Review by Nahtanoj

"An RPG for all Gamers"

Moments ago I finished Tales of Symphonia for the Nintendo Gamecube. It's one of those games that when you beat it you can't help but sit back and reflect upon it while watching the credits roll by. It has an epic feel to it and that is nothing if not a good thing. When I started the game I expected it to be the best RPG on the Gamecube and a good game overall. Forty hours of gameplay and over a month later I realize that Tales of Symphonia has topped Knights of the Old Republic to be the best RPG that I have ever played. Period.

Tales is the story of Lloyd and his journy to save the world. Cliched really, but in a day in age where the word cliched is cliched its hard to take off too many points for the story not being the most inventive thing since the wheel. The writers decided to rectify this by throwing in plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. The story becomes very confused in convulted, with some parts never truly making sense, at least after one play through. But for the most part the characters themselves are interesting, and some have a really great backstory, you get alot of the backstory through various skits that you can play by pressin Z when a notice pos up. In the end the story will keep you interested so you won't just skip all the dialouge, but it's not the reason to play the game.

The reason to play the game is the oh so talked about battle system. Is it has great as its reputation says? That depends, on what you won't in a RPG. If you love turn-based combat and enjoy every second of it, then you might well hate Tales of Symponia's battle system. I'm not saying that you can't love the Tales battle system and turn-based combat, but if your a big fan of turn-based give this game a rent first. The battle system is really made for gamers who usualy don't like turn-based combat. It's all in real-time, and in semi 3-D. Semi-3-D because while monsters are all around you, you can only target one moster at a time and when you target a monster you are stuck in the same plane as it. By that I mean you can't strafe right or left you can only go foward backwards, and up. But real time aspect is what makes the battle system great, there is something about physically pushing a button that makes you swing your sword, instead of pushing a button that tells your character to swing his sword, that makes it seem more real. You have three types of attacks, your basic physical attack, your spells, and your special attacks which are really powerful physical attacks. The stratagy in battle comes from combining these attacks in powerful combos, as well as occasionally giving your teamates commands. Another really important part of the combat is the fact that there are no random battles. Again fans of standard RPG's might not like this, but if you are like me and absolutley hate random battles this is a blessing. If you want to get to the next town you can run past all the monsters, if you want to level you can fight them, its that simple.

Outside the battle system Tales is really standard RPG fare. You travel around an overworld and enter towns were you can by equipment, rest, and other things. You are given different tasks and quests which lead you to a dungeon where you must solve puzzles, fight monsters, and usualy fight a boss in the end. I didn't do alot of the sidequests, but for some reason there did not seem to be as many as most RPG's, however that could just mean that they are harder to find. The main quest is still quite long, I clocked in at 39:15, and as I said before I didn't do many sidequests. The difficulty is average at best, and I found that as you went on the battles got easier, I think because you simply get better at and used to fighting in real time. But there are some odd spikes where you fight a really hard boss in a random place, and some dips where a big boss battle is really easy. The biggest difficulty comes from not being at a high enough level, with no random battles you can get very far story wise without leveling or fighting at all, until you run into a boss that is. On average though I fought 70% of the monsters I saw and I think I died between 8-13 times during the whole 40 hours. As the battle system is so fun leveling up is actualy one of the most enjoyable things you can do in the game, instead of being a chore like in a lot of RPG's.

The graphics are anime and can be broken up into four groups. The Overworld, the dungeons, towns, and the battles. The overworld is easily the weakest in the graphics department, the land and thats about it, there is a desert or two and a mountain, and many many hills, but pretty much its one big field covered in forests. It is average looking at best. The dungeons are a bit better, the same style but without the monotony. Towns are a big step up, they are very detailed and often times quite large, clearly much time was spent on making each town looking great and distinctive Then there are the battles, they look amazing. It's amazingly fluid and every slash, poke, and kick look astounding. Aside from the fluidness there are some great looking spells and special attacks. The character models are really good in the battles as well, and just average in the overworld/dungeon. Same with the monsters, there are hundreds of different models and they all look nice, too bad that on the overworld they are all represented by the same weird blob like thing. So as you travel the overworld you'll be running by, into, and around....purple slugs. In the dungeons there are about 10 different icons that represent monsters, a bit better, and honestly I don't know if you can really expect more, the work required to make each monster icon different would be enormous. Overall the graphics are are top-notch and have a unique look.

The audio is good for the most part, but there is far to little of it. You get two main battle themes and one overworld theme, since most of the time you are either battling or traveling the overworld, they get old. There is different music for all the towns,transportation devices, and certain bosses/dungeons, but since you'll only hear alot of them once or twice it doesn't help to make the sound more diverse. A bit more of variety would have gone a long way.

Tales of Symphonia is an RPG, for people that don't like RPG's. If you have hated every other RPG you've ever played chances are you will like this game. But if you love all RPG's then chances are you will like this game. I seriously recommend this game to anyone. It has a decent story, with good graphics, and a battle system that is better then any other one I have ever experienced in an RPG. Best RPG on the Gamecube and a contender for one of the best Gamecube games period. A must-have for Gamecube owners, and a system-seller for RPG fans.

Great battles, with a solid standard RPG elements
Cliched, but gripping, expect to be confused
Great in the battles and towns, the overworld leaves something to be desired
Whats there is nice, but we need more
A blast to play, everyone should get this game
Another AAA game for the Gamecube

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/02/04

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