"The best game on the next generation systems and it will become a quick classic"

Thesis Statement
Great RPGs were a dime a dozen during the Playstation days. Then came the next generation systems (Game Cube, X-Box, Playstation 2). In the birth of these graphically enhanced machines game play went to hell for graphic content.
Most RPGs have became movies as a result. So I heard of Tales of Symphonia (TOS) was coming out. Now I had given up hope to ever find a decent RPG ever again. I started reading reviews from magazines, talking to people who had looked up the game so I figured I would plunge into the hype. I ended up finding an amazing game.
Before the reader continues I must say I have never played a Tales game before. So a previous Tales player may find that this game does not rack up to older Tales games. I personally enjoyed this game and hope that others get a chance to play an enjoyable experience unlike any other.

Story 10
The story was one of the things that really hooked me with this game. The story has plot turns that were quite often surprising. The plot was not always predictable which was a nice turn of events.
The story starts out as a girl is the chosen who has to break all the seals for the world rejuvenation. She needs people to protect her on the journey, but it spirals into much more.
The main character Lloyd (the player) is the Chosen's friend. Through unfortunate events he ends up joining up with her on her journey. He is the typical hero. The type who wants to help everyone and has a good heart. What makes him and all the characters of TOS special is their variety of emotions that makes at least one of the characters are easy to relate for everyone.
The character development was what was astoundingly well done. While there were main story events there was also bits in the story which were done in skits. Skits can be skipped, I found myself watching them. They were often side conversations but it help show the parties reaction to each other that didn't really come out during the key scenes.

Game Play 10
This game really shines here. Not only is the battle system unique but the revitalization of the world map is a treat. The game is not too linear not too nonlinear. At the beginning there is more going on at a time than towards the end of the game.

I have broken up the game play into three sections.

Battle System
The battle system is a blast. It is a real time fight. The fighters on the field are on a 2-D line with a 3-D perspective. The player selects a target and is then on a line to that target. Some time enemies will cross into that line so it is possible to hit the two at a time.
Battles are moving in real time. The player by default plays as Lloyd, but it is possible to play as other characters. Lloyd like any other fighting character is easy to control. Magic wielding characters tend to be more difficult to fight in melee combat. Also the A.I controlling the characters would let monster attack the player casting the spell so often playing a spell caster would be infuriating.
There are different variants to techniques depending on what EX skill is selected. An EX skill is either a Tech (T) or a Skill (S) type. If more T types are selected than S types then the techniques learned will be T type and vice-versa.

Outside Battle
The world map makes exploration very easy. Areas are gray dots, and once visited become red dots. So when lost the player can look for the grey dots, to see if those are areas they need to go to. On the world map it is possible to find items lying around. There are rocks that unlock long range mode, which helps explore the territory because it stops monster moving when the player is not moving as well as create a better view of an area.
A nice thing about TOS is there is an item in the menu called "Synopsis". Which is what it sounds like a synopsis of the story. Telling of events that has happened and can give clues to what the next mission in the story is. This was a handy feature that I used more than once to find out where I was going. This is handy when coming across a quest in the beginning and not remembering it once getting to a point where the quest is possible.
The best thing that works in TOS favor is that the game is not always super linear. While it is more on the linear side than nonlinear one can pick what event to do first. Later this option becomes limited, and then nonexistent at the end of the game.

Length and difficulty
The games overall difficulty wasn't very high. If the player works up enough than most battles were easily one. Also with a little bit of strategy placed forth most enemies weren't terribly tough. There were moments when things go tough, but it was never too bad.
The game in length without side quests took me 43:25. This was without completing any side quest and without any guides or help to lead me along. If a newbie to RPGs are playing this then it will probably take about fifty hours or so of game play without side quests. If a veteran of RPGs are playing the game it might take them about thirty to forty without side quests.

Sound 10
Sound is pretty good. There are two or three boss themes. The regular battle theme too switches. Which is good. The music is never really annoying. Most games have this one annoying song that sticks out that can ruin an area it is in.
Voice acting is well done. The voices are not high pitched, they are not really squeaky. The main problem is that I can read most of the time quicker than the voice speaks. Even at low speed the character talking is slower than the text being entered so at points I would become inpatient and would only listen to half a sentence. The other thing that blew my mind was the fact that skits were not voiced over when the text moves automatically.

Graphics 10
The graphics are cel shaded but they are not terrible. The cel shaded graphics flow smoothly and do not have the grainy effect that most games using cel shading do. Also the anime scenes are well done and well looking.
The weapons and shields for Kraitos and Zelos are always different looking. Magic spells are not badly done but nothing spectacular. The battle animation flows smoothly with no lag in battle even during the most chaotic of times.

Replay Value 10
The game has a large replay value. There are split paths, so it makes a bit of a reason to go back. Also there are several side quests that can be missed the first time through. Also there are two modes of difficulty so that can also give one a reason enough to go through it again.

Final 10/10
I truly enjoyed this game. If you have the least interest in RPGs then the game of greatness has came. Do not pass this game up. It took me two weeks to beat it. This game ranks up with the classics for the Playstation age. The gaming experience that is Tales of Symphonia should not be missed by anyone.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/08/04

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