Tales of Symphonia is one of the most beloved titles in the Tales of series. Last year it received a re-release onto PS3, allowing new players to experience it.
Back when Tales of Symphonia was originally released on GameCube, I wasn’t really into the Tales of series. I didn’t even touch a Tales of game until Vesperia.. Well, okay, really my first was Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology, but that’s besides the point. Not that I can even find my UMD for that game now… Anyways. When Symphonia was released on PS3 last year, I got it with pre-order. Unfortunately, it fell into my pile of unfinished games after only a few hours, and it wasn’t until recently that I finally dived back into it.
Tales of Symphonia follows Lloyd, a boy raised by a dwarf and going to school in Iselia. He’s a bit slow to pick up on things and tends to fall asleep in class, but he cares deeply for his friends and wants to help and protect them. One of his friends is Colette, the Chosen of Mana, who is destined to regenerate the world. The world needs regenerating because it is dying – the supply of mana is running out, and the only way to save it is for the Chosen to go on the quest of regeneration.
Symphonia feels a bit slow to start off, despite it getting you into battles fairly quickly. It wasn’t until around the point of travelling to Tethe’alla that it really felt like it picked up for me, and that still took me around 20 hours to get to. Perhaps it’s because the first part is just hey travel to these places for the quest of regeneration. There are some points prior where it does pick up a little, but as I said I didn’t really start getting into it until the second world.
The game features a cast of 9 playable characters, although you can only actually have 8 total in your party at a time with 4 being usable in battle. Something always seems to conveniently happen to keep you at 8 or under. There are also points where your party decides they need to split up to get more done. The first time it happens it makes sense. The second time I was like, why? We’re going the same way as you anyways…
The characters are all fairly varied from each other, though two characters are pretty similar. You’ve got your casters who feel like they get interrupted far too much and just make battles more difficult, and you’ve got your melee characters whom I found to all be pretty good. There’s also your “hybrid” characters who seem to fall into the caster category of usefulness, at least for me. Perhaps it’s because I tend to be more of a “smash the face” person though. Well, except for Sheena, but she can still stick to being melee and ignore her spells. There’s also, of course, your dedicated healer who will destroy her MP unless you give her the accessory to recover it over time. Then it seems she never runs out, but it’s not like that’s a bad thing!
Combat is very similar to the older Tales of titles, though it does at least pull it onto a slightly more 3D field. Having come to this game after playing Xillia 2, however, made it so that I found the battles to be extremely slow. I found it a bit harder to work out proper combos, and getting combo hit counts up was definitely a lot harder. Symphonia in general is one of the harder Tales of games I’ve played, even on Normal – the lowest difficulty.
Passive abilities in Symphonia are learned through equipping Ex Gems. These Ex Gems can be used in specific combinations together to teach you skills. You don’t know if you’ve actually found a proper match, though, until you fight a battle with that combo. If it pops up saying that you’ve learned a skill then you found a combo. The abilities the gems themselves give can also be pretty handy, with each tier giving a set of 4 to choose from. You can only equip 4 gems at a time though, and if you want to replace a slot the gem that was there is lost forever.
Combat abilities are learned depending on what “Type” you’re heading towards. The Ex Gems you equip also affect this, as each ability on them is either an S-Type or T-Type. At times you might even find it a good idea to swap up your abilities to see if you can learn more skills for your characters. While switching the Ex Gems around will remove any learned passives, combat abilities stick around regardless.
Symphonia also features titles. Titles are badges of “accomplishment” basically – hey, you did this thing, have a title. Every character has a list of a handful of titles. They aren’t easy to get however. The tasks you need to do to get them can be pretty challenging, and on top of that you have to do multiple playthroughs to even get them all!
The game sees the typical dungeon puzzles return. However, I don’t think I’ve ever found myself more irritated at being a yo-yo in puzzles than I was in Symphonia. Not even just the puzzles, this was true in the storyline as well! There was one dungeon in particular where I thought I was going to throw my controller out the window in annoyance. While the “dungeon” itself was only a few screens, it took me an hour to get through because I’d have to go do something on one layer, go back to another layer (which involved changed screens), rinse repeat. And, of course, the enemies would respawn EVERY SINGLE TIME. Insert annoyance here. There was one place where the enemies actually DIDN’T respawn when I changed screens and I thought I’d finally found heaven in the puzzles. Then, of course, the next one had them respawning again. So much for hoping they’d actually made it so they didn’t for the rest of the game…
Grade also shows up in Symphonia, and has even more of a use outside of the Grade Shop. While I would highly suggest saving your grade for the shop to go into NG+, you can also use it to purchase some materials or credits at the casino. The main reason I suggest saving it is because grade isn’t exactly easy to get. In fact, it’s extremely easy to lose it, especially on bosses, and especially if you decide to play on hard mode. I found myself missing Xillia 1 and 2’s system of it just being linked to the titles you get, though with how hard titles are to get in Symphonia… Perhaps I more would’ve liked it how it was in Hearts R where it’s extremely hard to actually get negative grade after a battle.
Music in Symphonia is pretty good. However, I didn’t start finding more “memorable” tracks until the end of the game. Near the end, tracks really started to stand out for how good they were. Earlier in the game, this wasn’t as much the case for me. There was some tracks that did stand out but they were just few and far between compared to closer to the end.
In terms of how I feel it transferred into HD, it’s hard to say. While some parts seem good, I saw some extremely ugly textures at time. The art style definitely works for the game, it’s just that there are times where ugly textures are extremely prevalent. I also spotted a lot of ugly little typos splattered throughout the game, one going so bad that it looked like some code had leaked in. I’m not sure if these were present in the GameCube version, but them being present in the PS3 version felt extremely lazy to me.
If you’re looking for a long RPG then Tales of Symphonia is for you. While a few elements of the game didn’t seem to transfer over to PS3 very well – the horrible typos splattered everywhere and the ugly textures – the core game is pretty fantastic, minus the extreme yo-yo feeling in storyline and dungeons. I do suggest, however, that if you’re wanting to play it, don’t do it after having finished Hearts R and Xillia 2. The game will feel extremely sluggish in speed. I made this mistake and thought I’d die from how slow combat felt for awhile…
Tales of Symphonia (PS3) Review
Extreme puzzle yo-yo, ugly textures, and an abundance of typos keep this from being as fantastic as it could be.