Let me start out by saying that hate is probably too strong a word for how I feel about this one. I think confusion is a better word. Maybe it's because there weren't that many big RPG releases at the time that immediately come to mind besides Final Fantasy X which had been out for 3 years by the time this one came out, but I am just confused as to why RPG fans still cling to this one as some perfect experience that none may turn their pen against. Just take a look at at the GameFAQs reader reviews for it. Even with a few low scores, which are to be expected from any game no matter how beloved, Tales of Symphonia sits at a 9.0 average with 122 reviews as of now. That should give a bit of an indication of just how popular this one is. So why don't I like it? Many reasons. This won't be a full synopsis like past articles but I'll try to hit the finer points of the story. This is from memory by the way and I haven't played the game in years so don't get pissy if it's a bit off. Or completely inaccurate...
In Tales of Symphonia, you play as Lloyd Irving, a feisty youth from a small village with a fantastic destiny. Original. He starts his journey with his friends, Colette and Genis (whose name I always found hilarious for obvious reasons...I'm immature.), as they journey to stop the world from withering by journeying to several shrines around the globe. Already it's sounding almost identical to Final Fantasy V in concept. It's original in one regard in that Colette is the chosen one rather than our main character like you would expect in most games. As they travel from shrine to shrine, she gradually loses aspects of herself like the ability to eat, sleep, feel, and eventually even speak as she gradually turns into an angel to save the world or whatever. One of the first big plot revelations is that she will have to eventually die to save the world which I would say is a knockoff of Final Fantasy X but that trope's been done to death elsewhere. Also another of the party members, Sheena, is a summoner who learns new summons from every shrine. Okay, that's a little more blatant.
|Ah, in addition to being a feisty young man, our protagonist is also a lazy moron. This game just bleeds originality.|
They are eventually betrayed by another of their companions, Kratos, who is an angel sent to make sure Collette completes her mission. They end up finding out that there's a parallel world that will wither if theirs is saved; balance of the cosmos or whatever. They find some dimension traveling ships, head over to the parallel world and realize that the two worlds used to be one so they bust their asses to collect a bunch of MacGuffins to unite the worlds. Lloyd learns that he has to break a seal of some sort so he can wield a sword that can unite the two worlds but to break the seal he has to defeat Kratos in battle who turns out is Lloyd's father. That's not true! That's impossible! Never mind. Made that joke already....Anyway, they defeat the big bad, who was one of their friends for most of the game, and revive a tree that will unite the two worlds and keep them from withering and all is well.
|Kratos doing one of his special attacks lololololol COMEDY BLOG!|
The plot isn't all that bad. Though, as I said before, Final Fantasy V has a very similar plot about the world withering and having to unite two parallel worlds. Tales of Symphonia probably did a better job of it actually cause FF5 is one of my least favorite in the FF series. I should probably stop beating games that I don't enjoy... Anyway, Tales of Symphonia isn't a bad game by any measure but it just didn't ever click with me. It's missing something that I feel when I play a game that is as revered as this one. It just feels too derivative to me.
There are a few moments that stood out though. There's 2 of your party members, Regal and Presea, who's story was pretty touching. For most of the game, Regal beats himself up over something horrible that he did in the past, and he even wears a pair of handcuffs for the whole game to punish himself. Presea is a girl who seems to be 12 but is actually 28 due to her aging stopping because of magical research she agreed to have done on her so she could work in her sick father's place. After her father passes away she was traumatized and barely acts human anymore. Presea also has a sister who moved to a far away city where she met Regal and they fell in love. It turns out that the horrible thing that Regal did was kill Presea's sister after she was turned into a monster by crazy researchers or something silly like that. It's a pretty touching scene when the two finally realize what happened and visit the grave of Presea's sister who appears as a ghost to tell them to move on with their lives.
Near the end of the game there's a dungeon, it may be the last one, my memory is a little hazy on that. Regardless, as you make your way through it, Lloyd's companions sacrifice their selves, one by one, to save him since he's the only one that can wield the sword that can unite the worlds. It's pretty saddening; seeing Lloyd's friends die one by one. Of course the game ruins it by bringing them all back at the end. Turns out none of them died during that dungeon, making that shit totally pointless. It's like when they were writing the game, they got near the end and realized, "Oh, shit! We haven't killed off any party members yet! Lets kill them all!" It just feels a little forced is all.
|One of the only God damn screenshots I could find without a freakin' watermark. I swear, it's like gaming websites think they made the games themselves...I hate using screens with watermarks in case you can't tell.|
One thing that I did enjoy about Tales of Symphonia was the battle system. The game has random battles but once you are transported to the battle area the actual battle takes place in real time with you controlling one party member while the others are controlled by the game. The combat works a little like Super Smash Bros in that you press A to do regular attacks and B plus different directions on the control stick to do special attacks and magic. It's also possible to pull off combos so it's a pretty fun system to play around with and see what kinds of attacks and special moves you can string together to do big combos. You can also control any of the characters so you can just stick with Lloyd, who is a pretty easy character to use, if you want, or you can try out the others and see if they match your play style better.
The game has pretty decent cel shaded graphics for the time though Wind Waker came out almost a year prior and I still say that Wind Waker is the best looking game on the system. Character designs aren't bad, with a nicely varied cast, though again none of them really clicked with me as really endearing which is what I think they were going with since the game's characters all have a short, child like look to them.
I don't remember the music at all. That is saying something because I almost always remember something about the music from games that I play. As far as sound goes all I remember is the voice acting which was pretty good actually. Cam Clarke plays Kratos and I've always loved to hear his voice ever since his hammy but awesome performance in Metal Gear Solid. Also he was Leonardo. I rest my case.
Man, this article has gone on for far too long. I sure did say a lot of nice things about the game despite the post title saying that I hate it. I really don't hate the game but when I was trying to come up with games for this feature, this one kept jumping out at me. I would actually recommend the game to most RPG fans who can stomach goofy anime tropes. As my 2008 game of the year will show, and that article is coming soon, I definitely fall into that category. Tales of Symphonia simply didn't resonate with me like it did with so many.