Tales of Symphonia HD Review

I’ve always held the “Tales of” series close to my heart. From the cheesy writing, to the simplistic yet addictive combat, I love it all. And while I was never fortunate enough to experience the Symphonia games when they were originally released, the glorious teams at Namco Bandi and tri-Crescendo have come together to re-release the two role playing epics in wondrous HD.

NOTE: This review will be of the first Tales of Symphonia game originally released back in 2003 for the PS2 and Gamecube. These games are huge RPG’s that take hundreds of hours to get through, so reviewing them is going to take some time. Enjoy the Tales of Symphonia review!

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Symphonia’s story is nothing special compared to other “Tales of” games. The world is going to end soon and the only people who can save it are a group of whacky teenagers, each with distinctive personalities and dark secrets. The story never tries to be innovative or unique, but is only there as an excuse to make our heroes venture forth into the massive sprawling world full of adventure.

The real joy in the game comes in the form of character and world building. Each character starts off as the typical RPG stereotype; the wisecracking hero, the delicate love interest, the brute, the shy mage, etc. But through the story and multiple “skits”, the characters slowly develop into surprisingly complex and motivated characters each with serious issues that they need to confront. While not all of the characters were developed evenly, the ones that were quickly became the most memorable characters in the Tales franchise.

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The world of Sylvarant is one of true wonder and grace. Each location visited tells a story of its own by crafting a bleak look onto how blindly following religion can cause a world so much joy, while also bring it absolute sorrow. Many of the locations have segments that hold no story importance, but are there for sheer world building and to expand the mythos that this game proudly shares. Areas such as Asgard and the human ranches stick out as truly memorable locations that are a prime example in how this game can shape a world so perfectly.

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Mechanically, the game retains the same core concepts that the series has had for years. Simple yet addictive combat that requires strong team management skills and the ability to preempt what the enemy is doing in order to protect everyone. The combat is almost identical as every other “Tales of” game, however there are two aspects that are missing that really show its age. Teammates don’t use items on their own, meaning that if someone has taken heavy damage, they won’t dare touch an apple jell or any healing items. Meanwhile they will gladly waste their magic healing someone who is dead or at full heath, and requesting them to conserve or not use magic doesn’t seem to stop them, they do as they please without thought. While these two aspects show the games age a little, they are just little nitpicks for what is a brilliant combat system.

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With this being a HD upgrade, keep in mind that the key word here is upgrade, meaning that nothing has been remodeled or rebuilt, it’s just a port. With that said, Tales of Symphonia can look great sometimes, but it’s ugly most of the time. The games open world map is a giant flat surface with a horrendous camera that focuses more on the poorly textured ground rather than the characters. The locations look blocky from afar as they trail off into the distance, and enemies on the over world are just grey blobs with green eyes. Things like this can be cool, as they remind you that this game was made over ten years ago. But most of the time I was sitting there with a slight cringe on my face as objects and locations felt like their textures failed to load sometimes.

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Tales of Symphonia is by far one of the best “Tales of” games when it comes to creating a vast world populated with loveable characters. The game holds up surprisingly well after being more than a decade old, and even though a few nasty cracks can be seen, this game easily earns its status as a timeless classic.

Thanks to Namco Bandi for supplying a review copy

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