Review by smurf

"An Rpg elevated to the form of fine art."

Tales of Symphonia is one of those games that will generate such a wide array of responses. Some claim that it is the finest Rpg in years. Others say that it is too cliched for modern tastes. Many even argue that it came out on the wrong console.

At any rate it's a sublime game that deserves to be tasted by every gamer. No so much tasting as licking the disc counter clockwise until a rich cream like substance reveals itself.

...Yeah well it truly is an awesome game. A patchwork quilt if you will of the finest adventure/Rpg titles ever made.

--Story--

The story is amazingly broad. I don't wish to spoil it for you but it really is so diverse that what you experience early on soon turns into a completly different quest, and then plot twists occur many times after that with the intent of keeping the story ever intresting.

This brings up a problem though, one which the recent Final Fantasys have never suffered from. The story tends to drift after you are around 20 hours into the game. What I mean by this is that the characters motives are less obvious, what you are supposed to do next is confusing and at times you couldn't care less about the object you are supposed to collect.

It strikes me as if Namco didn't have a greater plan for this game and just decided to "pad" out the adventure with random plot twists. This is never good for an Rpg and so this is one of the reasons why it just can't live up to the better FF titles, no matter how much I want it to.

Problem number 2 with the story is that it is so cliched! The first third of the game is almost an exact replica of the story from Final Fantasy X. How Namco got away with this I don't know. Like Yuna, Colette is the "chosen one" who has to complete a difficult quest to save the world. The people living in the world has expectations from her and so she feels under pressure to complete the quest. Instead of temples she must travel the world breaking the various seals and as she does so she gains Angel powers.

Eventually she completes the quest and the whole "sacrifice" issue from FFX reveals itself once more. At one stage this would have been outstanding but now it is far too predictable.

The final problem I have with the story is the devolpment of the "enemy" characters. Like FF7 there are many different leaders in different sections (Desians,Cruxis,Renegades etc..) but unlike FF7 these characters are not devolped well. As a result when your supposed greatest enemy appears you have difficulty remembering what his name was. <_< That never happened with Sephiroth.

Maybe I am being a little harsh on it, but the storyline is the one part of the game easy to pick holes in.

On a brighter note though is that the character devolpment is outstanding. Not only does it match every FF in this department, it surpasses them. Take Lloyd for example, he is a complete idiot at the start of the game and yet slowly devolps throughout the game to become a worthy leader. Genis begins as an intelligent elf who considers humans INFERIOR BEINGS but throughout the adventure devolps to appreciate all and spread his intelligence to others. Zelos is another character worth a mention. A love-crazed moron at first but that changes throughout the adventure! He eventually becomes an intelligent, wise and ambitious love-crazed moron.

Story - 17/20

--Graphics--

A mixed bunch. Heavenly town/city backgrounds are in place here. The furniture in houses has a lovely country feel and the houses themselves emit a golden glow from the sun. Not the best use of Cel shading (Check wind waker for that) but good anyway.

The world map has really sucky graphics. But in this day and age having a world map is a blessing so I'm not going to complain.

The battles are nice, enemies are nicely varied and don't suffer from the "different species" factor that was an annoyance in FFX. One complaint about the monsters I do have is that there aren't enough "monster areas". I mean by this that the random encounters you face at one point of a continent are exactly the same as the ones you will be facing 5 hours later at the other end. Annoying but nothing serious.

An annoying thing is that sometimes at the end of battles characters hair and clothes may flash (Lloyd and Kratos especially). I suspect it may be a glitchy occurence. And speaking of glitches various symbols appear at times in some citizens speech. For example "Wow look it's the chosen, ?&pound;@0 to you!" That is just plain careless from Namco.

Graphics - 16/20

--Sound--

Not much to say here. The speech from character is lovely. It doesn't appear all the time but 40% of un-avoidable text throughout the game is spoken, which is good enough. The background music is good but not FF amazing. The world map tune can get annoying and it lacks any memorable theme tunes. Also the voices sound muffled. I heard that there was a shabby PAL conversion so maybe that is why, but it has to be deducted anyway.

Sound - 8/10

--Gameplay--

Control is nice, loading is quick and in general it is a lot of fun to play. There are really 4 stages in the game. The battles, Town stages, world map and dungeons. World map is very standard . A nice feature is that you can see the enemies walking around the land so no random encounters!. Also you can pick up treasure chests on the world map, somewhat similar to finding draw points in FF8.

The town stages are again standard. Each town has all the usual facilities. Inn,Item shop, Weapon shop and it has a customisation shop not unlike to the synthesis shop in FF9. I'd imagine that your getting the picture now that Tos isn't original.

The dungeons are something very different to those in FF. Basically every dungeon involves two things, the ring on your finger and pushing around a block.

They are suprisingly short for the first third and each only takes you 10-15 minutes to complete, but they soon get tougher. And yet the tougher they get the more rewarding solving them is. They rarely get to a highly frustrating point and so Tos really gets your brain working. And the joy that finally being able to get across to that land mass and the strategy in working it out is something that only Tos can deliver.

The battles are amazing fun. Not dull and constantly repeating like other Rpgs. No Tos is real time. Like Kingdom Hearts, only good. You can control any character you like and they each handle uniquely and like a dream. And unlike KH your allies have great AI. In fact I don't think I ever want to play KH again after seeing this!

It's multiplayer as well so everyone can join in on the fun! As you progress on your quest your team can learn new techs and soon the standard battles are turned into a work of art where an observer can't but help to watch in awe at your masterful combat.

Menus deserve a comment too. Item screens are present and correct, as are weapon equipment. Unique to Tos is the Synopsis where you can view like a diary entry of what you have done, what date you did it on, and what level you were on, neat huh?. And like the GF system in FF8 character gain their power from Exspheres. All of it is nicely presented

Gameplay - 29/30

--Lastability--

It will last ages. Combat is unique and remains entertaining 50 hours into the game. You can switch order in when events are triggered. You could try out controlling a different character through your second playthrough or use a different team. And when you finish the game you get a menu which allows for options such as EXPx2 to be bought for your next playthrough. A truly fantastic New game+ system. All Rpgs... no all games aspire to reach this standard in Lastability.

It strikes me as if Namco didn't have a greater plan for this game and just decided to "pad" out the adventure with random plot twists. This is never good for an Rpg and so this is one of the reasons why it just can't live up to the better FF titles, no matter how much I want it to.

20/20

Overall 90/100
9/10

If you own a Gamecube buy this, if you don't then buy a Gamecube! The score given does not reflect the enjoyment you will have playing this. It is flawed but that won't affect this being added to the top level on your gaming shelf.

I really wouldn't advise a rental since it would do this fine game no justice. Many say that Tos is slow to start off, personally I thought it was at its best around the start but meh.. that's just me. My point is though to play at least until the tower of salvation before casting a verdict on this fine masterpiece.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 01/10/05


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