Review by smurx
Tales of Symphonia is the latest installment of Namco's Tales series. To be honest, I haven't had the privilege of playing any of the previous Tales games, but if Symphonia is any hint to them I'd be more than happy to give them a play through. Anyway, on to the actual review.
-Game play- 9/10
This is where Symphonia shines above other games. First of all, the exploration factor of this game is incredible. Throughout the game you are almost always allowed to venture off in the wrong direction to your heart's content. I don't know about you, but I love having the freedom in a game to go the wrong way just to see what else is around. Now for the Battle System. When I first heard how these Tales' games work I thought to myself, Wow... this doesn't sound like it would flow very well... Boy was I in for a surprise. Namco did an amazing job at putting this unique battle system to good use. With a single player, you control the main character, Lloyd, while the other members of your party automatically perform whatever strategies you tell them to. Early in the game I was a little confused about it, but within a few hours I was knocking down monsters with a smile on my face one after another. Another interesting element is the ability to play with up to four controllers attached and have friends control the party members you're not using. While I haven't tried this yet it sounds pretty fun and I've heard good things. The only drawback to the multi player system that I can think of is getting three friends to come over just to sit there while you explore waiting to participate in battle. The equipment system is definitely old school. That's the way I like it. It's a simple formula, you get to a new town, upgrade your sword, shield, armor, etc, go battle, get to the next town, rinse and repeat. Mmmmm, that's good stuff. The world map is huge with tons of town and dungeons to keep you busy for countless hours. An interesting feature of the world map is the two different camera views available. The default camera view is close-up on the character and rather restricted. The advantage to this view is that you are able to see treasure chests on the world map that you otherwise be hidden. The other camera view is the long-range camera. It, as it's name suggests, gives a long-range view of the character and the world map. However, in this view you are unable to see the treasure chests that would be seen in close-up view. Also on the world map and other locations, you'll sometimes notice a Z button on the lower right hand corner of the screen with a title beside it. Hitting Z at this time will show a short skit that is sometimes humorous and always informative. In my opinion, game play is the most important aspect of any video game and Symphonia is a fine representation of the standards I set for my games.
The story is nothing to jump for joy about, but it's pretty good. You play as a character named Lloyd who is an ambitious yet young boy raised by a dwarf. The story, however, mainly focuses on Collete, the Chosen' who is destined to awaken a great goddess, and rejuvenate' the world. The world as it starts in the game is quickly running out of Mana and seeing more trouble from the war-people known as the Desians. Basically, your goal in the game is to remedy these problems. While the main goal is clear, you'll undoubtedly encounter numerous side quests and interesting plot twists as the story progresses. Now a days games seem to be focusing more on graphics than on stories of their games, and while Symphonia's story isn't exceptional it does tower above most of the other RPGs in this day and age.
The graphics are run of the mill cel-shading. It's not bad, but the more realistic look appeals to me more. Don't get me wrong though, the graphics are great, it's just that they aren't really my style. Although some of the cut scenes were pretty amazing. What the game lacks for in graphics, it more than makes up for in sound. The music is pretty good and the battle theme is catchy, but what really makes me smile here is the voice overs. I really love having voicing to go along with the characters in games. Not only does it give an all around better feel to the game, but also if I run into an odd word I can't pronounce the game will eventually pronounce it for me. American translations are usually looked down upon, but in this game they seem to be great. Only a few times throughout the game did the voices sound cheesy or fake. The graphics and sound in this game are good, but they are, in my opinion, the worst aspects of this game. I guess that just goes to show you how good I think the game is.
-Play Time/Replay ability- 9/10
Namco brags about the 80 hours of game play you'll put in to complete this game. While it didn't take me near that to complete my first time through, it was definitely a long RPG. This game also supports the classic New Game + option, which I think every single RPG in existence should have available. Rushing through a game with disgustingly powerful characters really makes my day, hence the 9/10' score here, that is extremely high for an RPG which normally doesn't have much replay ability.
Buy or Rent? I don't know about you, but regardless of the quality I can't bring myself to merely rent a good RPG and leave myself hanging and mind wondering about what happens in the story after I return the game. Anyway, this game is a must have for any gamer. It's the first real epic RPG for the GameCube (Except for -maybe- Skies of Arcadia Legends). At a time when barely any RPGs can bring themselves above mediocrity, Tales of Symphonia represents everything game creators strive to eventually create.
Overall Score 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/04
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