"The best RPG out there"

When you think of RPGs, you tend to think of the company Square. Square was very good in delivering spectacular RPGs for the last couple of generations. However, this generation has been a little different. With the exception of Final Fantasy X, Square has delivered rather lukewarm products. The RPG fans don't need to worry though, a new company has stepped up to the plate. That company is Namco and they are the RPG company this generation. Xenosaga is amazing but even that fails to compare to Tales of the Symphonia, which is probably the best RPG I've ever played. Tales of Symphonia has many of the same elements you'd find in most RPGs like summons and elements but there is some unique features to it such as the game play.

Storyline/Characters: The storyline to this game will have hooked very early on and keep you hooked until the end. The game is filled with unexpected plot twists so you won't need to worry about it being predictable. I really thought this game had one of the best cast of characters. You have Lloyd Irving, the main character who is kind of a moron but he has a good and determined attitude. You have the mysterious badass, the hilarious womanizer, and the sexy ninja girl plus much more. Even the characters that aren't playable have great stories and personalities to them. A problem with the characters is that the main villain is lame. However, there are many good lesser villains to make up for this.

After a few events happen early in the game, you will accompany Colette, The Chosen, on a mission to regenerate the world. The world is suffering from a drought of mana. Crops can't go and life is hard on everyone. This may appear to be very simple but this is only the tip of the iceberg. You will discover what really is going on and the storyline will make a drastic change. This is for the better as the plot thickens even more and I said, it is filled with unexpected plot twists. It is possible for the story to be altered slightly by the choices you make. So keep that in mind!

The beginning of the story might seem like a direct rip off of Final Fantasy X but that doesn't last that long. Some people may criticize the cast of characters for being too bland but I have to disagree with them. I found the cast of characters to be great and the storyline to be addictive. 10/10

Game Play: Tired of the turn based style that many RPGs use? Well, look no further! Tales of Symphonia's game play is probably the best aspect of the entire game, and that is saying a lot! Tales of Symphonia uses more of a real time system. This concept is very fast paced and you'll have to be quick. However, this makes it more fun. You'll want to fight battles, which is always a plus when playing an RPG, or any game for that matter. You can have up to four people in a party, but you only actually control one person. This may not seem all that great, believe I thought the same thing but it isn't a problem at all. You are still in control of the items and the option of fleeing but you can program a character you aren't controlling to do stuff such as stop using magic when that character's TP gets too low or to attack the same enemy you are attacking. You can also get rid of weak abilities that become worthless later in the game. How do you fight exactly? Well, you can attack with the “A” button and press up to jump and attack. However, you can perform skills or have techniques that do more damage by setting up and using the “B” button with a direction to use these abilities. These will become very helpful later in the game.

Another features to Tales of Symphonia is the cooking system. The cooking system is a system that takes the ingredients that are in the inventory and if you have the recipe, you can prepare the dish. You use this at the end of a battle and they it can do many things such as healing you, curing any abnormal ailments or raising your stats. You learn recipes from the Wonder Chef who you can find all around the world. He only appears whn you inspect something odd such as a painting or a steaming pot. Like everyone, you don't always start off as a master chef. You have to master these dishes, which can be done by successfully making a meal.

Another aspect of this game is Ex Gems. There are 4 different levels of Ex Gems and they have a couple of uses. First, they can help with your characters stats and abilities. There are two types of skills, technical and strike. Sometimes you'll be able to raise your stats using Ex Gems or you can have abilities that decrease te amount of time to summon among other things. Overall, the game play is the highlight of this game and it is truly spectacular. 10/10

Soundtrack: The soundtrack sometimes gets mixed reviews. Some people love it or they think it is mediocre. I personally loved the soundtrack and I thought it had a variety of good songs such as “Beat the Angel.” The problem some people have is that it wasn't quite as “orchestrated” and some people feel that the music was created to be better with MIDIs. I disagree, I felt the soundtrack to this game was excellent. I won't go quite as far as to say it is the best soundtrack out there, but it is definitely a magnificent soundtrack overall. 10/10

Graphics: “Cell shading? Why oh why would they use cell shading?” That was my initial thought when I first looked at this game. Truth be known, I've never been that much of a fan of cell shading. However, my opinion has changed with it. Sure, the graphics aren't that realistic but I really had no problem with the anime look. Also, by sacrificing some of the graphic power, Namco was able to expand more on every other category. The graphics weren't even that bad. The landscape was beautiful, the atmosphere was fitting. This game also had a bit of voice acting. The good thing is that their was actually good voice acting for the most part, which has been a problem in other things. The only flaw I see is the fact that sometimes when a character is speaking, their mouths don't move. The graphical aspect to this game was still awesome overall. 9/10

Replay Value: This game has excellent replay value. As I mentioned earlier, you can alter the story by some of the decisions you make. You do this by going through someone's “scenario.” When doing this, you would be nice to this person, take them in your group when you split up etc. There are many events that can happen depending on the choices you make so beware. But besides that, this game has great replay value. You'll probably replay this game many times. You may not have quite as much fun because you'll know of all the plot twists but you should still have a blast. 5/5

Difficulty: This game may be difficult at first because you need to get into the gist of the battle system and how the game works. Then the game will be pretty easy for a while and then it can get difficult. Leveling up isn't that important, though it does help. You will probably use items a lot. This game isn't that hard but it is harder than some of the Final Fantasies. There are also some hard side quest bosses you can do if you want a challenge. Games in general are getting a lot easier. I don't see what is so bad about having a challenge once in a while. Well, back on track, Tales of Symphonia has a pretty good difficulty level. It could have been a little more difficult though. Oh well. 5/5

Recap:

Storyline/Characters: 10/10
Game Play: 10/10
Soundtrack: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Replay Value: 5/5
Difficulty: 5/5

Overall: 24/25 = 96% = A.

Pros:

Awesome, addictive storyline
Not predictable with all of its plot twists
Excellent cast of characters
Has humorous moments
Great soundtrack
Good scenery/landscape
Good graphics
Has many paths you can take
Has great replay value
Has good difficulty

Cons:

Sometime the mouths don't move when a character speaks
Some of the dungeons are a little short

Overall this is one fantastic game. I was seriously blown away like this. Unless Final Fantasy XII is extremely good, Square will have to face the fact that Namco delivered better RPGs this generation. This is a long game, it took me about 45 hours to go through just the storyline. That's a long time considering that doesn't include the side quests. The Nintendo GameCube really needed a good solid RPG to compete with Sony and they got it! Tales of Symphonia is the best RPG to date. An RPG that has the ability to make it fun to level up is an A+ RPG in my book. Bravo Namco, you make me so proud. *Tear*


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/27/05


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