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Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is a role-playing adventure that acquaints fans of the original Gamecube game with a number of familar and much loved characters.
I picked this game up (quite eagerly, mind) because of my love for the previous game that I had spent a lot of time and effort into completing. So the latest sequel was something I was looking forward to checking out. Without checking many reviews, I plunged myself right in. Straight away, the appalling main character put me off. It wasn't only his annoying voice, that may or may not have been made worse by the voice actor, it was the fact his personality was absolutely downright awful. Pushing that aside I continued to brave my way through it.
The previous game was set in Tethe'alla and Sylvarant, two worlds that were reunited by the birth of the new "World Tree". This new Symphonia adventure takes us back to these worlds, where unfortunately world regeneration has unbalanced the world and it's being taken hostage by crazed monsters, along with some weird weather changing goings on. Marta, a girl with some kind of special gem, is looking to awaken Ratatosk (the lord of monsters) to stop these monstrous attacks and fix these absurd weather problems. She bumps into Emil who exchanges powers with her and joins to avenge his parents death. (It's always the way.) The duo meet numerous characters who help and guide them along the way, and enemies who try to get in their way. Keep in mind you have no control over any other character but Emil (and I think, Marta) so if you're looking to play with any of the returning characters, it's not going to happen.
And now, the stuff that really disappointed me. The storyline was a confusing mess. Although plot points and background information were discussed every so often, most of the time it wasn't explained in the right way. Exploration is very restricted. Basically, theres a lot of jumping from city to city with no real world map exploring. That can be a downer if you love open map gaming, or you're not a fan of linearity. The dungeons are in bad taste, with bad camera angling and restrictive movement. Unfortunately levelling up can only be acheived inside the dungeons too.
The combat system follows the same rule as most of the previous Tales of games, through the use of real time battle and Artes. Cue a lot of button mashing and performing combos. Impressively enough, there's usually enough healthy options for those who love fiddling around with magic and special attacks. One really frustrating thing about battles though is the way the system is set up so you cannot set targets, which usually means the one you want to kill (ie, the healer) is not an option and therefore calls for longer battles.
If you've played Pokemon you'll know all about pacts with various monster creatures and such. In Tales of Symphonia we can do just that, but it's not as fun and it can be pointless. In my opinion I feel they could have left this out, however, it is so. To get a monster in your team you have to match one primary element to four of the secondary elements via use of artes, and it's all very frustrating and tiresome.
The graphics, although better than the original Gamecube predecessor are still no great shakes, I personally miss the cel-shaded design of the older game's characters. There's also far too many cutscenes, which kind of overpower the plot in general. It's sad, really. I found the skits a bit lacking too, and the character's discussions really overenthusiastic (trying too hard, to be frank.)
There's a lot more to the game then that I could have discussed but I'm going to leave it here.
My advice to anyone who is looking to play this; bear in mind that Emil apparently does get more bearable as you keep going, and make sure you do play the previous game because it will probably make a little more sense. In general, keep an open mind. I do love Tales games but I'm a little disappointed that this one didn't turn out the way I expected it to.