Author’s Note: This review was originally published on September 25th, 2004. I had just gotten back to college and finished my second run through of Symphonia. I couldn’t wait to churn out a review. Today, I’m wholly aware that this isn’t a perfect game. However, at the time, I felt it was. I decided to keep my original 10/10 score at the bottom.
The hardest question I’m asked is what my favorite game is, of all time. Being the huge dork that I am, I find that a hard question to answer because I have played many a game. So to those of you who asked me this question, I’ll get back to you on that. However, I do know my favorite series: Tales. Some people call the Tales of Destiny series, some call it the Tales of series, but I’ll just call it the Tales series. But whatever you call it, I will always call it super awesome! The main reasons I love this series are the…well…I love everything about them. I have yet to play one that has let me down. Granted, only three are here in the states and one is only playable through emulation, they still deliver solid role playing experiences. The latest installment of the Tales series is called Tales of Symphonia. While I was surprised to see that this game was to be released for the GC, it didn’t stop me from getting it despite the quirky feeling GC controller. Besides, it’s about time the GC got a great hit.
The world of Sylvarrant is slowly dying. Due to the heavy the destruction of The Great Tree in an ancient war, mana energy is drained day by day. In order to save this world, a Chosen One must voyage to unseal the goddess Martel, thereby regenerating the world. Many Chosen’s have tried to do awake the sleeping diety, but all have failed. In the small village of Iselia, the young girl Collette Brunel has been called upon to be the next Chosen One. She must voyage with her friends to unlock the seals and eventually regenerate the world. However, terrible dangers are about in Sylvarrant. The Desians (half-elves) are taking over humans and putting them to work in concentration camps, monsters are lurking about, and there are people out to stop Collette. Fortunately, Lloyd Irving will do all he can to protect Collette, his best friend. While Lloyd may not be the brightest crayon in the box, he still stand for what’s right and will not give up on anything. There adventure will take them across the sky and beyond!
Anime fans will feel as though this story belongs in an anime, and it does. To me, that’s a plus because I love fantasy/adventure type of stories. There are tons of twists and turns along the way that will surprise you. Also, the story is long. On two discs, it spans over 80 hours of gameplay, but that includes side-quests (which are quite abundant). The greatest thing about the story, however are the characters. I love each and every one of them, even the enemies (at least I loved them after I killed them). They all get developed so well througout the course of the game. No questions you may have will go unanswered, this I promise you. My problem with the story was that it became a little too drawn-out at times. At some points I was about ready to just hit the A button to skip over the conversations in order to just fight something. Regardless, the story was awesome as was expected from a Tales game.
Game Play: 10/10
Good lord is there tons of stuff to do! Where to begin…well, I guess I’ll start with the basic RPG stuff. In town, you run around, talk to NPC’s, shop, and rest at inns. Sometimes when you rest in an inn, you’ll see little skits (more on those later) between certain characters. One of the most fun things to do in towns is to look for the Wonder Chef. If you played Tales of Eternia, you’ll have some idea of what to expect. He’s back and better than ever, as is the Cooking system. When you examine a certain object, he’ll appear and teach you a new dish. Unlike the system in ToE, you can use certain types of a food. So, instead of making Fruit Salad with strawberries, apples, and whatever else was required for the ToE one, you just need any type of fruit. What’s more is that each character can cook a dish! However, not everyone is a great chef so it’s best to pick the character who is a better cook in order to get the best results from cooking. You can tell which character is best by the number of stars above their head. Another thing you can do in town, as well as in battles, is obtain Titles for the characters. Some are obtained easily, while others you’ll need to play through the entire game to get. Titles didn’t do much in Tales of Eternia, but in ToS they increase your stats at a level up. There are tons of titles to find so that will keep you occupied for the whole game. Another thing you can do in towns is go to the Customization shops. Basically, you can get better equipment by combining old weapons and armor and what not with raw materials such as fangs, cloth, and metals. This comes at no charge either, so you don’t have to worry about money for getting better than usual equipment. Finally, there are skits to see in towns and in the world map. You’ll know when one occurs because a message will tell you to hit the Z button. While they aren’t in any way pertinent to the story, they are still interesting to watch. If you don’t like them, you can turn them off in the menu screen. Towns and things of the sort are a lot of fun, but the battles are where the real fun begins.
The battles are much like the previous Tales games because they are in real time. Also, you actually see the enemies in the field as opposed to a more random type of encounter. You don’t have a little command menu that says who has the next turn; you are moving back and forth hacking and slashing the monsters and racking up your combos. While the field of battle may look 3D, you still can only move in the left or right direction. You’ll move front and back only when you switch the targetted monster. So anyway, the battles are a total blast. You can have four people in a party at a time, but you only control one and it’s usually Lloyd. Lloyd is the main character, therefore he’s the default character. Fortunately he is very easy to use and has some of the coolest moves in the game, much like Reid Herschell did back in Tales of Eternia. If you want to switch characters, you can do so in the menu screen. Anyway, the remaining three characters do what they’re told based on the setting they have in the menu screen. Genis will usually stay back and cast magic while Kratos will join Lloyd and slash enemies with his sword. It all depends on the character if they’re a fighter or a mage type of character. The key to getting the most out of battles is to perform large combos. This not only gives you more experience at the end of the battle, but you also can earn new titles this way. Also, each character has their own specific set of skills which are learned IN battle. This adds a very anime feel to the fighting. Raine mainly learns support and healing magic while Sheena learns skills that mostly cause a lowering in stats. Regardless, they are all super cool to watch and chain together against the monsters. I should mention that each character is either S type or T type. Depending on which type the character is, they’ll learn different moves so there is plenty of experimenting to be had with that. The monsters are just as formidable as ever. Beginners to this type of battle system are better off playing in semi-auto mode to have the computer guard and evade for you. I played in manual, however, to have the absolute freedom to run, jump, and do whatever else. A new feature to the battles are Unison Attacks. After a certain point in the game, you’ll be able to fill up a meter with each attack you land. When the meter is full, you’ll be able to unleash an attack in which each one of your characters does a skill previously assigned. So, you hit the Z button and then press a button corresponding to each of your characters. If you manage to put the right two moves together, you’ll perform a super move that does even more damage! For instance, by using Lloyd’s Tempest attack with Raine’s Photon, you will do Photon Tempest. There are other cool attacks to do, so experimentation is the key. Also, you can equip Ex Gems to your characters. These give you a boost in stats or do other nifty things like make you run faster or find random food. If you put the right Ex Gem skills together, you’ll unlock a new skill! After the battles you’ll get a grade showing how well you performed. You can use these valuable grade points for buying items and they’re used at the end of the game for a special surprise. This means it’s important to do well in battles. If you haven’t figured it out by now, there is a plethora of things to do in this game whether you’re battling or not. I won’t even get into the side dungeons, the optional bosses, and the mini-games. I think that I raved enough about the greatness of the game play.
This is graphical heaven for me. Seriously! Anime gone 3D style?! No way…way! Everything about the character models screams anime from the outifts to the hair styles, and I love it all to pieces. The characters have facial expressions and express themselves vividly with motion and those fun little anime bubbles (the sweat drop, question mark…you know the drill by now). There are tons of NPC models too and they all have a wonderful anime feel to them. I actually recall my friend marveling at the graphics for like 10 minutes. She just stood and moved Lloyd around and loved it. Yeah, they’re that good. The background designs are equally awesome. The colorful environments never get old. There’s usually a lot of stuff to interact with as well. Each dungeon is full of a unique puzzle for you to solve, so you’ll be seeing a lot of rather bizarre objects. Like all of the other Tales games, there are anime and FMV cut scenes for your viewing pleasure. The graphics are without a doubt in my mind, perfection.
Music and Sound: 8/10
The Tales series always had some great music, but the overall OST was nothing out of the ordinary. Tales of Symphonia is no different. While there are some amazing tracks, the rest of them are just good. My favorite tunes are the over world theme in Sylvarrant, the boss music, and the town of Flanoir’s music. The last one mentioned is all tranquil and stuff ^_^ So like the rest of the Tales games, the music is good. The sound is the same way. The voice actors are definitely a step above the last installment. There’s no doubt you’ll recognize some of the voice actors from other games, cartoons, and even movies! These guys have experience, but they still can get really annoying when they banter on about things. The rest of the sounds, like the slashes and punches are all fine.
Replay Value: 6/10
While you won’t go back for more after run game immediately, there are still plenty things to look forward to during the next file. As I said, the grade points will reveal a special surprise. Furthermore, there may be some titles, items, or mini-games you may have missed that you can go back to. Or perhaps you’d like to try to use different characters in the battles, or make Collette your default character. Try haviong Lloyd be a T-type instead of S-type. There is definitely something to look forward to during the next time you play.
Buy or Rent: Buy
This is an awesome RPG to have and to hold. While it may seem pricey now, you’ll be glad you bought it later when you see a lack of them on the shelves. Hell, it’s a miracle if I see a Tales of Eternia or Tales of Destiny game in stock anywhere nowadays. The Tales series is rare, so snatch your copy of Tales of Symphonia when you get the chance. One rental isn’t enough to comlete a two disc long GC game.
Buy this game. Buy this game, now! Well, you get the drift. This is an awesome game. You’ll be so glad that you found it and you’ll really enjoy playing it. The Game Cube, as I’ve mentioned before, seriously lacks RPGs. What better way to remedy this problem than to buy the greatest one it has to offer? So make that purchase and go save the world!