Review by Supera45
"I have never played a game this good since Super Mario World or Metroid Prime"
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, I am Supera45, your average gamefaqs user here. It's been a long time since I have a written a review, because I seldomly write them. I'd have to say this game really captured my heart even though I am really new to the Tales rpg series. Well I brought this game w/Sonic Gems Collection about 2 years after its release when I was selling all my crappy movie-based games at Gamespot. When I first acknowledged the release of this game, I had no idea what type of rpg it was, nor did I even knew about the "Tales" series. I am sure I have heard lots of famous rpgs, but this is truly the only one I loved and owned. Let's skip ahead to the point of this review, shall we?
Tales of Symphonia has a very interesting story for an rpg, although it's a little typical and original at the same time. The story is mainly about a teenage boy (exactly the same height as me) named Lloyd Irving who is a brave yet kind of troublesome swordsman who lives in the world Sylvarant. Lloyd Irving also has a friend known as Colette Brunel who is also a teenage girl in a white outfit w/a pair of chackrams who eventually becomes an angel. Genis Sage is a short boy who has a kendama for a melee weapon and can cast awesome spells for a great offense. Kratos Aurion is a mercenary and a "bodyguard" of Colette who also possesses a long sword. Did I forget Raine Sage, who is Genis's older taller sister who is also a professor and teacher at a school of some kind in Iselia Forest. The world is under siege and is slowly rotting away to gigantic proportions and all the mana is about to be lost. Raine Sage wanted Colette and the others to go on a journey to regenerate the world and awaken a goddess known as Martel. Also there is a diabolical organization called the Desians who wants to stop Lloyd and the others from succeeding on their pilgrimage. They all have to unlock the seals from Lord Remiel of Cruxis's orders so that Colette can become an angel and awaken Martel to regenerate the entire world. Lloyd proves himself as a true warrior along the way.
To tell you the truth, this is the first time I have ever reviewed a role-playing game and it's really difficult for me, so just bear with me, alright? You play as the main character Lloyd Irving who is a swordsman and you walk around areas either interacting and talking with non-playable characters, buying/selling/customizing stuff, solving block puzzles, cooking, and prominently encountering enemy avatars on fields/areas and battling them with your friends. You can save outside an area using the custom button on top of the menu and if you're in an area, you save by standing on a shiny blue seal and there are some seals you need to unlock by using a memory gem.
The battle system is linear and real-time, meaning you attack your enemies in a fast-paced way and you don't have to wait for turns to pass to get offensive. You attack your enemies using the A and B buttons. The A button is for a melee attack, for instance, if you press A, Lloyd Irving will slash his sword. You can also press A button with the control stick in any other directions to initialize your combo attack. You can use the L or R button to designate your target for attack. The battle system operates in a similar manner as the characters from Super Smash Bros. Melee. The B button is for activating or performing magic/special attacks designed for each respective character you control. Lloyd Irving has Demon Fang and Sword Rain for starters. Colette has Pow Hammer and Ray Whirlwind. Genis has Fireball, Lightning, and Stone Blast. Kratos has First Aid and Demon Fang (like Lloyd Irving). You'll meet five more other characters later in the game such as Raine Sage which you'll get at Triet. The maximum characters you can have in your party during battle is four. Did I forget to mention that there are voice overs in the battle.
You can also block by using the x button, but you'll only get damaged slightly or a lot less. Plus you can also set your main controlling character to manual, semi-auto, and auto. When you press the Y button the battle pauses for a menu which has an icon (in order): Tech, U Attack, Strat, Equip, Item, and Run. Tech is for customizing the special moves or spells your character currently possesses. U. Attack is for customizing how your characters will form a powerful united attack against one enemy. All you have to do is have your gauge filled up until it indicates "ready", then press the z button and fire away by pressing A, B, X, Y with or without the control stick in other directions in a desired order. When you customize it in a right and required order you can follow it up with a bonus compound attack from respective characters such as Mjollnir (Pow Hammer + Lightning) The Strat is for customizing and conducting how your characters should fight and what tactics you should use on an enemy or two. Equip is for equipping your character(s) with current weapons, armor, headgear, and other current accessories you have in possession. Items is for using items to aid you in battle such as Apple Gel (which restores health), Orange Gels (which restores magic or TP), and much much more. Run is self-explanatory (in case you're a bigger n00b than me to rpgs, it means to cease fighting and escape a current battle). The one good part is that this menu makes a pretty excellent alternative way to pause your game during battle.
Each characters have their strengths (Lloyd is strong and fast, Colette/Genis is good at spellcasting, and Kratos is strong) and weaknesses (Lloyd doesn't have magic attacks, Colette/Genis aren't too physically strong, and Kratos Aurion is a bit slow), so choose and organize your party wisely. I also strongly recommend you to buy better weapons along the way for your characters and that is nearly mandatory for beating bosses, otherwise you'd have a hard time sticking with the same weapon in the whole game. You can adjust the difficulty of the battles with normal to hard or hard to normal. In the Hard rank, the enemies (notably the bosses) will have more health and will have a more handicaps and an aggressive AI.
Occasionally you have to solve puzzles (e.g. moving blocks) in certain areas along the way and out of battle, when you press y, you can fire your ring to paralyze an enemy and in certain areas, the function of the ring changes to other powers.
You also have to fight boss battles which varies in difficulty and the higher your level is, the easier the boss fights will be. You can increase your level by gaining XP after every battle you have defeated. Some boss battles can be really frustrating. Each time you finish a battle, you gain a particular amount of gald (which is currency used in sylvarant and tethe'ella).
In some conversations, there are usually two choices of dialogues you can choose as a response to a character's statement, one of each have their different results. It's mildly funny to see Raine slap Genis for acting a little cynical and strange during those scenes. Along the way, there are skits you can read by pressing the z button which are inaudible conversations with up to five characters discussing issues.
The music in every battle is great, but not necessarily the best. The music usually fits the severity of the battle and the situation of each events. The voice-overs are pretty great, but I wouldn't say they're the greatest, after all nobody's perfect. The boss music can get pretty exciting and the sound effects are really crisp clear. I am surprised to hear that Lloyd's voice is from the same voice actor as Robin from the cartoon Teen Titans. At the end of each battle, every character has their own line to utter in victory. I also forgot to mention that Lloyd uses the word "damn" and "crap" every time when there's trouble brewing.
The most general reason I think the graphics are excellent is because the character design is loosely based on the style of (that's right you heard me loud and clear) anime and manga. The characters' eyes are all influenced by the arts of anime and it actually feels like you're watching an anime series. Although there are very few anime cutscenes in the game, the first one you'll see is an opening sequence to the main menu and title. I surmise the whole frame animation is just as fast as any anime and I heard from somewhere that this game uses cel shading. The character model is up to great standards and it's so anime-like to shonen jump proportions. I love the graphics of this game and it just makes me think about the characters at school nearly all day long. Although having the rpg character designs based heavily on typical "shonen" anime is really nothing too new to us, unless if the game was made outside of Japan. The bosses look cool, the whole scenery rocks, the main characters have really exotic and beautiful clothing. It's hard to believe Meltokio seems to be mixed with the influence of Colonial America and Medieval France.
The replay value is somewhat high if you're a hardcore fan of the "Tales" series. For me, I'd say the replay value is moderately high, but I really haven't beaten the game "yet" (this review is written on 5/30/06). I'd like to say I never knew the "Tales" series could bring me such great 80+ hours of joy and fun. I just want to say "Thank You" Namco for producing cool memorable games such as Pac-Man and this masterpiece. Well if you're a fan of rpgs especially real time ones, I suggest you buy this game. You won't regret it. This is Supera45 signing out as usual.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/31/06, Updated 06/01/06
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