Review by Bloatedcow7014

"A Symphonic Achievement"

Tales of Symphonia, just what can I say about it that doesn't underrate it. There are just some games that come along, kick an incomprehensible amount of ass, and many people pay attention to it. I picked up this game around the release date, having never played a single Tales game before in my life. Plus, it was about time that my Gamecube was put to good use, and by God it was. The first thing I noticed about this game is that it is two discs, so that alone makes it 30 hours at the least. Anyway, I plug in the game, turn it on and watch the opening movie scene. I was astounded by the “high-quality anime cut-scenes” (which can be found on the back of the box) in it. It captured me, the music was great and the scenes looked beautiful. Though the cut-scene really has nothing to do with the story, it is a good icebreaker to get you playing it. What I am about to discuss will make you go out and buy the game this instant.

This game, like Wind Waker, had beautiful cel-shaded graphics that were done to perfection. Voice acting was not the best in the world, but they were done very well. Tales of Symphonia boasts a well-thought-out battle system that, instead of players take turns to move, you are free to move about the battlefield, thus making it a 3-D battle system. In addition to the battle system, the games presents a remarkable technique system, which, when performed to perfection and mastered, makes the game a whole lot better. Battling could be considered button mashing, I will give you that, but it requires more than pressing just 2 or 3 buttons. The way the tech system works is that there are 2 ways that you can go, Technical mode and Strike mode. Technical mode is based more on long range attacking, such as magic spells, and Strike mode is just what it seems, it focuses more on the physical force. Either side is good for any of the characters, except Raine, who definitely should go Technical (I will now refer to Technical mode as T-mode and Strike mode as S-mode) mode. T-mode and S-mode both learn different techs, or special moves you can execute using the B-button along with another. But, you can't learn all the T-mode techs, switch to S-mode, and learn all of those techs, it doesn't work that way. For instance, if you learn a level 3 spell on the T side for Raine, let's say Revitalize, and you decide that you want to switch to S-mode. In order to learn the level 3 spell ‘respective' to the S-mode side, then you must forget Revitalize to learn it, and the same goes vice versa.

The premise for this game is simple, yet drawn out and somewhat boring at times. Legend has it that one day a Chosen will emerge from the world and ‘regenerate' it, because the world is mysteriously dying, which you will figure out why when you play. Anyway, the plot starts out good at first, but then dies down for a good por-tion of the game, and comes back up, obviously, at the end. In addition to that, the characters embark on a quest to save people from ranches, kind of like a slave plantation. There's always gotta be 1 group of people that nobody likes, especially the citizens, and that's the half-elves. They have long been discriminated against since the Kharlan War. Some people argue that the ranches and the discrimination can loosely be ‘attached' to the Holocaust, the Jews were getting tortured, you know the story. Al-though they do bear a resemblance, I don't not think that this was meant to be and I offer no comment. Meanwhile, the game throws a few curveballs if you will and you can either hit them or completely miss.

Since the battle system is so revolutionary, I will go into it in depth. You take a party of 4 into battle and you battle. Depending on the quality of the way you fought, how many items you used, how much TP and HP you have at the end of the battle, how long it took you to complete the battle, your high combo for the battle, damage taken, and level of the enemies (phew, that's it), you will receive GRADE based on all of those. GRADE is not really that important unless you want to play a new game+, which I recommend you do. The way the battle works is that you have your basic slash attacks, assuming you are using the main character, Lloyd, and you can link them to level 1, 2, or 3 techs. A lvl 1 tech can be linked to a lvl 2, which can be linked to a lvl 3. Not difficult to grasp, but it may take some practicing to get your best combos. Either way, that's how it works. They added some other nifty battle qualities, such as over-limit and unison attack. From the menu, you can set Ex-gems to your players, lvls 1-4, and depending on which ones you set, your character can change from T-mode to S-mode or vice versa.

Really, this game has 4 flaws, camera angles, action sequences outside of battle, and lack of anime cut-scenes. Multiplayer in this game is just downright impossible to play with. The camera angles ruin the entire experience because it focuses ONLY on player 1, no matter what. If player 1 runs off to fight the distant enemies, good luck seeing who you're hitting player 2. I recommend avoid playing multiplayer whenever possible. Another trait that really grinds my gears is the shoddy action sequences during mini-scenes. It is so poorly done that it should be illegal. I don't even think that the producers tried to make them seem real, it's just impossible. I do not know how this game could have near perfect everything, and have action sequences that just putter across the finish line. I have to admit, I came playing this game hoping that there would be an abundance of anime cut-scenes, and to my astonishment, there were only 3, if you count the opening one. Surely that a game that has gotten rave reviews, high acclaim and says on the back of the box “enter a world of high quality anime cut scenes” would have more than 3. That is false advertising. I just realized that I forgot to mention that this game has a ton of sidequests, although some of them are boring and stupid, but 1 in particular will get you angry, I know it made me. This boss is so near impossible, it might just do to dumb down the difficulty, but that would be for cowards. By the way, you'll know who I am talking about when you choose to do the sidequest, which gets you arguably the best weapon for your main character. Speaking of false advertising, this game says that there are over 80 hours of gameplay spanning 2 discs. The first disc, which clocked in at roughly 35-40 hours on your first playthrough was charged and I thought I would be in for a ride for the second. Little did I know that it was only about 25-33 hours. If you spend over 80 hours on this game, you need to seek help be-cause A) that's not healthy and B) you must have a mental disability because they overshoot the time by about 25 hours. Unless you're a little 7 year old who doesn't know left from right, you should beat this game well under 80 hours.

This game holds a ton of replay value; you can play it over and over again. If you start a new game+, you use the GRADE you earned from the last playthrough and buy cool stuff with it: 10x experience, 5x experience, 2x experience, tension between characters, titles, anything that you had in the game before, you can transfer over. I recommend transferring over Gald, you'll need it. There are just so many things you can do differently in a new game, instead of going T-mode, go S-mode. Instead of hating Collette, whom you really should, start liking her. I'm not going to spoil anything, but there is a huge character acquisition difference, you have to make different choices. In fact, now that I think about it, I played through this game 9 times, and enjoyed every playthrough. I highly recommend that you buy this game with hopes to play it many times, as it should be, and you do not play all. All in all, the goods of this game definitely outweigh the flaws, by a lot. So, if you're looking for a game that you will be hooked on and is good, you should consider buying this game. It is a wonderful game to add to your Gamecube collection, and I would be surprised if an avid Gamecube player doesn't have this in his or her collection. Tales of Symphonia is definitely one of the better, if not one of the best, games to every grace the Gamecube, or gaming world, for that matter. Ditch Madden, get this.

Final score: 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/03/06

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