Tales of Symphonia, One of my favorite games of all-time
Tales of Symphonia was an RPG that was released on the Nintendo Gamecube on July 13, 2004 in North America. Another version with added features was released on the PlayStation 2 later that year, but only in Japan. It is one of my all-time favorite video games for a myriad of reasons, but the most being the story. The combat system and characters come close though. Let me break it down for you.
A quest to save the world - Story: 8/10
Now, some people complain about the story. They say it's predictable and boring. I agree it can be predictable and some parts may be a little dry or drag out a little too long. The basic rundown is that you play as Lloyd, a beginning swordsman, with his friends Genus and Collete. Collete is the "chosen", who goes on a pilgrimage to "regenerate" the world. Sounds simple enough, but it gets a lot more complicated than that as the story progresses.
There are some nice twists, and the overall story in my opinion is fantastic. The game is two discs long so there's a lot of content and it gets better the more you play. One of the best parts of the story is the interaction between characters and the history behind the main boss, Mithos. I won't spoil it here, but the final confrontation and accompanying cut-scenes are some of my favorite moments in a role-playing game.
Unique artistic style - Graphics: 9/10
The game has a very nice cel-shaded graphical quality. There are some animated cut-scenes as well, though not many. Looking at the graphics now they may not seem that great, but they were great for the style of game and the time this was released. The effects for the attacks also look quite incredible for a game of its age.
Not turn-based, just fluid, real-time action.. sorta - Game play: 9/10
This is almost everyone's favorite thing about the game and the main reason I tried the game out in the first place. There were not many role-playing games out at the time that were multi-player, with four player co-op I might add. On top of that, the battles were all in real-time.
No choosing an attack, watching it, then waiting your turn for the enemy to attack. You used all your attacks and spells without delay in this highly fluid combat system. That alone was like a dream come true for a long time, turn-based, RPG player such as myself.
The fights are still instanced, so when you walk into or get caught by an enemy, you then get taken to the battle screen. While you can at least see the enemies on the map, instead of them being random encounters (I'm looking at you Pokémon), some fights are unavoidable.
You can choose from many characters as they join you throughout the quest, and don't even have to keep Lloyd in the party. There are parts of the story that need you to use him and others though. There's also a slight choice over which skills you learn, but I won't go into that here.
Music to my ears - Sound: 8/10
The voice acting was great in my opinion and had some famous names including, Scott Menville, Kari Wahlgren, Crispin Freeman, Jennifer Hale, Tara Strong, and Cam Clarke. I definitely enjoyed the music and sound effects. One of my favorite things to hear in the game is Genus chanting his spells. The video to the right shows my favorite one, Indignation. Besides that, music and battle dialogue can get repetitive like most games.
It's dangerous to go alone, take some friends with you - Multi-player: 9/10
I had not previously played an RPG before this where I could fight with three other human players. This coupled with the battle system made this game an obvious choice for someone like me. The only reason I didn't give it a ten is the fact that it is only in battle can you play with your friends.
Whenever you are traveling, watching cut-scenes, or anything else that isn't fighting, only one player can control what's happening. There are also times where you may not have a full party of four or even just the main character. It's not perfect, but especially for its time, not many games could compare in this department.
This is only my 12th play-through - Replay Value: 10/10
The game's replay value is considerably higher than most games, especially RPG's. One huge bonus is the fact that you can start a new game using your clear data from a previous completion.
This allows you to transfer over certain things like, items, skills, titles, etc. In order to do this, you must buy it from the 'Grade Shop' that appears once you start a new game from a cleared game file. 'Grade' is obtained or lost in every fight of the game and whatever you have at the end can be used to buy transfers.
There are also eight characters to choose from, and only four can be in a battle at any given time. You can freely choose who you use, so this gives you many party configurations. You can go through the game as someone different or just try different combinations of skills.
Final Verdict: 9/10
This is one of the best RPG series ever created, in my opinion. There are many different titles on various consoles. Most of them are separate, similar to Final Fantasy games, so you don't have to worry about following it from the beginning. If you are a fan of RPG's at all, do yourself a favor and try this game and any other titles in the series you can get your hands on.