Review by wolverinefan
"What Tales of Symphonia lacks is an interesting plot."
I'm the type of guy who loves a good RPG. It doesn't need fancy graphics or a deep battle system. The one thing that a RPG needs is a story, one that makes me keep playing to find out what will happen next. Sadly, Tales of Symphonia fails on that level and a couple others. In the end the game left me with a sense of mediocrity beyond that of any RPG from the past 5 years.
Lloyd is your average kid. Easy going, not too bright ect. His friends keep him afloat but not out of trouble. His female friend Colette is to be The Chosen. A person who has been chosen to replenish the world and bring Martel back. Lloyd and friends set off on this journey and discover what is truly happening in the world. The plot is something like that and guess what; it goes no where. Yeah, the game has a twist here and there but if you've been paying any attention to the numerous cut scenes and god knows there's enough of those, then you could figure out all of the plot twists except maybe the first one, that one just requires you to have played any RPG in the past 10 years or so. The problem with the plot is that there are way too many pointless cut scenes, sure some are cute or funny but in the end I found myself not hitting the Z button to see these oh so witty conversations. Sadly, those that require the press of the Z button are the character development parts. I don't know how many boring in game dialog moments I had to sit through, just to go on yet another side quest to get further in a dungeon or town. By the time I reached the second disc I didn't care if the world was saved or if anyone died because these characters were just lifeless to me.
Now, the graphics in this game are just nice to look at. As stated in some of my other reviews, I'm not a fan of the cell-shading but once in awhile a game does look nice with it. This is one of those games. The characters are very bright and easy on the eyes. The backgrounds are gorgeous at times but there were a few times that the backgrounds looked very "eh". Lots of nice details except the world map was lackluster and your "flying ship" is utter crap. I did however find that the anime cut scenes were rather bland to look at and sort of grainy at times. Also, there are no subs for any dialog spoken during an anime scene, so if you're hearing impaired, you're screwed.
The sound in the game is a very mixed bag. The music is just amazing at times, the last few areas in the game had poor music but other wise it was all good sounding. It had the typical RPG flair to it but with a hint of classical stuff thrown in. The sound effects are just what you'd expect, nothing dynamic or anything but good enough. The voice acting was so horrible at times I couldn't stand it. Also, I swear Genis' voice sounds different at the end compared to his voice through rest of the game, or maybe I had gotten to a point of toning out his voice. At one point in a cut scene I could have sworn one persons voice was coming out while Genis was talking but I could be wrong. All and all it's a mixed bag. Soundtrack is good though...
The control in the game is fairly simple at first glance. Moving around the dungeons and using the ring are easy enough, very simple and well explained. Now, fighting on the other hand is a tad complex at times. Now, you have control of one character, which one is up to you as you can change that via menus. Now the fighting takes place on a field, while it is 3d you are forced into a 2d rang with your targeted enemy. You can switch enemies though by holding R and picking a different enemy. You have a normal attack button and a guard button. You also have special skills that you can assign to the C stick or to the B button. Now with the B button skills you need to be not hitting a direct or you should be, depending on which skill. It's fairly good but once in awhile I would accidentally use the wrong skill and always when I was low on points. It's rather easy to play though.
Ah, the game play. My favorite part of writing a review. Let's start with the battle system and how it all works. I went into some detail up above but let me explain better. There are no random battles. You can enemies on the world map and in dungeons. Touch them and you go into battle. Sometimes they chase you and sometimes they don't. It's doesn't matter if you attack them from behind or vice versa, there are no surprise attacks. Fighting is in a 3d area but you're limited to a 2d range with the enemy you are fighting. Spell casting affects a round area since not all of the characters are on the same 2d range as you. Not everyone has spells but some have skills and it works the same way. I already stated above how you attack and the only thing I really left out is that each character has a specific class it seems. Rain is a white magic user while Genis is a black magic user ect. My party always consisted of Lloyd, Rain a fighter and a fighter that had a healing spell. Fighting was fairly simple with that group. See, the problem with magic is that it takes a while for the spell to be cast as the character has to stand there and cast it. It would be fine but if they get hit and don't have a special item equipped then they have to start casting again. So I always found it best to have a healer and then fighters instead of an even team of fighters and magic. At the end of battle you get EXP and GALD (money) and you get some other points which can be used to buy special items or saved for a new game + to unlock neat tricks.
In the game you travel from one town to the next, throw in a dungeon or two. The first half of the game is really straight forward, very simplistic dungeons. Later on the game tends to not tell you where you're suppose to go unless you check the Synopsis which will tell you what to due next. Kind of lame that the game doesn't inform you and that you have to check a menu screen to find out where to go. The later dungeons require tons of back tracking; one has you going on 3 side quests to move guys out of the way to continue. That's just absurd. I found the towns themselves to be fairly bland to look at and nothing really wowed me with the way it looked. The magic/tech system is fairly deep with you learn new skills by using the old ones a lot. You can also equip gems later on and combining skills from them give you a compound that might add more max HP or something as you play along. It's all fairly deep and while I didn't understand all of it, because you do just fine button-mashing, it offers a lot for those who are into that sort of thing.
The game has a lot to do in it. Finding new recipes, new titles, and new costumes. You can fill your collection book with all of them items in the game, gather data on all monsters and collect figurines. It does offer a lot but at times it felt like the game was more interested in offer that sort of thing then a compelling story. I went through the game without worrying about any secrets but I did make sure to get one costume because I really enjoy the Klonoa series. If you like side quests and secrets you'll enjoy this game since it offers those. The game also offers 7 endings but the ending I got was rather lame so I doubt if I'll ever play through it again to see another or to get everything in the game.
Tales of Symphonia isn't a horrible game but as a RPG it isn't very good. It reminds me actually of Beyond The Beyond for the original Playstation. I honestly do regret buying this game and that doesn't happen often. I really did enjoy it at first but when I saw that the plot was going nowhere I lost interested and that's a horrible thing for a RPG. This was probably one of the weakest games I've played in awhile and I know now that the Tales series isn't my cup of tea. For me though a RPG just has to deliver a well thought out and moderately meaningful plot. The characters never grew up, Genis was a weak guy in the beginning and in the end he reaffirms that he is still a weak guy. The battle system was good though and the game does offer lots to due after beating it, even though the game took me 33 hours to beat. I just require a good plot because that's why I play rpgs.
Story - 4/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 7/10
Control - 9/10
Game Play - 8/10
Replay value - 6/10
Final Score - 5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 08/08/05
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