Review by AnimaKeyblade
"Tales of how Namco have produced the RPG of the Generation. Or, in other words, a Review..."
"And so we begin..."
Right, I'm going to be honest here, it's not exactly like the Nintendo GameCube is flooded with great RPG's. Actually, you would be hard pushed to say that the GCN is flooded with any type of RPG at all. It's just a rare sight. It doesn't happen. So, naturally, when Namco decides to release the next installment in its beloved Tales series on the GCN, it's big news. Especially when it's localized for the USA and Europe alike. Which, let me tell you, is a RARE happening for a Tales game. Honestly, it is. So, I know what you're thinking, Namco must be pretty confident that they've got something special on their hands, right? well, no. You see, Tales of Symphonia is more than just special. It's a masterpiece. A work of art. It's that rare sort of game that people will be talking about decades on from now. It is, quite possibly, the Chrono Trigger of this generation. Which is quite the claim, I know. But it's darn true. So, on with the Review then
Gameplay ~ 10/10
"Um, guys, actually care to DO something now? I'm the one doing all the fighting here. >_>"
Right, before I start, you must understand something about the Tales series. It's, well, quite unique when it comes down to its Battle System. The Linear Motion Battle System, as it's called, is soundly different to any type of System that you will have played before. Instead of the usual Turn Based ordeal, the LMBS (see above >_>) is all set in Real Time, and viewed from a side on (2D-ish) perspective. Which is great, and in effect, it plays very much like Super Smash Brothers Melee. But, now, because of that, you can only ever control one character at a time. Now, this may sound like madness, considering it's an RPG, but it darn well works. Do NOT be put off by this, because the action is so fast paced and intense, it's the only way that it could possibly work. And you can also issue orders to your party to customize the way that they battle to your preference. So you do have *some* control.
Now, for the actual Battles themselves, it's all very simple. Of course, it's very complicated, but it's simple to come to terms with. By pressing A, your character will perform a swipe from their equipped weapon, usually a sword. By repeatedly pressing A, your character will perform a combo of strikes. Now, while that's generally the basics to attacking, you have your characters Techniques to take into account. These can be preformed by pressing B, and are special attacks that are more powerful than your usual strike. But, due to this, they use up TP (Tech Points), which your character has a limited amount of. Now, these Techniques vary a lot. For a basic Magic user, their Techniques will all consist of casting Magical Spells. While for your Sword user, their Techniques will all be based on fancy Sword combos and strikes. Each character has their own personal type of Techniques, and I don't want to spoil them for you. ^_^
Right, so that's your basics of battle. But that's not all there is. Your characters can equip something known as EX-Spheres, special gems that can add special advantages to your characters. Such as reducing the amount of TP used, or making your character have extra speed during battle. But, these EX-Spheres can also influence the world outside, too. Such as allowing your character to run twice as fact while in Towns and Dungeons. Now, these EX-Spheres also have another element to them. They are either classed as T (Technical) or S (Strike). By equipping them on your character, they will influence whether the Techniques that your character learn are of T or S type. Of course, there are advantages to both types. And part of the fun is experimenting with them.
And, while I'm on the subject, I would like to note that ToS is very much like your average RPG. You travel by means of a World Map, and visit various towns. Where you can restore your health at an Inn, and stock up on the latest weapons. And, while on the World Map or in a Dungeon, instead of your random enemy encounter, you can now see them by means of an on screen Avatar, which also offer hints as to your enemies persona. So, in effect, if you don't want to battle, you can do your best to avoid them. Although, this isn't always as easy as it sounds. You can also cook to restore HP and TP, which is a nice and handy feature.
Story ~ 9/10
"Wait, you expect ME, your standard 16 year old kid, to save an entire planet? Sure <_<"
Ah, yes, now this is all standard RPG fodder here. World is being covered in shadow, Chosen One is the only one who can save it, rebellious teenager joins Chosen on journey, etc. etc. But, this is soon cast aside as ToS ventures into an extremely deep and involving plot. Perhaps, it's only problem, is that it makes you care TOO much. Each character (and believe me, there are many) is completely fleshed out, and each of them have their own reasons for joining your party. You become most attached to them as the plot pushes on. Although, the plot itself, isn't exactly the most original of plots. You will often find it to be quite cliche, and very moral-heavy in parts. It's your traditional tale of Good versus Evil, you see, and the standard struggle of trying to stick true to your path as the darkness prevails. Although, the plot twists. A lot. Honestly, the plot itself is one hell of a roller-coaster ride. You will often find yourself glaring at the TV in disbelief. Although, that's as much as I'm going to say on that matter.
So, in-between your main Cut-Scenes and Anime sequences, ToS also brings something new to the mix. Your party will often banter with each other by way of Skits. Little conversations that are usually humorous, and help to flesh out your characters a little more. There are MANY of these Skits, hundreds in fact, and they are activated by pressing the Z button when the game warns you of a new skit on screen. And, also, I would just like to say that the plot seems perhaps a little dragged out at the end. You will find yourself being fed information that you just don't want to know, and progress is slow. But that's a petty flaw, and when dealing with ToS's clever plot, it's quite rude. <_<
Graphics ~ 8/10
"Gah, why are my eyes so darn big? Oh, that's Anime? Gotcha "
The graphics in ToS are nothing to truly rave about. They look nice, and they get the job done, but you're somewhat left with the underwhelming feeling that perhaps they could have been better. That said though, they are by no means bad. At all. They are in fact very good. The graphics themselves are cel-shaded. But not in the same way as The Wind Waker, though. The Environments are also very nice, and are varied, too. But, if I have one complaint, then it's that the World Map looks horrid. It's extremely blurry, and it's very bland. The textures are very messy, and, overall, it isn't really a pretty sight. But for the time you actually spend on the World Map, it doesn't really matter. The World is huge, and you get a great feeling of this. The characters are nicely animated, and the Battle scenes are very well done. Although, while in a dungeon, some animations seem perhaps a little simple. The Cut-scenes are nice, however, and the few and far between Anime Sequences are simply beautiful. If only there were more, however.
Sound ~ 9/10
"Ok, Lloyd, we don't need to be reminded that you're performing a Tempest. You've only done it 900 times! >:O"
Well, this is an area where ToS really excels in. Because it features fully supported voice-acting. Yes, almost every single character that is of some importance to the story has their own respective voice-actor. Now this is great, because the voice-acting is of very high quality. It really helps to bring the characters alive, and it adds a new depth of personality. It's a shame that the Skits don't have voice-acting though. The characters will also shout the techniques that they use in battle, too. Which can be frustrating, but it's a nice feature. Although some voices, however, can be a little annoying at times. But overall, it's very impressive.
The sound then. Moving on, it's all very similar territory this. For the World Map, you have your epic ballad, and for Battle, you have your hard hitting rock song. Although this may sound cliche, it actually isn't. The music has a nice feeling of originality to it, and, dare I say, you will often find yourself humming some of the more memorable tunes. Each area has fitting music, and you can't ask for much more. Although there isn't really enough different pieces, and you will get tired of some because they are constantly repeated.
Play Time/ Replayabilty ~ 10/10
"What's that, your only on your tenth run? Pfft, amateur "
ToS is addictive. And there is no way of getting around that fact. I can guarantee that the moment that you complete it, you will want to play it again. ToS is so huge, and there is just so much stuff that you can do, that, really, it's impossible to see and do everything in just one run-through. Namco have also added a great little feature known as the Grade Shop. In every battle that you partake in, at the end you will receive a set amount of Grade based on how well you did. This can either be positive or negative. Now, while it's as good as pointless during the game, at the very end, you get the chance to spend all of your earned Grade in the Grade shop. The Grade Shop can be accessed by loading up a file in which you have just completed the game in, and you can purchase various features to enhance your next play through. Such as an increased amount of experience, you know, that sort of stuff.
And, just to add to that, ToS also has the inclusion of Recipes, Titles and your Monster Book, which, all will more than likely take a few play-through's to complete. So, now you can begin to see how just how big of a replay value Tales of Symphonia has. Really, though, the biggest reason to do so is just to experience the beauty of this game again. It really is that good.
Ahem, yes, and as for Play time, well, ToS is an RPG, right? yes, so, as you would expect, it's long. Infact, it even spans two discs. Yes, ToS features two discs, although the second one is disappointingly short. But it doesn't matter, because ToS will at least take around 50 hours to complete, even for the most experienced of players.
Final Recommendation ~ 10/10
Well, what can I say? The Review speaks for itself, doesn't it? ToS is an awesome, awesome game. You could do a lot worse than buy it, I'll tell you that. ToS more than lives up to it's Tales name, and is, without doubt, the best RPG available on the Nintendo GameCube. It doesn't even matter if you don't like the RPG genre; the Battle system in ToS is so fun and unique, that anyone can enjoy it. Which is saying something. So, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to one of the best games of this Generation. Go on, you deserve it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/15/05
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