The original title in Japan for this one is: Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk (テイルズ オブ シンフォニア -ラタトスクの騎士= Teiruzu obu Shinfonia-Ratatosuku no Kishi).
I found the game by coincidence as I was on search for Tales of the Abyss. I loved the TV series of Abyss, so I thought I might give it a try… for 15 hours straight (with some breaks for shower, toilet and food, but my saving data says 14:51 and as I died and wasted effort 3 times… you know the story)
The story begins with a short introduction of the world’s situation and jumps to the assault of a village named Palmacosta. People are slaughtered by Lloyd, while being on search for Marta, who owns the core of Ratatosk. Desperate for survival, Marta calls Ratatosk’s powers and Emil jumps in saving her. Marta is left with Ratatosk’s core embedded in her forehead, while Emil finds out that his parents got killed by Lloyd. He follows his last words of his mother and travels to his aunt.
Emil meets an unusual guy named Richter, who’s on search for Marta and Ratatosk’s core. Richter is the main reason for one of the main catch phrases of the game: “Courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality”. Emil leads Richter to Marta’s whereabouts. Worried about what might happen to Marta, Tenebrae – the centurion spirit of darkness – appears before Emil and asks him to help Marta. Emil becomes the Knight of Ratatosk and Ratatosk’s power takes over Emil’s body and mind whenever being in battle.
While traveling with Marta and Tenebrae, the player (playing Emil) learns more about the world and the two factions – the Vanguard and the Church of Martel – who try to get a hold of the eight spirits. Emil’s main focus on the journey is to find the murderer of his parents: Lloyd. Anytime he’s triggered by his hate, Ratatosks’s power takes over Emil’s personality, leaving a blank in Emil’s mind about what he did or said… and also there’s this part of Ratatosk not getting removed of Marta without killing her.
On their journey to get the eight centurion spirits and tracking down Lloyd, the player has the opportunity to do some side missions – additionally to the main objectives. In order to strengthen the centurion spirits, the player needs to have monsters of the relevant element. Those can be obtained at the end of battles. The opportunity of this is rather random.
The Katz guild offers the ability to switch between monsters in the party and stash, quests to fulfill – each mission comes with a rank of 1-5 (1 being easiest), the option to cook dishes (the recipes are obtained by finding the Wonder Chef while traveling) and feeding monsters to obtain higher stats and evolve them.
Conclusion: I really enjoyed the game so far, especially the animated intro of the game (before showing the “Play”/”Load Game”) and the awesome emoticons used in-game.
The first 2 hours were annoying, as it was more of finding out how to fight (especially right after Tenebrae’s made you the knight and you need to figure out how to use the new powers best) and the endless join, leave, join, etc of Marta until she finally settles to stay with the player (Emil).
The story advances quite nicely, with some twists and short conversations between the people of the party (mostly Emil, Marta and Tenebrae), so you learn more about the different characters – especially if you’re traveling with Richter or Lloyd’s friends.
The Katz guild is a nice addition to the “usual” story mode and helped me a lot so far, especially for growing and evolving monsters. Not only can they store the monsters you can’t use (as you only can have 4 traveling with you), but they also offer quests, which I abuse for a faster leveling of monsters and gathering items to synthetize and the cooking option that I only use for evolving the monsters. So far I got one additional recipe by finding the Wonder Chef, but it was still enough to bring up more than 15 monsters to their next evolutionary level. The monster system itself reminds me a lot of Pokemon’s “Gotta get em all”, but is not a bad thing at all – especially if you don’t want to proceed too fast with the story mode (and you need as much monsters as possible for your centurion’s powers anyways).
The only bad thing, which is also a good thing, is to open doors or enter buildings. I was so annoyed the first 2 hours, because I was in need to run here, there and everytime you need to press the button to open doors or change maps, etc. (On the other hand it’s better than e.g. Final Fantasy X’s run there and you’re on the next map – it was more annoying to run back and forth on maps or buildings to finally be able to do what I wanted to do *lol*.)
I really look forward for a lot of entertaining hours of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World.
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Mode: Single-Player, Multi-Player Cooperative
Release Date: 26th of June, 2008 (Japan), 11th of November, 2008 (USA), 13th of November, 2009 (EU), 26th of November, 2009 (AUS)