Namco’s Tales series is probably one of the better-known RPG series that isn’t Final Fantasy. While I never played the PS2 version of Tales Of Symphonia, due to it being Japanese exclusive, this review is based on my opinions of the GameCube version. If there was anything extra added to the PS2 version, I’m sorry that it wasn’t mentioned in this review. Such as the PS2 only has two controller sockets as opposed to the GameCube’s 4.
|Title||Tales Of Symphonia|
|Platform(s)||GameCube, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PC|
|Publisher(s)||BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment|
|Developer(s)||Namco Tales Studio, Production I.G|
|Release||August 29, 2003|
|Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.|
First, let me get this out of the way: yes, the story is nothing special. You are a student at a public school named Lyod Irving whose best friends are a short albino baby-faced kid who is cheerful and loves to play games. He kind of reminds me of Yugi Moto and Syrus Truesdale from Yu-Gi-Oh and a girl named Collete who is the apparent “chosen one” from the village.
After an investigation of a foreign nation revealing that they are evil, you are chased out and run back to your village. Due to some treaty, your village signed, with a foreign nation, you find yourself banished from your village and armed with nothing more than your wit and best friend Genis Sage. You set off on a life-changing quest for redemption and freedom.
Now as interesting a premise this may be, Tales Of Symphonia stretches its subject matter to a point where it feels like the crew over at Namco wanted to rush you into the game’s world. All without even giving you much of a reason beyond the common narrow-minded black and white good guy bad guy routine. Most of the game’s cutscenes are played out from the perspective of your protagonist. We never truly manage to indulge ourselves in an engrossing story that puts us in the shoes of both hero and villain.
The game’s story never felt to me like it was anywhere near bad the in-game cutscenes can feel trivial and meaningless.
Though in-game events never drag, I felt as though the skits that occur on a whims notice were completely unnecessary. There are a few full-motion video segments that add color and diversity to the motionless figures. The number of full motion video scenes is fewer than 10 and none of them are more than two minutes, save for the ending. Tales Of Symphonia maintains a consistent pace and does not waste time in moving to the next event. This should not suggest that the game is short, as it is average in length (~60 hours, not including side-quests).
The gameplay is incredibly diverse yet easy enough to master after a few short minutes. The battles are fought in real time which may come as a breath of fresh air when compared to all the turn-based garbage that has been released lately. Fights start off with you and your teammates on one side of a 2-dimensional plain where you control Loyd. Your attacks are conducting precise button controls depending on what direction you tilt the analog stick in as well as the face buttons that you press you can perform multiple techniques.
As you level up you will be given more techniques which are added to your skill list. At any point in the game, you can swap out one attack for another that uses the same button presses. Say, for example, one of your attacks requires you to press up on the right analog stick while holding down a particular face button then you are given the choice between which attack suits your preference. Some attacks also drain energy from your stamina bar. This can be replenished by selecting the right equipment in your inventory. Each time an item is used, there is a bar over the characters head that uses it that takes time to go away.
Until the bar vanishes completely that character cannot use an item. Thankfully you can command up to three people in your party to use items on either themselves. Or, you allowing up to four items to be used at once. Each character has their own specific attack pattern. One may be quick and nimble while the others are stronger and more durable. The best thing this game has to offer is four player co-op. During a battle, you and three of your friends can take on the roles of any one of the four characters you choose to partake in a battle with.
Though as good an idea as this is, it feels like they didn’t put as much effort as they could into this concept. You can only play with up to four people when you’re in a battle. Outside there’s nothing to do. Your friends are just supposed to wait and do nothing while player 1 has control over everything and dominates the game. A prime example of good potential gone to waste.
The graphics are gorgeously detailed and easy on the eyes. The only time when the graphics ever feel like they interfere with the gameplay is when I couldn’t identify a hill that I could walk on, from something that I couldn’t. This happens rarely but when it does it can really be annoying.
Other than that the cell shaded visuals are nice and colorful. While stiff they have a unique charm to them that will immediately tell you whether or not this style of characters design is for you.
Tales Of Symphonia is one of the few RPGs to provide actual replay value. Aside from different difficulty settings (which you can change at any time), you get a really cool feature that allows you to change how you play the game when you start a new one. Think of it as a customizable new game.
The Tales Of Symphonia is an RPG worth your while that stands side by side with the latest popular RPG stories and gameplays like Secret Of Mana, Monster Hunter: World and Kingdom Come: Deliverance has.
Combat goes by quickly like a typical melee in an action game, and the pacing is generally fast and consistent. Although, there will be few slow moments. But looking at it as a whole the game is a roller coaster ride where every new encounter is a potential curve, and even after you’ve finished the game you may still be yearning for more.