Review by ionicmind

"Got EX-Skill?"

[ - Review Introduction Segment - ]

For nearly half a century, Namco has brought the people of the world memorable video game titles that shall never be forgotten.. Their popularity is immense, and not laughable.. Yep, these are the guys that brought us Pac-Man, Galaga, Galaxian, and the wondrous and addictive Atari title, Dig Dug.. And today, they've outlived the tests of time and have lived up to their policy by making games that live up to today's standards..

One of the most recent titles to bare the name Namco as its developer is Tales of Symphonia.. Yeah, sure, you'd think something with a title such as that would be cutesy to say the least, but the true presentation is an immense storyline with nearly one-hundred hours of gameplay. Tales of Symphonia is, in so few words, humongous.

Our story begins with a run o' the mill mission to regenerate and save the world. Colette, the Chosen, has been given the sole right and duty to accomplish this task. And of course, the main character ends up being a klutzy teenager with a pair of swords and an odd sense of humor..

For about the first ten or so hours of gameplay you'll run into all kinds of different characters, and plot-building events.. Eventually, you'll take in a breath of air, and notice a familiar scent of Final Fantasy X in this title.. Fear not, humble gamers, and yea do not be fooled.. For just when you think you're getting tired of a repeated plot of a Square-Enix game, you'll be thinking wrong.. But enough about that.. Who needs to spoil the fun? Finish reading the review, then go play the game!

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Graphics

First up in the review, is the graphical capability that Tales of Symphonia has to offer.. Personally, i'd have to say that this aspect is most likely the biggest let-down of the entire gameplay experience of the game.. While the world is beautifully rendered and is extremely and entirely original, the pixelated character shading throws everything off. Take, for example, in some scenes where the characters are too close, or too far away, from the point of view, the character sprites can become extremely blurry, and in some cases, highly distorted. And in other cases, while in conversation, the mouth movement and bodily/hand gestures have the potential of making the cut-scenes look entirely too dull for something that could have been.. I don't really understand why Namco couldn't have just threw a few extra bucks into the character development department office and make those guys work just a little bit harder.. Maybe then, the character's could have been produced with a bit more diligence and attention to detail.. Otherwise, all of the other graphical capabilities are wondrous. The backgrounds and over-world are beautiful, and give the player access to a 3-D rendered environment comparable to some of the more "graphical" games of our time.. Generally, the graphics in Tales of Symphonia do not entirely live up to the standards of the graphical capabilities that humanity is used to, but hey, why let something small such as a little sprite throw you down eh?

Graphics Pros: Excellently rendered 3-D over-world and environmental sprites.. The environment is detailed, graphics are highly original, and close attention is given to variety in different locations..

"Pros" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Graphics Cons: Character design is risque, especially in comparability to the surrounding graphics throughout the game.. My opinion states, "If you're going to make the character sprites look messy, you might as well let everything else look messy as well.. This concept of the graphical capability is mainly what plummets the overall graphical rating.

"Cons" Effect on Rating: 4/10

Overall Graphical Capability Rating: 7/10

Gameplay

Gosh, where to start.. Well, lets just hit things off by saying, once again, that Tales of Symphonia is MASSIVE, meaning it contains many aspects of gameplay that are available to the user from the word "Go." At a glance, the gameplay appears generally basic as a systematic hack and slash battle centered RPG. Well, to whomever looks at Tales of Symphonia in such an aspect, either is rushing through the game just fighting everything they come across, or they simply haven't had the opportunity to play the game yet. First off, the semi-original battle system will catch the eye of any seasoned fan of video game RPGs. Sure, while this system isn't "purely" original, in some ways it is.. Quest 64, for example, had some of the same battle-mode aspects, however Tales of Symphonia is more free-form, making it seem more like a fighting game than an RPG when in battle mode. Also, there are tons and tons of side-quests and mini-games in Tales of Symphonia.. So many, in fact, that it's hard to bother to mention even half of them without losing count. From rebuilding a destructed city by donating cash, or playing "Red Light, Green Light" with little kids on a bridge, Tales of Symphonia has sides and minis galore! Finally, we come to the tedious little aspects of gameplay.. Other than the fact that there's about eighty to one-hundred hours of solid action, there are so many other little things to keep the user occupied along the journey, such as collecting enemy stat logs in battle, finding recipes to cook foods along the journey, finding EX-Gems in order to increase each characters skills, and keeping an item log.. The list goes on and on in a countless gameplay aspect.

Gameplay Pros: Entirely massive, filled with countless side-quests and mini-games. Intense battle system, getting the user really involved with character movement in battle mode..

"Pros" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Gameplay Cons: Practically none, unless the user is annoyed easily by slightly repetitive enemy patterns, yet only by the same enemies each time..

"Cons" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Overall Gameplay Capability Rating: 10/10

Controls

Generally, the button configuration is entirely simple in Tales of Symphonia. With your general "A" for "Action".. "B" for "Cancel" and so on.. The only let-down to the control configuration might be within the battle system.. Sometimes, when I've set a certain skill to be performed in battle with a certain C-stick button, I often forget the location of my own personal configuration and have to keep looking. However, this is nothing to hold any grudges to, and has little or no effect on the game's level of play..

Controls Pros: Easy accessibility with simple action and cancel buttons in over-world and environmental situations.

"Pros" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Controls Cons: Some confusion can arise in battle situations due to the placement of skill-to-assigned button configurations.

"Cons" Effect on Rating: 9/10

Overall Controls Capability Rating: 9.5/10

Story

If you're reading this, and are only about four or five hours into the game, you'll probably think i'm crazy for not giving this aspect a 1/10 since the entire game seems to be a repeat of Final Fantasy X.. Rest assured people, a change is coming soon, I guarantee it! And when the turn of events occurs, you'll understand what I mean.. The story is magnificent in nearly every aspect, and everything ties together so well that the character-to-plot tension can be cut with a knife..

Story Pros: Magnificent storyline, though I wish not to reveal any spoilers to all you "non-ToS-havers"

"Pros" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Story Cons: This game could prove to be an immediate turn-off to gamers with little patience since the first ten hours or so is similar to the storyline of that of Final Fantasy X.

"Cons" Effect on Rating: 7/10

Overall Story Rating: 8.5/10

Music/Sound

The sound-track in Tales of Symphonia can be considered as decent and up to par, but by no means, anything magnificent. There are those times when the musical tracks fit right in the current gameplay situation and the general effect is presented correctly, but there can be other times when the musical tracks can become quite repetitive in some areas.

The sound effects presented in Tales of Symphonia are well established and creative, yet once again, nothing entirely special, yet nothing too repetative to aggravate the gamer.

Music/Sound Pros: Decent sound-track with few memorable tracks, and good sound effects

"Pros" Effect on Rating: 8/10

Music/Sound Cons: Sound-track can rarely become repetitive and slightly annoying..

"Cons" Effect on Rating: 8/10

Overall Music/Sound Capability Rating: 8/10

Replay Value

Got a couple of years on your hands? Under house arrest? Spend your free time playing Tales of Symphonia over and over again.. You know you want to.. Tales of Symphonia has tons of side-quests and mini-games to offer, and the game is just entirely so long, that usually by the time you've completed the game, you're ready for another round from the beginning, it's an eternal addiction.. Besides, i'm sure you haven't gathered all the items, beaten every side-quest, maxed out the score in every mini-game, gathered all the enemy info, gathered all the cooking recipes.. And hey! How about your character relationships? Your buddies have got emotions too!

Replay Value Pros: The game is so long, there's so much stuff to do and collect, that by the time you've beaten it, you're ready for round 2, or 3.. Errr.. 25..

"Pros" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Replay Value Cons: Practically no cons when it comes to the replay value, unless you've played it about 50 times over.

"Cons" Effect on Rating: 10/10

Overall Replay Value Capability Rating: 10/10

[ - Overall Rating Segment - ]

Graphics: 7/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Controls: 9.5/10
Story: 8.5/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Replay Value: 10/10

Tales of Symphonia Rating - 8.8/10 - 9/10

[ - Concluding Segment - ]

I personally highly recommend Tales of Symphonia to fans of the RPG genre, and possibly even fans of the Fighting genre due to the battle-mode being entirely free-form based. "Symphonia" probably won't become a house-hold name such as Metroid and such, but this game has definitely made its mark as a gem to the gaming world.. Thanks Namco, you have done well!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/24/04


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