Review by TurtleT9
"A lackluster RPG from NAMCO. I expected better."
Introduction: Tales of Symphonia is a story about a girl who has to go on a trip to save the world by means of wandering dungeons and walking to a tower. Oddly enough, the story I felt was one of the more redeeming aspects of the game. ToS boasted a new revolutionary battle system consisting of a 2d fighter that allowed you to attack people without going through a menu. You would hotkey skills to a button and use the hotkey to unleash your new cool ability. That's about it for the introduction to this game.
Gameplay (4/10): Alright, the real-time battle system is good. For the first 15 minutes of the game. It then becomes the same button mashing every single battle. You never will use another skill after you get one you like. This new revolutionary battle system is fairly shallow and undeveloped. There are two tech wings, you could call them. There is the technique side, and the skill side (referred as T and S). On the T side, you will generally have more attacks but less damage per attack in your skills. On the S side, you mostly have more damage per hit, but less hits. That being said, it doesn't really matter. It's almost like Warcraft II, where every unit is just another duplicate of one on the other race. The (possible) damage difference really doesn't make a big difference. You have a total of maybe 15-20 skills for Lloyd. That may seem like a lot, but approximately 10-12 of those are just the old skills with another ability attached to them. Your skills take TP, which are technique points, and generally the TP usage is pretty high. However, you can restore your HP and TP with Gels, which restore a percent of HP instead of a set number.
Aside from that, you only have one attack button. There's UP+A, Down+A, and just A, but those never come into play. Maybe for the first couple of minutes, but then you quickly find out that you can achieve a higher combo with just A, and you never use Up+A or Down+A again. Many people will say But you have to hit air/ground units! but they're wrong. The A is almost perfect for it, because one attack can basically kill all of the things that you encounter. Down A is useless, there's almost nothing down A can hit that A can, not to mention A has the longer combo. If you wanted to think in terms of real use, there would only be maybe 4 special attacks (skills) and 1 attack that you would use, unless you wanted to get slaughtered horribly in the game. There was so much that could have been good about this game, but wasn't.
With all that said, it was fairly easy to control, whatever that can say about a game. You have 3 choices, manual, semi-auto, and auto. Manual would mean you have to run to the enemy, and then slash him. Semi-Auto means that if you hit the attack button, Lloyd or your playable character of choice would run to the enemy automatically, then enact the attack. Finally, if you want to watch ToS as a movie, then auto's your choice, because that means the computer does the fighting for you.
The AI Customization is probably one of the better ones I've seen. You can customize your other party members AI to do almost whatever you want. It's an easy concept to learn, you can make them cast all their magic, heal you, whatever. This all together allows unprecedented AI control, and great player character control in a battle system that is shallow and lacking.
Story (7/10): The story is nothing if not cliche. It doesn't really boast anything new at all. People always say OMG, PLAY UNTIL YOU GET TO THE SECOND DISC NOOB but there's nothing special there. No plot twists that have never been in any other game. In fact, I would hesitate to call them plot twists because they aren't unpredictable. They're predictable. They're the standard run-of-the-mill twists. There's nothing surprising, nothing that really induces emotion in the story. That said, I did like the story somewhat. Although it doesn't compare to other stories such as Xenogears, FFVII, FFX etc. (No, don't flame me for being an FF fanboy because I'm not, FFs just generally have the best stories), it wasn't bad. It provided some entertainment that kept the game from being thrown out the window the first and only play through.
The story is about Collete, a ditzy little girl, who has to go on a trip to restore the worlds mana and thereby saving it, by traveling to the Tower of Salvation (not a spoiler, you learn of it in like, 5 minutes). She is accompanied by her teacher, Raine, and two best friends, Genis and Lloyd. Lloyd is just some boy who was brought up by a dwarf because his father and mother died so many years ago. He has a special jewel in his hand (exsphere), that makes him super powerful, supposedly. Unfortunately, in battle, he's just like any other character, even worse in some cases. The jewel could be nothing but decoration. Anyways throughout the journey she goes to the various dungeons/temples. Until later, it is never satisfactorily explained why you go in there, so I suppose you go in there for the novelty.
But *gasp*! There are a bunch of people who are trying to stop you! They're called the OPPOSING SIDE! These half-elves are called Desians and they're arrogant bastards who have annoying voice acting, but other than that, serve nothing except to piss you off during the travels. Of course, they seem to have a reason for doing it, but it's not really explained until later aswell, frustrating you on your earlier travels. They're sort of similar to America in the early stages, enslaving humans, and making them work for them on totally useless ranches called (warning: extremely original name coming up) human ranches. Wow. That's about it for the backdrop of the story. It's not that great.
Characters (2/10) (it got a 2 and not a 1 because of Zelos and Kratos: I've made this a new section because I hated almost all the characters, and I feel that characters are extremely important in a game, because they serve as who you play. That being said, this is also a warning so people can get an idea into the characters, and see if they want to actually play the game.
Collete: I wanted to throttle her within the first ten minutes of the game. Constant Sorry!s and Oops!es annoyed me throughout the first part of ToS. Sadly, it doesn't get better. The best part is when she loses her voice for almost no reason at all, because she's so annoying. Maybe it's just that I have no tolerance for human stupidity, but Colette goes over the line. She has almost no character development, she's just the same ditzy little idiot the entire game (except for one spoiling area). There is absolutely nothing that could make me like this character at all, and I'm not sure what ANYONE likes about her.
Lloyd: This person is the epitome of overdone-main-character. He's doesn't change in the story either, he's still the same headstrong boy that he always is. He's stupid (literally, he is slow on the uptake like most characters), and only relies on his ability to whack a sharp object into another enemies face. At a certain skit he gets, if I remember correctly which I probably don't, a 30/300 on a test. The main thing that aggravated me in this game is that he doesn't DO anything. He could be an NPC and I wouldn't know better. He doesn't change, he doesn't interact with Collete except in the cheesy part-relationship part-friendship sort of way. He gets mad at every single insult, and he doesn't change. He doesn't learn to tolerate his teammates like Kratos or anything, in fact, he's just sort of there. He doesn't change.
Genis Sage: Wow, great misspelling of Genius Sage Mr. Game Developer. This is one of the most idiotic names I've ever seen. Anyways, onto the character. Like everyone else, he doesn't change. He relies on his smarts to get through battle, but that's it. He hates humans, except Lloyd, for the reason that they're a different race than he is. That's about it for him. Oh right, he's REALLY annoying, almost at Collete-annoying level.
Raine Sage: Nothing to say here, there's no character development. Likes archaeology and long-walks on the beach. Hates water. Doesn't change in the story.
Kratos: He's your typical badass. Okay, that's about it though. This guy was probably my second favorite character, although that doesn't say too much. He actually DOES change somewhat, but not much. After the change, he's really still the same person. Throughout the story, he's touted as a better fighter than Lloyd, disregarding the fact that Lloyd can kill more enemies faster in battle. Okay. Nothing really annoys me about him, except that, but nothing's good about him either.
Zelos: My favorite character. He's funny, and really very funny. He also has some character development that you'll learn in the story, but not much just like everyone else. He's the exact replica of Kratos down to the skills (except one I believe). The best thing about him, is, as I said, his jokes. They're funny. Maybe it's just because the butt of his jokes are always Genis and Lloyd and I don't like those characters, but they're funny anyhow. The only thing I can say about this character is funny, knee-slappingly funny.
Presea and Royal: I put these two together for the express reason that there's no real development of either. Sure, they both have back stories, but they don't change, their backstories don't really change there. Presea's biggest change is going from not-talking, to talking. That's about it. Royal, well, he's just normal, and atoning for a sin that's not even a sin, which you learn about later.
If I left out anyone, which I'm pretty sure I didn't, it's because they were so bland and boring that I didn't notice them.
Graphics (6/10): They're your average cell shading. On the world map, the monsters look like blobs, big dark blobs with feet, before you fight them, for some reason. In the dungeon, the monsters look like a monster that's actually in the dungeon. However, a bunch of the monsters are just duplicates of another monster with increased stats. The graphics are nothing great, they're just sort of there. They don't detract or improve the gaming experience.
Sound (8/10): I liked the sound, except for some of the voice acting. I think that the BGM is actually very well composed, one of the better points of the game. If the music director wants you to feel something, he'll make you feel it. The music doesn't rank with say, Xenogears, which is some of the best music ever, but it certaintly isn't bad. It's good, very good. The voice acting, sadly, is incredibly annoying. All the character's voice acting is very well suited to the characters, but sadly, the characters were annoying, as were the voice acting. From Colette's OOPS and SORRYs to Lloyds adamant yells of battle and how good he is, it's nothing special. Well suited though.
Play Time: Took me ~32 hours. Not a long game. My people weren't high leveled or anything, but I beat the bosses.
Replayability: I'm not going to give this, nor playtime a score, because it all depends on how the player likes it, and I don't want to over-bias my position. To sum it up, I'm going to use a line from Suspended Thoughts' review (sorry), The only, and I mean ONLY reason that you will play this again is to make it easier than the last time.
Rent or Buy: If you REALLY want to play this game regardless of this review, then rent. You probably shouldn't have read this view if you want to play regardless, but I would advise you to save your money for a more worthy game.
Final Note: For those who do want to play this game, DO NOT bow into the hype. The hype will DESTROY this game, because the hype is far greater than the game is.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 09/16/04
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