Tales of Legendia, the first Tales-game to be released in the west since the GameCube hit Tales of Symphonia, starts off with Senel and his sister Shirley traveling a vast ocean. Suddenly the misty ocean is ripped apart by what seems to be huge cliffs, almost ramming their small boat. As Senel comes to, he finds himself on a ship called the Legacy, the same ship that appeared to be cliffs. Shirley is kidnapped by a mysterious man and it’s up to Senel and the people he meets along the way to get her back.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Namco
Utgivare: Namco
Släppdatum: 7 februari 2006 (US)
Köp här: eBay

ToL is the game where you’ll meet some sort of Elvis-impersonator – who sings and dances for love, helpful otters – who shout “ors!” and plenty of other characters with personality. The story of this game is surprisingly complex. Although you will spend most of the time chasing after Shirley, the story presents many twists and turns along the way. But it’s safe to say that Namco has done an impressive job creating the game’s plot and characters.

The crew of characters is really a lively and colorful bunch – always bickering amongst each other, but in a way that friends would do. The conversations during cut scenes are sometimes hilarious and the voice acting is actually great. Norma, Chloe and Moses really shine in this department. Of course, Namco has to include one of my gaming pet peeves; a naïve, apologizing and weak girl – namely Shirley. Her voice actor has to make strange sighing, sobbing and gasping noises. All very embarrassing to listen to… The characters are more than often stating witty comments in places you wouldn’t expect. Normally you’re used to RPG characters accepting whatever is being thrown at them. Well, not this time around. There is much spirit in these characters, they all have their flaws but they are also multifaceted and endearing.

Graphically I’d say this game does not beat Tales of Symphonia, especially when it comes to the characters, but it carries itself well. Lush, bright watercolors in fantastic environments are to be seen everywhere, even in the deepest dungeon. The camera is fixed while running around towns and such, but becomes free to change when out on the world map. What I find a bit strange though, is the loading time for the camera to align itself properly when you step out into the world. During that time you can’t change angles or even enter the menus. Very odd and I don’t understand why it has to be that way. In ToS the monsters on the world map were represented by black blobs, but here there are no monsters visible anywhere. Beware of the random encounters. In dungeons, you’ll find something called Chaotic Zones. Pass through these and you may encounter a stronger enemy, but as a reward there are treasure chests with special items that await you. There are actually tons of treasure chests in ToL, so exploring the dungeons never becomes boring.

I was a little surprised when I found out that Motoi Sakuraba, who’s made the music to every Tales-game there is, had been replaced for this installment by Go Shiina. When I first started playing I considered the music being nothing more than okay, because sometimes it didn’t match what was happening on screen. But I have to say that this soundtrack really grows on you. It is a little weird from time to time (i.e. insane string arrangements) and jazzy too (I dislike jazz), but ultimately it has some very breathtaking (The Bird Chirps, I Sing and A Firefly’s Light) and dramatic tunes, like Enemy Attack and Advancing Towards 12 O’clock. The songs are used over and over again since this soundtrack is short and only fills 2 CDs, but that’s easy to look past. Most of the songs are in fact performed by the New Japan Philharmonic. How about that!

ToL doesn’t bring any big changes to the fighting system we are so used to when it comes to Tales-games. And I’m glad nothing has changed, because these 2D-battles are so much fun! Hack ‘n’ slash all the way through! You can set special attacks to different button combinations (Senel only) and for the shortcut buttons (R2 and L2) you can choose skills from other characters. Placing a healing skill on one of these shortcuts is not a bad idea. Similar to Kingdom Hearts, you can adjust your crew’s battle strategies; how far away from the enemy they should be, how defensive or offensive they should act, how much TP they should use etc.

In ToS you had the choice to cook after battles to regain characters’ health. ToL introduces a basket where you can have up to ten different kinds of bread that heal all your characters at once and of course you get the recipes from a Wonder Baker that you’ll find hiding in different places. These are made with the necessary ingredients at a bakery or any place that has an oven. Only being able to carry 10 kinds of bread feels a little cheap and there has also been a change to the inventory. You can only carry 15 items of each. Not that ToL is terribly difficult, but 20 items of each would’ve been nice.

The Legacy may be a ship but it feels and looks like a whole world. There are so many things to discover, since the story keeps surprising you all the time. When you think you’ve finally beaten the last boss, the game’s story stretches even further. And when the final boss is beaten in the end and you watch the staff roll the game surprises you again, by continuing the story with special character quests. I was thrilled to see this. Since I hate to leave a good game and its characters behind, I was delighted that I would get to know more about them. But for some reason, there are no voices in the cut scenes of the character quests. I checked my settings for the game, thinking I had muted them by mistake, but no, they really are gone. It’s a shame really; the characters become so much less alive.

It has to be said that Tales of Legendia truly is a high quality game that keeps the fun going for longer than you would expect. It seems that Namco simply can’t disappoint their players. I’m pleased to see that they still stay true to all the things that make the Tales-series so very special.

Skriven: 2006-02-19