Review by Funky Bob
"The Gamecube finally gets another great rpg"
The Gamecube is not known for its expansive library of rpg's, but it now has another great rpg aside from Skies of arcadia. Tales of Symphonia. I've been playing rpg's since the days of the NES and have played almost all of the Final Fantasys and I have to say this is one of the best rpgs I've played in a long time. If you are a fan of rpgs and you own a gamecube just save yourself some time and go buy this game as soon as possible. Now on to the review
This is where Tales of Symphonia really shines (and most other good games for that matter) I'll start with the battle system since that is where the core fun of an rpg really lies. It's real time meaning that there are no turns and that you have to think on your feet. You have four party members battling at once while you only control one of them. The others are controlled by AI which is completely customizable by you. But don't think that you can just set it to one setting and leave it like that for the rest of the game, many situations require different settings. Don't worry though there are dozens of different settings for you to set them to and you can change it in the middle of combat if you need to. Although you only directly control one character at a time you can command the other computers to use certain techniques/spells if you need them to. Bringing up the in battle menu to do things like this does stop the combat so you don't need to have lightning fast fingers to do this
When it comes to the actual fighting your goal is to combine your base attacks with your special techniques to create combos that will do lots of damage. You'll eventually have dozens of techs to choose from but you can set up to six of them as shortcuts in battle. You try to time your combos with the combos of the computers to make even larger more damaging combos. You also have the super damaging unison attack at your disposal. After you kill lots of enemies and pull off lots of combos you can use this attack in which you get to use one special move with each character on the enemy while the combat is stopped. Basically it's a free hit on the enemy. This may sound a little confusing but it will be explained in the game. Another great thing about the combat system is that if you get tired of battling with one character you can switch to another and let the AI take over the one you were using before. There are a total of nine characters and of those nine characters there are eight different fighting styles, each of which takes a complete different strategy to use.
After each battle you earn experience, gald, (yes gald not gold) and grade. After you get so much experience your characters "Level up" to become more powerful. Gald is the currency in the game and is used to buy weapons, armor, and items for your characters. Grade is what is given to you depending on how well you did in the fight. You can gain or lose grade if it was a good or bad fight. You use this grade in special grade shops to buy special powerups for your characters or you can use it after you beat the game to buy special upgrades for a second file. It's your choice on which to spend on.
As the rest of the game goes it's your average rpg. You go from town to town, dungeon to dungeon, in hopes of saving the world. But to keep things interesting there are lots of side quests and mini games hidden throughout the world. The side quests are not necessary to beat the game but can earn your characters titles which makes leveling up increase your stats more. The world is all connected by a world map which you use to travel from one place to another. You can get into battles on the world map as in dungeons. What's also nice about the game is that there are no random battles. Battles are represented by creatures that walk around the world map and dungeons. So you can choose whether or not to fight them. But don't ignore too many or you won't be able to beat the bosses.
There is also a multiplayer element which is rare to see in an rpg like this. Up to four players can play at once and each of them takes control of a character in battle. This can be quite fun and helpful because you can do what the AI cannot. Strategize. Either way it's always fun to play a game with your friends and this game is no exception.
The story goes: "Every so often 'the Chosen' is born and is destined to wake the sleeping goddess to regenerate the decaying world. The chosen must travel to all the mana seals and with the help of the angels unlock them to wake the sleeping goddess" This story seems quite standard and unoriginal (it also might seem quite similar to a certain final fantasy game...) but it takes enough twists and turns to stay interesting. Also through the side quests you learn quite a bit about each characters past which connects to the story and keeps it alive. There are also "skits" or conversations between characters which can tell you even more about them or could give you a laugh or two. There is plenty of voice acting for the characters although this is only for the more important scenes while other times it's just text. But again it's enough to keep it interesting. The voice acting itself is pretty good although some characters are better than others. But for the most part it's just fine. So overall it's pretty deep plot that will keep you playing.
Tales of Symphonia has a very unique and interesting anime(japanese cartoon) look to it. All the characters and monsters are drawn anime style while the rest of the game is mostly well detailed normal 3D video game style. It's a nice change from the average game. The spell effects for the later spells are pretty nice too. My only real complaint about the graphics is the world map. It has very little detail and the monsters you see traveling around there have almost no detail whatsoever. But it's probably not going to bother you. Since the other surroundings in towns and dungeons are quite nice, you probably won't mind the world map since most of the game is played in towns and dungeons. The game has a very consistent framerate and no graphical glitches to speak of. The only time you'll ever see slow down is when you and the enemy cast very powerful spells at the same time. But this is rare and the slowdown when this happens isn't much anyway. In over 80 hours of play on my game I've only had this happen three or four times.
This is another aspect of the game that may not WOW you at first but when I was at 60 or 70 hours of playing this game I realized that I hum along with almost every tune in this game. And after hearing the main battle theme thousands of times I wasn't tired of hearing it. Every tune in this game is very catchy and after only a few hours of play you'll probably find yourself doing the same thing. Most of the tunes aren't jaw-dropping but the later boss music is very nice. The sound quality is very good too. It never skips and no matter how loud you make you won't hear a bit of static. There really isn't much more to say about it
Replay value 8.5/10 Overall length 10/10
The back of the box says that you'll easily get 80 hours of play out of this game and for once they really weren't lying. I've got about 83 hours on mine and i'm still playing. The actual game if you rush it without doing many sidequests will probably take around 40 hours which is still very very good. But if you take the time to explore and do all that you can it could take up to 60-70 hours. Now that's only for one game. Remember how I said you could buy upgrades for a second file in the grade shop after you beat the game? Well this will probably make you want to play it again. so you could easily hit that 80 hour mark and more. Even if you didn't want to play through again you've still got a 40-70 hour game on your hands. But chances are, if you liked it the first time through you'll be playing it through again at least once more. I'm on my third play through... If you think you're good after your first play through you can try hard or mania mode which makes things much more interesting. All I can say is, if you buy this game make sure to keep at least a week free on your calendar.
Replay value 8.5/10
Overall length 10/10
OVERALL 10/10 (not an average)
Rent or Buy?
This is a tough one because the rpg genre is one that some people just don't like and isn't one that's easy to pick up and play. If you are a fan of rpgs, have no doubts, buy this game. If you are new to rpgs or don't really like real time rpgs rent it to make sure. Either way the game is so long that one rental period should be enough to tell if you like it or not and leave you with plenty more game to play if you buy it.
Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/04
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