Tales of Eternia – Staff Retroview

The Tales series has a long and venerable history of avoiding North America, much to the consternation of its fans. In fact, pretty much all of the regions outside of Japan tend to get left out of most things the series offers beyond the flagship titles. And so Tales of Eternia for the PSP is a bit of an odd bird. Despite the fact that we’ve seen the game on this side of the pond before on the PSOne, Namco saw fit to release this PSP port in Europe and Asia, but not North America. Thankfully, the PSP’s lack of regional lockouts means that denizens of the Western Hemisphere have access to the game as well. Overall, Tales of Eternia is a decent port and a solid game overall, although a lack of polish and original content prevent it from being a standout title.

Tales of Eternia‘s story is fairly predictable, and it will be familiar territory for anyone with experience in some of the later games in the series, particularly those which feature two opposing worlds. The story deals with the exploits of Reid, Farah, and Keele, three friends from the world of Inferia, and their travels with Meredy, a mysterious girl from Celestia. Meredy arrives unexpectedly, delivering a warning of an impending cataclysm called the Grand Fall. As it happens, Inferia and Celestia are connected to each other by way of the Seyfert Ring, an apparatus which keeps the world of Celestia hovering upside-down over Inferia, with the connected whole being known as Eternia. The way Eternia is set up is a fairly basic metaphor for light and darkness, which the game uses to play with perceptions of good and evil. For example, when Inferia, which is made out to be the “good” world, finds a way to Celestia, ostensibly the “evil” world, the Inferian government immediately declares war in an effort to deflect public attention away from the impending Grand Fall.


Overall, ToE is a little clumsy and ham-handed with its lessons, which reduces the overall impact of the story. The overarching ideas presented in the story are going to be very familiar to anyone with a fair amount of experience in RPGs, as the main themes of the game are very typical for the genre as a whole. Still, the cast of characters are well thought out and likeable, and all receive a fair amount of development. On the whole, the cast is one of the game’s strong points, as they provide a welcome point of reference and clarity to an otherwise somewhat muddled tale.

The combat system of Tales of Eternia has long been praised as one of the best 2D iterations of the Tales combat system to be found. On a basic level, the system works a lot like those of Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Destiny – characters are arranged laterally on a 2D playing field, and combat plays out like a fighting game. However, with tighter control and much smoother animation, Tales of Eternia plays a great deal more fluidly than either of its predecessors. With a variety of basic and special attacks that can be easily strung together, ToE focuses on constructing long, damaging combos, rewarding quick battles and long combos with bonus EXP and a higher score. Ally characters are controlled primarily through AI, which can be changed on the fly with general commands or specific directions in battle, but the system really works best when other teammates are controlled by actual people. This is actually a bit of a problem in this version of the game, since there is no multiplayer option. Still, combat is fast paced and exciting, with some high-tension gameplay accentuated by a high degree of customizeability in character AI and setup.

In terms of quality, Tales of Eternia‘s control is drastically split between combat and field control. Control in combat is smooth, tight, and responsive. On the field, however, characters have a nasty tendency to get hung up on sharp corners and jagged edges, which can cause serious problems when trying to maneuver an object precisely or solve a timed puzzle. There are a few technical issues to be seen, though, particularly with the dialogue boxes. Whether a result of over-hasty insertion of the game’s translation or through simple carelessness, there are a number of places in the game where text boxes show visible errors, such as cutting the text off with boxes that are too small, or by suddenly stretching the length of the screen. Thankfully, distorted text boxes are uncommon, and none of them cause fatal errors. The game’s menus are set up intuitively, giving players access to the wide assortment of goods they’ll be acquiring during their journey with a minimum of fuss. Overall, the interface is certainly workable despite the hiccups, and the lack of any real load times is certainly a mark in the game’s favor.

The music overall is of fairly high quality, but it lacks a strong unifying theme. As Eternia is a world with two distinct halves, the composer uses two fairly unique styles of music for Inferia and Celestia, with Inferia being more bold and orchestral, while Celestia is a bit more understated and reedy. The overall effect helps to emphasize the differences between the two worlds, but the music as a whole lacks much in the way of life, and comes off as fairly predictable. Sound effects suffer similarly, with some fairly rote and uninteresting effects for spells and attacks with far more interesting effects. For example, the spell Distortion, which rips a hole in space and time in order to trap a foe and rip them apart, is illustrated with a simple clock chime. The game’s voice acting is a bit worse than dull, with some overacting on just about everyone’s part, and some amateurish execution overall. On the whole, Tales of Eternia‘s sound is probably its weakest aspect.


Visually, Tales of Eternia suffers from some of the same lack of polish. The visual style is split between the bright primary colors of Inferia and the muted pastels of Celestia, a split which mirrors the stylistic differences in the music of the two worlds. Though the game does have some problems with consistency, what with the fully-polygonal overworld and CG movies mixing with two-dimensional sprites moving on hand-drawn backdrops, the overall look of the game is still fairly cohesive, with the mechanical and character design holding a great deal of it together. On a more technical note, the transition to the PSP was not terribly forgiving to Tales of Eternia‘s visuals. Although the overworld and CG cinema sequences are clean and move rather well, two-dimensional sections end up looking somewhat grainy, especially in close-up shots.

Tales of Eternia is of a fairly average length, eventually coming out at twenty five to thirty five hours. There are a fair number of sidequests and a lot of minigames available, some of which can get rather involved, so individual overall playtimes may turn out to be significantly greater than that. On the other hand, the game isn’t at all difficult, save for a slight spike close to the end of the game, so most people should be able to blow through the game without much trouble.

Although it would’ve been nice to see Tales of Eternia stateside, in all honesty, North America isn’t missing much. Though the game is undoubtedly one of the strongest iterations of the 2D Tales combat system, the combination of a lack of original content and the game’s problems on the technical side lend the game a slightly rushed, almost amateurish feel. Still, with a solid plot, interesting characters, and a very good combat system, Tales of Eternia is worth a look for those who missed it on the PSOne, and a solid choice for anyone looking for a place to get into the series.


  1. randar23rhenn:

    I really want this game :(.

    Too bad the PSP version is not in English, and the PSone version is like 60$ :(.

  2. Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett:

    Actually, the European PSP version is in English. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to play it, either. Curse you, Japanese!

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