Sunday, 2 March 2014

Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X

So this past weekend has been fairly eventful for me games wise, and I've got quite a lot done in the time between bouts of horrible tooth pain. Since I've been lazy, I'll be playing catch up for the next few days on here.

To begin with, I finished the main game/storyline of Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X. There's still a whole bunch of post-game stuff to do like dungeons and unlocking more costumes, but I rarely if ever touch those parts of games unless it's something people on my youtube channel really want to see, or it's a game I'm absolutely obsessed with (Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2, etc). Regardless, I got about 20-25 hours out of the game and for a portable title that isn't bad at all.

As a huge fan of the Tales franchise I was pleasantly surprised at how much I ended up enjoying the game. Coming in I knew it was more of a dungeon crawler than one of the mothership titles, but the always fun combat and the whole costume system went a long way towards keeping things varied. I also appreciated that it actually tried to flesh out the characters and backstory of Tales of Phantasia, whether it made the games better or not.


Story:

To expand a bit on the story, the game follows a set of twins named Dio and Mel after a magical dresser (yeah) gives them the power to become warriors/wizards/etc. by putting on various costumes. Naturally it doesn't take long for something horrible to happen that sends the children travelling through time to meet and group up with the cast of Tales of Phantasia in an attempt to put things right again. As mentioned above, the games story wasn't it's strongest point and the ToP characters essentially became mutes with no impact on the story about 2/3rds of the way through. Still, the ending managed to make me a little sad and angry, so I guess they did something right.

The characters of Dio, Mel and their adoptive mother Ethos were really the only ones worth caring about at all. The ToP cast mainly appeared just to get the kids from point A to point B and fill out the party, the secondary villains were fairly bland, and you don't even know who the Big Bad is until you're an hour or two away from the end. They try to flesh out Dhaos some more I guess, and there's the addition of the time travelling woman Ronderine, but since I haven't played the ToP remake with her in it I only caught bits and pieces of her story. Also, Norn is horrible and probably my least liked Tales villain.

 God, you're awful

 Gameplay:

As is typical of a Tales game, the battle system is a huge part of the appeal, and this slightly varied version of the LMBS doesn't fail to deliver. It handles pretty much identically to the other 2D Tales games (other than Rebirth), save for the unique costume system. Using this, the twins can swap between  (either at will in towns/the world map or using an item when in dungeons) 80 or so outfits that each handle completely differently from the others. Granted, some costumes are direct upgrades over others, but they still get a unique list of artes to work with that keeps things fresh. There was maybe one occasion in the entire game where I was locked to an outfit, and it was for 10 minutes tops, so the sheer number of options leave the game open to be beaten however the player wants.

Battle aside, the standard world map has been replaced with a hand drawn picture and a list of destinations, which while disappointing makes sense given the games focus on the dungeon crawling. Towns were fairly varied but I found I rarely had any reason to visit them, getting most of the items I needed by fighting and finding few if any sidequests in them to make them worth running through more than once.

I suppose if I had to point out the biggest negative I saw in the game (besides NORN), it would be the audio. Most of the tracks were reused or remixed from Tales of Phantasia, which in my opinion had a lack luster soundtrack to begin with, and any actual original tracks weren't memorable in the least. A real shame, because games like Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Vesperia has some really catchy tunes that I still find myself humming today. The voice acting was decent, nothing more, though I'll give them props for having the kits fully voiced when other Tales games cheaped out and left them silent.


An example of the games battle system, a variant of the traditional Tales LMBS

Summary:

Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X has a lot going for it despite being a spin off game, and once you get past the fact that it's about half the size of a mothership title in the franchise and accept it as a dungeon crawler with a Tales skin, it's damned fun. I'd definitely recommend it to a fan of the series, and of the RPGs available on the PSP it's one of the better ones. Below you can find my complete playthrough of the game, if you can't be bothered buying it yourself.


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