Dawn of the New World

As a spinoff to one of the Gamecube’s most revered RPGs, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World had a lot to live up to.  The Gamecube Tales of Symphonia is considered a classic because of its real-time fighting system, excellent character dialogue, great soundtrack, and its story full of real-world issues combined with aspects of Norse mythology.  Dawn of the New World continues this legacy in many respects, but unfortunately, it falls short in a few key areas.  Before going into the details, it is important to note that Dawn of the New World is a sequel to Tales of Symphonia just as Final Fantasy X-2 was to Final Fantasy X.  Therefore, your enjoyment of the game is partly based on whether or not you played the first title.  Most of the areas and characters in Dawn of the New World are carried over from Tales of Symphonia, so you will miss much of the story and the various inside jokes between characters if you didn’t play the first title.  If you haven’t already played Tales of Symphonia, I highly recommend picking up the first game before embarking on this new quest.  Dawn of the New World may still be fun to play without having experienced Tales of Symphonia, but much of the story and humor will go over your head if you missed the first game.   Also, as a small bonus, you can transfer your save data from Tales of Symphonia to Dawn of the New World.  Unfortunately the prize is rather lame, but nevertheless, it is worth mentioning.

When you first insert Dawn of the New World into your Wii, you’re treated to a gorgeous anime cutscene depicting various scenes from the game.  Once you actually begin the game however, you’ll notice how far video game graphics have come since the original Symphonia.  It is rather jarring seeing  your characters in anime form, then having to view muddy, last-gen graphics.  Thankfully, Dawn of the New World supports widescreen and progressive scan, but this doesn’t change the fact that you’re playing a game with Gamecube-era graphics.  Frankly, I was disappointed that Dawn of the New World went for full 3D instead of utilizing cell-shading like its predecessor.  For full disclosure, part of my disappointment may be due to the fact that I played Tales of Vesperia before this game, which looks phenomenal in HD.  While that game has the best graphics the Tales series has ever seen, Dawn of the New World looks more like Tales of the Abyss.  Even though the graphics are disappointing compared to Wii games such as Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3, Namco Bandai did make some improvements.  The cutscenes now feature better animation and are more action-packed thanks to new motion-capture techniques Namco Bandai employed.  This makes for an improvement in the delivery of the story.

Emil

Dawn of the New World tells a great tale, but you have to stick around long enough for it to get interesting.  One of the biggest flaws with Dawn of the New World other than its graphics, is its slow pacing.  You spend hours going from point A to B, revisiting old dungeons, before anything interesting happens.  Sitting through twelve hours of average gameplay before the story gets exciting is too much to ask for your average player.  As a big fan of the first game, I wanted to discover if Lloyd who seemed like such a nice, idealistic guy was really committing atrocities, and if so, why.  This, and the mysterious new characters motivated me to trudge through dungeons I had already experienced before.  I’ll have to admit that it was a chore though, thanks to the nature of the main character.  Emil, the hero of the story is really shy and timid, which is  a refreshing change from the confident hero who has no fears, but certain aspects of his personality make him difficult to like.  He constantly apologizes and thanks people when it makes very little sense.  Emil, also constantly doubts himself, so it may be difficult for some people to like him.  Personally, I could relate to him, because there have been times when I’ve gone through similar issues.  He was hard to appreciate at first, but over time, he grows more and more likeable after you find out about his caring nature and who he truly is.  On the other hand, my favorite character from Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd, was branded as a villain.  At first I was angry because I enjoyed Lloyd’s idealism, and wondered why he’d change so much, but I have to admit that it was an interesting twist that makes you want to keep playing, so you can discover the truth about what is going on.

If you have the patience to wade through several boring dungeons, you’ll get to experience one of the best stories in an RPG in recent years.  Emil’s true nature is fascinating, and fans of Xenogears and FFVII will notice some similarities between Emil, Fei, and Cloud.  Most players will likely have conflicting feelings about Emil, but to me, he is one of most interesting characters in a video game in recent years.  Unlike Tales of Vesperia, one thing Dawn of the New World does really well, is give its characters motivations for what they are doing.  The main villain isn’t an evil megalomaniac; instead, he does what he feels is right.  Some players may even agree with his agenda after they discover his goals and motivations.  Dawn of the New World has plenty of other new enemies and allies, some of which are interesting additions, while others feel like they’d be a better fit in Saturday Morning Cartoons with their squeaky voices and childish antics.  Luckly, most of the new characters don’t fit this description.  Even if they did, Namco Bandai wisely decided to bring back the entire cast from the first Tales of Symphonia.

 Lloyd

Even though some of the voice actors are different, I’m glad Namco Bandai decided to bring back Tales of Symphonia’s excellent cast.  You’ll bump into them at various points throughout the adventure, and oftentimes, they’ll join you as allies.  At a certain point, you’ll get to keep them all, so you can choose who you want to take into battle.  As far as I could tell, Raine, Sheena, Colette, and Regal all had their original voices, while the other characters were voiced by different actors.  I really liked Lloyd and Zelos’ voices from ToS, so it was disappointing to see new actors, but they still did a fine job.  All the character retain their quirks and mannerisms from ToS, so fans of their antics will likely laugh multiple times throughout the adventure. 

As in Tales of Vesperia, the skits are all voiced this time, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hear the characters joke and argue with each other.  Unlike in many RPGs, the characters in this game actually feel like real people.  They all have obstacles to overcome, but they engage in plenty of casual conversations as well.  By the end of the journey, I would surmise that all players of this game would have grown attached to at least one character.  What surprised me the most however, was the depth of the new characters.  By the end of the journey, I felt like I really knew who they were. 

The last thing I want to mention about Dawn of the New World’s story is the unique ending.  I would like to applaud Namco Bandai for going the extra mile by giving this game multiple endings.  It not only extends the replay value of the game, but it makes you feel like you accomplished something truly substantial.  Vesperia had one of the worst endings the series has ever seen, so I was happy to see that there was a nice resolution to Dawn of the New World.

Emil and Marta

Besides having lengthy stories, RPGs are known for including hundreds of battles, so I’ll fill you in on how this game measures up to the competition.  If you enjoyed the fighting-game style battle system of Tales of Symphonia or other Tales games, chances are you’ll like this one.  In the first Tales of Symphonia when you encountered an enemy on the map, you were taken to a separate screen where you could run around in real time to use attacks, special attacks, items, and magic to defeat your foes.  You know, standard RPG faire.  One limitation of that system was that you could only run in a straight line to attack your foes, so you were basically playing a 2D fighting game with 3D graphics.  Well, Tales of the Abyss changed that system, so that you could run anywhere on the map as long as you were holding down a button.  This made it so you could easily dodge enemy attacks and surprise your opponent from behind.  While this option made it easier to evade attacks, you risked receiving more damage if the enemy managed to strike you, while running in free mode.  Dawn of the New World adopts this system, so it allows for more strategy.  So basically, this isn’t an entirely new feature, but fans who only played Tales of Symphonia probably haven’t experienced this before. 

Combat in Dawn of the New World features one major change–the addition of monster allies.  During the course of Dawn of the New World, you have the option of adding various monsters to your party when you accomplish certain conditions in battle.  In towns and dungeons when you encounter a Katz (A certain cat-like humanoid creature), you have the option of talking to him and upgrading your monsters’ stats by cooking them different types of food.  This is an interesting addition, but I mostly just stuck with the same few monsters throughout the entire game.  There are over 100 monsters to collect though, so this could keep completists busy.  One reviewer of this game falsely compared this addition to Pokemon.  In reality, it bears little resemblance to that game, and doesn’t even come close to the depth found in Pokemon.

Battle

Besides featuring a similar combat system, Dawn of the New World carries over a few other familiar elements from Tales of Symphonia.  Most of the songs in this spinoff are remixes of tunes from the original Symphonia.  I liked many of the songs from the original, but to me, it felt like the developers were being lazy.  Besides the soundtrack, Dawn carries over puzzles from the previous Symphonia.  Most of the puzzles are new, but you still utilize the sorcerer’s ring to accomplish tasks, as you did in the first game.  This makes the often mundane dungeons a bit more interesting, but some of the tasks still felt repetitive.

After having played through Dawn of the New World, was it worth the four year wait?  Well, yes and no.  I’d definitely say it was worth the $40 spent, but it does have a few issues.  The story takes too long to pick up and the rehashed dungeons gave me the impression that Namco Bandai was being lazy.  However, I’m glad that I didn’t judge this game too early.  The narrative starts out slow, but it later spirals into one of the most creative video game stories in recent years.  The centurions and chasing Lloyd are just the beginning of something that will later became thrilling.  Dawn of the New World does an excellent job combining characters from both Symphonia games.  You’ll love seeing the old characters in addition to the complex new characters.  I highly recommend Dawn of the New World to people who like games with excellent character development, interesting stories, and action-packed battle systems, but if you didn’t enjoy the first game, steer clear.

Score: 7.5

Pros:

  • Interesting characters
  • Great storyline
  • Features a real-time battle system
  • The original cast from Symphonia makes an appearance
  • Voiced skits
  • Good use of humor
  • Features a villain you can empathize with

 

Cons:

  • Muddy visuals
  • New voices for some returning characters
  • The story takes forever to pick up
  • Some players may hate the main character
  • The battle system lacks originality
  • Lack of new areas
  • Very few new songs
  • Some voices are annoying
  • The original is a prerequisite