There are a small number of RPG franchises that can stand the test of time and consistently see popular releases over a nearly twenty year period of time. One such franchise that has done this is the Tales series from Namco Bandai and among the numerous titles they have released, the eleven year old Tales of Symphonia is often regarded as being the best game in the series. As such, when an HD release of that game and its sequel Dawn of the New World was announced for release fans of the series were ecstatic. Well now that Tales of Symphonia Chronicles has been released, does the original Symphonia hold up as well as we may remember?
The land of Sylvarant is slowly dying as the mana needed to grow crops and sustain life is slowly disappearing from the world and only the “Chosen One’s” journey of restoration can bring mana back to the land. Since the last Chosen failed in their journey, a girl named Colette in Iselia has been raised as the next Chosen and when she is summoned to start her journey; her childhood friends Lloyd Irving and Genis Sage leave the village to help protect her on her journey.
Now while Tales of Symphonia’s storyline sounds like the most basic set-up for a JRPG story and honestly it is a bit simplistic. The world can be saved by a group of younger heroes fighting against everything in their path. At least that is how Symphonia seems at first, as the game’s story quickly grows in scale as the player advances through the journey of restoration. What begins as a few small hints quickly leads to interesting plot twists culminating in a great story made all the better by the colorful cast of characters found within the story.
While Tales titles generally have a likable cast of characters, Tales of Symphonia’s characters are probably the best around. Each of the characters have their own stories that develop and grow alongside the main plot, something that is rare in today’s RPG standard where character growth is usually kept at a minimum. Then again, it also helps that as mentioned before you can’t help but love the cast’s personalities and their interactions with one another.
That being said, what comes as a disappointment to many who pick up this bundle, Tales of Symphonia’s sequel Dawn of the New World is not only unimaginative but ties the story to two generally unlikable new characters. Sure many of the characters from the first game return but there is a lack of connection between them. So while it does help continue the story so players can see what happened after the events of the first game, it is an unfortunately bland experience with a story that is overshadowed by the first so much that many may wish it wasn’t there.
Now as a quick mention to the characters in the game, throughout both Tales of Symphonia titles there are numerous “Skits” that appear at specific times or found at specific areas. These skits are small tidbits of dialogue between the characters as they either discuss something that just happened or something at random. These moments really help bring the cast to life as characters and, even though we are limited to only character portraits in the first game, these skits the characters are highly expressive and reveal more about themselves than the basic story lets on.
Many Tales titles have a very standard style of gameplay that can be both simplistic and in-depth at the same time. As players venture out in their journey in the original Tales of Symphonia they will be able to explore numerous towns, venture out into the open world, enter dungeons and solve little puzzles to advance, all while fighting against numerous enemies. The same can be said for Dawn of the New World, though the overworld map is removed from this game.
Players will be spending the bulk of their time fighting against enemies in both of these games as both of these titles are classic JRPGs which means that they do not pull any punches and will require the player to grind levels at points to face off against upcoming bosses. Once again Dawn of the New World is downgraded in this aspect, the combat system is incredibly fluid and fun to use. Every battle takes place in real time with players running around the field in straight lines as they charge at their opponent to defeat it. Using “Artes” (Skills) is as simple as one button press to always keep the action fast paced and even the most inexperienced RPG player can find themselves comfortable with this enjoyable system.
Of course if you want to make things a bit more complicated, players can also choose to set up their AI partners to perform certain actions and many enemies in the game have various elemental weaknesses and strengths that can be exploited to deal increased damage. There are also “Unison Attacks” that can be performed which sees all four party members being able to perform an Arte at once to deal a large amount of damage to an opponent. Depending on what skills are used and when they are used can also allow players to unleash a final combined attack that deals additional damage to help serve as a coup de grace for most basic foes.
Now, as mentioned above Dawn of the New World’s battle system is not quite as enjoyable as the first game’s and this is mostly due to the fact that players can use various monsters they have created pacts with in battle instead of players. While this is a neat idea and one that we have seen used since, it doesn’t offer the same feel as the first game, especially since most of the time these monsters are almost mandatory party members.
Now taking one game that is over ten years old and creating an HD experience is quite a challenge but thankfully I can say that Namco Bandai has tackled the challenge quite nicely as the various character models and the environment in Tales of Symphonia look gorgeous and smooth compared to the GameCube version and there are even some shiny new pieces of artwork that is used for Skits and Mystic Artes as well as some bonus costumes from more recent Tales games if you have a PS3 save file for Xillia. It is worth noting though that the over world is still incredibly under detailed and it almost appears as if the company did little to touch it in their revamp.
As for Dawn of the New World, it is easy to say that this title does look better than its predecessor since it was created back in 2008 for the Wii. It also abandoned the same character style for a more modern look which took to the new coat of paint better than the first game, but it seems that a lot of the environments have lost their charm because of this.
It is worth noting that although both games in this collection have been given the HD treatment, very little was done to improve the game’s voice over. That being said, the company has offered for the first time ever the Japanese voice track for the game which means that players can choose to listen to that instead. The English cast for Symphonia remains very impressive to this day and considering how many gamers have fond memories of the title, hearing their Japanese voices will serve as either a treat or a shock. Anyways, as mentioned the game’s voice work was not revised which means that the voice actor changes in New World still remain which means that if you don’t feel like trying it out on the first game, then you should probably use it on the second.
One thing that the Tales series is known for its incredible soundtrack and Tales of Symphonia does not disappoint as the game features some amazing pieces of music throughout the game and even Dawn of the New World is impressive to a lesser extent.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles takes one of the best Tales RPGs in the series and combines it with one that many fans would rather forget. Tales of Symphonia is the shining example of what a JRPG should be and the HD modification from Namco has made the game as viable as ever for today’s gamer. Although a number of fans would have been willing to jump at the cheaper than normal price for the original Symphonia alone, it is at least nice that Dawn of the World is bundled in even though it is eclipsed in every way by the other game and it allows players who might have never touched the second game to see how the story continues.
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