Review by vector21
"Finally! A good RPG for the 'cube!"
The lack of a decent RPG for Gamecube has been completely depressing. Sure, we can play Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, but that is not a very good RPG. How about Evolution Worlds? Again, not the best RPG out there. And what about Skies of Arcadia: Legends? A good game, yes, but not 'Final Fantasy' good. Tales of Symphonia, on the other hand, could be considered one of the finest RPGs out there. It's not what I would consider perfection, but it is pretty close. Tales of Symphonia can hold its own against some of the best games of the RPG genre, including some of the Final Fantasy series games. I thoroughly enjoyed this game and hope that perhaps Namco comes out with another Tales game for Gamecube. Simply put, Tales of Symphonia is the best RPG out there for Nintendo Gamecube.
If I had to pick one word to describe the gameplay for Tales of Symphonia, I would go with 'near-perfection' (well, it's not one word, but at least it's hyphenated) . The game itself is actually quite fun, and can entertain you for hours on end. The controls work well, and are easily mastered, and although they look confusing and complex when you first start, you'll soo realize how easy it actually is to run around and swing your sword or blast stuff with magic. The battles are a bit different though. When you engage an enemy (that you can see on screen, no more of that random crap), your party is transported to a location similar to your surroundings. For example, if your in a forest on the map, your in a forest on the battle screen. The fight itself is in real time, so you don't have to wait around and input everyone's moves. You control one person in your party, while the computer controls the others. Also, multi-playing is an option now, since your friend(s) can control another character.Character development in Tales is pretty much the same system that we have all grown to love. You level-up your characters, and they learn their next moves. The moves that your characters learn though, depend on what type of 'Ex-Spheres' you equip on them. Each 'Ex-Sphere' can raise an attribute or give them an extra skill, and those attributes or skills determine whether a character is 'Techinical' type or 'Strong' type. The special moves, or Techs as they are called in the game, are very good and quite original. Each character's Techs are different (with some exceptions). Some are very imaginative, but you still have the basic RPG elements, such as fire and ice. Overall, I think the The single, only problem that I came across was that there weren't enough shortcuts with techs. If you want an ally to do a certain magic attack or heal, you'll often find yourself scrolling through menus looking for the tech. This won't happen very often actually, since the computer players don't require too much babysitting. Also, you can adjust what kind of strategy you want each of the computer players to work with. For example, if you want one to focus on healing, then you can simply adjust their certain strategy. It's actually quite easy. When it comes to difficulty, Tales of Symphonia varies. You can swith what sort of difficulty you want, either Normal or Hard (or Mania if you manage to beat the game once). Normal is pretty basic, but in Hard, and Mania, the battles become much more difficult. The enemies recieve a boost in stats, and a very large HP boost, which can drag the battles out. Overall, the gameplay is very good, or even excellent.
While the concept of the game is quite unoriginal, the story itself is very original. I don't want to fill this review up with spoilers, so I can't really go really far into this section, because otherwise I may give up a vital part of the story, and that would just suck. The concept itself, is quite unoriginal. I won't say anything about it, because a fairly smart person might be able to peice things together and figure some stuff out about the plot. I will say this though: the concept itself is used a boat-load of times in RPGs. The story, on the other hand, is actually quite good, mainly consisting of about 143 plot twists. Well, not that many, but pretty close! I really enjoyed the story, but the concept was pretty weak.
Ahh, eye candy? Who can do without it? Actually though, I don't care too much for graphics, so it really carries the least amount of weight in my reviews. I will say this though: Tales of Symphonia is a visual feast. I loved the graphics in this game, they were quite colorful and some of the stuff were quite imaginative. There is also a little bit of anime incorporated into this game, which I really liked. Unlike a lot of RPGs, this one only has a few pallette changes when it comes to the monsters. There's just too many games out there that change the colors up a bit, and make it a different enemy to give it 'variety'. The special moves are also well done. Overall, the graphics were very good.
Sounds are good. Well, for me anyways. This, like graphics, does not carry much weight in my reviews, although good sound is nice to have. The sound though, is very good. First of all, I was happy with the songs they had. They didn't get too annoying after awhile, and in fact, they change up the songs, such as the battle themes and world map music, part way through the game. The only thing I have to say about that is superb. Also, I was happy that they used a lot of voice acting throughout the game, mainly at important parts in the plot. And although they didn't use voice acting at a lot of points in the game, they still had many other parts where they did, and that raised the sound score.
Play Time/Replayability 10/10
The game's life span. The longer the better. Right? Of course, and this game has a pretty long life span. The game itself is two disks, and there is a lot of stuff to do. That includes many sidequests you do (there are a LOT of them), or monster you might want to look for (to fill up your 'Monster Book'), or collecting all the figurines for your 'Figurine Book'. There is simply a TON of stuff to do. Depending on how much stuff you do, the game itself actually takes about 30 hours (if you just run through it with the lowest levels you can get) to about 60 hours (if you take your time and do most of the sidequests, which I recommend). That doesn't even include the extra stuff you can get after you beat the game once. That includes an extra difficulty setting, and you can buy stuff (such as keeping all of your moves) with the grade that you collect throughout the game. This all significantly raises the game's life span.
The only thing that really hurt the score and brought it down to nine, was the concept of the game, nothing more. The gameplay was excellent, the story was imaginative, the graphics were great, the sound was superb, the life span is long, but the concept is crap. This is a great game though, and I simply loved it. This RPG is as close to perfection as you can get, except for actually being perfect of course. Buy, rent, borrow, or return it for money after you receive it as a gift? I would definitely buy this even if you have a simple liking for any RPG games and you own a Nintendo Gamecube. It's the best RPG for Gamecube for a long time, so I would snatch it up as soon as possible. It would be blasphemous to own a Gamecube and NOT buy it. Heck, I would even a buy a cheap used Gamecube so that I could play this game. Fans of anime and RPGs shall rejoice with Tales of Symphonia!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/05/04
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