Review by Judqement8
"Without Sheena, this game would be nothing. With Sheena it's everything I've always wanted."
Game: Tales of Symphonia
Tales of Symphonia is a JRPG made by Namco for Nintendo Gamecube and later ported to Playstation 2. The Gamecube version got released worldwide but the Playstation 2 was only released in Japan.
So what does Symphonia have that the other games don't have? What makes it so unique that I can play it over and over again? Well, of course one word: "Sheena" would be enough but I guess I'll tell the rest of the story.
Tales of Symphonia is the first 3D Tales of game and uses cel-shaded art style which has aged well and looks amazing even with today's standards. The character models and all the enemies are neatly done and none of them look like they were rushed or left unfinished. And what can I say about the character designs, they are magnificent. I really like how Kousuke Fujishima made all the characters look unique and have personal clothing. The skills and magic spells look amazing too. Every skill and magic spell look pretty much as powerful as they are. The surrounding areas in battles look amazing, they give you more ambiance with forest theme in forests, a plain theme in plains etc. And all the dungeons and towns where you move around look excellent and have their own unique "touch".
So with such a unique art style, magnificent character designs and models, awesome looking artes and a great variety of different looking fighting areas and dungeons make this game have one of the most memorable graphics ever.
The game starts off pretty boringly. You see this guy called Lloyd Irving who is sleeping in a class room being waked up by his teacher. Now for the next about ~10 hours you are stuck in this nothing interesting happens vortex. So yeah the game's story starts off pretty slowly but you just have to endure it till the things start to fire up. And once they do, the story really sucks you in and you can't wait to hear more. Sure it does have its' cliches like every other JRPG out there but you really shouldn't judge the story just because it has few things you saw coming or just happen to appear in other games as well. What actually makes the story so darn good are the characters which I will cover in the next section and of course the plotwists with many memorable and emotional scenes.
The story has a special place in my heart, it really is that good.
What I absolutely love about this game are the characters. The game has nine main/playable characters in total and many, many great side characters and villains. The nine main characters namely Lloyd, Colette, Genis, Raine, Kratos, Sheena, Zelos, Presea and Regal have all different personalities and well written interesting back-stories. Well, too bad that two of them seem like they don't really belong in the game's story but they still have great back-stories so I wouldn't call them uninteresting or empty. They all have their own unique weapons and fighting styles (well except Zelos and Kratos who use the same weapons and have same artes) which makes them really fun to use and gives you a lot of choices to find out which one suits your playing style the best. My unquestionable favorite character in the game is Sheena. She is everything I've ever hoped from a video game character, a unique fighting style, great personality, really touching back-story and a beautiful design. She alone makes this game probably the best game ever made. Sure the other characters are interesting and fun to use in battle as well but Sheena just stands out from the group.
The many well written heroes, heroines and villains with their unique fighting styles make the awesomeness level of this game skyrocket. Or maybe I should just say Sheena with her unique fighting ehrm.
Another thing that I love about this game is the battle system. The game use Linear Motion Battle System which is a real-time battle system. It's probably one of the biggest reasons why the series has become so popular. And like I already said, I love it as well. How the battle system in Symphonia actually works is that you control one character and you'll be able to move back and forth in an invisible line between you and the targeted enemy. And you can also jump and back step to evade enemies attacks. Back step is one of the most useful things in the game, so my advice is to learn to use it effectively. You can do normal attacks or use special artes like physical skills and magic spells to attack the enemies. And the best part about the gameplay is that everything you decide to do happens in real-time. You have hundreds of different artes that you can use to build up amazing combos and inflict serious damage to enemies. You can also use a team attack called Unison Attack where you perform different artes with the characters and if you combine the right artes you will get a powerful, awesome looking Unison arte. It's really fun to try out different combinations to find out all the different Unison artes.
Really the great variety of different artes and playable characters make the gameplay SOOOOO fun. I think fun is the best word to describe the battle system with one word. And really the best thing is that everything you do happens in real-time, hence why I've never had a boring fight in Symphonia. If you still for some odd reason don't like the battle system, at least you won't have to worry about random battles since in Symphonia the monsters are visible so you can avoid fighting to some extend (though I don't recommend that ).
The music in Symphonia is not exactly all that unique or mind-blowing. There are a lot of good BGMs but you will mostly hear them only in boss battles. The normal battle theme can get somewhat tiring after few playthroughs. I'm not saying it's bad or anything, it's just that it's not that good either. The background music in scenes and events is usually pretty great, they really made the music suit well with what's happening. So overall the music is pretty normal stuff that Motoi Sakuraba keeps churning out.
The voice acting in this game is really good. It's one of the few localized Tales of games with awesome English voice acting. There is not a single character which has an annoying or unfitting voice. The voices suit well with their personalities and are perfect in every way. I'd like to give extra praise for Jennifer Hale's voice work as Sheena, she makes her sound like an angel. Hearing her talk is like music for my ears, I just love it.
DIFFICULTY: The game has three difficulty settings Normal, Hard and Mania. But even having Hard and Mania difficulties the game is not exactly challenging. It's actually pretty easy and you probably won't see a single Game Over screen when you play it. There are few boss fights that are more difficult than the rest of the battles but are still easily beatable. You can always try to play the game with 1/2 EXP on Mania difficulty to add up the challenge. And if you really think that the game is too challenging (which I really doubt), you can always grind more since this is an RPG after all.
I'm not saying that the game being easy is a bad thing. Only if you are looking for a challenging RPG then Symphonia might not be the game for you.
Symphonia is the only game that I've beaten for about 20 times. There are just way too many things to do, collect all the items, titles, costumes, S&T type artes, EX Skills, Unison artes, figurines, monsters, optional bosses, grade shop, etc. To really complete the game you have to play the game several times through, and you do this because you want to not because you have to.
I just don't know any other game which has such an entertaining battle system, memorable characters and a story which will keep you playing it for years over and over again.
Probably the best game ever made. A game with a perfect battle system, perfect character roster, perfect voice acting, enjoyable music, glamorous cel-shaded graphics and a fascinating story. Tales of Symphonia is a game that I will never forget. And Sheena Fujibayashi will always be my one and only favorite character.
Sheena: "Heh, heh... Evil doesn't stand a chance."
Overall Score: 9.8/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/29/11
Game Release: Tales of Symphonia (EU, 11/19/04)
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