Review by Computerbug8

"Among my favorite games of all time"

Tales of Symphonia was more than just another video game for me to play when it came wrapped in nice paper for Christmas one year. When I played this, my interest in video games had been waning for years, and my expectations for this game were fairly low. By the time I had beaten it, not only had I played one of the most amazing games I had ever come across, but ToS single-handedly revived my interest in gaming, and I started playing more than ever before.

For the past few years, almost every game I've beaten owes my playthrough of it to Tales of Symphonia. It's a long and uninteresting story, but trust me...it's the truth. It takes a special game to offer an experience that will change a hobby forever, and that's exactly what ToS did. Keep reading to find out how.

STORY

This is an RPG, so the story is a key element. After all, having a bad story could ruin the experience. That being said, the story in Tales of Symphonia (ToS) is awesome. Initially, it may seem to start out a little slow and cliched, but it gets better after the 15-hour mark. After that, the story becomes very interesting and incredibly deep and will keep you guessing what happens next.

The story starts off in a classroom in the world of Sylvarant. You're immediately introduced to Lloyd, your protagonist for this soon-to-become epic quest. No, he's not the brightest crayon in the box, and he easily loses control of his temper. Still, he's a good person when it comes down to it, which has led him to making some great friends. One of his friends is Colette Brunnel, a clumsy, overly cheerful blond who apologizes at every available opportunity. Not only that, she's also the Chosen of Regeneration, meaning she has been tasked with traversing the world and breaking elemental seals to replenish mana to the dying world.

There's just one problem: scattered around the world are Desians, members of a massive group bent on seeing others in pain. Regenerating the world becomes even tougher when the Desians notice a jewel in Lloyd's hand called an exsphere, and it's clear they'll stop at absolutely nothing to retrieve from Lloyd at any cost.

I know the story seems simple and cliched, but it changes drastically as the game advances. After about the halfway point, you'll have a whole slew of twists and turns thrown at you. Gradually, you'll see how the story goes much deeper than it originally seemed and that every character seems to be connected in some way or another. By the time you're facing off in the final battle, you'll find it impossible to believe that you're playing the same game that started out in the quiet classroom of a tiny village.

ToS delivers a truly epic story. It gets off to a slow start, but its complexity and several twists make up for it. Yes, sometimes the foreshadowing will be so obvious you'll feel insulted, but it doesn't take away from the fact the story is very well thought out and very well told. In this instance, it's best just to ignore the cliches and enjoy the story for what it is. But even if you do hold the "been there, done that" elements against the plot, you'll still be amazed by how well the game implements the story elements.

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay in ToS makes this game a joy to play. The shining part of the gameplay is in the battle system, but I'll get to that later. Out of battle, most of the game is spent exploring or doing puzzles.

But that brings the one flaw to gameplay: there are simply way too many long and annoying puzzles. While some of the puzzles aren't too bad (especially the ones early on) there will be some that will aggrivate you or stump you for a while. The worst part is that you pretty much have to do a puzzle for everything, from trying to infiltrate a Desian ranch to (literally) trying to get a piece of fruit from a tree.

And since a lot of these puzzles take place in dungeons, you're obviously going to find yourself fighting a lot of enemies. Luckily, in ToS, you can actually see the enemies on the screen, so you can decide whether or not you want to engage in battle with them. But then, I don't see why you wouldn't want to fight, because the battle system is awesome.

BATTLE SYSTEM

This is what ultimately decides whether or not an RPG is fun: whether or not the makers can pull of the battle system. And in ToS, the battle system possibly contributes the most to the memorable experience this game has to offer.

Unlike other RPGs where fights are turn-based, ToS's battles take place in real-time, so there's no waiting to attack. Whenever you want to go up to an enemy and attack it, you can. The fighting takes place on a 3D field, so there's plenty of range and area to attack the enemy in. The battles are fast paced, but go at a good enough speed so that you can keep an eye on how you and your comrades are doing. Up to four characters can engage in battle at once.

There's some good news and bad news. The good news: the game allows multiplayer, allowing anywhere from one to three other people to team up and kick some butt in the fights. The bad news: it's executed poorly. Even if there are four people fighting at once, the camera will still only focus on player 1. This can get annoying, but it's the only flaw to the battle system.

Like in other RPGs, you get money and experience for the fights you win, along with a thing called GRADE. While it doesn't have a huge pupose during the game, it can be used to buy things at the end of the game, which adds replay value. (more on that later)

Basically, this game has one of the better battle systems I've ever seen. The 3D fighting and wide range make the battles very lively.

REPLAYABILITY

Just playing through for a second experience would be enough to make you want to go through the game again, but if you're a perfectionist, this game will keep you going for a while. You can unlock special costumes for your characters, so you might want to go around and try and collect them all. There's also a point in the game when you choose one of two characters who you will take with you to fight in the final battle. You can also unlock the difficulty mode "mania" where all enemies have twice as many hit points as they do normally. There are also modes where you can cut the experience you get in half, so basically, this game is as hard as you want to make it for youself after your first playthrough. You buy all these things with the GRADE you get after you win a fight. With unlockable costumes and allowing one of two parties at the end, this game will take you at least three playthroughs to do and get everything this game has to offer.

SIDEQUESTS

The game is a bit weak in the sidequest area, since most of them obtain a different costume or something like that. However, there are a few fun sidequests that end with you fighting a boss that will give you a run for your money. Most of the sidequests aren't activated until the second half of the second disk, so it will take a while to be able to play them.

GAMEPLAY OVERALL

Overall, the puzzles may be enough to drive you crazy, but the very fun battle system makes it all worthwhile. The battles make this game very fun and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The battle system is a huge part of what makes the game memorable and fun. The high amount of replay value and sidequests make this game worth going back and playing it a second time, if you didn't want to already.

Well, that just about covers the two major aspects of a good RPG: story and gameplay. So far, ToS excels in both sections, but keep reading to see how ToS does in the sections that seperate a good game from a great one.

GRAPHICS

ToS features cel-shaded graphics that make this game look and feel like a cartoon. The character models look well done and there's a lot of detail on them that make them a pleasure to look at. There's plenty of detail on each character, and the animations and facial expressions are well presented, despite the low quantity of them.

The areas around the characters also look very nice. The towns are captured perfectly; whether you're in a small little village where fishing is the main industry, or if you're in the royal capital where each building dwarfs you, the towns and cities all come to life and are rendered flawlessly. The dungeons are the exact same way with their generally dark and generally unwelcome atmosphere.

SOUND

Few things set the mood of a scene more than music, and once again, ToS delivers. All towns and cities and dungeons have their own theme, and that theme fits the area very well. From the peaceful and cheerful music of Iselia to the threatening music in Human Ranches, to the climactic "It's all come down to this!" theme played in the final dungeon, the music sets the tone of wherever you are. There are also a lot of battle themes in this game, and they all sound very good as well. (there's even Fighting of the Spirit from Tales of Phantasia in it) While there were some tracks I liked A LOT more than others, there wasn't a song in the game that I particularly disliked.

Of course, music isn't the only thing in the sound category nowadays. There's a lot of voice acting in this game, and some widely recognized voice talents in North America offer their voices to the characters. The voice actors do a reasonably good job, even though they sometimes emphasized the wrong parts of the wrong words. I had no huge problems with the voice actors at all. Some of the voices may be annoying at first, and some of them might seem a little out of place (Genis is a guy???) but it's nothing you can't get used to by the end of the game.

LENGTH

This game can get pretty long, especially since it's spread across two discs. My first playthrough took me just a little longer than 55 hours, which is a pretty nice amount of time. If you want to try to get everything this game has to offer, then it will take you a bare minimum of three playthroughs, so we're talking about a game that will last you a pretty long time. (even though you can do your later playthroughs in a much smaller amount of time) Even if you just want to play through this game once, it will last you a long time, and in this instance, that's not a bad thing.

PROS
+ Deep and epic story
+ Awesome battle system
+ Great graphics
+ Great music
+ Long length
+ Lots of replay value
+ No random encounters
+ Nicely done voice overs
+ An awesome turning point

CONS
- A bit easy
- Bad Multiplayer
- WAY too many annoying puzzles

CLOSING NOTES

This is quite possibly the greatest game I've ever played. I know those problems would normally be enough to drop the score to a 9, but this game has made me an RPG fan and brought back my interest to video games. Plus, it's the only game I'm still playing, even though I finished it back in early April 2005. If a game can make me a fan of a series, a genre and of video games overall again and can keep me playing it and still have fun with it, it's definitely worth a perfect 10.

RECOMMENDATION

This game is a Player's Choice, so you can find it for $20 now. It's definately worth that price. If you see this game and you have a Gamecube, don't hesitate to buy it. This is one of the greatest games I've ever played, and without a doubt the best RPG I've played. Absolutely worth buying; you would not be able to get the full value out of renting it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/04/05, Updated 04/03/09

Game Release: Tales of Symphonia (US, 07/13/04)


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