Review by Llag_von_Karma
"Let the Symphony play. ~Redux"
Some people consider video games to be a style of art. That being the case, I consider Tales of Symphonia to be a masterpiece.
It had great character development to not only the main character but every character that joins the party and even the NPC's. It made every character truly believable; each trying to actually fix what flaws they had but not necessarily succeeding right away. Each character had a distinct personality and if something seemed out of character, it was either a tough choice or them actually changing their personality. Someone playing the game can feel as if they really were each character. The characters are also different from their respective stereotypical roles in other RPGs; the healer in Tales of Symphonia isn't a cleric or some holy priest, but rather, a school teacher. As previously stated, even the NPC's have development, especially the antagonist. It shows his view of the world through what the protagonists do and why he is the way he is and it essentially justifies his actions in his eyes, but it brings up the universal question of 'do the ends justify the means' that not everyone can answer the same way, which leads to a sense of believability on his part. Even other NPC's have believable development as well.
The plot itself is also grand, something I want to experience for the first time again and again, although knowing what happens doesn't even make it unlovable. I have personally played it through every summer at least once since my 5th to 6th grade summer 6 years ago now. It begins in a somewhat original way, with the character just being a follower of the 'chosen' rather than being the mystically gifted one, with the 'chosen' not being the most self righteous character that most are shown as, resembling a paladin. But plot twists keep coming and never lead to a dull moment, constant yet never too confusing to keep up with. Several of the choices in the game also will affect the story, one of which can have one of the most influential changes in the game without actually changing what happens in the long run. Without a doubt a magnificent adventure, one I would undoubtedly place much higher than the majority of stories I've read in books. At times it proves a little cliché with the whole 'save the world' theme, but what game truly breaks away from that without having a breakthrough story? Very few, although this one seems fairly believable compared to most, but its quirks that make it unique more than make up for the small parts that seem cliché, which also often have some odd perk that makes it unique as well, although I cannot explain any without giving away what makes it such a grand story, nor will it do it justice without knowing the entire story from the ground up.
The music is truly beautiful as well. It always matches the mood of the game at the given moment; I never felt that it was out of place. The fights always had a quicker pace that was more noticeable, but it felt natural to the battle setting where one should take care to notice such smaller details. One who simply listens to the music from any given area could easily imagine the settings. I could recognize any place by simply its music, even if I had never touched the game before. The music for the cities is generally more calm and smooth flowing, while the music for the enemy compounds is radically different yet still fitting to what is happening.
The visuals are probably its weakest part, using cel-shaded graphics that look somewhat childish in many people's opinions. However, do not be put off by the more cartoon appearance; it is one of the most graphically pleasing games I have played. It is able to successfully pull off a serious look with the graphics, because a more serious appearance wouldn't do justice to its unique story or gameplay. It fits because it is different, if that makes much sense. The monsters looks like they really fit in each area they are put, although some recolorings are a put off, as well as some reused city-dweller models and different color schemes on them. Without a doubt still amazing quality, but a few flaws stop it from truly being perfect'.
Now comes the gameplay, what many consider to be the make or break point of a game, and Tales of Symphonia is no let down. The obvious main part to the game, the fights, are very well done and, despite taking a little getting used to, are amazingly fun and never get old. People who have played the Super Smash Bros. Series may feel a little more at home, as it uses a psuedo-3D system, where you can only run on a 2D plane with your target, although you can change targets to get a different angle on your desired opponent. Up to 4 characters participate in a battle at a time, so you have to choose your party carefully based on what style of combat you think you'll be doing and personal choice. The combat is very fast paced, but not so fast that you miss half of what is going on. Regular attacks and skills combined make up the majority of what will occur in battle, but there are other options such as unison attacks which combine skills of each combatant at the moment together into a large attack on the targeted foe. Also, the use of items makes an appearance similarly to most RPGs on the market, although the items usable aren't regular potions'. Not to mention there are no 'random battles' per se, but I'll get to that when the time comes.
The other side to the game, the exploration side as I personally call it, involves the more common style of running on an overworld or in cities and dungeons. The overworld style involves traveling over terrain and either dodging or fighting monsters that randomly run around, which will initiate a fight, essentially removing the 'random battle' system commonly found in the majority of RPGs today. The city/dungeon form also has the same monster system to remove 'random battles', but it also had some scripted fights, meaning things like boss battles that you cannot avoid. You can find NPCs in every town, each with something unique to say, rather than he same "Hello traveler." that commonly takes place in RPGs as well. While some may say something similar to that, the majority will never repeat what someone else has already said.
Overall, a very well put together game that has very few and slight drawbacks, nothing that affects gameplay at all. Unfortunately, as it was originally for the Nintendo GameCube, it never really got to have it's true light shown, despite being a truly amazing play, definitely, without a doubt, worth the 50 dollars at release, even more worth a few dollars if found in a bargain bin somewhere or on the used' rack at GameStop. One of the most amazing games you'll try, if not the most amazing. Personally, my favorite game, the highest score I will likely ever give a game.
97/100 ~ 10/10 (about)
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/08, Updated 06/22/09
Game Release: Tales of Symphonia (US, 07/13/04)
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