Review by EJRICH

Reviewed: 11/27/06

A Tale of Tales

Tales of Symphonia

Foreword: Well, I got this game for about 23.00 bucks at my local Target, and to be quite honest I can say that I really don’t regret it one bit. I heard some good and bad things about this game, and while some of those things were definitely true, most weren’t. I can regretfully say that this game isn’t perfect, but to that same token no game really is. Tales of Symphonia may not do everything under the sun right, but it does do just enough to make it an experience to remember. I honestly can say that aside from maybe Baten Kaitos and Path of Radiance, this is the best RPG on the Cube. Sure, it is plagued by some stupid mistakes that really shouldn’t have been made, but it still in the end more than makes up for them. When I can safely say that about a game, I know it’s good. You can probably get the game pretty cheap now considering it has been out for several years, and I would whole heartedly tell you to get it, unless one of the things that I may mention throughout this mammoth of a review finds you displeasing it.

The box art this game shows off as you look at it when you’re picking it up is nothing really special, just some anime characters in a background full of summons. Typical RPG style of art. The instruction booklet doesn’t do much help to you if you need it, so don’t even bother looking in it if you’re stuck. The opening intro that this game provides is actually really good. It is set in a beautifully rendered anime art type of cinema that really shows off what the creators of this game wanted in the first place. Granted, I would have appreciated more of them sprinkled throughout the game, but not much can be done to help that. The start screen is pretty normal, with nothing much setting it apart from anything else. Now that I have officially bored you with the intros of this game, let the review begin XD.

Story (Some Minor Spoilers Possibly)
Saying that this game doesn’t have a clichéd story would be a true lie. It doesn’t take a medical doctor to see what is going to happen by the end of the game as soon as he turns it on. Granted, it does get good at some parts, but I would have appreciated something more special from Namco. You basically are some guy with some obscene amount of justice within you that wants to help the chosen save the universe. You team up with your party and try to go about doing that. Along the way you meet the evil bad guys of the story and you go about killing them. Nothing really special there that would present itself in a better way. I can say that the second disk does get some what better, but that’s about maybe 8-15 hours off. That’s a long time for the story to get started up.

Now that you know the story, I’m going to explain the characters in the story without spoiling them. I can’t wait for you to see this. You have some guy who loves justice, has a mouth that has some obsession with the ba word, and is always screwing up things. Next you have some pip squeak that has the ability to be the smartest boy ever. After that you have some teacher that is probably one of the most horror story people I have ever seen. You have a girl that is a clumsy oaf, a guy that is a womanizer, some freak accident girl that was imprisoned to some exosphere, a guy who is haunted by his past, and a summoner that lacks courage. On top of that, you have a backstabber that turns out to be-----Yeah, that’s your party. What I like about this story though, is that they really tend to evolve the characters as the story goes along. The characters just don’t stay the way I described them (well, for the most part XD). I really look for that in a game; solid character development that lets the story take its toll on the characters making them change for the better or for the worse. When you see that in a story, you know you have a winner…unless for some reason they go and screw it up like they did in this case.
(End Spoilers)

The next thing that really ticked me off in the story was the poor dialogue that was exchanged over the long run of it. The character that I mentioned in the last paragraph that cursed a lot; he was the one that I thought was probably the worst. Now I don’t mind cursing in games too too much, but when it gets to the point were a guy will sit there and murder the English language, saying the same curses over and over again until my head was spinning, it really gets annoying. I’ll be really honest; he kept saying it over and over again throughout the story. It was as if they forgot about all of the other words that were just as bad as that and just kept writing that thinking they were doing a good job. It’s really that bad. Aside from that, he’s probably the only character in the story that curses on a consistent basis, which is pretty sad. They probably could have knocked out the language rating if they just ditched him. Apart from that, the rest of the story isn’t that bad with its character dialogue, so that’s not that hard to cope with.

One last point and I’ll stop rambling about the story. One thing that I really noticed with the story was that in everything that it did, it always found a way to either screw it up or just plain out ruin a moment. I really wanted to just plain out laugh at some sad moments, just because they really messed things up.

Game Play
One thing that I can definitely say about this was that they really created a wonderful world for you to explore, whether it be a mountain landscape or a vibrantly built city, everything was there. I’ll be really blunt about this; I could have really done without the annoying over world. Not only did they really mess up what the towns and cities looked like, but they also went and just made it tedious to get across. With the amount of back-tracking that this game would impose on you, you couldn’t wait to gain the ability to move much more quickly across the land in the form of riding an animal or what not. Even then, it still took quite some time until the end of the game. Enemies would frequently just blast towards you with super human speed, almost as if there was no hope of getting around them. That was a big screw up on their part. If they are going to put enemies on the map, at least make them avoidable to someone who is trying to avoid them. I really felt as if they almost wanted you to fight every little battle that they packed into the game. To be quite honest, you really don’t have to either. It’s not as if you have to gain the exp, as excluding a few hard bosses, the games a cake walk. At least put in some marginal difficulty if you’re going to force battles. Yeah, I’m rambling XD.

The battle system that the Tales series is famous for returns once again as usual. It’s really the game’s main draw in my opinion. Most of the time you find yourself either playing tactical or turn based RPGS, which is great for awhile but can sometimes get dull. This game takes a more hands off approach while still allowing game play to play out like an RPG in the fact that battles are in real time. Yeah, you still go to a separate screen indicating that a battle has started, but you don’t just sit there and pick commands from a menu. You have the option to go ahead and pick some commands from a menu, but you still have to manually execute them yourself. You can honestly just save yourself a bunch of time and set them to a stick command that can lead to easy access, something that can be of a vital importance to you in tight battles. Most of the time you’ll find your stick commands the healing spells of a party member, but that’s just your c stick. You b stick is what allows all of your personal moves. I’ll discuss moves in just a second. After that, you just go around hitting things trying to make sure you don’t die. Your movement is kind of limited in what it actually accomplishments, only allowing for vertical and horizontal movement. That can be a problem to some, especially since it hinders what you could do compared to some other free time battle systems that allow for unlimited.

This game does something really sneaky in the fact that it gives off a feeling of customization that’s not really there. Let me put it to you like this; you have two lines from which to choose your moves, tech and strike. Both have their own diverse move line that stems off of the basic moves. While it may look as though you can do what ever you want, in order to learn a certain move off of a certain line you have to give up all of that moves other things in the other line in order to learn it. That was a mouth full XD. Granted, you can switch around for each move, but the hassle of it is not normally worth it. I found myself just sticking to one line throughout the game, and it was really disappointing to me to have to go and play it over again just to experience a different line. That being aside, everything has its purpose, even if I don’t see it at the present moment in time.

Towns are normally a hassle to explore for the things you want, as there is usually a bunch of different venders all having a bunch of different items that just mean nothing to you at all. You finally find the vender you want…..ten minutes later. Towns are pretty big, and I guess that stems off of the fact that they make you explore a lot. I prefer against it, as I don’t personally like sitting in an endless drawl just looking for one stupid thing that I could be missing that would ultimately move the story long.

Side Quests are definitely one of the game’s strong points, as they never really get old to you if you bother to do them in the first place. Without giving off too many spoilers here, I’ll say that some side quests can lead to you fighting some of the toughest bosses in the game, even making the final boss look like a fool. Some things that you may find of interest are things such as recipe hunting, which can definitely be a joy at times, arena battling, which can lead to a decently hard boss that may or may not be familiar to you, the---side quest, which ultimately leads to one of the hardest bosses in the whole darn series…and of course that book one that I am currently forgetting the name of. All are pretty cool to complete, and they can definitely take more time than most stuff if you do them to their completeness. Bosses are jerks in this game except for a couple that actually present a challenge. Honestly, most bosses in this game are just simple hackfests that don’t last more than about thirty-seconds at most. The ones that are hard, rare, are definitely living up to the name that I gave them. They actually can take a beating from you, even if they do die in a meager amount of time to. That just proves how easy the game is.

All of that aside, the game play in Tales is definitely worth the price of admission; it just makes some mistakes that can take away from game play.

This game relies on cell shading to deliver its graphics, and while to a certain extent they work out okay, I feel that they should have just gone with a more traditional sense of graphical type. That or they could have just put it all in anime type of graphics that they should have done from the beginning. Needless to say, the mouths of the characters don’t always even get close to matching up with the character models themselves, which can get a little annoying to some that actually are paying attention to the game’s story. Parts that should be dramatized are basically made fun of because of some stupid error that really should not have been made. Let’s face it, why would you want something to spoil a heart warming moment? I don’t, and I think that it shouldn’t have been done. Other than that, the graphics are filled with life and color, which really adds to the game’s overall appeal. I tended to like them, aside from some key moments, and I’m sure you will to over time. You just have to get past the initial shock of their stupidity.

The world map is kind of bad in its graphical representation, as most of the enemies are just represented as blobs of black stuff that really could turn most off. The bigger the blob, the bigger the groups of enemies. Other than that, most of it is just a big map of green parted by some rivers and seas that dot the coast. Not very appealing to me, and I’m sure it won’t really appeal to you either. They definitely could have improved upon the overall core of its mechanism, giving it more of that cell shaded look. You didn’t see wind waker messing up with this, and it’s kind of sad that they would after seeing wind waker’s success. Towns and cities just look like small little bricks of buildings, which is kind of stupid to be quite honest. There is an exception though, and that exception is none other than the city of Luin. Over time, the city will slowly be rebuilt depending on how much you donate, and I think it’s really cool to see its reconstruction.

In battle graphics are better, as well as town, dungeon and what not. It’s just that stupid over world that really messes things up. The bosses actually look really good and I think that that is really important to what the game is. They also added in anime cut scenes very rarely, which is a disappointment, especially since they were so good…….

The tunes that inhabit Tales’ musical library are pretty standard in terms of overall ingenuity. Nothing really special to say here, they could have probably done much more with the tunes of this game. They don’t always fit the area, and to make it worse sometimes they actually feel as though they are starting out of place with the actual game; like as if they were meant to start but started at an awkward moment due to the designers own stupidity. What could have honestly possessed them to do this? It’s as if they saw it and heard it but just left it because they were a bunch of lazy imbeciles. I really don’t appreciate what they could have possibly done with this, as it really set me off for the moments that they could have achieved in some key instances. Some of the times when your in a critical situation,; guess what? They screw it up by having a weird audio type of sound. Not only that, but Lloyds sound that he makes every darn time he takes a swing at an enemy is extremely annoying to have to listen to every time you try and enter a battle. Just picture it for a sec., you swing at an enemy to try and hit it, he lets off that annoying cry; he performs a tech skill, he lets off that annoying cry. That’s what you basically hear throughout every battle.

Aside from that, the designers instilled just enough quality into the musical track to make it work, so you can’t really expect them to do much more, just wish that they could have fixed what needed to be fixed before they actually decided to release the game itself. I’m a little disappointed, but there’s nothing much that I can do to change it.

Guide or No Guide
I was actually really surprised that only one guide was released when the game saw its first showing to the public. I wish that there was more of a choice, mainly because the quality of the one guide that was released was kind of below average. I bet you already know what the name of the guide is, and if you guessed Brady Games then you were right. You’d be extremely lucky to find it in your local game store, as the scarcity of the guide itself is kind of sad. Your best bet would have to be Ebay, even if you don’t approve of it. It will most likely cost you a good 10 bucks on the site, so it’s not exactly cheap. So is it really worth it? I think that it is, mainly because of the cooking side quest that has you searching for all of the recipes. They can really be in places that you would never expect to look, and add that to the fact that some are one shot deals, and you basically are in need of it. Not to say that you can’t get the info off of the internet, but I found it easier to be able to look at the actual maps in the guide as sometimes you may be missing the actual item. Other than that, you may or may not find it necessary to go and get one, as the whole game is basically self explanatory. The guide itself isn’t really that helpful aside from the little side quest helpers, so whether you actually use it for anything else is really in the air. I personally had no use for it other than that, as everything else can easily be explained off of the internet if you’re in that much of a need for help. The bosses really don’t warrant much of a need for help, so whether you need it really comes down to your ability or inability to fight in tough circumstances.

The amount of replay that this game presents depends on the amount of time you may want to spend in the game. I‘ll be honest when I say that I have played the game a full five times, and to me that signifies a ton of replay value. From the cooking quest to the huge character choice at some interval in the game, you really should have at least one other reason to want to play it over again. On top of that, the game also rewards you depending on how much grade you choose to spend over the course of the game. Grade is something you get after you win a battle, mainly depending on how well you did in that battle. Some of the prizes that you definitely may want to check out are 10x experience, 2x experience, double grade, monster library, exosphere keeping, and much more. I truly found it a joy to want and play it over and over again just to experience everything, especially half experience since it makes the game much harder, and I needed that. So to sum it all up, you definitely want to play it over again and possibly many times to be quite honest. This game offers so much extra for those who play it religiously, and I think that that is good for its players.

Buying the game is probably in your best interest, as the chances of completing it in one rental period are kind of slim. The game can be bought for about 17-20 bucks for those who look, and that’s a good price to be quite honest for so much play time.

Learning Curve
Possibly a short time or a long time, all depending at how you adapt to the system of battle that this game presents to its players. I personally completed this step fairly easy, so you shouldn’t really have a problem either.

Rather than blasting this game at its inability to put up any kind of difficulty, I’ll point out it’s actual hard parts :P. The secret bosses can provide a steep challenge, especially on maniac mode. Whether you actually want to play the game on that level is up to you. I strongly suggest you play the game in maniac mode, as it really gives you a good challenge.

Family Friendly
Garbage to be quite honest. The main character has some obsession with the ba word and to me that’s pretty bad. There are some pretty bad themes as well in this game, such as one character’s womanizing and what not. Definitely play the game before you let your children have it, as if you don’t I promise you may be really sorry with the results it may give to you.

Tales of Symphonia does what it has to do in order to be a good game. It’s just not the stellar game that I was expecting. Sure, it definitely does what it has to do in order to be good, but it could have definitely been better. Better plot, better game play, better difficulty, all of those things could have been accomplished fairly easily if they decided to put a little more effort into the game, it’s really disappointing to see something only half done, and I really wish they actually made this something special. Still, with that being said, it still is a good game, it just could have done things better in the long run.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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