Tales of Innocence (Hands-On) (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Adam Riley 13.01.2008 20

Review for Tales of Innocence (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

The Tales RPG series has a strong following in Japan and the US, but has been somewhat overlooked in Europe due to the lack of releases in the past. However, with Tales of Symphonia on GameCube proving to be a deserved hit here, should gamers be hoping the new DS iteration makes the trip over from Japan as well? The first DS title, Tales of the Tempest, was shipped out to Dimps to complete, and has been criticised by the main fan-base for this very reason, and the final result was that it performed quite badly at retail in the Land of the Rising Sun. However, with Innocence being classed as the next 'main entry' in the series, surely the quality is higher? Let us take a closer look...

Right from the off it becomes apparent that more care and attention has been poured into this project, the ninth main entry into the long-running franchise that started with Phantasia on the SNES way back in 1996. Alfa System, who previously worked on the highly acclaimed Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology for the PSP, is at the helm for Innocence and the game starts off with a 'Production IG' video sequence that looks as good as any anime out there today. All the while the rousing 'Follow the Nightingale' by Japanese popstrel KOKIA plays in the background, before the luscious title screen fades in and the music changes to a peaceful, lilting tune that you could sit and listen to all day! It is a stylish start to the game and one that bodes well for the rest of the adventure.

As soon as the game kicks in and the main story starts, the plentiful supply of voice acting strikes home quickly. Whilst Final Fantasy IV's DS remake from Square Enix clearly chose to go for fantastic CGI sequences in favour of more speech, Innocence goes over-board to try and match its home console versions, all of which are voiced the majority of the way through (heck, even the SNES and GBA editions of Phantasia had voice work included!). The quality is amazingly high. A bright, colourful world awaits the player and whilst only some of the high numerous skits are voiced, this proves to be a breath-taking product that last year most would have not thought possible on the platform. As for the music in general, the composer provides an uplifting, enchanting and all-round delightful throughout. And, continuing with the presentation side, on the visuals front when you consider the world is completely 3D, as are the characters within, and battles take place at a fast pace throughout, it makes it all the more impressive to see this squeezed onto the humble DS platform. Innocence is certainly the most technically advanced DS game currently on the market, only being challenged by Square Enix's FFIV recent DS release. As with that RPG, Alfa System has gone for the lower polygon model, but greatly hand-drawn detailed approach that actually makes the characters look far more realistic than ever before.

Screenshot for Tales of Innocence (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

The story is based around the Imperial Capital of Regnum that has maintained a standard of peace for itself during the long-lasting war that has plagued the rest of the world. Over time, people with special powers began to emerge that were feared by regular folk, leading to Regnum enforcing a law that stated people with such abilities were to be caught and dealt with appropriately. The game begins with the focus on lead protagonist, Ruca Milda, the son of a Regnum merchant that has discovered he has special traits and is picked on at school. Other than Ruca, though, players will come across a wide array of interesting characters, each with their own distinctive personality traits. For example, there is Iria Animi, an impulsive, short-tempered girl who has run away from her village with her pet, Coda, after being chased by a mysterious group, as well as Spada Belforma, a warm-hearted chap that has cut ties with his wealthy family, Ricardo Soldato, an experienced mercenary, Hermana Larmo, a young orphan girl and Ange Serena, a sister who possesses healing powers, giving her the title of 'Holy Woman'.

Screenshot for Tales of Innocence (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

It should be noted that Famitsu gave this one of the highest ever scores for an entry into the Tales series, giving the game a total of 35/40 and it certainly deserves the mark indeed, since it is certainly one of the better rounded titles in the franchise so far. Control is via the directional pad and face buttons only, unlike FFIV that allows the user the choice of stylus as well, but this works out for the better in the long-run as it means the battle mechanic works better than that of Tempest's random on-screen tapping technique. The official name for the battle approach taken for Innocence is the (*takes a breath*) "Dimension Stride Linear Motion Battle System". According to reports, this is a combination of the "Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System" from Tales of the Abyss and the "Aerial Linear Motion Battle System" found in Tales of Destiny for the PS2. Basically, what this means is that rather than running along a fixed line in a 2D playing field (á la Phantasia), battles take place in a 3D environment where players can move around the whole arena with complete freedom simply by pressing the shoulder button. In fact, you can even pull of attacks and skill manouevres in mid-air as well now. It all works seamlessly, making battling much more enjoyable. And another nice addition is how when each enemy is despatched, they burst into coins and/or items that you must collect during the actual battle before they fade away. This adds an extra tactical element and actually helps to make it feel more rewarding when you get to the battle-end screen (which also shows a ‘Grade’ for how quickly and successfully you won).

Another important factor of battling is how the AI of your team is far better than in previous games, thanks to the level of customisation on offer. Each team member can have five different instructions to work from at any one time, as well as having those set to certain priority levels, so that players can have them, for example, choose to keep attacking rather than collect the dropped money/items all the time. It helps to give the player far more control. Then, later in the game, it is possible to pick up new ‘scripts’ that tailor their moves even more (an example being ‘use a stronger healing magic than before’, in other words more specific commands being given to members). Add in the Tension Gauge that when filled puts a player into an Awakening state (similar to Overdrives in Symphonia) that makes the character faster and more powerful, plus the on-the-fly character changing that allows multiple devastating combination attacks to be applied, and fighting becomes great fun…which is brilliant news since there will be LOTS of battling during the thirty-hour-plus adventure (or more if you work through the random dungeons and take part in the Guild missions available as well).

Screenshot for Tales of Innocence (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Other aspects of Tales of Innocence that have been spotted so far during this early hands-on with the game are things like how encounters are not random. Instead, the enemies appear on-screen every now-and-then, allowing players to dodge if they feel like it. Obviously there are times in enclosed dungeons where it is hard to squeeze past, but it certainly beats the constant and highly annoying random battles found in Tempest. Also, weapons can be customised, with materials found around the world being able to be attached to your chosen weapon to create special new and unique ones that have useful attributes and cannot be found in stores. Finally, cooking is back and a new 'Style' system has been included. For cooking, there are no chefs hidden around the world this time, with recipes found in chests instead, plus some recipes cannot be used until its partner one has been found as well. As for the 'Style' system, different ones can be equipped to a character and, as they level up, different statistical attributes change according to which has been applied. So, whilst some may have strong benefits in one area, there may be negatives consequences in other areas to balance things out slightly. Overall, it is safe to say that although Tales of the Tempest did have enough redeeming features to warrant an 8/10 when reviewed by Cubed3 at the end of 2006, it has definitely not held up too well over the past year or so. And this fact is made so much more apparent by just how fantastic Tales of Innocence is, making the previous game look amateur in nature. Hopefully Bandai Namco will either work with Nintendo to bring this beauty to the Western world, or continue the deal with Ubisoft for its PSP Tales games to ensure we get the chance to play a translated edition.

Screenshot for Tales of Innocence (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Final Thoughts

From what Cubed3 has played so far, Tales of Innocence is a much-improved game over 2006’s Tales of the Tempest, betters Phantasia and even gives Symphonia a run for its money. It is clear that Bandai Namco and Alfa System have strived to make sure this next main entry into the series is up to the standards fans expect and they have definitely succeeded. This is one of the best RPG experiences on the DS and deserves worldwide success. Let us hope Bandai Namco does the right thing and gets this translated as soon as possible!

Developer

Alfa System

Publisher

Namco Bandai

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (3 Votes)

European release date TBA   North America release date TBA   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   

Comments

Good preview there. Now lets hope this makes it over here.

Thanks, PhoenixuS :Smilie This is definitely a fantastic DS RPG and deserves to be translated. It's passed 200,000 units in Japan now, which is more than Tempest sold, so Bandai Namco should have more reason to release it in the US at least.

Out of the Nintendo editions of the Tales series, I'd have to say:

Innocence >> Symphonia >>>>> Phantasia >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Tempest

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Sakuraba did not compose the music for this game.

I'm pretty sure Innocence never passed 200K either... it did fairly poorly, last I remember it sold around 130K. I still really hope Namco considers more Tales for the DS, it's basically my favorite RPG series. I wouldn't mind a new ToW game with the DS-LMBS. :Smilie Maybe they could even include some Tales of Vesperia characters...

You're right about the composer, I'd made a mistake there, but the game's been doing far better than Tempest recently. It's continuing to linger around the No.25 mark in Japan right now during the strongest selling period of the year. Famitsu's previous total had it at something like 178,000 unit and that was two weeks ago. So it's safe to say it is indeed over 200,000 now.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

The game looks simply fantastic, and I pray to god that it gets to Europe, or at least America so I can import it. Seeing as Tempest was a "side-entry" or something to the series, this should be localised in at least US... in which case I'll get it no problem Smilie (I luvs to import DS games)

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

That's what I'm hoping, SL. Tales games have been coming over more often lately in general, thanks to Ubisoft (Tales of the World and Tales of Eternia on PSP).

I wonder if Ubi could take this on for Europe, or whether Bandai Namco would prefer Nintendo to do the honours?

Anyway, everyone reading this, please let us know if you want this game to be translated as I'll be sending over the feedback to BanNam in Japan (they kindly sent this copy over for preview :Smilie And there'll be an interview coming later this week!)

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Want it translated? I need it!
So please forward that for me :P

Very nice review of a seemingly very nice game.

the game did sell over 200,000 copies, acording to vgchartz, it has sold 207,727.
And they better bring this over seas.

If this is indeed better than Symphonia I'm very interested! Translate translate translate, please!

The game's already gone on to prove it's stronger than the PSP Tales outings, both in terms of quality and sales longevity, so Bandai Namco has no excuse not to bring it over. Like I say, it's just a matter of who to team up with. Would Nintendo give the game as much support as one of its own titles, or should another publisher be used that would push it more...it's a tricky call.

Anyway, I'll be sure to pass all your positive comments over to BanNam soon - any others that want this translating, please let your voices be heard! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Our member of the week

Too many RPGs on the DS in Japan. They'd make more money out of it by translating it at least for the US. They should understand by now that the fact it did'nt sell that well in japan is not because it was bad, or because people did'nt care, it's basically because there are too much RPGs to choose from in Japan by now. On top ofthat it's release was fairly near to those of FF4 and Dragon Quest which where more anticipated in japan that ToI. I hope they announce it for a wetsern release before Final fantasy 4 and draque 4 do, otherwise it may well meet the same fate as it did in Japan.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

It hasn't sold bad in Japan at all, though, already beating the company's initial expectations. You have to remember that only 150,000 copies were shipped because of Tempest being a disaster, so clearly the thought was it would be a minor hit that should build bridges for the inevitable next DS entry.

It seems good word of mouth has helped it considerably in Japan so far, which is why it has now passed 200,000 units with ease and has become the third biggest selling portable Tales so far, with only a short way to go until it reaches the No.1 position (it has to beat roughly 250,000 to top Tales of Eternia on PSP). If it scrapes to 300,000 eventually it will be a big success given the bad taste left in people's mouths.

I know what you mean about timing, though. There's a chance it could have made an even bigger splash had it not gone basically head-to-head with FFIV and DQIV!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Our member of the week

Especially when you notice how well both draque IV and FFIV have sold so far.

yeah i see what you mean. It surpassed Tempest sales and Namco's expectations, but 200.000 isn't yet that much compared to the other two cited above. Which is a shame since this new tales is a completely new and exclusive title and, in my opinion at least, far better than FF4 and DQ4. Deeper storyline, and even better graphics than FF4. I've been playing FF4 for about 10 hours and ToI for about 5, and overall, i find ToI more beautiful than FF4, except maybe as far as the cut scenes go.

But maybe you're right. Maybe 200.000 is enough to please Bandai Namco and persuade them to bring it to western audience. I'm just wondering.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I will say that from what I recall, none of the games in the Tales series have ever broken the million mark. The biggest games have only done around 800,000 or something like that (I'd need to double-check).

As for FFIV vs. ToI, I agree that ToI is the better game overall, mainly because I've never been the biggest fan of FFIV in general. However, DQIV beats both, I reckon - fantastic game! :-D

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

As you said, Adam, I hope Namco speeds the localization process to beat FFIV release outside of Japan. That'd give them an edge in sales.

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I wonder if the delay is coming from them banging out a deal with Nintendo. You have to remember that the only two versions on Nintendo systems in the West have been published by Nintendo itself...so it would seem logical for it to happen again. That means, sadly, that we have to wait for N's busy schedule to clear somewhat Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I'm definatly looking forward to this! Smilie Thanx for le great preview... However, I'll have to do a check on who's the composer on the game since u guys say Sakuraba isn't.

I WANT THIS TO BE RELEASED IN THE UK OR I WILL DIE AHHHH.
etc. yknow.
i just got told that i'm sad for playing videogames.
wow.

This game should come out here and America because not one of the Tales games should not be left out of any country. They are just simply amazing.Smilie



SuperYoshi6 PSN name
3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999

What would people think about the idea of someone like Square Enix bringing this over to Europe, similar to how the company released Odin Sphere for Atlus here recently?

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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