Tales of Symphonia Review
If you have a GameCube and like RPGs, you definitely need to check out Tales of Symphonia.
Namco's Tales series of role-playing games have always carried something of a cult status outside of their native Japan. In a console genre that many people define in Final Fantasy parameters, the Tales games have been quiet understudies that haven't garnered much attention. Enter Tales of Symphonia, the latest game in the series and the first to appear on the RPG-starved GameCube. Happily, the game is more than just a pretty face--it is a welcome entry into a console's needy genre; it's an entertaining game with a pretty standard story line, but it also has terrific gameplay and a lot of appeal.
The game is set in the world of Sylvarant, a land that is on the wane due to a steady loss of mana, the energy source that is needed both for magic and to support life itself. As the crops begin to wither and hardship sets in, the people turn their hopes to the Chosen One, a servant of the Goddess Martel, who can reverse the ills of the world by completing a journey of world regeneration. You play as Lloyd Irving, a teenage boy, who sets out with Colette Brunel (the young girl who happens to be the Chosen) and a group of compatriots to restore the world's mana and to set things right. The story is standard fare and has a few obvious twists, though it's shored up a good deal by the wide range of characters you come in contact with. The journey may be long, but it's well-populated with characters and a few subplots, which you can keep track of in a synopsis journal accessible from your main menu.
Your journey through Sylvarant is also made lighter by the fact that you're generally not subjected to random enemy encounters. Both in dungeons and on the world map, you'll see representations of monsters hanging about. In dungeons, there'll be various types of creatures roaming specific areas, and it's almost always possible for you to navigate right around them, even in close quarters. The world map handles things a bit differently; monsters show up as either blobs or wacky little bipedal critters, and you'll be able to see them when you get close enough. Some of them sit still, some of them wander randomly, and every so often you come across one that hops excitedly and dashes straight at you. They can start dashing when you're still not in range to see them, so you can still get caught unawares every so often, particularly on long treks. And even that's not necessarily such a bad thing, because once you get adept at dodging enemies, it's easy to go for long stretches without fighting; however, then you'll find yourself running into a brick wall in the form of a boss. You'll want lots of hit points and special techniques at your fingertips to handle those baddies, and to get there, you're going to have to spend some time leveling. However, that task is itself made less onerous by the versatility of the battle system itself, and the fact that you get to pretty much choose your own fights.
Tales games have always used what Namco calls the "linear motion battle system," a real-time, 2D battle engine that lets you move around the field and attack foes at will. Tales of Symphonia uses an expanded version of this system that's fast, fun, and easy to master. By default, you'll directly control your main character in battle (who is almost always Lloyd) and your teammates will act according to their artificial intelligence. The battlefields are 3D, so you will have enemies fanned out a bit, but your movement is still two dimensional--only forward and back--so you are aligned with the current monster you have targeted. If the enemies are clustered together close enough, you can hit several with one type of attack. The A button controls your standard melee swipes, while the B button triggers your special tech attacks. You can have numerous tech attacks mapped at any given time that correspond with pressing B alone or in conjunction with moving your analog stick in a certain direction. You can block incoming attacks by hitting the X button. Mastering blocking becomes very important, especially with bosses with huge attacks that would otherwise hit for devastating damage.
Battles evolve quickly into full-speed melees where you'll be balancing your tech points (used for special moves) with melee hits (each hit gains you a tech point back) as you rack up combination hits by striking in concert with your teammates and avoiding danger by blocking and moving out of range. Your team's number of successful strikes will eventually go into a meter; when that meter fills, you'll be able to execute unison attacks, which consist of an offensive special attack from each ally who has such an ability, with no tech point cost. You'll have to execute a number of button presses within a time limit to pull those off, but it's based on the same simple control scheme as normal specials. When you couple the above with the possibility for combined special attacks and special unison attacks, which are dependent on certain move combinations, it gives you a robust, ever-changing stream of possibilities in battle that can be great fun to perfect. You can also call on the forces of summon spirits, elemental beings you'll have to seek out and form a pact with.
- Player Reviews: 690
- Game Universe:
- Tales of Phantasia (GBA),
- Tales of Symphonia (GC, PS2),
- Tales of Destiny 2 (PS2, PSP),
- Tales of Rebirth (PS2, PSP),
- Tales of Destiny II (PS, PSP),
- Tales of Phantasia (PS, SNES),
- Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology (PSP),
- Tales of Destiny (PS2),
- Tales of Phantasia: Full Voice Edition (PSP),
- Tales of Eternia Online (PC)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: