Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review
The following review and score will be focused primarily on the quality of the Nintendo Switch port itself and not the quality of Tales of Symphonia. For some brief thoughts of the game, Symphonia is one of the standout entries of the Tales franchise and is beloved by many, myself included. That said, there isn’t anything I could say that hasn’t already been said in the past two decades. It has a wonderful story, characters, and gameplay and is a worthwhile game to check out, in some fashion. Now onto the Tales of Symphonia Remaster port review proper.
As a staunch supporter of video game preservation and ease-of-play for classic games, I always get excited when a game I love, such as Tales of Symphonia, receives a remaster announcement that will put it onto modern platforms. Tales of Symphonia is no stranger to being re-released, with this new Remastered release bringing the count up to number four. However, besides the convenience of being able to play on modern systems such as the PS4 and or portably on Switch, “Remastered” may be the worst way to experience this classic.
Continuing the tradition of every re-release of Symphonia, Remastered retains the 30 FPS lock that has dismayed fans for years due to it relying on the PlayStation 2 build of the game instead of the original Gamecube version, which ran at 60 FPS. In the scheme of things, however, this is the least of this port’s issues.
Being the hot new tool in the world of remasters, Remastered has utilized an AI upscaling process to make the previously standard definition textures more visually appealing for the higher definition world we live in. And much like other remasters that utilize this process, many textures now are blobs of smeared color that resemble shapes in most cases. What is new, however, and rather odd, is somehow in this process, a plethora of seams are now present, cutting textures in strange places and standing out like a sore thumb. Seams that as far as I could tell, were not present in any other ports of Symphonia.
Character portraits and other 2D assets don’t escape the downgrade here, either. Portraits look grainy and compressed in spots, particularly around the edges of the art. Even the basic font that’s used runs into issues with strange floating dots hanging conspicuously above occasional letters.
Some effects, such as the breaking glass transition into combat or even subtle fades between scenes, are just gone entirely. In their places are ugly and abrupt straight cuts to scenes that haven’t loaded all the way, leaving an empty screen for a split second before the models pop in, or in the case of combat a blank white screen. Even the pause screen has done away with blurring out the background and replaced it with nothing but a solid black background. Frankly, this is unacceptable at this point and makes the port come off more as a cheap money grab than a celebration of Symphonia’s 20th Anniversary.
Annoying as these issues are, they are arguably not game or experience-breaking. However, what cemented Tales of Symphony Remastered for me as the worst option to play were the atrocious load times (at least on the Switch version, I cannot confirm how the PS4 version times are). Load screens are plentiful, popping up anytime you enter or leave a location and head to the world map, which can top three-to-four seconds. These same transitions were near instantaneous in other versions, without a single loading screen.
At nearly seven seconds, the worst offender are the loading screens when you go back into the world map after every battle encounter you run into while on the world map. Later on, once you get stronger, this can mean you will spend more time loading screens than you would in the encounter itself.
Some of my gripes with this port could have been blunted had Bandai Namco at least also included things like the cameo outfits or the divisive sequel Dawn of the New World, but alas, that isn’t the case. This means that even when it comes to content, Tales of Symphonia Remastered isn’t a content-complete version when compared to its prior releases. Outside of the fact that it is now easier to play on consoles and (barring you having a Steam Deck) that it can also be played on the go, there is little-to-nothing redeeming about Remastered, and that really sucks.
Tales of Symphonia was the entry that first pulled me into this franchise that would go on to almost define my online brand, but this latest release of Tales of Symphonia Remastered has left me tired, deflated, and disappointed. With so many other Tales games that straight out haven’t been localized at all (such as Rebirth, Innocence, and the actual Destiny 2 all just to name a few) and Graces and Xillia games locked to the PlayStation 3, the fact that we got Symphonia again, and such a poor version of Symphonia at that, wears on me.
For players that have other means or versions of Symphonia, I see very little reason to get Remastered unless you're a franchise collector, for new players, the story, characters, and general gameplay (when you aren’t stuck in loading screens) is still worth playing. If it is between not playing Symphonia at all and playing it here in Remastered, I would still say it’s worth the frustrations to play through here, begrudgingly.
I will never not love Tales of Symphonia and appreciate that it introduced this wonderful series to me. I will forever love Raine’s manic professor mode, Colette’s clumsiness, and the fact that Lloyd is voiced by Robin from Teen Titans. That said, Tales of Symphonia Remastered has made me realize that unless Bandai Namco deems it worthwhile to do a ground-up remake of the game, I think I’m fine sunsetting Symphonia and letting other worthwhile Tales shine in the spotlight for a while.