E3 2008: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World Impressions

The sun rises on this new role-playing game for the Wii.

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A visit to Namco Bandai at E3 would not be complete without some Tales action, so we grabbed a demo of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World on the Nintendo Wii. While this new role-playing excursion takes place in the same universe as the previous Symphonia, it's being billed as an offshoot rather than a full-on sequel. This enables some gameplay experiments in the form of monster capture and training, while the rest of the experience still hews close to the traditional Tales formula.

The hero in matters this time around is Emil, a young swordsman with a demeanor that doesn't befit top billing in a fantastical adventure; he's shy and timid, hesitant to commit to action. The trick is that when he's around Marta--a young girl with a jewel that allows her to relate to monsters somehow--he tends to flip out. When he's having one of his episodes, his whole manner changes. His eyes change color, his voice deepens, he grows a spine, and no one's quite sure why it happens. Emil's got quite the set of issues, at least some of which he blames on Lloyd Irving, the protagonist of the original Symphonia.

Lloyd and his friends will figure fully in Dawn of the New World, and many of your old favorites will join you again to be members of your party (during the demo we bumped into Genis and Raine). The real-time combat is tried and true Tales, with your characters freely roaming the battlefield and inflicting various special abilities called "artes" on your foes. Emil himself fancies a lot of midair artes, sweeping enemies into the air and then knocking them around. One of the twists in this particular game is that the artes characters use correspond to certain elements, and battlefields also are linked to elements. If for example you use a bunch of fire-attuned artes in a fire element area, it'll confer bonuses, one of which is an increased ability to win over monsters to your side.

During the demo we were shown an example of where monster recruitment comes in handy--a large plant creature was blocking the entrance of a dungeon and refused to move. As it turns out, he enjoys a particular type of monster as a delicious snack. When the proper monster was brought back, it was able to be used as bait to draw the creature out of position.

But mainly you'll be recruiting monsters as powerful allies to fight alongside you. You can try to gather them up during battle, and if you've manipulated the elements properly you'll have a much better shot. There are around 220 different types of critters you can win over to your side, and some of those can only be "evolved" all Darwin-style from other monsters in the world. For instance, dog monsters can evolve into wolf monsters, wyverns can evolve into dragon monsters, and so on. You'll be able to adapt them by cooking different foods to feed them or strengthening their powers by using other monsters. One thing you can't do with your monstrous recruits is control them during the games co-op mode, though; only human characters are eligible for that.

Dawn of the New World is shaping up as a nice role-playing game for those of us who still hold a lot of affection for the Symphonia characters and world. We're anticipating this Wii adventure in fall 2008, so keep watching this gamespace for the latest news.

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