A few years back I had an aversion to anything anime. Not because I thought it was a lesser form of storytelling or I thought it was childish. It was because I know myself, if something’s good I want to see all of it, I’ll become a fan and I will spend countless hours tracking down information about it to further expand my knowledge. I was under the impression shows and games that are based in the anime genre tend to go on forever. (Found out later that isn’t ALWAYS true Gantz,Bebop,FMA:B,VampireD etc). I also refused to play any turn based games besides pokemon and shining force (No I don’t know what was wrong with me, don’t judge me).
So somehow I was talked into trying out this game titled Tales of Symphonia, a two disc,turn based, anime style, game on the gamecube. Here we go!
The game takes place in the world of Sylvarant, a lush beautiful world with plenty of Mana which is magical energy. There world is run by the church and by people called Desians. Desians have a strange hatred towards elves and half elves. We come in at the point where the “chosen one” must go on their journey of world regeneration. As everything in their world runs off of mana, a chosen one must break the seals on five different temples.
The chosen one and her group head off to start the process of regeneration. When she arrives at the first temple they see a priest dying who warns the chosen one to be careful. Desians fall upon the group and they are saved by a mysterious swordsman. He offers to stay for a fee, but when he hears the name of one of the members he tells that member not to come.
The Member is eventually allowed to join and they move on. Eventually they discover that there are two worlds vying for mana. This regeneration process robs the other world of its mana, therefore sending it into decay. The chosen one of Sylvarant and friends try to find a way to make the quest work for both worlds.
Now there is quite a bit more to this story than I just put in to that last paragraph. That’s because the story is the BEST part of this game. It’s deep, philosophical, and has so many twists and turns that I can’t really say too much past the first few hours of gameplay. Suffice to say this story is one of the best, well developed, and executed storylines I’ve ever seen in a video game. To prove that point they have made a few seasons of a television anime based off of the game, which usually happens the other way around.
Lloyd Irving-The main character, he was raised by a dwarf that found him and his mother. His mother died and imparted to him a stone. He’s stubborn and doesn’t like studying anything but fighting. He’s good hearted and never gives up. Dwarven vow #9 fall seven times get up 8 best describes his character.
Colette Brunel-The chosen one of Sylvarant. A sweet, innocent, sometimes naive girl. She is very strong though and is willing to accept whatever fate she must in order to make a better world for everyone. Her favorite Dwarven vow is #7 “Goodness and love will always win.”
Genis Sage-Llyod’s best friend, magic user, and extremely studious. He is the younger brother of their schoolteacher. Often Llyod’s intellectual foil (especially since his sarcasm sometimes goes right over his friend’s head). His favorite Dwarven Vow would be #16 “You can do anything if you try.”
Kratos Aurion-The mysterious swordsman that saves them in the beginning of the game. He’s extremely adept at fighting and eventually becomes an unwilling mentor to Lloyd in this respect. His favorite Dwarven vow would be #5 “The more you add, the worse it gets.”
Raine Sage-The Older sister of Genis. She is an avid historian and a great teacher. She is also a magic user. Very calm and likes to think things through, unless historic artifacts are involved. At that point she forgets where she is and will run in headfirst. She’s also a TERRIBLE cook. Her favorite Dwarven vow would be #43″never forget the basics.”
Sheena Fujibayashi- An assasain from the neighboring world vying for the mana called Tethe’alla. Haunted by failures in her past, she has sworn to stop the chosen one of Sylvarant. However when she discovers that Colette is willing to help her world she concedes to helping find a better way for both worlds. Favorite Dwarven vow- “a bad workman blames his tools.
Zelos Wilder-The chosen one of Tethe’alla. He is snobbish, spoiled, and believes he is god’s gift to women. Constantly hits on just about all of the female characters in the game. Actually if you walk around as him women will give him different items. Favorite Dwarven Vow- #10 “Play hard, Play Often.”
Presea Combatir-A twelve year old lumberjack. Sound odd? It is but her story is being shadowed by the things in the story that would be huge spoilers. Just know she’s very quiet but very strong. Her favorite Dwarven vow would be #14 “Even a small star shines in the darkness.”
The gameplay to this game is pretty cool. You can decide which character you want to control. Usually you will be in a group with about four members and the ones you don’t control will do whatever you assign them to do. For example if you want someone to just use magic attacks and stay on the back lines, you can program them to do that. If you want them to conserve said magic and rush their attackers, they can be programmed to do that as well. There are seemingly endless ways to customize not only the actual fighting styles IN the battle but outside of battle for preparation. As is the custom with RPGs everything contributes to the battle from the shoes on your feet to the bandanna you can put on your head. Also there are things called exospheres that can add to your strength and abilities.
Another thing that makes this gameplay cool is that its not 100 percent turn based. You have control over your character’s movements and timing often is key. You can utilize a variety of magic spells that can do anything from heal to summon lightning. The swordsmasters and hand to hand combat characters are able to do many different charge attacks. When you get the gauge at the bottom of the screen filled you can release a hard hitting team attack. You fill the gauge by doing combos with individual characters, of which there are a LOT of.
Also there is a large variety in gameplay with mini games and puzzles found often throughout the worlds that you traverse.
For a Gamecube game the graphics are great. It keeps its anime style during the entire world. When you are in battle stylized magic attacks and strike attacks are touched up to look pretty good. Amazing artwork with subtle touches throughout. A nice style and very good attention to the characters. One thing I like in other platform RPGs that is absent here however is the changing of clothes when you equip different items. That’s a nice touch that I wish I could see visually in this game. Other than that great looking enemies, great looking characters, and great looking worlds.
The music is good. A good score for the game they were trying to make, though it does get a bit repetitive. Here’s a clip I found on youtube.
Just imagine that over and over and you have just about every fight. But its not as bad as it seems, it changes up when you go to a different world.
Five stars for this game. It effectively merges the RPG world with live action gameplay. Not only is the full strategy concept there, but the action is as well. With hours of gameplay and secrets to unlock you’ll be replaying this for a long time. The story never gets old, the characters personalities come to life in every cut-scene and battle. The story keeps you engrossed to the point where you won’t want to stop playing just so you will know what happens next.
If you haven’t played this game, you really should. Its amazing and you are doing a disservice to yourself!
Thanks for reading!
Brian Bell-Wiseguy Industries