Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology marks the first Tales game in the US to appear on the PSP. The overall product is good, but for those who've never played a Tales game before... this isn't a "real" Tales game. In short, like a lot of spin-offs, this thing is more for the fans than actually attracting new people to the series. If you're a fan of the Tales game, you might like this. New to the series? This is not the game to start with.
The game begins by letting you create your own character. You can choose to be a boy or a girl. Choose their hair, their face, their job class and even their voice. There's not as much customization here as it sounds, as your choices for each category are pretty limited. Once you've created a character the story begins. The game takes place in the world of Terresia, where you'll awaken at the base of the World Tree. You then come to discover that you are a Descender and that you must defeat The Devourer in order to save the world. If this doesn't sound like much of a story to you, that's because it's really not. Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is a dungeon crawler, and like a lot of dungeon crawlers, the storyline isn't much to get excited about, nor does the game put a huge emphasis on it.
The good news, however, is that the characters do indeed make it interesting. Particularly because you meet characters from other Tales games and they aren't out of character at all. The Tales series is famous for creating memorable characters, and being able to have memorable characters from other games in the series like Lloyd Irving (from Tales of Symphonia) or Luke von Fabre (from Tales of the Abyss) or Senel Coolidge (Tales of Legendia) join and fight alongside you is just cool. What's even better is that the dialog in the game between the characters is fantastic. They make references to other games and everything. The dialog also feels quite natural and strong. It's also nice that each character maintains their distinctive personality, which is quite unique to only them. There's a good sense of humor here as well, especially with all the references made to other Tales games.
The downside, however, is that they won't join you from the start. You have to acquire a certain amount of fame before they'll actually join you. This can only be done by completing the games various missions. Once you gain enough fame, you can start taking characters from the Tales games with you on missions. In the meantime, you can get other characters to join up with you who aren't Tales characters, but they're fairly generic, only having a name. You won't learn about them at all. It's obvious that Namco Bandai's focus was the pre-existing characters.
Playing the game itself can and often is a blast. There are tons of missions to play through in this game. Almost an endless amount. There's plenty of time to battle, and the battle system here is fantastic. Anyone who has played a Tales game knows what to expect. You can run around freely, casting spells or hacking up your enemies. There are times when it feels like button mashing, but for the most part, it's quite fun. Especially because it's not so menu focused. It's also fast paced. In battle you move around freely, landing attacks whenever you can. Each and every character also has their own unique attacks called Artes which require Tech Points (TP) to use. There are plenty of ways of taking down your enemies here.
While you control one character, however, the other ones are controlled by AI. In a lot of RPGs, AI controlled characters is usually not a good thing. In Tales of the World, however, it's really not so bad. You might think you'll have to spend a lot of time reviving and healing them, but most characters do a decent job of keeping themselves afloat. That does not mean, however, they're flawless. There will still be moments of your AI controlled buddies just rushing into a fight only to be smacked by a devastating attack, but it's nice to know that they can survive without you and that they actually are smart. If things aren't working out for you, however, you are able to change up the strategy for them in various ways. You can order them to attack using more Artes or perhaps you don't want them using artes at all. Perhaps you want a certain character to keep their distance, or you want someone to attack any nearby enemy. It can be done here. Another neat thing is that you are not restricted to using your created character. If anyone is in your party you can switch and control them if you wish.
Tales of the World is fun to play, but it does suffer from one very large problem... and it's the same thing that most mission-based dungeon crawling RPGs suffer from: The simple fact that after a while the game becomes incredibly repetitive. There are a ton of missions, but a lot of them share the same objectives and will send you to the same areas over and over again. Likewise, what would a dungeon crawler be without a few fetch quests? There are some missions where you'll be sent to eliminate a certain number of a specific monster. Some where you'll be sent to fetch items and some where you'll need to craft items and such. Not all the missions are winners, of course, and sometimes the objectives just feel dumb. Get three logs for a guy? That's not a mission. That's a chore.
Certainly it's fun to battle in Tales of the World, but after a while doing the same stuff over and over and fighting the same enemies over and over and going to the same dungeons over and over is just too much. You're not getting a huge expansive world to explore here, and you're not getting a huge epic storyline. Two things the Tales series is known for presenting. Thus, if you're new to the Tales series and this is your first game... you'll probably wonder just what it is fans of the other Tales games are getting all excited about. In short, you've got to be prepared for repetition here. At least combat is fun enough to keep you going, but for some RPGers, the repetitive nature of the dungeon crawling can be a huge turn off.
On the positive side, however, outside of the games repetitive nature, the graphics are some of the best to hit the PSP. They're very colorful and detailed. Likewise, each of the characters from previous Tales games are easily recognizable. The character models themselves are really detailed. The game also doesn't suffer from long load times and runs pretty smoothly. The music is also really good. Some of it is from other Tales games, but a lot of the original stuff is pretty good too. Although, some of it just isn't memorable, despite being good.
The voice acting varies. Sometimes it's done very well and other times it's not done quite as well. For some characters they definitely have the right voices, but sometimes you feel as if the voice acting isn't being done as well as it can be and some of the characters sound robotic. Often times, however, it is good. You'll be able to tolerate most of it, especially when they're lively and energetic. The case of bad voice acting isn't a huge occurrence in the game, but when it comes it can be really annoying.
If you've played through some of the Tales games with voice acting (particularly Symphonia, Legendia and Abyss) it should be noted that most of the voice actors didn't reprise their roles. In the long run it isn't much of a problem, but if you found yourself acquainted with certain characters, you know what kind of personality they have... and some of these new voice actors don't fit the bill for the personality of certain characters.
Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is a fairly good RPG for the PSP, especially because the PSP lacks a lot of good RPGs. It's just too bad that it had to be a spin-off and a dungeon crawler to boot. As fan service to fans of the series, it's great. If, however, you've never played a Tales game before, Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is not going to have you screaming for more.
+Beautifully detailed game
+Characters from previous Tales games are playable
+Solid voice acting
+Fantastic dialog between characters
+Tons of funny moments
+Tons of missions to enjoy (the game is huge)
+Fantastic combat system
-You're not getting much of a good storyline here
-Some of the voice changes could annoy hardcore fans
-Like a lot of Dungeon Crawlers, this game gets repetitive after a while; going to the same place over and over as well as taking on the same enemies over and over and all that can get extremely repetitive after a while.