Tales of Symphonia's sequel is a major letdown compared to the originals superb quality. Only for true fans.
varj0 wrote this review on .
In the original Tales of Symphonia, a colorful group of heroes were banded together in a journey to regenerate the world ruled by malicious angels, the Cruxis. Some years had passed since the end of the journey, and peace had fallen on the turmoiled lands of Sylvarant and Teth'alla. In the first game these lands were separated by a dimensional gate, but now that the angels are gone, and the world regenerated, these lands are united. But the peace won't last long, and the two lands find themselves in conflict: technically advanced Teth'allan people oppress the poor Sylvatanti. The hero of the regeneration, and the protagonist from the first game, Lloyd Irving is rumored to wreck havoc on cities all over the land and stealing Centurion cores. These cores are essences of centurions, beasts controlling the elements and monsters. With cores gone missing, the world is facing natural disasters and waves of angry monsters. To return the land back to its original state, a young girl called Marta will embark on a quest to revive Ratatosk, lord of monsters. He's quickly accompanied by unconfident Emil.
The simple and uninteresting story, would need strong protagonists to save the game from falling from grace. Unfortunately Emil and Marta won't make you identify yourself with them and their little teen romance. Especially Emil is annoying wimp, who really makes you wish Marta would give him a good slap at times. On the other hand, Emil is possessed by the spirit of Ratatosk in battles (called "Ratatosk-mode" in-game), and the change completely swaps his personality, making him even more annoying brat yelling and cursing all the time. The two are also accompanied by loyal centurion Tenebrae, who is surprisingly and sadly the best new character. The antagonists of the game won't fare much better in their roles, although the very end of the game is quite clever and almost surprising (its made too obvious in the end). There's naturally recurring characters from the first Symphonia-game, but they play minor role, and you find yourself controlling Emil or Marta through the whole game.
The catch Dawn of the New World has, is monster hunting. During the battle you there's an elemental grid you can affect using elemental attacks. Should you manage to change the grid to a beneficial state, you'll get a chance of capturing one of the monster you are fighting against. After capture you can keep up to four monsters in your party. The monsters gain levels and skill like normal characters, and they even evolve to new forms in time. Some of the monster will become insanely powerful when trained in correct way, but you'll do just fine with human characters. Note that you can not control the monsters yourself, as AI will always use them in battle.
As always, battles are a terrific fun in Tales of -series. Despite its flaws, Dawn of the New World won't fail in this aspect. You can team up with your friends (only) during the real-time fights, and the battle system is updated from the first Symphonia. You can now run freely around the battlefield. In battles you can utilize normal sword attacks and combo them with more stronger artes. Some characters are even able to cast spells. Just like in the first game, you can unleash devastating Unison-attacks, although they do considerably less damage than you would think. On the other hand, these attacks are charged much faster this time and you can usually launch them several time during the fights. Special serve now as the ultimate attacks, and these do ridiculous amounts of damage to all enemies in the battlefield. Annoyingly these attacks are always preceded by animations you can't skip. They're not overly long, but you'd still appreciate the skip button after seeing the same thing for the hundredth time.
Sequels tend to best the original game with new features and improved gameplay, but Dawn of the New World feels more like the first game in the series, lacking in every aspect compared to the Tales of Symphonia. Skills and artes are acquired with levels, but you will always have enough skill points to use them all. Even the artes are very boring, and they all are just copies from what Lloyd used have. Marta has mostly collections of healing spells and weak artes. The greatest disappointment is the missing world map and side-quests. There is no world map at all, only a list of places you can visit and during the whole game there will only be one place you don't have to visit to progress. The side quests are also a huge letdown. The strange Katzt make their return, offering small variety of side quests, but they're always located in the same lengthy dungeons. Syntethizing is also possible at every shop, and you can always make everything you need. At least familiar dialogues, called skits, are still here, and at least they are as good as the first time. This time skits are even voice-acted. Voice actors also do their job well, despite the poor characters.
Tales of Symphonia would have deserved far better sequel. Dawn of the New World feels like a poor man's Symphonia, with weak story and characters. Still, the fans of the series might find it nostalgic to see the old friends again, and what has happened to regenerated world. Collecting and raising monsters, as well as still awesome battles will help to keep you entertained through around 50 hours the game takes to complete.