Review by mrtzeentch
Another great entry in a great series.
The Tales series may not be to familiar to many Americans. The series origionated on the SNES in the form of Tales of Phantasia. The series is divided into three sub-series: The Phantasia series, Destiny series, and Eternia series. (The first Eternia was released in the US as Tales of Destiny 2, which is not it's real name) Neither of the 2 US releases were too popular and most people likely do not know about them. But now, a new branch in the franchise has appeared: Tales of Symphonia. This is an RPG for the Gamecube surprisingly enough, and it will help quench the partched throats of RPG lovers with Nintendo's little square console. And this game is likely one of the best in the series.
Gameplay - 10
The Tales series has always been a bit "old school" in it's mechanics. Little has changed since the first game on the SNES. But maybe that's because the first game did things so well. The game is your typical "spikey-haired kid saves world and protects virgin-like Chosen One" affair. All the standard cliches are here. But what makes this game great is how it plays. For starters, there are no "random" battles like in most RPGs, including the previous Tales games. Instead you'll see the enemies roaming and will have a choice as to whether or not to attack them. Of course the encounters will vary in aggressiveness. Some enemies will just stand there and you'll have to choose to attack them, while others will come after you until you outrun them, and others still will outright charge at you in an almost unavoidable confrontation. For those looking ot control this aspect, the usual Holy and Dark bottles are here, which stop encounters or increase them respectively. The way encounters are handled help aleviate alot of the frustration of random fighting and helps the game progress more smoothly.
But the best part is when you DO get into a fight. This game uses a similar system to the previous Tales titles, in which battles are handled in a side-scrolling manner, though this time you'll have a quasi-3d addition to the system which allows monsters to be on multiple plains at once, adding some more depth to the experience. While it is not fully 3d like in the Star Ocean games, it still allows for some great strategies. And speaking of strategies, like in previous games, you control only the leader of the party, though you have an extensive lsit of options to order your teamates to use. You'll find alot to love about this game's mechanics. But you'll also find alot of neat extras too. There is a title system similar to the one introduced by Legaia 2. But this time it plays and effect on the game, as different titles can be equipped to grant different bonuses when you level up. The cooking system is back in full force, including the Mysterious Wonder Chef from Tales of Eternia, who teches you new recipes. Like in other Tales games, there's alot of minigames, like a table-waiting game, to add some flavor and help you stay entertained whn you don't feel like doing the main quest. Overall, the game just shines of variety and playability.
Graphics - 9
Unlike previous titles in the Tales series, ToS uses a 3d rendering system with a type of cel-shading. This makes the game look unique but also cuts on some of the detail, though coming from the sprite-based system of the previous games it still looks better. The characters are your typical Japanese spikey-haired lot, and look the part. One notable is the lead, Lloyd Irving, who is easily the most rediculous looking character in recent RPG history. He litterally looks like a candidate for the fifth member of the Village People. The animations are fair, and the battle effects are nothing new, but they do the job.
Sound - 10
Much of the music here is recycled from previous games. The world map music is the one from Tales of Eternia but with a better composition. The rest of the music is the usuall JRPG type of music, with upbeat music in combat and smoother melodies in towns. The sound effects are quite good though. Like in other Tales games, the characters will make a variety of quips after and before a battle begins. ToS also uses and idea popularized by the Lunar and Grandia series'. It uses voice acting in key scenes, but it does it alot more commonly in this game. Which is not a bad thing as the voice acting is top-knotch. Lloyd's voice is done by the same person who did Max in Dark Cloud 2 and other actors are familiar as well.
Overall - 10
I can't really bash this game, as it does so many things so well. If you liked the previous games, you MUST get this one. If you are just looking for an RPG on the Gamecube, get this one. In fact, the only reason you should not get ToS is if you hate RPGs, and if that were the case it is likely you would not be reading this review anyway.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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