Review by Version 2
"A game with great gameplay but lacking in other areas"
Maybe Tales of Symphonia caters to a different RPG fan than me, I don't know. When I want a RPG, I want an compelling story, characters with layers of emotions, and an interesting combat system. Symphonia, at least, gets the combat right.
The graphics in Symphonia are cel-shaded, and the characters in the game have a 'big head, small body' anime look. The backgrounds in dungeons and cities have a very artistic 'painted' look, and the motion in combat is smooth and fluid. The character models are usually very detailed and sharp, but there can be some nasty blurring due to the camera zooming too much.
My biggest complaint with the graphics isn't exactly in the graphics themselves, but how they're used in cinemas. Although this game has great graphics, they're not used to their fullest -- during cutscenes, you're usually stuck at one camera angle to encompass all the 'action', when individual close-ups would be more personal and show off the game's art much better. It makes the cinemas, in my opinion, somewhat boring.
Also, although I haven't played very many next-gen RPGs with a world map like in Symphona, the map in Symphonia is rather undetailed and boring. Aside from the maps and the characters, the special effects (explosions and summoning spells) are somewhat basic, but that's not a very big concern.
There music is, on a whole, good. However, none of the songs have left an impression or impact on me, like other games. Maybe the big-name game companies have spoiled me, but there's nothing here I'm particularly looking forward to listening to again.
The voice actors in the game are good. Almost all of them have done fairly recognizable material prior to this game, but the main characters in this game are 13-16 years old and that's not my cup of tea. I'd call them annoying, but they do fit the role of your typical teenager, so the rating's a toss-up.
The best thing about Symphonia, and the thing which attracted me to this game in the first place, was the battle system. It shares a lot more with a fighting game than a typical RPG. You manually attack monsters and do combos with the use of the A button, and do special attacks and/or magic with a combination of the analog stick and B button. There's free movement in battle, you can jump, defend, and can preform team attacks.
It's a good battle system, but I feel it's lacking in the strategy department, and it's a bit on the easy side, but there's a difficulty setting to remedy the latter complaint. Also, there's not a whole lot of combos you can do with only the "A" button, but on a whole the battle system is very fun and refreshing from your typical fare.
There are a nine characters, who fit into the categories "Melee, Spell Caster, or Hybrid" but from there you can determine their stat growth by equiping "Titles" (earned by doing a wide variety of things) and equipping up to four "EX Skills", which can increase Strength and Defense, add an additional attack to your combos, or reduce spell cost. So there should be something for everyone.
The dungeons start out ridiculously simple but quickly progress in difficulty, and are similar to the Zelda series. Push mirrors to redirect sunlight, etc. There was one dungeon that I feel might be very tedious to people without a strategy guide, but there's a good chance if you're reading this, you know about the FAQ section.
Colette, a young girl, is on a pilgrimage to save the world from the vanishing supply of Mana. I haven't finished the game yet, but the main plot is very simple (and borrows a few ideas from other games). There are a few plot twists along the way which are very interesting, although not very shocking. The game starts out very slow, in plot details and character advancement, and I found my self disinterested, but a good time into the game it really picks up pace with the introduction of new characters and a plot twist or two.
Tales of Symphonia is a good game, but it starts out slow and could really improve on the cinemas in my opinion. The biggest selling point for this game is the fast-paced battle system, which sets it apart from the average RPG. However, I feel the story of an RPG should be the biggest concern, and Symphonia's isn't the best out there. I would recommend buying this if you want a fun game, just don't expect the deepest.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/04, Updated 07/20/04
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