Namco Bandai's "Tales" series of role-playing games have been popular for a number of years. They have been so popular that the series spawned a spin-off "Tales of the World" series, which, at least in Japan, has been successful in its own right. Now the series is poised to make its first appearance in North America with Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology for the PlayStation Portable. We spent some time with the handheld RPG at Namco Bandai's recent press event in San Francisco.
As soon as you start a new game in Radiant Mythology, you'll be asked to create a character and choose your gender. You'll also pick from numerous different faces, hairstyles, hair colors, skin tones, and voices. Then, you'll be asked to select a job for your character. There are four job classes to begin with (warrior, thief, priest, or mage), and a total of 10 jobs will be available to you later in the game. If you find that you don't like the job you picked, or you simply need to fill a void, you can change your class later in the game. Your previous job status won't transfer over to the new class, so you'll have to start from level one. However, you can always go back to the class you started in and your skill level will have remained where you left it.
Because we had limited time with the game and because it's a 30-hour RPG, we weren't able to find out much about the story, although we did learn a little bit. The World Tree is under attack by a monster called a devourer, and it summons a descender to save it. You just happen to be said descender. When you're summoned, you don't know anything about the world, but Mormo, the requisite cute flying creature helps you get acclimated as you begin your journey to save the world. But it won't just be you and Mormo on your quest because 19 characters from past Tales games make an appearance here. If you haven't played previous Tales games, don't worry; each character has a self-contained story, so you won't be lost. Reid, Rutee, and Archie are in the game, as well as Tear from Tales of the Abyss. Even characters from Japan-only versions have made the leap, so you'll be able to hear what Eugene sounds like with an English voice.
The main quest should take about 30 hours to clear, but there are plenty of side quests to tackle. We were told that taking on all of these extra quests would take "over a hundred hours." A basic quest starts with you heading into a town and meeting with your guild. Here, you're able to choose from multiple quests, such as going out and killing monsters, recovering lost items, or locating people. Once you've finished your assigned task, you return to the guild to receive your reward. You'll also earn fame for completing quests; the more fame you earn, the more quests you'll have available to you. You'll also be able to use items in your possession to create hundreds of new items. These items not only affect your character's attributes, but also his or her appearance, which is cool.
We didn't tackle any quests, but we did spend some time running around Radiant Mythology's vast and colorful world. The action takes place from a third-person perspective, and you're able to see enemies as you move about, so you can avoid them if you're not feeling up for combat. Of course, that's not our style. When exploring a volcanic area with lots of red-hot lava, we quickly ran up to a foe and were sucked into battle. Combat takes place in real time, and you control the main character while the CPU controls the rest of your party members. While we racked up our combo meter by pounding on the large rock monster, Archie flew around on her broom and made life miserable for our foe, who quickly vanished. A later encounter with what appeared to be a cross between a bird and a dragon was similarly intense, and this time, we fiddled around with some of the settings for our CPU allies to see how much flexibility the battle system offered. We were able to set parameters for the artificial intelligence so that it would only attack certain enemies based on distance or type (there were other options too), and we were able to tell it to charge or hold its ground as well. This customization will almost certainly play a large role later in the game, but in our brief time with the game, our CPU party members more than held their own without our meddling.
Twenty minutes was nowhere near enough time to dig our teeth into a game like Radiant Mythology, but it was enough to give us a good idea of what to expect from the game when it's released this July. We'll hopefully have more information on the game as its release date approaches.