Review by Moon 2
"Something Old, Something New."
I gotta tell ya, first time I laid eyes on this games visuals in a magazine I fell in love. What anime fan wouldn't, with the bright colors, and characters that looked like they were actually ripped out of an anime TV series and stuck into a game. As soon as it hit shelves I didn't hesitate to pick it up. As soon as I got home my PS2 and X-Box got un-plugged, and once again, it was just me sittin' down with some GameCube exclusive goodness.
Anyone who hasn't been following this game with a bat's ear, than listen up! The story takes place in a world similar to any other RPG. A great tree that supplied mana to the world long ago disappeared, and the goddess of the world Sylvarant told the world to wake her should she ever sleep, or else the world will be destroyed. But the game takes place many years after that, following the adventures of a young dual-sword-wielding boy named Lloyd, who just so happens to be friends with the "chosen one" (a word used often in RPGs), who will one day embark on a quest to revive the world. This is where the story starts.
I know it kinda sounds like they're ripping something off of Final Fantasy X, that's what I thought at first to, but you quickly realize how much different Tales of Symphonia is than FFX. The game strikes a chord true to life, as early in the game you learn of a group of half-elves called the Desians, enslave humans, and beat and torture them to do work for unknown purposes. This is when I really started liking the game after I had gotten past the graphics and gameplay. I realized that the story, although some times predictable, is rather unnerving, and reminds one of events like WWII in a sense. However, the game is not as dark as I am making it appear to be. The characters in the game are as bright as the visuals, and aren't gloomy like those in say FFX, which is kind of refreshing, although some won't find the cheery nature to their liking.
GRAPHICS: 10/10- How could anyone not like the graphics? Cel-shading isn't anything new, but the flawless nature in the way ToS does it is absolutly fascinating. As soon as you hit the power button, you step into a world where the sun is bright, and the people are brighter. The visuals are absolutly gorgeous, and very appealing to the eye in a way I haven't felt since the first time I saw Viewtiful Joe. However, I wish there will more anime cutscenes like that in the opening intro. I am several hours into the game, about 30 or so, and I haven't not come across any such cut scene, however I could be wrong.
The visuals in battle are great, with all kinds of special effects. Your characters look very distinct and look exactly how they should. I'll never forget how good the character Presea looked when I got to stare in her face and see the emotion in her eyes, or rather lack-there-of. My one slight complaint, since I'm really trying to nit-pick here, is that some of the monsters could use a little more distinction, although the larger ones are amazing in their own right.
SOUND: 8/10- The music in the game is pretty good, although thinking back I can't really pick out any song in particular I loved and would want a sound track for. The voices are well done, although I was a little surprised that they used the same guy who did Max's voice from Dark Cloud 2 to do Lloyds voice overs. Only on occasion does a characters voice sound a little silly (at one point you meet a character who is supposed to have a mono-tone voice, but she sounds more like a mid-80's robot). The voices all-in-all aren't bad, but don't hold the same level of awesomenss as, oh say, Lunar 2. Also, I thought there should be more voice overs, especially in some of the bigger cut scenes that for some reason didn't have voices at all. I still don't mind reading text to get the gist of the story, but as we move on into the future of video games, it couldn't hurt to have a more grand voice scheme.
CONTROL: 8/10- I know, I know, "It's an RPG, controls don't matter." Guess again buddy! Not only do we need to rate how navigatable the menu's are, this RPG runs on a real-time battle system, so control is a little bigger issue here. The menu's in the game are easy to navigate, although sometimes you may have to stop the heat of a battle to go into a menu screen and choose a skill that isn't set to your buttons, which never got to be too big of a problem. The real-time battles really open things up, with combos and the like, and it's fun seeing what you can pull off using a string of abilities. My one complaint is that you pretty much lock on to an opponent and move more or less in a straight back and forth line. I kinda wished that the field was openly available, but this ins't a huge complaint, and is handled with ease, since you have the ability to block, jump, and duck from enemies attacks, not to mention you can leap out of the way using block and the jumb buttons.
GAMEPLAY: 9/10- It all comes down to a love it or hate it style with the battles. You as the player select one member of your party to control, and the computer controls the other three members of your party. Sound horrible? Guess again. You can customize everything that the computer does, from the characters movements, to how often they use their abilities, and what enemies to attack. It's really great that you have so many options for your characters so that you never really feel the need to groan and wish you had control of them. But if the computer idea doesn't strike your fancy, you and three other friends can hook up for some multi-player co-op combat. I personally haven't gotten the chance to try this but really, is there anything more fun than killing monsters with your friends?
It looks like an RPG, but handles like an action game. Using combos in sync with your other members is genious, and there is even a combo meter that slowly fills up, and when it's full you can input characters abilities to pound the enemy with a mighty team assault.
Character progression uses leveling up to learn new abilites, but also special gems called EX-Spheres can be equipped to a character to give them certain special abilities, that range from increasing your HP, to townspeople give you items when spoken to. I liked this system, although it's nothing too grand in scale, it's just fun to see what kind of things you can use, and what hidden abilities you can unlock by using certain skills in conjunction.
The story isn't anything too grand, it's the way they go about telling the story that keeps you interested. For example, at one point, something strange starts happening to Collete, the Chosen, and you kind of already realize what's going on. But one cut-scene involving Lloyd and Collete is great involving hot coffee, fans of the game will know what scene in particular I'm speaking of. But it's not too often that you'll be scratching your head pondering the possibilities of some great mystery.
As mentioned, the characters are very bright and colorful, but a lot of them feel kind of one dimensional, in that they just feel too "written." Luckily characters like Sheena and Zelos come in to livin' things up a little.
All together, on another scoring system, I would award this game like an 8.5 or and 8.75, but a plain 8 doesn't do this game enough justice. If you are looking for an RPG that has something new and different to offer, look no further. Or if you're just waiting for Final Fantasy XII to come out, snag this up and watch the hours fly by. A few may be left wanting something a little more mature, but I think if you approach this game with an open mind, you may just have this on your top games of the year list.
Replay Value: Moderate
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/29/04
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