Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World isn’t a sequel. It’s not a side-story like Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology, either. But what it really is, that’s hard to say, because there wasn’t much to see at last night’s Bandai Namco press event. We weren’t given a hands-on opportunity with Dawn of the New World - but we did get to see the new monster-catching gameplay feature and we've got some juicy details. We also found out that the control scheme is for the Wii Remote only and we can expect to see the Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World around September 2008.
The demo build was an early Japanese preview, lacking the obvious polish of a finished product - but the town, dungeon and world map we were shown definitely look like the Symphonia settings of old and the dungeon could be straight out of Tales of the Abyss. The party set-up and combat systems were also comfortingly familiar from both the Abyss and Symphonia - but we were sad to see that the world map is a straight forward click-here-go-here affair instead of a explorable field of adventure.
We quickly forgot about that, however, when we saw the new monster system. During combat, a gauge on the bottom right hand side of the screen indicates what elements your party is using in battle as well as the dominant element of the battlefield you’re in. If you match at least three of your party’s elements to the dominant element, you get a combat bonus and - if any monsters in the battle correspond to the element - you get the chance to capture the monster after defeating it. We watched the lady demoing the build match three water elements to the water battlefield and take down a serpent-type monster. The serpent then asked to join the party and she agreed, now allowing the serpent to be selected as a playable character in the party menu.
Having monsters in your party is entirely new for the Tales series, but it might feel like old hat to Pokemon fans and Final Fantasy X devotees. You have to feed the monsters in your party (which levels them up), harmonize them with the elemental creatures in the rest of your party, and you can evolve them into new monsters when they’ve reached a certain amount of XP.