Review by crumble114

"Quite possibly the best RPG of all time!"

Ironically, It was my birthday in 2004 when this game came out in America. I walked into EB games and into the Nintendo game cube section looking for a nice action game like Eternal Darkness : Sanity's requiem or Super Smash Bros Melee, instead I stumbled upon this game. I never usually go for role playing games but for some unexplainable reason I was drawn very much to this one. Maybe it was the unusual but appealing art style on the front cover or the fact that it had a two headed dragon on the back, or perhaps it was the last copy in the store after having been released thirteen or fourteen hours ago and it was only forty five dollars plus four and a half pour cent tax. Whatever it was I couldn't care less as every night I thank god for giving me that unexplainable feeling as without it, I would of never experienced what I think to be the best role playing game of all time. But enough of my little rant, lets explore the main reasons why I feel the way I do about this magical game and why after having read this review, you should rush to your nearest EB games to pick this up before anyone else gets there before you do.

Story,
The person at Namco who created this eye grabbing story should of gotten a big pay raise as without it, the game would seem a lot more bland. The plot follows the usual role playing game plot line. Your Lloyd Irving; a spiky haired, yet warm hearted teenager who is asleep in class, little does he know that when he wakes up he will embark on a death defying adventure spanning well over 60 hours to save not only one world, but two which are interlocked. Usually role playing games are very long so it's not hard for the plot to die out and get boring quickly. However the numerous plot twists keeps you wanting to know what going to happen next for Lloyd and his friends. The story also lets you really feel like you know Lloyd, when he feels pain you feel pain, when he is happy you feel happy, hell even when he is angry at someone your secretly wishing they would suffer an unfortunate event later on in this amazing game, I feel so much like I knew Lloyd that my heart breaks a little bit every time his past catches up with him.

Now for the actual plot,
Once upon a time there existed a giant tree that was the source of all mana. A war, however, caused this tree to wither away, and a hero's life was sacrificed in order to take it's place. Grieving over the loss, the goddess disappeared unto the heavens. The goddess left the angels with this edict: “You must waken me, for if I should sleep, the word shall be destroyed.” The angles bore the chosen one, who headed towards the tower that reached up unto the heavens. And that marked the beginning of the regeneration of the world These are the first words you'll hear from the narrator before you first encounter Lloyd Irving. Remember them, as this is what you need to know to understand the ending. Once this little soliloquy is finish we enter a classroom where Lloyd is asleep, that is until his teacher Raine throws a book at him and he quite predictably jumps up. The teacher Raine then starts to explain to you about the word they live in, how mana is essential to live, about how the desians are coming back and how the chosen one will regenerate the world. Once again remember all this as it's vital to the central plot. The class is then open up for discussion and the two people who talk first, Genis ; a good friend of Lloyd and also the brother of the teacher Raine and Collette Brunal aka the chosen one who will go on to regenerate the world. They talk emotionally about there world when a beam of light strikes from the mana tower, this is the trigger which starts the epic and emotional journey in which Lloyd, Genis, Collette, Raine and four other characters who come later on will embark on.

Graphics,
Technically, the graphics don't push the Nintendo game cube's hardware to it's limitations. But neither did Okami for play station 2 and that game was very well received for its unusual art style which it got an award for. The graphics are a mixture of cel shaded characters and anime, with the occasional full motion video cut scene. However this works really well, as a game with such an original and unbelievable (but still great) storyline would simply wouldn't of been as amazing if it were to have realistic graphics like Final Fantasy 10.

Audio,
I suppose this is where the game missed the mark a little. All the music in the game is nothing short of perfect and hearing you sword connect to an enemies head is nothing but candy to your ears. However this game falls short when it comes to voice acting. You see many people criticize the game for the poor voice acting, not me though, I love it. My only complaint is that it only occurs during major cut scenes. It would of been great if Namco could of had voice acting in all cut scenes and skits but I suppose doing that for an 60+ hour game would take too long. It's not bad enough to affect the game too much either but it would of been nice.

Game play,
The game play for this game can be sum up in three words NOTHING BUT PERFECT! What usually turns me off from conventional role playing games, such as Final Fantasy is the battle system. There's nothing I hate more in an role playing game then random and turn based battles as this not only slows down the tempo of the game but it gets you both frustrated that you walk two feet for another random battle and tired that you have to face another eight enemies where all you do is hit them once and wait for them to hit you, cough skies of arcadia legends on dream cast cough. Thankfully Tales of Symphonia has neither. The game has a random enemy on screen, that if you touch, will take you to the battle area. This gives you a lot more control over what your doing and has you much calmer when your low on health as your not forced to fight cough Final Fantasy cough. The battle system in this game has been perfected from the other games in the series to give you one of the most immersive and fun experiences you could get from a role playing game. In conventional role playing games you usually just do one hit, then go back to your original spot so your enemy can hit you, boring stuff usually. Not in Tales of Symphonia though, this game gives you the freedom to be where you want, attack who you want and to heal when you want. It makes the game play a lot more unpredictable and varied and it never gets old. Your attacks consist of swiping away with you sword or magic spells depending on who you want to play as. Each of the eight playable character have such different attributes that one of them is bound to suit the style of how you want to fight.

Lifespan,
Put it this way. I've spent over 500 hours on this game and I'm still not bored. My first play through too over 100 hours without even completing all the side quests. All together I would say it has the equivalent to 20 Zelda dungeons, all which look and have a very different feel. What makes this game even better is that when you start playing, you can't stop. Your glued to the TV until you tear your eyes away for just a quick second and you realise you've been playing for about 7 hours. If you want something to last you over two and a half years then get this.

Difficulty,
What I love about this game is that it lets you decide how difficult you want it to be. The monsters don't level up with you so you can spend al lot of time in the open world training up or can just carry on with the story which, without training, is harder to do then to ride a skateboard with no legs. Once you completed the game it opens up 'mania' difficulty which will have you throwing the controller around in frustration. But the excellent storyline forces you to carry on.

Multiplayer,
Again, Namco managed to give a genre which is usually only has a single player and converts it into a one of the greatest multiplayer experiences ever. The story is played by only one person but once the battling starts three other players can pick up a wave bird and get in on the action. This not only gives the game more of a tactical feel but you'll be laughing through the whole battle. Namco successfully managed to convert an role playing game into a party game just by giving the extra game cube controller ports some use.

PROS:
Great game play
Immersive storyline
Good use of the other 3 controller ports
Great Graphics
Lovable characters

CONS:
Voice acting could be through out the game
The map is a little bland
Not all characters can fight at the same time

The Ratings:
Graphics: 9.2/10
Audio: 8.7/10
Game play: 9.6/10
Life span: 10/10
Difficulty: 10/10
Multiplayer: 8.5/10

Conclusion,
This is without a doubt my favourite RPG of all time. If you are a fan of the series you must own this and even if your not really into role playing games pick it up anyway and I promise you it will bring you one of the best experiences of your gaming life. So what are you waiting for? Rush to a game store near you and pick it up!

Overall - 10/10 or 98%.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/26/07


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