Top positive review
64 people found this helpful
A Cult Classic is Given a New Life
on February 25, 2014
In 2004, the JRPG was still a very popular genre. Popular enough that those who owned a Gamecube were wondering when they'd be able to enjoy a good RPG. The PS2 couldn't seem to stop receiving them. Well, in 2004 the answer came in the form of Tales of Symphonia. A game that came from what was then a very obscure series (if people were even aware it was a series to begin with). As such, the game became a run away cult success on the Gamecube. It introduced many fans to the series. With so many HD reissues coming out the Tales of Symphonia one is actually quite surprising. The game was a big success in the day, but Namco hasn't always been willing to reissue the Tales game in North America. Tales of Symphonia was a grand RPG back in 2004 and it holds up well today. There are some aspects of it that are either dated, or that it would've been nice for the developers to touch, but nevertheless I'm still glad to have a chance to replay a gem such as Tales of Symphonia.
The collection includes two games. Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World which was released on the Wii just a few years ago. While Tales of Symphonia is a great game, Dawn of the New World always had something of a mixed reaction from fans. It never quite garnered the cult status its older brother did. True enough, it's also not quite as good.
Tales of Symphonia centers on Lloyd Irving and his friend Collette. In the land of Sylvarant, life is slowly dying. The chosen of rejuvenation is tasked with facing the trials of Martel in order to restore the mana of the world, thus saving it. This is how the game starts. And at first it feels as though the story is a cliche straight out of RPGs 101. But Tales of Symphonia has two things that make the story so worthwhile. The first is that it is about much more than that. Tales of Symphonia is a game filled to the brim with twists and turns. You'll have characters join your cause, betray you and rejoin you again. You'll discover that there is so much more to the story at hand. On the surface Tales of Symphonia is particularly simple. But deep down inside is a story full of quite a bit of depth. It tackles some pretty heavy social themes. And though it can get preachy at times, Tales of Symphonia manages to make it all come across as natural within the world itself.
The second thing that helps Tales of Symphonia is that it has a remarkably charming cast of characters. Again, at first glance they are all nothing more than cliches. But at some point every character grows and develops into their own. You may come out really loving these characters. The story in Tales of Symphonia takes its time building all of this, however. Until the game's first major twist everything about it seems to be by the book. When the story truly takes off, however, Tales of Symphonia is actually quite a remarkable story.
The characters are also developed through various skits where they talk among themselves through the journey. Sometimes commenting on events. Other times just to speak of their favorite food or something like that. At least it adds a lot of personality to them. A lot of the story is also well written. Providing a lot of humor and a lot better dialog than most games. A lot of it feels natural and a lot of the interactions between characters feels natural.
The battle system is the same as you remember. Your characters are on a line and you are free to move about in battle. Each character has their own set of special abilities which you can set and use in battle. Using the same techs over and over again will eventually cause you to learn greater techs later on down the line. You'll also be able to later string them together. At first glance Tales of Symphonia seems like a game where button mashing can get you through. But the further along you get the less this happens to be true. Some battles can be quite dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. You can only control one character in the free flowing combat at a time, but most of the AI is actually quite good at what they do. They'll exploit an enemy's weakness if it's there and they'll also refrain from casting a spell if it proves ineffective. You can always override their commands if you need to or connect a second controller and do multi-player.
Your characters also learn abilities through ex-spheres. Some may grant you more hits to your combo. Others might increase your chances of protection from status updates. Unlike future Tales games, the limit to the abilities you can put on has to be considered because the possibilities aren't endless.
In Japan, Tales of Symphonia was released on the PS2 with some additional content that is all present here. Characters have additional costumes. Some have additional Mystic Artes (as opposed to just Lloyd this time). The HD Collection also adds in a few costumes for those who have save data from Tales of Graces f and Tales of Xillia on their system. There are also a couple of things added to the HD collection. You can now choose to hear the Japanese audio if you wish. The intro also contains the original Japanese lyrics instead of just being an instrumental piece.
Tales of Symphonia isn't without flaws, though. The original game is still a lot of fun, but there are some things that are apt to urk new players unaccustomed to Tales. The first is that there is often a lot of expository dialog throughout the quest. You, of course, should expect this from an RPG, but Tales games in general tend to spend a lot of time explaining something to you... and then later explaining it again. There is so much dialog at times that you are sometimes caught up in running between two locations with no battles in between only to hear what a character has to say. There's little problem with this except for the part where you may have figured it out before the characters have. Tales of Symphonia is one of the more annoying games with this trait. Other Tales games have done this (the final act of Tales of the Abyss is almost overkill with it) but Tales of Symphonia certainly shows its age when it feels it has to keep explaining the same plot point over and over again. Most times it as least done in a natural way, but many a time it comes across as though it is trying to make sure the player is keeping up with the events. And Tales of Symphonia has a lot to take in.
There are some things, however, that I wish the HD collection had changed or updated. Sometimes it's nice to play old classics because we get a chance to relive them or our nostalgia. But sometimes there are certain things you wish could be addressed. When Square reissued Kingdom Hearts they changed a couple of bothersome things like setting the camera to an analog stick or refining the battle system to be smoother. Basically taking bits of Kingdom Hearts II to help the first one be a smoother and better gaming experience. Tales of Symphonia could've used that in some aspects. For instance, the battle system is great, but the lack of a free run is going to take many a Tales fan to get used to. You can only run on one line as opposed to running throughout the entire scenery. Likewise, the camera in battle will only focus on player 1. So if player one runs off on his own in battle the other players are not going to be able to see themselves. It doesn't zoom out to accompany all of them. These are nitpicks but the camera issue was a problem even back in 2004.
You'll spend A LOT of time with the first Tales of Symphonia. The main quest itself stretches to about fifty hours with all the sidequests easily adding on thirty hours or so. The game also features a new game plus with a new difficulty setting where a couple of choice battles go a bit differently should you tackle the game on that difficulty. There are side events to do in almost every town you go in. There are tons of optional bosses and a few optional dungeons as well. It's a game that is apt to keep you busy for a while. The first game alone is worth the price of the entire collection.
As far as HD graphics go, however, Tales of Symphonia has been given a nice make over. A lot of the textures look incredibly good and have a lot of detail. There are still a few moments of blemishes and muddied textures, however. Particularly when you examine the ground in the towns and the world map. It's a nice smooth makeover at least. The character models and choice settings in particular look really good.
As for Dawn of the New World... this was a game I personally wasn't too crazy about. It has a story that takes a particularly long time to get going. And while the cast isn't too bad and the gameplay is pretty good, it just isn't as absorbing of a game. It's more linear than the first game but also manages to feel more restricted. It's a true sequel, however, where many of the previous characters return. However, it never quite reaches the heights as the first game. The story, while good, is a lot more tame. Many of your favorite characters take a back seat and are in supporting roles. If you are interested in what happens following the events of Tales of Symphonia it is at least worth trying, but it definitely isn't as good. Many of its aspects, at least, will be familiar. The battle system is still fun here (in some ways it might be better) but it's hard to shake the feeling that it's quite mundane compared to the original game.
That being said, the HD collection actually is worth it just for the original game alone. If you hadn't played the original Tales of Symphonia before then this is the perfect time to get it. It's a remarkable game. The sequel isn't too exciting but it is by no means a bad game.