Review by xNxIxCxKx
"Tales of The First Great RPG for the GameCube"
I am reviewing Tales of Symphonia (rated T for language, violence, and suggestive themes) for the Nintendo GameCube. This review is broken down into sections, each one I rated differently. But before I begin, I must say that Tales of Symphonia is one of Namco's better games(especially for the 'Cube). The Tales series has had a long (and sometimes rough) history, but I think that this is best game in the series. The great story, solid gameplay, original music, and good graphics make an overall great RPG. It's true that RPG creating companies have seemed to ignore the GameCube over the years, but Namco just came out with the first (and hopefully not last) great RPG for the system.
This part of the game is solid. I like amine, so I loved the amazing amine-like cut scenes. Unfortunately, there are only about 5 in the game, and most of were short, or had no dialogue in them. The rest of the game is cell-shaded graphics. Which is fine with me. The characters were even designed by the famous artist Kosuke Fujishima. The only weak point in this part(and pretty much all) of the game was that all of the characters looked very young. But you won't notice it since everything else makes up for it.
All of the characters are detailed. Their facial expressions change with their attitudes. Their movement is smooth. For example, when angry or misunderstanding, characters shake their heads. Bodily expressions are great. Weapons look good, as do the environments and enemies. I really liked that a lot of backgrounds in houses and dungeons looked like a painting. I loved how in the menu, every item was shown by a little thumbnail picture next to the description of the item. Bosses look great. And so do their attacks. If you get beat by a boss in the game, you say to yourself, "Man, that last move was awesome." And when someone, friend or foe, casts a strong spell, time kind of slows down for half a second, and it shows a close-up of who cast the spell, and they say a little catchphrase (or holy prayer type thing if the spells are really strong) and then the spell is cast. Amazing. Battle skills, such as Beast or Judgment look great, too.
When you watch the intro cut scene of the game, you just think, "Wow". The beautiful orchestral music fits so perfectly with the entire game. And you remember the music, too. Youll be humming tunes from this game for years. All of the towns and cities fit with their music the same exact way. All the playable characters have a sort of theme song, too. For example, Raine, the cool and collected white mage of the game, gets sort of.... hectic.... at times. Her song starts slow, but speeds up sometimes and gets very, well, hectic. Music in this game is pretty perfect, except for the infrequently changing dungeon music. Battle music is great, too. When fighting "angels" in the games, the music is very holy and church-like, with pipe organs and such. For most of the other battles, though, the music is a mix between rock and orchestra. The music sets the mood of the battles. Voiceovers are great, too. Everyone has the kind of voice you'd expect. The voice-actors do a really good job expressing themselves, and they make their characters have personalities.
All of the areas' music can change due to current events. If a city is flourishing, it is happy and light. If it was partially destroyed, then the music is sad, or angry. The music has a rainbow of emotions in this game. Main characters' theme songs get faster or slower depending on the situation. If Raine(hectic woman mentioned above) is sad, then her hectic music becomes very soft and sober. The music, put simply, perfectly fits the personality of who or what it's representing.
The story is about a young girl named Colette Brunell who is the Chosen of Mana, who's destiny is to save the world. She needs to travel to the massive Tower of Salvation to become an angel and save the world from dying out due to lack of mana, or life-force energy. The main character, though, is a scarf-wearing, twin sword wielding, spiky-haired kid named....Lloyd Irving. Lloyd needs to protect the Chosen so she can complete her mission to regenerate the world. That is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It's after that when the story gets interesting.
A lot of the characters are funny and interesting, such as Zelos, the flirtatious swordsman. The quiet, ruthless girl Presea has a sad and thought-provoking background. Every character plays a significant part in the story. You'll find yourself rushing to the next area to see the next part of the story. The cast of characters is huge(over 50), too, and the story never gets too confusing or boring. The beginning of the game is great and informative, so you're not just popped into the storyline. But the farther into the game you go, the better the story gets, and the ending is just great. There are so many plot twists in this storyline that if I say anything, then I would spoil at least a little bit of the story. Every character seems to have a dirty little secret. Little skits you can activate, where characters have conversations(and arguments) add to the fun. I have to admit, though, this game even has...*sigh*...morals. Bottom line: Tales of Symphonia has a perfect story. You'll hate it when this game ends.
In ToS, you can walk around the towns, interact with many people and objects, play a handful of minigames, buy, sell and craft items, and complete a lot of sidequests, and everything is easy do. Everything that you could do in any other RPG you can do here. Minigames aren't frequent, but there are classics like "Red Light, Green Light." Some minigames tie into the story, such as sliding across broken ice to retrieve an important item. Crafting items is basically when you take an old, obsolete weapon, combine it with a few crafting materials, and make it into a new weapon. This is usually only helpful if you're broke, because right next to the craftsman there is usually someone selling the same items. Sidequests are usually long and worth completing, such as when you search the world trying to find nine demonic items, or when you go to the Underworld. There are many Equipping Exspheres(small gems that are power-sources for fighters) to your party members gives them Ex Skills that help in battle, such as shortening spell-casting time. Combining certain skills on the same character leads to more powerful skills. Another additional task in this game is to collect Titles for each character. One of Lloyd's obtainable titles, for example is Drifting Swordsman, while one of Colette's is Klutz. Some titles even change the character's costume. Each title is obtained by performing a certain task or minigame, some of which take a long time to complete.
Although almost every aspect of the game is fun, where this game shines is the battle system. There can be up to eight characters in your traveling party at a time, and four characters at a time battle. On the world map, you touch a small shadow that looks like a tadpole, or a large one that's the same thing except with legs, and you get thrown into a battle. You could run away from the battle, but what fun is that? Battle is all real-time and it's high speed. Each fighter has two gauges: HP (health) and TP(tech points). If you run out of HP, you die. If you run out of TP, then you can't execute any spells or skills. You control one of the four chosen characters in battle. But you can tell the rest of the characters what to, basically. You can make them run, defend, attack enemies in the air, stay still, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. You can also tell them what skills they can and can't use, what they should use now, who they should use it on, ect. Item use is flawless, too. You pick an item from the menu, choose who you want to use it on, and that's it. But there's a catch. You can't use another item for about three seconds. And that's a lot of time when you're in a boss battle and you're losing. You can also try to string moves together to rack up huge combos.
But battles in this game aren't so cut and dry. Unison attacks add an interesting twist to the fights. When a gauge at the bottom of the screen becomes full, the entire party can use their strongest moves on the enemy at once. Sometimes, by adding certain moves together, special combination attacks (that usually deal a ton of damage) are executed. As a bonus to the exciting battles, this RPG has multiplayer options. And it's actually pretty solid. So, you and three friends play through the whole story together.
Not much to say here. Everything pretty much shows you how to do it. Battle controls are simple, too. When you first play this game, it'll feel like you've been playing it for years.
PLAY TIME-10/10 /REPLAYABILITY-8/10
At minimum, you will probably beat this game in about 50 hours, which is really long. So, that means this game will last you a while. But if you try to get everything, beat every mission, and see all there is to see, you will play past 80 hours, like it says on the back of the game case. Tales of Symphonia is an RPG where, you beat it once, and then you start a new file. Not so much to see the great, (but now unsurprising), story again, but to do everything that you didn't in the first file and to pick up everything that you missed. As if to encourage you to replay the game, you can trade in Grade (strange points that are earned and lost in various ways throughout the game) for bonuses in the new file that you are going to start. These bonuses vary, from earning more or less experience in battles, to carrying over all known skills and records. This adds to the fun in the next file you start.
OVERALL: 9/10 (not an average)
Buy or Rent: Definitely buy. For one thing, if you rent it, you won't get through the 2 discs of gameplay. And for another, you'll want to replay it again to get what you missed the first time. I bought this game when it was $50, but now it's a well-earned "Player's Choice" title for the GameCube, making it only $20, which is definitely worth it. If you even remotely like RPGs then you should buy this game.
This game was just awesome, and I loved it. Graphics are solid. Sound is great. The story was excellent. Gameplay was perfect. And this game could last a long time. Namco has made another great game. And with Tales of Legendia for the Playstation 2 out (which I haven't played yet) and Tales of Phantasia announced for the Game Boy Advance, I can only hope that both of those games are as good as this one. Tales of Symphonia is definitely in my Top 5 Games list. I highly recommend it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/07/06
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