Tales of Symphonia (GameCube)
Published by: Namco
Developed by: Team Symphonia
By Diana Poulsen
I recently found Tales of Symphonia while rummaging through a bargain bin, and hey, who doesn’t like a cheap game? Normally, I lose interest in an RPG about half way through and occasionally finish it a few months later, or in the case of Final Fantasy VII 9 years later… I’ve being playing Tales for 65 hours and I am still not bored. I still need to play it… must… play it… my preciousssss…
The story follows friends on what is, initially, a quest for world regeneration, but slowly you begin to realize there is a more to your quest than what you are being told. If you play a lot of RPGs, you’ll have run into a lot of these storylines before (racism, saving the world, betrayal, good intentions pave the road to hell, etc.), but at least Tales seems to know that it has some real cheese moments. It openly talks about the stupidity of racism and discrimination, without being preachy. It just says that it is stupid to judge someone because of their blood (half-elves) and you should judge someone by their actions. The dialogue and interactions between characters is what really makes the story, and it’s accompanied with excellent voice acting. Throughout the game you build relationships with different members of your team. You are directed to have a relationship with one in particular, but you don’t have too. The characters who you become friends or soul mates with will affect the outcome of the game.
While the story and dialogue are good, it’s the real time fighting that holds my attention. You attack with the first character in your party, and everyone else attacks on their own accord. The other characters have good artificial intelligence, so they will know when to heal you. You can select different battle tactics for the CPU controlled characters, and you can manually control with shortcut commands and menu commands. Also, another player can simply plug in and take control of a character in your party. For once, you aren’t forced to control the main character all the time. When you get bored of him you can learn how to fight with another character. This feature creates variety, and keeps the player interested — because it creates a new challenge. The variety makes it a joy to replay and obtain the alternate endings and higher levels of difficulty.
The most annoying part of the game is you can’t make Z-skits go faster, especially annoying if you are fast reader. You can skip through all the other text at your own pace, but the Z-skits you can’t. You can stop them completely, but you can’t make them go faster.
Cooking, anime style graphics, a great sound track, great dialogue, and RPGing battle that is fun and not overly repetitive easily make Tales of Symphonia the best RPG on the Gamecube, and it is tied with Final Fantasy VI and Fatal Frame II: The Crimson Butterfly for my favourite game of all time.