|Nintendo Reviews Rating:
|Posted: February 10th, 2006
|Namco reintroduces their famous Tales series exclusively to the Nintendo Gamecube. The intricate plotline that is expected
of RPGs is combined with cel-shaded graphics and anime sequences. How does this two disc RPG game fare for gamers?
Read our extensive review!
The first thing that you'll notice about the audio is the voice acting. Accompanying the voice acting is much text that you
have to read through. For a game as long as this, the voice acting is a welcome addition. Throughout the long adventure,
you almost wish there was more. Fortunately, the voice acting covers most of the major sequences. Plus, there's about a
thousand townsfolk you'll be talking to. It'd be a waste of time to give everyone a voice.
The actual quality of the voices are pretty good. For the most part, the actors/actresses convey a sense of characterization
for who they voice. Because there is no lip synching, it was also easy for the voices to sound more natural than forced.
Once again, for the most part, it comes across rather well. The only minor setback is that sometimes a line that a
character says is a little loud or a little quiet. Somehow, in the recording studio, it is apparent that a few people got a little
too close to the microphones when speaking the lines. This slightly unpolished feel is easily overlooked. That's being
literal-it's not too noticeable nor hinders the experience.
The music was done by Motoi Sakuraba, the same person who did the music for all Camelot games (Golden Sun, Mario
Golf). Sakuraba has also done all the music for all the Tales games up to this one. You'd think that by now, he would have
a good idea of what works and what doesn't. Unfortunately, this isn't his best work. Golden Sun had some really developed
themes. This game tends to reuse some music, which is fine. Sakuraba never seems to develop the tunes a little more.
That goes without saying that there aren't too many tunes that you'll be humming along with the game. There's no
horrible tunes, but there's also nothing that's really excellent either.
The sound effects are sparsely used. Like many RPGs, the good sounds are saved for the battles. The sounds in battles are
pretty good, as well as the voice acting. There's not much sound effects outside of battles, and the ones present are pretty
basic. Had they worked a little more on adding a few more things here and there, the experience would seem more real.
There's also no Dolby Surround. The game could have benefited from it. Overall, the sound side needed a bit more
polishing to be great.
This game doesn't have as much traveling around a world map as you might think, so I'll start with that. In fact, this goes
for anywhere-you can see enemies on the field. This gives the game a more realistic feel. It also allows players to go after
enemies purposefully, or try to avoid them. In every area except the world map, the camera is a fixed view that is near
identical to Pokemon Colosseum. This view allows many hidden treasure chests to be quite obvious. There's also little
hidden paths in this game.
Of course, all RPGs try to shine most in the battle system. This battle system is not turn-based. Instead, you execute
everything one character does while the computer controls everyone else. You can interject and choose techs and items to
use with who and on who, but the computer handles the rest. Fortunately, you have some control. You can set strategies
for each party member that can be changed at any time in or outside of battle. These include how to attack enemies and
use techs. Their battle positions can also be changed.
As you progress through the game, characters will earn titles. By manually changing titles, you can increase and decrease
certain stats. There's also something called EX Gems. You equip characters with gems, and each character has four
options of what that Gem can do. Usually it just adds extra effects that can help in and outside of battle. The general RPG
elements are also present. You'll be equipping new items, and setting control styles to the way you like.
Some of the button choices are weird. To bring up the menu, you press Y. I'm so used to pressing Start to pause that even
10 hours into the game, I was still accidentally pressing Start. That can't be changed. Fortunately, you can adjust the battle
controls to nearly any button you want. Attacking in battle can also be somewhat confusing, and you may end up pressing
A a lot. The game does an okay job of explaining everything. Even with the ability to look over the controls, there are a
few things that are easier learned by players themselves.
Because this is a long and sometimes complicated game to follow, you may be confused as to where to go. The synopsis
feature helps to clear things up, and also reviews everything that you've done, and all major plot points. You can save the
game anywhere on the world map, and in most every town and dungeon. The game also loads fairly quickly. This game
isn't so big, and the second disc contains barely anything new over the first disc other than lots more voice samples and a
few more areas. Even if it was for effect, you only switch discs once so it's nothing. Overall, the controls are fairly well
designed. Even with a few setbacks, it's still something that is negotiable.
The game utilizes cel-shaded graphics, once again for effect.
It's not nearly as good as the way Wind Waker uses it, but it's
still quite impressive. The animations are interesting, but not
so intricate. There are plenty of details that you can find in
every place. What amazes me is all the art design put into this
Some areas later in the game serve no purpose but to show off
artwork. The fact that great artwork can be seen everywhere is
impressive. The lighting effects are on par, and the extra
effects here and there work well to accomplish a sense of
feeling to each area.
On top of this is excellent resolution, and a very constant
framerate. I'm glad that the developers didn't neglect the
graphics for some other portion. The anime sequences are
absolutely mind-blowing and were sent to Production I.G.
(Ghost in the Shell, IGPX). They are nothing short of amazing!
Overall, it's great!
The back of the game box says that the game is over 80 hours long. That's misleading. I know I should grade each section
objectively, but it annoys me that a game box of all places would say something that is not true. It took me exactly 40
hours to beat this game. Don't get me wrong, that's a huge amount. But game boxes shouldn't mislead consumers. Even
players not accustomed to RPGs should be able to finish this in less than 50 hours. The game's plot has so many twists that
you'll probably end up playing the game again.
The multiplayer mode doesn't do anything to enhance the game time, but there is one thing that keeps players busy, and
that's the collectibles. Collecting all the figurines can take a long time, and it is fun to see what you get from each time
you process pellets to make some. Figurines come late into the game, though. One thing that comes early is the cooking
ability. You can find wonder chefs that are well hidden; certainly better hidden than the obvious treasure chests. These
chefs teach recipes that you can use to cook spare food items that you find. Cooking replenishes Hit Points and Tech
Points. Also similar to Metroid Prime, you can scan every enemy and then look at each one's log. Since this is a long
game, you'll be finding plenty of enemies (Over 250, I think).
The real kicker is after you beat the game. You can import special settings into a new game file that you make. You can
start a new game with all Tech Skills, extra Gald (money), or even better: all your recipes, recorded monsters and
figurines. You could basically play the game over and over again and keep importing your settings. This way, you don't
have to play the same beaten file over and over to collect everything. This unique idea puts the replay value way up high,
and even if it was just 40 hours, this game would still be considered long. I am extremely satisfied with the replay.
Tales of Symphonia takes the usual RPG plotline and weaves it into a long, but rewarding experience. The plot takes a
journey into these characters' lives. The plot not only takes time to develop the characters, but also to build up to the next
major scene. The only problem I have with this game is that there never really was a climax. There was always something
going on, and the game almost seemed to drag. Fortunately, the plot twists keep the game from coming boring. There
were a few points where the game almost became boring, but the game always wakes players up with some major plot twist.
What I like is that although it's long, it's complicated, and always keep you guessing. The obvious stereotypes are used,
but the character development is well done. This is accomplished through the numerous skits, which use anime-style to
play out the emotions of the characters. The dives into human nature are explored, and when we come out of these scenes,
it's almost always positive, and makes one feel a little better about paying attention to the story.
Now it's obvious that the story is great, but there's more to any game that just the story. The gameplay is pretty good. The
difficulty is rather easy, and dungeons are pretty small. The game throws tons of enemies your way to keep you on your
toes and always leveling up. Even the bosses are easy, but early on, and sometimes later, it takes a little more than sheer
strength to defeat foes. The cooperation of the party members is key, and the battles are thought out so to keep some
level of difficulty.
The RPG elements are utilized well, and I must say that I was rather impressed with the entire game. Even at times where
I am just getting from point A to point B, it didn't seem to dull down on the fun. This game is also engaging. The
characters are constantly communicating with each other, and it builds on the relationship of everyone. This game does
pretty much everything right, and it also does its exclusive features well. Overall, this is a great game design.
Whew! This is probably the longest and most extensive review I have written. This is one heck of a game, and it is a
worthwhile experience on your Gamecube. At $20, this two-disc title is easily recommended. If you don't want to commit a
whole bunch of time to a game before getting to the extras, you may want to look elsewhere. The sound also could have
used a bit more polish. This is still a game that truly rewards people who stick with it. Whether you like the anime style,
cel-shaded graphics or even RPGs, this game is still worth a look.