Tales of Symphonia
Reviewed: 11/27/2005


For a long time after the launch of the Gamecube, people clamored for the release of a new RPG, exclusive to the machine. Sure, there were some RPGs available such as Skies of Arcadia Legends and Phantasy Star Online, but those served only as ports with a few upgrades. Lost Kingdoms didn’t satisfy, as it was a card-battling RPG that was way too short. With Tales of Symphonia, Gamecube owners finally had their dreams come true.

Tales of Symphonia‘s story is very well paced and has tons of twists. It isn’t the best or most creative plot overall, but it does get the job done. Several times I thought I knew something, I found out that it was all wrong. Sometimes things can get confusing, and thusly, the game comes with a synopsis to recall everything you have learned throughout the game, which is very handy. What’s probably the highlight here is how the story is told and the characters involved with it. The sidequests that reveal more about the characters and the presentation are better than your normal RPG.

Screen Shot
Might wanna lead with your sword when charging a pack of wolves there, Lloyd.

The battle system is great, and will be very familiar to fans of previous Tales games. Basically, player control a selected character in real time, attacking and casting spells and using items. The AI will control the rest of the party; it’s decent, especially since one can customize the characters’ strategies. It’s possible to run back and forth on a 2-D plane, somewhat reminiscent of a fighting game, with characters being able to block attacks (thus lessening damage). Since it’s on the Gamecube, there are some tweaks to the battle system not previously seen in the series. Due to the power of the Gamecube, Namco decided to have the battles 3-D as well, but try not to lose the “feel” of the previous Tales games. They’ve succeeded tremendously. It’s hard to describe but it’s a lot like a 2-D fighting game, with a 3-D engine.

The sound in Tales of Symphonia is incredible. It has some very moving tracks, especially the awesome orchestrated piece at the beginning. The music is very fitting for each area, and it helps set the mood everywhere. And the voice acting is excellent–some of the best to grace any game, period. Some of the voices may sound familiar, like the voice of Lloyd, done by the same actor who voices Robin on the show Teen Titans. These voice actors are professionals who know what they are doing, and it shows.

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The characters are what make the otherwise-typical story worth paying attention to.

The graphics aren’t bad either. Every animated character has a cel-shaded look which looks great and adds a lot to the game. The backgrounds to each area are wonderfully done as well. One neat thing to see is how developers went the extra mile in some of the character motions. For example, walking around on the world map has four different animations for each character, depending on how hard the player pushes the stick: walking, power walking, jogging, and full out running.

It’s recommended by this reviewer that players of Tales of Symphonia do as much as possible in their first playthrough. There’s a ton of stuff in this game, but seeing it may not be worth another 50-60 hour trip through the game. If you don’t want to go through the whole story again, you’ll want to enjoy everything Tales of Symphonia has to offer in round one.

Namco always puts forth a first-class effort with the Tales series, and this chapter is no different. Excellent graphics and sound, a good story and cast to match, and an interesting battle system all add up to a great RPG. Gamecube owners owe it to themselves to pick this up; it’s the RPG players have wanted so badly, and showing support for this game may lead to the US getting more games like it in the future.

-Joey Janowksi

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Great
Story Very Good
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Legendary
Replay Value Bad
The Verdict: Great