PSP Game Projects Vol.09 : Tales of the Heroes Twin Brave II

Man, if only a sequel existed. Bet you aren’t tired of hearing that in your life. XD

Quick story : Twin Brave was going to be the final Tales game on the PSP and another one in the long list of sidegames, not made by Namco’s Tales Studio but rather by Alfa System, a company mainly known for their work on Phantasy Star games and the Radiant Mythology and Narikiri Dungeon games in the Tales series. They also made Tales of Innocence. Fortunately, instead of being that, the stars somehow aligned and both devs got to make the game, before it became standard practise to collaborate with other studio(particulary tri-Ace, as it was part of Wolf Team) to make the new Tales games.

It’s worth pointing out, as if it has become a law of the universe, any Action-RPG that is from Japan, will either sooner or later adapt to being an Ys 7 clone, or is an Ys 7 clone starting from 2010. That’s some next level laziness innovation there guys. XD To be completely fair though, that’s like cmplaining that everyone back in the day copied Doom and Wolfenstein for their FPS, which only brought out great games and certain innovations and adaptations that the original dev(Falcom) didn’t want to do. Twin Brave goes far enough to do that though.

And maybe it’s because of that that I came to like it this much. Because of its mechanics in place, it feels like a forgoten Sengoku BASARA side game we never got to have on the PSP. You hear that, Chronicle Heroes? But still, even with a somewhat solid base for a first game in a series, this was probably a one-off thing…probably. Being on the rocky transition of the studio merging and Bandai Namco being the usual cheapskates they are, offering only shoestring budget to their sideprojects…excuse me, I meant to say, offering only cheeseburgers to the developers of the games that aren’t of major importance to their “Money Printing” plan but that goes a bit further than what other devs give as a budget to side games…maybe it’s because they are the Disney of Japan they can afford to get away with it…nah, it’s because they’re Dumbco. XD

But enough of that, the basic gist of the game was a BASARA like structure, a linear level with relatively smart mooks that derived their hurt from aggressiveness rather than numbers and “sub commanders”, in the level you could find different types of enemies and enemy formations which would add to the fun, given most levels in the game are “daytime” coded. There’s always a boss or a pair of bosses based on the pairings in the game and at times, the level could have a mid boss fight. Very simple stuff. Levels weren’t anything to write home about, nor were the enemies specifically but they did their jobs well enough. The bosses are kind of great and a disappointment but you’ll see why further down the line. The good thing is, on Hard. bosses can dowright anihilate the player with some fairly decent combos and good aggressive strategy(either wail on of the players or attack both) and they can enter OverLimit mode as well. And that’s the end of their positives.

On the player’s side, since the game came out in 2012, we have every main character from the games up until Xilia and one of three choices : a.)the second main character, b.)the love interest or c.)someone extremely super popular to fill the void. At times, some of these categories may overlap with one more but it’s not as often as one thinks. Despite that, the roster is pretty ok, sizable and even when you have so many swordsmen, they can play diffferently enough to give an enjoyable experience. The artes help immensely in the differentiation. Every battle is fought in a pair(unless story reasons ensue) and that’s…a bit meh in the long run. I know the whole point of the game but offering the ability to solo Free and Tournament modes is very appealing at times. It’s not that hard to do actually. Now, most of the pairs unfortunately have a very set-in-stone set-up. Some characters are just meant to play second fiddle to others but not always. Pairs that come out of nowhere may force support characters who would other wise suck as a player controlled character, find themselves as excellent experiences exactly because of the non-convential support pairing. The ideal way would be to have the pairings from the same series work perfectly interchangeably but that can be fixed later. Finally, the players can use OverLimit(a staple in the Tales series) and instead of TP, they have the ACC, which act as more simple substitute to TP, going up only until 100 or 120 with an accessory and thus limit the usage of spamming broken artes outside of OverLimit. The player can have three ground artes at all time(interchangeable), one aerial arte and a Hi-Ougi(Mystic Arte).

And that’s the basics. Now comes the real work, how things would work in a sequel and what should added in. First, let’s examine the control set-up :

Direction key Item selection, camera operation
Analog pad Move, (+ □ button) Avoid step
○ button Decide, send message, normal attack
× button Cancel(menus), jump
△ button Partner attack, 【secret mystery】 cooperation secret mystery
□ button Guard, passive
L button (+ ○ / × / □) technique, (+ △) Twin Brave Mode, (+ R) Over Limit
R button Camera Reset
L button [(+ R) During Over Limit] Hi-Ougi
START button Pause screen display
SELECT button Toggle display of mini map

That’s the basic and unfortunately only se-tup of the controls, which is a staple in Alfa System games. Since this is an action game, the ideal would be to have a customizable control scheme to accomodate the player’s whims. The second thing, is the utterly useless R button. In the Tales games, the characters are often locked-on to an enemy and the player can change the target with the press or holding down a certain button. This should have been implemented in the game. By pressing and holding down the R button, the player should have been able to lock-on to bosses and perhaps sub-commanders(enemies with flags or locks above their heads) to offer a more complete experience. That way, they will never lose track of that one important enemy and have their attacks utterly focused.

The second thing that would change is the cancelling. Here’s the thing. Cancelling has…almost always been a part of Tales history. Some games have pulled it off successfully, other not(that’s before 2012, with Xilia 2 where cancelling became a mandatory reflex to play the games). In Twin Brave, the cancelling style is the same one as Tekken 6. Yeah. Super frame-specific button press to cancel the action. Hey, remember how strict the timing was in Tekken 6 compared to 5?

Yeah, except, instead of the buttery smooth 720p60FPS with the sweet animations found here are impossible, since this is the PSP…so we get this(I know the following video isn’t in 60 FPS but you get the idea) :

Yeah..good old 60FPS on 480ps and lower, like the good old days doesn’t exactly help on JUST Frames that much. It’s good for certain things but not for each and ever action in this damn game. It’s why compared to Tekken 5, Tekken 6 kinda got criticized in Japan. Of course, despite both games being made on a Criware engine, Twin Brave has scaled down the speed a bit and the graphics to accomodate with the large number of things going on the screen.

The good thing for Twin Brave would be this : have the basic actions like, jumping, dashing, guarding and basic attacks be nigh-cancellable with each other, upping the game’s tempo significantly, without the need to make look or have it run faster at this framerate. Also, like now, have the artes being able cancel all of these as they are of higher priority. The JUST frames cancelling comes in handy here though, to cancel certain “unfavourable frames” of these Artes so that one can chain up artes with little problem into any other possible action and completely turn the situation around in a much more meaningful way, contrast to the more frustrating and limiting way we have now.

The third thing to change would be the basic string of attacks and the Arte system. Right now, it operates in 6s. The string is six attacks in a row and six ground artes, three of which can be selected for the player to use. Now, the problem with attack string is its extreme blandness and it’s utter void of flair and stylishness.

To be fair to the devs, before Tales of Graces’ system was a thing, this was the norm for normal attacks. Yeah…even with the directional input at the start, the attacks were…pretty bland and recycled. It’s because a far greater emphasis was placed on artes in the games and they are clearly meant to be used most of the time. The way it could be used in Twin Brave is by having the moves taken directly from all the possible normal attacks from their games and create a much more refined string or, if he games were always 2D and the devs had to create a somewhat original moveset, do that. Heck, intersplice new original moves to fill the string. This ups the quality of normal attacks significantly. Then, use Tales of Graces’ “Around Step” mechanic and you are set. Now that these are in place, the next best thing that could be done is to incorporate dodge offset in the game , if it can be done without compromising framerate.

Another thing that would be cool to implement is a small addition to the already very good Tension Meter the game has : amplification of the normal attacks. While the Tension meter needs a lot to reach a 100 and maintain it(unless it’s the Tournament mode) its rewards, advantages and drawbacks make it appealing for some high level playing and helps a lot in general to have these buffs, especially furing Hard. The amplification should come in the form of having the attacks take on a certain effect the player has chosen in the pre-battle menus to help him, effects like combo+ 1 / 2(as in adding more attacks in the combo), more ACC regen, guard breaking, bigger area of effect or attach an element. Now that would motivate players even more to keep the Tension at 100 all the time.

A small thing to note would be that between characters, some kind of clashing system should exist at some capacity, ideally it should resemble DMC3’s perfect impact, where upon when two player characters clash basic attacks, the attacks are nulified but the frames of the next action get shorter and shorter with each clash, thus making the next attack come out faster, resulting in a flurry of flashes that the fastest player(and character in some cases) wins. Alternatively, the character and player can opt to perform a defensive action to get out faster due to the reduced frames. As for the Artes, if there is a clash of two physical artes, depending on the ACC cost, the result will either be a nulification that sends both characters away or the arte with greater ACC wins and overpowers the enemy.

Now for the artes. While their selection is ok, just 6 artes limit a character way too much considering how big the movepool is in the Tales games, even for magicians and archers. The way to solve this problems, is to incorporate more systems from the Tales games. One such system is the Tech and Strike system from Symphonia or the Style Shift mechanic from Tales of Graces, except in Twin Brave it should just work as an alternative arte selection. The gist is that each character should have 2 types of artes selection, each type having 6 ground artes, 1 aerial arte and Hi Ougi(Mystic Arte) and the way it works is depending on the weapons the player uses, so that no mix and matching happens. By that, I mean that instead of the 8 weapons the game has, it should have six “Strike” and six “Tech” weapons, with the weapons having the exact same stats and abilities shared between the six, differences being their names and apperances.

Let’s take Cless Alvein for example; on one hand he’s got the “Strike’s” best weapon, the Excalibur and his arte selection is 7 artes strictly from the Alvein Sword fighting style and his Hi Ougi is Meikuu Zanshouken and on the other hand, the “Tech’s” best weapon, the Eternal Sword with his selection of artes being 7 artes from his Time-space sword fighting techniques and his Hi Ougi is the Eternal Blade.

And speaking of two styles, Asbel Lhant, the main character of Graces, should be the only one in the whole game to have his basic string of normal attacks change when he switches between Tech and Strike, to reflect his Arte and Burst styles in Graces and Graces F. In Tech mode his artes and normal attacks should be like what he has now in Twin Brave, except replace some artes that are useless(like Beast) and give him more kicks and iai slashes. When he’s in Strike, he should use his sword with normal attacks and just use the Burst Artes.

The fourth thing that should change is the Twin Brave system. It is unfortunately, extremely lackluster in its execution despite being one of the key features of the game. While it’s pretty neat to be able to call your partner to do an attack on the opponent to continue a combo or defend yourself from an inescapable combo or even control two people at the same time via the Twin Brave…it doesn’t go much further than that. Even when you are able to choose between four different AI behaviour in the pause menu, it feels like something’s missing. And that’s where systems from previous Tales games come in handy again! In Tales of Symphonia, there was a Unison Gauge that when activated, it allowed players to wail on the enemy with all four party characters by using an arte. If two artes could mix, then that would result in a Fukugou Tokugi(Compound Special Attack) :

The way this could work in Twin Brave would be to set-up your partner’s artes in such a way that when you both activate the corresponding combination(example, Lloyd activates Tiger Blade and Zelos activates Lightning) it automatically results in the compound attack(Lightning Tiger Blade). Like in Symphonia, different people can activate the same compound attack, given that their artes are the correct for the mix but I’d impose another limitation to make the gameplay be more akin to the Tales games : have the game implement a “Mastery System” for the artes; by using an arte a certain number of times(I’d say a 100) that arte gains a golden star that notes its mastery from the player. In older games that kind of “mastery” was necessary to unlock new skills or secret artes but in Twin Brave’s case, I’d put that as one of three the requirements to perform compound attacks. The third should be a maximum level bond between the two characters. The game should feature a list of the Compound Special Attacks and all their possible combinations, when each one is unlocked for the first time, so that the players know how to properly set-up in any situation.

But that’s not all. In addition to that, the game should implement the height of partnership : the Twin Hi Ougi, just like Tales of Rebirth’s [Fusionic Force Finality – Hi Ougi] or Tales of Xilia Kyoumei Hi Ougi(Link Mystic Artes), as seen below :

This is really easy to implement, without the over-the-top cinematics really. It requires two things though : 1.)Maximum level bonds and 2.)the correct pair of characters. Not every pair should have a Twin Hi Ougi, this is important to note. Every pair from the same series should have one for example but pairs from different series should at least have some connections(possibly from previous games or previous crossover games) with them and at least a story reason in the game that allows them to do it. An example of inter-series Twin Hi Ougi would be Cless and Stan’s! It would be executed by activating Twin Brave while in OverLimit(by pressing L+Triangle during OverLimit).

Before moving on to the next point, I’d take a second an address the way some characters are toned down from their games, like Veigue. The man screams like a madman when he fights, that’s one of his character’s traits, same with other people, they get very screamy in battle.

The fifth thing to change would be the way the bosses interact with the players. Don’t get me wrong, the enemies can kick one’s ass in the Hard difficulty and with an accessory that ups their aggressiveness I can imagine the heights they’d soar, especially the bosses, working together pretty well.They have the fatal weakness of not exploiting the tools at their disposal though. While I understand if they don’t use Twin Brave out of the blue, due to the weaknesses of the system(since the two characters act as one, they tend to get damaged at the same time if a big or wide attack hits them) but they could initiate it at the same time as the player to counter their Twin Brave. That would be smart, both sides taking a serious gamble when exchanging hits. Another thing is that they never use the Over Limit mechanism correctly, instead just activating it for Super Armour frames and just reduced damage. Not once do they attempt to go completely crazy with their artes and just start spamming combinations that they couldn’t do before due to the ACC depleting rapidly before or at least using their Hi Ougi. Yeah, just that would be menacing enough, having the enemy be ready to unleash such fury on the player. It might be my copy…but I’ve never seen an enemy use that on me, even on the hardest difficulty.

EDIT : Apparently in Hard Difficult with the +4 hits accessory that ups the aggressiveness of enemies, the solo bosses(Duke, Elrane and Schwartz) will perform their Hi-Ougis.

As for NPC-only bosses, that’s something that should have been implemented in the game and made it even better. At least two NPC only bosses will not only make the story but the overall modes more awesome, especially if they are a very hard enemy of the franchise, like the Sword Dancer, Abyssion, Pluto, Sekundes, Gelda Nebilim, would be very welcome as a test for players. Especially the more inhuman and otherwise impractical their attacks are. But what about a final boss that unites the entire story? Not even Elrane and the Eternal Sword combined couldn’t achieve it in the game. It has to be an original boss(bad idea) or a boss(preferably a final one) from another Namco franchise. You know what? I think Dragon Valor / Dragon Buster series have been sleeping for quite a while now. Azi Dahaka and his Cult of Dahaka? Yeah, now that’s a final boss worthy of recognition.

Yeah, yeah, I’m pulling a total Ys vs Sora no Kiseki here but what can I say? It works! XD

The sixth and final thing would be just new content and additions. Up until now, I’ve assumed that if a sequel would exist, it would be made on the same cheeseburger foundation as this one, thus the budget would be tight. Thus the new content and additions should come in two flavours : in game additions and DLC. On the free side we should have six new characters; Kratos Aurion, probably Asch or someone from Vesperia(?), the pair of Ludger Will Kresnik and…I dunno…Gaius or Alvin(since Tales of Xilia would have been the latest addition back then), Dhaos and Barbatos Goetia and costume recolours for the characters to go with their “SD” “”costumes””…because Red Haired Cless Alvein needs to happen dammit, he’s that close to being the perfect fusion of Trunks and Adol. XD And stop using the colouring from the anime, there is official art and in game model with the correct colours.

Cless Alvein

Before you just try and destroy me about the DLC, hear me out. Normally, I wouldn’t exactly condone it either but sometimes, just sometimes, this needed to be done for the greater good, so that it can pay out in the future. Also, cosmetics and music remixes aren’t exactly something you need to spend the entire budget on. Dissidia proved it to be true. I’d rather just have the option to spend extra money on DLC that is entirely cosmetic than have that budget spent in game and ommit fixes and cool additions that bring something new to the table. That doesn’t mean the developers should go overboard like how Team Ninja is milking Dead or Alive 5 with costumes and such but some nice additions would be very welcome.

On the costumes side, I’d go with offering actual costumes firsts, that exist in their respective games(including some characters costumes from sequels), then I’d get a second pack out of costume swaps between the characters and finally I’d say the finisher would be interesting new costumes, like the new Luke fon Fabre and constant wolf form Caius, along with villain costumes for some characters, like Luke wearing Asch’s clothes and Ludger essentially becoming Victor(with a different voice as well). On the music side of things, I’d go with the most popular and famous battle themes from their original games(ripped straight out preferably), a second package with their remixes from their OSTs or remakes they had over the years and finally, a pack that has all these songs featuring new remixes for this game. Because we need Fury Sparks and Song 4 U in Tales of Twin Brave dammit. XD

And that’s about it. Have a good guys. 😀

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