Author’s Note: This review was originally published on June 2nd, 2008. This was one of the most difficult games to play not only because of the language barrier, but because of the tricky battle mechanics. Still, this is one of my favorite games in the franchise. Like other reviews of the time, this review features “witty” taglines.
The year of 2002 was interesting for me. Beside going through new stages in life and starting new things, I heard about the next addition to my favorite series of all time: Tales of Destiny 2. This was a direct sequel to Tales of Destiny, a game only a few people played due to it being released in America around the same time as Final Fantasy VII. But wait, the USA already got a title called Tales of Destiny II. In actuality, the American ToDII is known Tales of Eternia. So, I thought that we would get the actual Tales of Destiny 2 released over here as Tales of Destiny III. Well, that never happened. Actually, we never saw Tales of Destiny 2, nor will we ever see Tales of Destiny 2. It is hard to believe, but since 2002, I wanted to play no game more than Tales of Destiny 2. Finally, with the title being ported to the PSP, I got my wish fulfilled and had it imported. Having played the game in its entirety, a part of me understands why it never got localized. Still, a bigger part of me is upset that Americans seem to be getting screwed when it comes to which Tales games we get to play.
18 Years Later…
The story of ToD2 begins 18 years after Stahn Aileron and his friends saved the world from an overwhelming evil. Now, Stahn has gone missing and has left his wife, Rutee, by herself to run the Dunamis Orphanage in the village of Cresta. Rutee’s child, Kyle Dunamis, dreams of being a hero like his father. With Kyle’s crazy blond hair and impressive sword skills, he seems to be on the right track! One day, Kyle and his best friend Loni were exploring some ruins. After discovering a giant lens, Kyle and Loni witness a beautiful young girl emerge from its shining surface. Could this be Kyle’s chance to become a hero?
Kyle’s story starts off promising. However, around a certain point, cliche plot devices get thrown in. Instead of just seeing Kyle develop as a hero, you deal with time travel, bad religious cults, and an endless amount of plot holes in-between. The worst of these three is the issue with time travel. With the way certain events unfold, it leaves an endless amount of room for paradox. The writers clearly never thought things through. Luckily, Kyle and his comrades are fun. You will encounter many familiar faces from the previous Tales of Destiny, as well as some new friends. This recipe seems to be classic in RPGs: great characters caught in a silly story.
Despite the story being silly, I was not able to understand it without a translation guide. Unfortunately for most people who wish to play this game and wish to understand what is going on, you will find that difficult. The translation guides on this website are mediocre at best. Since the game plays entirely in Japanese with plenty of kanji usage, only those who can understand the language will be able to get the most from the plot, as well as every circumstance you wish to explore. This was bad for me because I’m the type of gamer who likes to talk to every townsperson and explore every object. Sure, you can do that in ToD2, but I was unable to understand what was said.
The Return of Eternia.
The graphics in Tales of Destiny 2 look nearly identical to those in Tales of Eternia. One difference is on the world map, where you control a relatively ugly looking 3D character through a semi-gorgeous 3D landscape. Luckily, the towns and dungeons look as gorgeous as they did in Eternia. You will see lovely 2D atmospheres with detailed character sprites. In battles, the 2D graphics truly shine. Not only will you fight many imaginative looking monsters, but your team looks amazing. Their details, colors, and expressions add plenty of excitement to the battles. This was one of the reasons why the game never got released in America. The majority of gamers prefer 3D to 2D, which is a shame.
One excellent thing that should be mentioned is that there are a good amount of anime scenes thrown into the game. These were beautifully drawn and greatly help with advancing the story.
The Key to my Ears!
Tales of Destiny 2 has one of the greatest soundtracks in the series, as well as all time. Most of the instrumentals sound as though they come from the PSX era, but they have been tuned up a bit for the PSP. For those who played the original Tales of Destiny, you will hear some remixed tunes from before. The opening and central theme, Key to My Heart by Mai Kuraki, is a huge hit in Japan and goes well with the opening movie and the relationship of Kyle and the heroine, Reala.
Cook. Create. Customize.
Tales of Destiny 2 features activities found in previous titles. Opening the menu, you will see that you can equip your team with weapons and armor, cook meals that you learn from chefs, assign skills and spells, and use items. However, there are some new things that you can do as well. As you travel through the game, you will earn a plethora of weapons and armor. You can use rune bottles to combine equipment pieces together to form new and more powerful arms. It can be fun to find the perfect combination, but it can also be tedious. Most of the time, you are better off buying your new equipment in a store.
Another key feature of ToD2 is the Enchant system. Every skill and spell can equip a passive and active Enchant. For skills, these can range from stealing items, decreasing the cost of their use, to knocking a foe away. With the right spells Enchants, they will activate an additional spell after the first one is finished. So, by using the Flame Driver spell and activating an Enchant, you will also cast Photon Blaze. The more you use your spells and skills, the more stuff you can do with Enchants. Ultimately, these were fun to play around with. Staying true to classic Tales nature, you can activate powerful Hi-Ougi’s. This time, it is through the power of Enchants.
The Broken Sword.
Of course, when you wish to activate powerful skills, you need to be in battle. Tales of Destiny 2 has one of the more interesting battle systems of the series. You can have four party members in at a time, and you control one of the characters. However, you can issues commands and strategies for the other three team members. Like any Tales, battles are fought in real-time and require you to rack up combos to deal maximum damage. However, people will notice some odd, and sometimes annoying, differences in Tales of Destiny 2.
First, you will see that all of your characters have 100TP. That’s all. No matter how much you level up, you will always have 100TP. This may not seem like much, and it is not. Despite the fact that your TP recovers slowly in a battle, the amount you have makes it so you don’t relentlessly spam your skills. On the one hand it adds a new level of strategy, but on the other hand, it can annoy the hell out of you when you realize you are unable to activate a skill (or an Enchant) because you are missing a few TP.
“Well, I will just button mash regular attacks without the use of skills!” That is not a good idea. Besides your TP bar, you have your SP bar. As you perform actions, this drains and eventually empties. The lower the TP bar, the less potent an attack. Furthermore, it requires SP to run, back-dash, jump, guard, and magic guard. Without SP, you will be vulnerable to attacks. Like the TP bar, it will recover over time in battle. Unlike the TP bar, it fully replenishes when a battle ends.
Even if the SP bar was non-existent, you would still find a few annoying features in the ToD2 battle engine. The combo system has returned, but there is a twist. Instead of each hit dealing damage, it adds to the value of a final hit. When a combo ends, the number displayed is the amount of damage given. This is one reason why huge combos are important. Another reason why you need to worry about combos is because physical attacks do pathetic damage near the end of the game. The damage is so pathetic, it makes it so physical fighters are unable to stun a foe. When a foe is not stunned, you cannot combo. The way to start a combo is with magic. Magic spells do insane damage in ToD2, and are the only way to perform high numbered combos. Typically, a fight will require you to keep your enemies at bay while your casters cast spell after spell. Instead of having one wizard and three fighters, you will need one fighter and three wizards.
The annoyance does not stop there. Boss battles can be insanely difficult. If you attempt to bum-rush your foe, you will get owned. Instead, you need to get up in a boss’s face, guard, and pray that your mages are able to pull of their most powerful spells. Only then can you start attacking. Some bosses like to fly around, and others enjoy teleporting to the back line and manhandle your mages. Being me, I thought that I would jump behind the boss and start attacking. Again, not a good idea. Normally, attacking someone from behind would yield good damage. In ToD2, getting behind your enemy will decrease your SP and TP dramatically, which in turn decreases your effectiveness with physical attacks.
There is one saving grace for physical fighters with the battle system. This is called Spirit Breaker Mode. When your character continues to shine in battle, he will begin to flash. When he keeps on flashing, eventually the screen will spark and you will see your character glowing. While in SBM, you have infinite SP. Thus, you can attack as relentlessly as possible, and ultimately unleash a finishing Hi-Ougi.
Diamonds and Data.
When a battle ends, you get experience, money, and it shows you how well you did based on the number of GRADE points you earn. Battles sound troubling, and they can be at times. However, a part of me enjoyed the battle system. Massive chain combos, devastating spells, and potent Hi-Ougis make for thrilling encounters. Also, it is rewarding to see you gain a ton of GRADE points when a fight ends. Furthermore, ToD2 has a unique leveling up system when it comes to learning skills and spells. When you level up, your stats will increase (and depending on which Title you give your character, certain stats could skyrocket). Unlike a typical RPG, you will not learn new techniques when your level number goes up.
The main menu shows each characters HP, TP and two, multi-colored diamonds. These diamonds are what dictate when a new skill or spell is learned. Every time you level up, one (or some) of the corners of the diamonds may level up. The first diamond regards skills. They represent Attack, Magic, Skill and Chain. These are the same for all of your characters. The second diamond represents magic. For Kyle, he has Wind, Light, Earth and Fire. This means he will learn spells of wind, light, earth and fire throughout the course of the game. All of your characters have different magic diamonds. Furthermore, each spell and skill has a Tier level. The higher the Tier level, the more potent the attack. This also means the more potent the Enchants. Needless to say, learning skills and spells when the right attribute leveled up was very exciting and gave me more incentive to get into battles.
When all is said and done, the battle system and I have a love-hate relationship. I enjoyed the speed, the fluidity and the rewards of successfully bringing down a foe. However, I hated watching my physical fighters act only as shields because of their uselessness. Not to mention, ToD2 is VERY fickle when it comes to GRADE. You may think you rocked in a battle, but you will be let down when you see that you earned negative GRADE.
Tales of Destiny 2 was the first game in the series to implement the GRADE shop. When you finish the game, you can start a new game with new features. These features can be purchased at the GRADE shop. Thus, it is very important to perform well in battles to gain a good amount of GRADE. Will you play with all of your skills learned? Will you earn 10 times the amount of experience points? Will you have no random battles? As long as you have enough GRADE, you can play the next game as you see fit. It should be noted that the PSP version has some things not seen in the PS2 version, not only in the GRADE shop, but in general, too.
Tales of Love and Hate.
I am very glad I was finally able to play Tales of Destiny 2. Having it on the PSP saved me the hassle of importing a PS2 from Japan. However, a part of me understands why it never got the stateside release I yearned for. The battle system takes some adjustment and the story is ridiculous. Not to mention, most people are anti-2D graphics. Still, those same battles can be fun, and the endless amount of customization with the Enchant system and the equipment system would have made ToD2 a winner in America. Most of all, Tales of Destiny 2 has a great cast of characters. I would suggest importing this game if you wish to see what happens after the events of Tales of Destiny, you wish to try a new type of Tales, or you do not mind a ridiculously told story. Remember, the game plays entirely in Japanese and this could throw off some players. Unfortunately, there is not a decent story guide out there. Tales of Destiny 2 is the game I love to hate and hate to love. Despite this odd relationship, I will always hold a grudge towards those who prevented it from coming to America.