Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is an original title for the PSP. Fans of the Tales series will be happy to note that while it pays homage to it’s predecessors, both directly and indirectly, it adds enough to the formula to be a fascinating title in it’s own right.
The game deviates immediately from the standard Tales of game by first having you create your own character, from gender to hairstyle, before picking one of four starting classes. The classes themselves are standard fair, but as the game progresses you may choose an “Elite” class upgrade, making your character more powerful. After the novelty of creating your own character in a Tales of game, your newly minted hero finds himself asleep at the foot of the World Tree. You are promptly woken by a floating cat creature by the name of Mormo, who informs you of your identity as a Descender, created by the World Tree to protect the world of Terresia from the growing evil known as The Devourer. Mormo is also a Descender, though his world has already been consumed by the evil now threatening Terresia,
Considering you are a Descender, spawned by the great World Tree to vanquish the ultimate evil, it seems a bit odd that your first order of business is to go hunt 10 wolves, but thats exactly how you start out. The game revolves primarily around the guild of Ad Libitum, a group dedicated to the protection of the world tree, where you are but an untrusted newbie. The story progresses through a series of quests where your mission may be to venture to the nearest dungeon and farm up a patch of potatoes, or delve deeper into the same dungeon and defeat the Big Bad awaiting you at the end. When choosing a quest, you can see both the relative difficulty and the number of characters you are allowed to take. At first you’ll be venturing out alone, but as you gain fame and reputation in the guild, you will be able to choose from a large cast of other playable characters, including many familiar names from previous Tales of games.
Combat itself is where the game truly shines. Enemies are visible as you move through the dungeon and can be avoided if you’re quick and so inclined, making things easier when you really need to get somewhere fast. Upon touching an enemy, though, you are seamlessly transported to the Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System. Long time fans of the series may be able to make some sense of that, but for everyone else, the battles happen in real time, with full control of the player character, and the ability to move freely about the battlefield. Spells (called artes) and abilities can be cast through the menu interface during battle or hot keyed for easy access, and most have the possibility of missing if poorly aimed, adding an element of skill to the fray. The battles themselves are quick and fun, with lots of very well done animations and pleasant explosions from your various artes and abilities. I feel it also must be mentioned that the load times to and from combat are almost instantaneous, which is very impressive for a PSP game.
The combat system is not without flaws, however. The enemies you face in any given dungeon do not vary a great deal, and some of them are downright annoying to fight, so you’ll be fighting those bothersome enemies over and over again. The only time you won’t find them, it inevitably seems, is when you have a quest to kill them. As troublesome as some enemies may be, they are far from the norm. Most of the battles are quick, straightforward, and satisfyingly one sided. Boss battles remain a nice challenge and at times require a bit of forethought, and occasionally a bit of grinding to make things easier, but no more than can be expected in this type of game.
Graphically, Radiant Mythology is on the top tier of PSP offerings. The character models are crisp and clean, and their look can change radically based on what equipment you’re wearing, with a large number of items to choose from. Spells and skills look great, with all the prerequisite flashes and explosions one could ask for. Your quests will take you to a number of different dungeons, all with a unique look and feel. Outside of the dungeons, travel is done through simple menus with a 2d representation of your character. While some players may not care for this, personally, I would rather my shopping and travel between dungeons be as quick as possible, so I can get back to monster mashing. Radiant Mythology does an excellent job of getting you into and out of the action quickly, without being offensive to the eyes during the transition.
As for the item system, well, it can be a bit problematic. For one thing, you are limited to 15 of any item, which can be very annoying when dealing with healing gels and other consumables where 15 just doesn’t seem to be enough. Also, for better or worse, the game requires you to do some rudimentary farming and mining as part of many quests. This amounts to little more than having the right item in your inventory (sickle or pick axe) and hitting x while standing on glowing yellow circles you’ll see strewn about dungeons. Every time you mine or farm you use one of the required tool, and with the 15 item limit, you’ll find yourself running back to town because you’re out of pickaxes, which can be quite tedious.
All in all, Radiant Mythology is a great example of how to do a portable role playing game correctly. Impressive graphics, unobtrusive voice acting and sound effects, a story which gives you a reason to play, and combat that keeps you coming back for more. While it’s not perfect, it’s quite safe to say it’s one of the better RPG entries the psp has had thus far. An excellent addition to any on the go RPG gamer’s catalog.