This installment in the aclaimed "Tales of Symphonia" introduces a surprisingly dark and brooding plot that begin a few years after the often "too" charming events of the prequel. Dawn of the New World is surpringly mature, too mature for its own good.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of a New World is a direct sequel to the original "Tales of Symphonia (GameCube)" and is the first Tales title to be released on the Nintendo Wii. With that said, Dawn of a New World is tasked with the job of explaining some of the back story neglected in the original, as well as picking the story up where it left off.
The game begins by showing the hero of the last title, Loyd, murdering the parents of our new hero "Emil". This of course drives the small, unusually quiet boy, to what could only be described as a mental breakdown. This is very important to the plot, as he will later suffer from an almost YuGiOh! split-personality syndrome. We later find him a stuttering mess, but as the game progresses he becomes possessed by a "Power" which momentarily turns him in a "Dirty Harry-ish", violent, unstable, and overtly confident super-soldier. It is this Bruce Banner/Hulk relationship that makes Emil Castagnier more edgy than past "Tales" Heroes.
Though Emil isn't the only thing edgy about Dawn of a New World. In fact, the entire game is geared toward a violent underflow of Mystery, Murder, Genocide, Betrayal & Vengeance. It is set in a future where both the worlds of the original Symphonia have converged into one planet (World Regeneration), prompting the inhabitants to incite civil war against each other. This is defiantly a darker game. Strangely, you wouldn't think it by the art-style. Though the Character Designs in this game are more proportioned (similar to those in Vesperia), which is an improvement on the originals, It still doesn't quiet feel right considering the theme. The same goes for the Soundtrack, which is a pleasant remix of most the originals tunes. I found many a time that I was watching a rather depressing moment as a very upbeat melody began to inappropriately play.
This games version of Symphonia's World is also a bit depressing as most of the locations in the original are decayed or abandoned now. You'll get used to this though, as most of the locations in Dawn of a New World are just retreads of places you visited in the last game. The World Map is also converged into a strange Growlanser-ish Globe that you can rotate using you're Wii-mote. This is novel at first, but the fact that you cant openly explore the map is a major downgrade from the original and is what sets it apart from the other tales games.
The Battle System here is mostly Copy and Paste from Tales of Vesperia, which of course is a good thing. While the character controls seemed a bit to stiff in combat, even restrictive at times, I did find that the enemies themselves where much easier to handle than in the other games. I attribute this to a low learning curve which is intended to make the game easier for pick up and play. Sadly, I found that this low learning curve made the game a bit too easy once you're character reached his or her upper levels.
As I've said the game's plot is dark, but surprisingly the dialogue is very well written and the voice acting is top-notch. The writing is so good that you'll often feel that it possesses an almost bi-polar flow, making you laugh one moment and quietly contemplate the next. On the downside, there is WAY TOO MUCH dialogue in the game, even the game itself plods along at snail speed. The fact is, that every character in this game has to speak about every little thing they are thinking or feeling which may turn off some players who don't want to spend 50+ hours of game reading skits, listening to long winded cutscenes and glancing through dialogue. For others though (like myself), this may in fact be a very good thing as it extends what might have otherwise been an uncharacteristically short tales game.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of A New World is a highly enjoyable game, bringing back nearly every major character and location from the original and adding what might possibly be a better story than is prequel. It is definitely one of the best RPGs out there and deserves the attention of fans and newcomers alike. It also features the a nice combat system and a very unique take on the Symphony universe which not only works, but changes the entire relationship of the universe in which it all takes place. Is it better than the original -- well that is up to personal opinion. But though it is a by all means a can't miss for Wii owners and RPG lover alike, it sadly isn't quiet the definably superior Tales game I know it could have been.
Bottom line; In a world of cliché story-lines and copy & paste characters this is a cant miss. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of a New World is one of the most unique JRPG experiences you can find out there, offering a highly satisfyingly adventure. And if you happen to be a fan of Xenosaga, Shin Magami games (Persona, Digital Devil Saga) or Final Fantasy, YOU particularly need to check this one out.