Trying to play through Dawn of the New World was kind of a roller coaster. It has some great and fun moments, but also some repulsive moments, like the Temple of Lightning and some of the puzzles (though I don’t remember those anymore, unlike the ToL; apparently the puzzle near the very end of the game caused my last, year-long retirement from the game, leading me to criticize the game as “horrific” overall in some mostly unrelated ramblings). Overall, the game does have a faint feeling of boredom about it, and I think that’s mainly due to a few things: making a sequel to a game as legendary as Tales of Symphonia in the first place; having the game be a slight retread of the first; featuring the heroes from the first game, but without the ability to level them up or customize their equipment and titles; and, most of all, replacing traditional party members with a mediocre mons system.
This mons system is not very good. You can’t nickname monsters, and they’re fairly generic overall, removing the personalization that Pokemon has. You can’t crossbreed or fuse monsters like in Pokemon or Shin Megami Tensei, nor can you selectively breed them for new skills and attributes of your choosing.
The default controller and nunchuk controls of the Wii feel a bit flimsy for playing the game. I never had the more traditional Wii gamepad, so I can’t say how the game would feel with those controls instead.
The characters are cute, but the developers made a grave error when they decided to give this game with a cutesy anime art style motion capture animation. Some of the other Tales games can fall a bit into the uncanny valley, but it can be especially bad in this title.
In spite of the above, I think that DotNW still succeeds in terms of story and characters. They’ve got heart. Bust out the Unpopular Opinion Bear, because I think that Emil is overly criticized, even though I understand why some find him annoying.
I understood immediately that Emil was a meek boy abused by his uncle and aunt. This established him as a more sympathetic character to me, but others found him whiny, feminine, and spineless. I learned of an article out there on some website that I don’t read that put him on a list of most annoying RPG protagonists. Does no one have patience for a character arc anymore? The duality of Emil/Ratatosk is interesting and a cool twist.
However, I think that the Japanese Tales chasers go too far the other way. In Japan, there are polls that fans vote on to determine the most popular characters in the series. In the 2010 poll, Emil placed twelfth. In the 2013 poll, he placed eleventh. In 2014, he placed eighth, making him the most popular ToS character. I think that some of the other characters give him major competition.
While I was generally nonplussed by the replacement voice acting for the original game’s cast, I like the voice acting for Emil (Johnny Yong Bosch), Marta (Laura Bailey), and Tenebrae (Christopher Corey Smith). Emil (not Ratatosk) is an unusually timid and soft-spoken character for Bosch to play, and he pulls it off well, while Ratatosk sounds deeper and more aggressive; Marta is just an adorable and spunky (though slightly irresponsible) girl; and Tenebie is a cool and savvy mascot. Somehow, I made it through this entire game without expressing how much I liked Tenebie.
Finally, I like how Emil and Marta fall in love. That’s right, I ship it, which made the neutral ending all the more disappointing.
The interactions between our new heroes and the old ones are fun.
Perhaps the silliest thing about the plot is how Lloyd supposedly perpetrated the Blood Purge in Palmacosta. Who didn’t expect the game to reveal that it was someone else pretending to be Lloyd? Then we’re supposed to believe that someone like Decus, who I guess falls under the obliviously evil category, actually committed the Blood Purge? Neither Alice nor Decus receive the punishment they deserved for their evil choices. Getting accidentally killed by Emil and Marta was too good for them. If the world at large learned that they really did the Blood Purge…
Yes, in contrast to Emil and Marta, I really hated Alice and Decus, though their death scene was sympathetic.
I don’t know why I’m patient with characters like Emil, but hate characters like Decus and Alice almost immediately.
It’s not really a mystery that DotNW turned out the way it did when you learn that the game was shuffled off to the side as an “Escort” title for the series. Escort games are basically the side games in the franchise, or the rare game that was received so badly that they want to mark it as a black sheep (hello, Tales of the Tempest). Escort games receive less resources than the main “Mothership” titles (e.g. Tales of Vesperia, which came out around the same time as DotNW). It seems a bit cold to relegate the sequel to a Mothership title as an Escort project.
Maybe they relegated it to Escort status because they decided to release it on the Wii?
I forgot to mention that, if you have a memory card with ToS data inside of the GameCube MC slot on the Wii when starting DotNW, you get some bonuses. I can’t remember exactly what they were, but I think that a bonus of several thousand gald was among them.
Emil and Marta have been featured in various spinoff games… most of which do not leave Japan.
In the end, I still had fun recapping DotNW, and it led me to a deeper understanding of ToS. I still have fond memories of Emil and Marta, and choose to focus on those when reminiscing about the game. I hope that came across.
What are your most and least favorite Tales games? Should sequels to popular installments be made?