Review by Menji
"...Incompetent good intentions will only bring tragedy."
Ah! Tales of Symphonia, what you've never heard of it? Well neither did I until I saw it rocket up on the top 10 FAQ list. Tales of Symphonia or ToS for short is a whole new RPG that I have never experienced. They take the normal RPG experience and add action gameplay to it. This game should be an absolute must have for any cuber out there, it's only $20 and if you see it in a store; you better pick it up!
Ok, you pick the game up and expect a normal Take your turn type of fighting, right? WRONG! ToS has you control the fighting. Want to stand as far away as possible and not do anything? FINE! Want to tell your teammates to retreat while you do all the fighting? DONE. You get to control how the fighting goes, you can control any of characters and tell them when you want spells done. Since you are able to pause the action as you browse through items and techs, you have to wait a few seconds before using another time to avoid abuse. I find this works very well and keeps the game in the real time feel.
As for actual attacking, you can set moves to the different buttons thrown across the controller. These attacks range from spells, slashes and basic attacks. Of course, what would fighting be without jumping and blocking? Yes, with one press of a button and precision can have you stopping the most lethal blows. There are some rare features such as a combo counter, which records your highest combo in battle. An encounter counter which shows how many battles you fought and in addition to your time count, you get a number that shows how long you have been playing the game. After you win a battle, based on the number and difficulty of the monsters and how long you took, you will gain experience and gald (your money). Based on your use of techs and the way you fought, you gain bonus points towards your new techs and you obtain points for GRADE which allows you to buy some rare items and for later use it to get things back on a new game plus. Lastly, something that is useless but creative; a timer that tells you how long it took you to win the battle.
Other on field gameplay includes riding on many unique objects that are rare to most RPG's. One of the few unique features this game creates is the ability to select all the items you want to buy in one quick menu. There is also Cooking which once you learn new recipes you can cook using items to have different affects on your party. There are titles your characters gain throughout the game from different tasks which boost certain stats. And the last thing that separates this from all the rest is that it grants you a power shortly into the game that through the game changes for that dungeon for some unique gameplay. There are also things called Z conversations which happen throughout the story and are completely option if you do not wish to hear them. But they do tell about character's background and give you choices that affect your relationship with others.
The control is good for the most part, except on certain paths where you think you'd be able to walk over but actually a solid wall where there is nothing in your path blocks you. Vehicles could also be a tad faster and have better control, but it makes it realistic and you aren't able to cross the world in a matter of seconds. Battle control is almost perfect, it looks to be 2D fighting, but that's only because you're targeted at a certain enemy. If you change your target, you then see that your fighting grid is actually 3D. On the normal field screen, your control over your guy is pretty nice. As mentioned before, there are spots where it looks like you could cross over, but in fact you actually can't. For the most part, the game does respond to your every move in battle. At times you can input a combo and enter another before your first is through and still execute the other combo. Of course there are times when you input it to early and you pay for it with some major damage.
It may seem like I'm bashing this game, when in fact I'm praising it. The game starts off with the usual young boy gets his home destroyed, he leaves on a quest to save his world while meeting a wide variety of characters along the way. Wait a minute? This story seems awfully familiar, wait a minute! It is! This is the exact same as a game called Final Fantasy X. Which according to different views, this could be bad or good. In this case, it is good since that is a very good game. So here you are expecting everything to fall in place when BAM! The story hits a huge twist and throws everything at you at once. It is precisley at this time when you believe the game would end as well but hey, did you check the case? There are two discs, so how could you be done with the game if you are still on the first one?
But anyway, back to the story. It is one of the greatest stories to play through. And up to this point, there is now better story on a Gamecube game. Your main enemies are part of a group called Desians who control the world with ranches. At these ranches they take humans that aren't Desians and torture them, or so that you think. But I can't tell you what actually they do as it would ruin the surprise. There are also those who resist and those that help the Desians. You are joined with other characters as your protect the Chosen One and help her on her journey to release all the seals as her journey of regenerating the world is being completed. Throughout the game you find out about Exspheres and how a lot of people have them to fight, and if they don't have a key crest then they won't be able to contain the sphere and start turning into monsters.
If you noticed, this game has that cel-shaded and anime look to it. And would you look at that? They all have huge shiny eyes, but it fits the characters. Every character you get (expect maybe one or two) have all different hair colors and all have their hair in a different style. This helps to make it feel like they just didn't take the same character, add a new name and set of moves to create more characters. Each of the characters has their own backround and somehow intertwined with each others which is unraveled throughout the story. As the story progresses, each of the characters shares more of his/her past and the team grows stronger. This is by far one of the best developments in a RPG that I have seen. Yet I must rant about this one scene where your party helps a girl out and someone is deeply friends with her and want to help her. You'll understand it once you get to the part.
Each character is given their own weapon, and things like bracelets and armor are separate but shared with the other characters. They each have their own sayings after battle and according to how you perform in the story and how far you get, you can gain titles for your character that give them boosts. For a rave, I must admit how I like the fact that you only have to control one character at a time and your characters aren't being stupid. You can change the person shown running around everywhere and who you control. And all weapons actually change their look in battle so it is the same as what you did equip.
Ah, the sound of music. Yes this game does have it's track of great melodies. But it's nothing worth buying on soundtrack and most are really hard to think about in your head. Each of the character's voices is pleasant and unique from one another and you actually get the feeling that this is actually happening. I do wish they'd use voice more often, as at times there is a none, just the words. And I really wished that there was voices during the Z conversations. As for other characters, such as NPC's (Non-playable character) they to will have their own voice if they are important enough, which keeps it fresh.
I want to mention this now before anyone starts bashing the visuals, first off it is cel-shaded. And it is Gamecube. Don't expect something like Final Fantasy which would totally not work for this game even though they do have a similar beginning. This is one of the few games that actually succeeded in making a cel-shaded game actually good. If you are wondering why developers make games cel-shaded and not real looking. It's because with cel-shading, you get a whole new look and much more colors. It's because of this that every game in the market is not the same and how companies actually make money.
To kill your enemy means to bear the responsibility for that life.
The replay value for this game is great, you are able to have a new game plus which let's you use your GRADE to buy back items, weapons, techs, and titles. There are a lot of things to get as well but aren't nearly as important. This second time through let's you try for faster time and choosing the other options for a slightly different story. Of course, the story will continue the same way as their are no plot twists but hey you can always try for the other endings.
Half the world's girls are destined to become my servants of love!
...The probability of that is...infinitely close to zero.
Let me put this straight, if you have Gamecube and like RPG's. You will like... no YOU WILL love this game. But if you're not a fan of RPG's but like action styled games with a great story, you should defiantly pick it up. It's only $20 now and is pretty rare for most renting stores and I normally only see it in video games stores like Gamestop and Gamecrazy. This game has it all, you will not be disappointed.
I've told you my opinion, now go out and decide your own!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/20/05, Updated 04/20/09
Game Release: Tales of Symphonia (US, 07/13/04)
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