Tales of Symphonia (RPG Special) (GameCube) Preview

By Adam Riley 13.12.2003 2

After a worrying drought in the RPG genre, Nintendo's GameCube is fast becoming the home of many an extraordinary role-playing title. Gamers have been treated to the delights of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Phantasy Star Online Ep I&II as well as Lost Kingdoms I & II. Soon Western fans will be able to play the likes of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. However, they will also be able to get their hands on Tales of Symphonia, the first in Namco's infamous 'Tales' series (that started out on the SNES and has hit the PSone with a wonderful duo of adventures) to make it over to the West on a Nintendo console. Read on as C3 delves into the depths of this eagerly awaited GameCube RPG and see if it is indeed worthy of your attention...

Let me give you a little bit of background to the Tales series family tree, for the uninitiated. Back in the latter months of 1995, near the tale-end of the Super Nintendo's lifespan, Namco unleashed a mammoth new RPG project on the system

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia (RPG Special) on GameCube

This brings us perfectly up-to-date, and with sales of over 300,000 to date in Japan and being rated the Most Wanted GameCube game for October in the United States, it looks like nothing can go wrong for Namco's traditionally popular Tales franchise and the cash will indeed keep a-flowing. As for the game itself, thankfully it appears to continue with the tried-and-tested gameplay formula that has made sure that previous iterations have remained firmly lodged in gamers' consoles for many a month, even year! The graphical style has been altered, removing the completely two-dimensional characters and replacing them with cel-shaded 3D ones that look extremely tasty, despite being surrounded by rather bland-looking locations, although from looking at simple screenshots you would hardly be able to tell the difference to be honest as it all looks terribly cartoon-like overall. However, what is vitally important is the actual game mechanics, which remain the same as always, in other words the controversial 'linear motion battle' system that reviewers seem to be split over whether it is a marvel compared to similar titles in the genre or if it is simply a dated technique that should be dropped as soon as possible makes a return. For reference I am personally in the former camp...As seen in games like Chrono Trigger on the SNES and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the GBA more recently, Tales of Symphonia sees a welcome change in that enemies are no longer randomly encountered, instead a group (usually the exact amount that you will face in battle) will appear on the screen ahead of you, giving you the choice to by-pass fights if you cannot be bothered or are desperately low on health. A nice addition that should probably be considered by more and more RPG developers!

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia (RPG Special) on GameCube

In terms of the story, your lead character is a school boy that goes by the name of Lloyd Irving and lives in a world called Silvaland, which is currently endangered due to a severe lack of its life source, none other than 'Mana'. Apparently it is written in a legend that Shaman can resurrect the Mana source and ultimately save the world, which just happens to be the perfect situation since one of Lloyd's school friends is indeed a Shaman by the name of Collet Brunel. Therefore Lloyd, Collet and another friend set off on a heroic, yet absolutely perilous journey only to discover that there is far more to the picture than first imagined. It turns out that the Mana is in fact shared with another world, Tesseala, and if Silvaland thrives then the other will suffer unduly and vice versa.

As with the majority of traditional RPGs, Namco's Tales of Symphonia has you meeting and interacting with a wide range of various characters, some of which will join your team and have a direct influence on the outcome of various different situations. Here is a quick summary of four such personalities you will come across: Zelos Wilder is male, 22 years old, and of the swordsman class or tribe, a gambler and known for being quite extrovert. Presea Combatir is a 12-year-old soldier who previously worked as a woodcutter when her father became too ill - the experience has made her quite the opposite of Zelos. Regal Bryan is a 33-year-old fighter who, because he had been in prison serving a life sentence and wore shackles on both hands, only has attack skills based on traditional foot techniques. Finally there is Mitos, a 14-year-old boy who is shy and deprived of specific skills. So you can clearly see that there is a nice mix of varying types throughout the adventure, something that is necessary to keep the whole experience from descending into mindless tedium!

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia (RPG Special) on GameCube

Tied-in with the array of characters is the fact that Symphonia boasts impressive voice acting (although this could radically change with the US release...), with the styles of voice reportedly suiting the personalities perfectly. You get to here these voices not only at designated points, but via a menu option as well. During the game you can call up a conversation screen where your party will converse about their current situation, what should be done next, and offer up tips for the rest of the journey - all in full speech. With the series' high quality soundtrack not ending here, thus meaning that Symphonia has a splendid musical score as well as voice acting and a beautiful intro song! Something to look forward to, I am sure you will agree...

Fans need not worry about completing Tales of Symphonia in a very short time either, as the main quest itself promises to keep players occupied for at least over the 30-35 hour mark, with extra side-quests and mini-games adding to the longevity and the branching storyline meaning that players will certainly be encouraged to replay the game in order to see everything it has to offer. Also there are three special features

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia (RPG Special) on GameCube

Final Thoughts

So, us English-speaking Nintendo fans will finally be able to sample the delights of Namco's flagship RPG franchise

Developer

Namco Tales

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (13 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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