Tales of Symphonia (PC) Review

By Ian Soltes 28.02.2016 5

Review for Tales of Symphonia on PC

Of all the Western 'Tales of' releases, Tales of Symphonia is unquestionably the most well-known and, arguably, the most beloved. For many, it was their first look into the series and, understandably, it holds a special place in their hearts to this very day. Now, at long last, the game can be played by those unwilling to dust off their GameCube or buy the PS3 re-release, but the question has to be whether or not an adventure released back in 2003 is still good enough over a decade later.

The Tales series has, throughout its history, been seen as the 'Number 3' JRPG after both of Square Enix's juggernauts, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest (some may argue that Persona or Fire Emblem are more popular, but let's not nitpick here). Despite its somewhat rocky start over in the West, with a stop-start release pattern that saw only select titles making the journey over of Japan, the series managed to hold on until, seemingly out of nowhere, Tales of Symphonia was released on the GameCube and, overnight, the series exploded as eager Nintendo gobbled up the JRPG feast. This sudden explosion into the limelight placed the series well into the eye of the gaming public. Now, with Bandai Namco's recent attempts to get into the PC scene, it has resorted to the most iconic of releases to try and forge a way forwards.

The world of Sylvarant is in peril. For years the world has slowly been starving and deprived of mana, while a group of people known only as Desians freely go about enslaving human beings. There is still hope, though, as there is a prophecy about a Chosen One, born of the angels, coming to this world to free humanity from the Desians, as well as bring mana back to the land. This Chosen One comes in the form of a young girl named Colette Brunel. Despite being one of legend, the primary focus of this tale is actually on her close friend, Lloyd Irving, who serves as the 'Peter' figure to Colette's 'Jesus.' However, the world is far more complicated than Lloyd, Colette, and many others ever thought it could be, and a massive adventure awaits them.

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia on PC

Tales of Symphonia has been known for many things in its time, the foremost being its story. Sadly, most of it cannot be discussed without spoilers, but it's sufficient to say that the yarn, focused on redemption and hatred, is most certainly among one of the best. After all these years, it still stands out as brightly as it ever did back when it originally launched, maybe even more so than before, in fact, as so much of the medium has become cluttered with high-action/low-story efforts.

This does not affect its quality, however - not that it needed to. On the grand level, the story is still as astounding as ever, with so many details and layers of depth that much of it can easily be delved into on a deeper level. Lloyd's journey throughout this world is no minor one and is well fleshed out. On a more personal level, all the characters are likeable and very well nuanced. One very easy example comes in the form of Colette and her love of dogs, and how one of the side-quests involves her trying to find and name every dog she comes across. Small things, like how Raine is such a poor cook because she refuses to stop experimenting, causing her younger brother to have to learn how to cook on his own, bring the characters to life in a great way.

What really makes it head and shoulders above the rest, though, is how it handles itself through the myriad of twists and turns. Far too often narrative will assume that being dark equates to depth, and while Tales of Symphonia has a lot of dark moments in it, the key element is actually how much hope there is in the face of everything else going on. Some of the deepest and most meaningful moments come not from something needlessly ominous or depressing but, instead, from growing close to the cast and treating each member like friends and family.

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia on PC

If it were based on the story alone, it would be amazing on its own merits. Sadly, for how well it has stood the test of time, the gameplay aspects have fallen short. Sure, it's not bad, but it's quite clear that the series has drastically improved over the years; for example, the battles take place on a 3D battlefield and, yet, the characters can only run forwards or backwards with no sidesteps. It is possible to turn, but it takes a lot of work to do so. People coming off the back of more modern adventures will find themselves taking a lot of damage simply from expecting to be able to move to the sides when they can't. This wouldn't be an issue in a 2D fight, or if the re-release made it easy to free-run, but its absence shows a seemingly lazy lack of effort.

Likewise, the combat is drastically slowed down to the point where taking Raine, the party's White Mage, into direct combat is valid simply because things happen slowly enough to guard easily and safely. There isn't as much depth in the combat as with other series entries, as well. Even something as basic as the element-matching in Tales of Zestiria at least prompted direct changes and adaptation on the field.

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia on PC

The dungeons themselves are fairly standard, if still well thought out and generally enjoyable and often puzzling. Hair will still be torn out in figuring out the frustrating forest conundrum (yes, that one!) and the many other things that made for an enjoyable, or annoying, experience remain in place.

However, the biggest shortcomings come in the form of the graphics and sound. Little has changed since the days of the original. Sure, everything is in HD now and it would be weird to suddenly change the entire art style, even if it does look a little 'off' nowadays. That isn't an excuse for not bothering to do things like improve the mini-map or change things to actually take advantage of the superior power, though. Some people have complained about the game being locked to 30fps but, honestly, that seems like the wrong thing to focus on when the visuals themselves seem to be little more than a lazy(ish) re-skin/update, instead of the visual overhaul it badly needed. The skits still lack any sound, which seems unusual considering that this is the iconic entry in the series. It's unfortunate that the team working on the port couldn't get the Voice Actors back for what should have been a major slam dunk.

Screenshot for Tales of Symphonia on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

As a game, Tales of Symphonia is still the shining gem it once was… in regards to story, that is. The story that was so strong, the characters that became so beloved, and so much more, are all present and correct. However, as an update, this feels like it was lazily done, with only a small amount of effort put in. Even ignoring that, this is a port of the PS3 title, instead of an update to the GameCube version, making it feel underwhelming and lacklustre. So much of the game is good that it's really frustrating to see it fail to take advantage of even the basic improvements made in its own series. Without some work to update the visuals, and no effort to bring the original VAs back in to record the skits, giving it a very high score feels wrong. It's not an argument that the game should have been updated, but the apparent lack of effort really sends the score down.

Developer

Bandai Namco

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

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

Comments

I've read a lot of terrible things about this port. Was actually expecting a bit more of a slamming!

It's ToS. It's a good game and a lot of the 'slamming' is people whining about how it's not 60 FPS. My reaction to that is 'really? Out of all the graphical issues in the game you picked the FRAMERATE?! It isn't even a fast game in which there is much camera moving!'

Looks like there's more than the frame rate people are unhappy about.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1178556

Some of this is pure carelessness. Good job modders have been quick on the job.

Sure. The ones I heard the most about were the ones whining about the FPS though and, honestly, a sizable chunk of those things mentioned won't afftect the average gamer. I am curious as to how I missed that spelling error though.

Battle Contorols? Smilie That's fantastic!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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