Bahamut, King of Dragons. Kuja, unphased, calls upon the Invincible to gain control of Bahamut and sets the dragon to demolishing Brahne’s fleet. While all this is happening it is implied Brahne’s fleet is under attack by, unseen, waves of monsters.

The Queen's organic oven was not successful.

The Queen’s organic oven was not successful.

Meanwhile, and nearby, Princess Garnet and her companions see the battle. Wanting to save her mother Garnet senses an eidolon nearby she can use but discovers it is Leviathan. As she then explains, this eidolon destroys its enemies with a tidal wave. Not particularly useful in saving a fleet of ships against a flying foe.

I have two thoughts on this situation. First and mainly is the usage of Leviathan. Here Garnet doesn’t want to risk harm to others with the summon’s total destruction method. It uses the tidal wave attack in battle, conveniently disappearing Garnet’s allies, summoning a tidal wave to batter the monsters with the water draining away rapidly and the environment and anyone else around is unaffected. So Leviathan avoids hurting the party, but not the ships he would be summoned to protect? Or vice versa, if he is all destructive how is the party and nearby civilians unharmed whenever he is summoned in battle?

FF9 Leviathan Seal

“A fish against a dragon? Maybe I should rethink this.”

Also could Leviathan not use other methods of attack? Perhaps not but we do see in the cut scenes Bahamut attacking with small target fireballs and flying manoeuvres and his trademark Megaflare.

The other thought is on Garnet’s self-defeat at finding Leviathan unusable for the situation. Has she forgotten that she earlier acquired Ramuh? Perhaps she thinks his thunderstorm methods would be equally as problematic. What about her other summons? (I can’t recall what she has access to at this point but Shiva, Ifrit and Atomos would seem likely.)

One of the best things about liking something so much is coming up with ways to explain away and point out the plot holes and necessary suspensions of disbelief. So tell me, what do you think?