Tales of Symphonia Review
I must begin by clearing away the misconceptions, discarding the popular opinions about GameCube RPGs – they aren’t as rare as it is often made out. There aren’t many, mind you, but there aren’t many titles for the console in general.
However, with a limited catalogue, good RPGs certainly are a rare commodity.
With this in mind, it was with great glee that I borrowed the latest game in my beloved Tales… franchise from a friend of mine and, already working on a scheme to convert the arrangement to a permanent deal, I rushed home to immediately test out my latest acquisition, well aware that the moment may never come again.
The story is a strange one. On the one hand, the plot is ludicrously clichéd and convoluted - the idea of a summoner and her band of merry guardians on a global voyage to open seals in a bid to save the world will certainly sound familiar to more than one of you, yet at the same time I lost count of how many twists and turns (and re-twists and u-turns) the game took as my feeble mind raced to keep up.
Techs are special attacks that are created when you have gems attached, and will be S-Type (Strike) or T-Type (Tactical) based on the options you chose, meaning there are many different attacks available to you, each of which evolve to a more powerful version over time. You can align six of these attacks to your controller at any one time.
You can also combine attacks to create outrageously long combos, the highest of which will gain you Experience Points at the end of each battle. Your longest combo is also recorded and you can check on the information screen, alongside the number of encounters you’ve had throughout your journey.
On top of that is the Unison Attack, for which there is a bar that increases with each hit. When it is full, a tap of the Z Button will unleash a group attack, with each member of the battle party assigned to either the A, B, X or Y button for you to press and activate their attack.
And, of course, there are many styles of combat, from swords to magic to feet, and there are unique weapons and clothes for each style – yes, even for the feet – which affect your characters strength, health, defense, and so on.
So, why is it a weak point? Well, because for all its detail and intricacy, when it comes down to it, you need not do any more than button bash to make your way through the game. You will have to consistently level up in order to have the skills and health to survive boss battles, but still there is little strategy involved – your thumbs will be sorer than your brain.
But, it doesn’t detract from the whole and is still thoroughly enjoyable and never a chore. The only time the game ever comes close to feeling as such is during its puzzles, its second weak link.
You must overcome one of these at each of the earlier mentioned seals in order to get inside. They start out easy and end up mind-bendingly difficult, and towards the tail end of the game they follow in quick succession. However, once again, these are quite fun if you take them one at a time and have just a little patience – they’re very rewarding once you figure it all out, a well read walkthrough by your side or not.
Thus, to cap it all off, this game is pure joy on a disc. It has incredible length and replayability, so if you have a few days worth of time looking to be filled up, or are fed up with that empty space by your trusty GameCube, you need look no further than Tales of Symphonia.