In the land of Sylvarant, the Chosen is sent out on a journey of regeneration every time the world’s mana fails. Collette, the current Chosen, is all set to recieve the revelation that will begin her journey. Her childhood friend, Lloyd, desperately wants to go with, both for the adventure and to be with her. Then disaster strikes, and Lloyd has nowhere else to go but with the Chosen and her group. The adventure slowly unfolds into a story far larger than anything Lloyd could have imagined…
I’m a bit late to the party on this, admittedly. Tales of Symphonia was released a long time ago, and although I have the GCN version, the PS3 version is the one I just finished. (I have a tendancy to get stuck in long puzzle dungeons, put the game down, and forget about it long enough that it’s hard to pick back up again). Since that is the case, I’m going to be discussing some outright spoilers below, so feel free to skip the rest of the plot notes if that’s a concern.
PLOT: The story does a good job of hiding where it’s heading, so that if you haven’t been reading anything online about this game, many of the twists will likely be a surprise. I do like how Lloyd’s attempts to save the world have a tendancy to be rather destructive, and how people are rightfully mad at him for blowing up their homes or killing their relatives, and yet he doesn’t stop trying to do what he knows is right. Even when it becomes clear he hasn’t got the full story.
That said, the story is also rather simplistic in ways. There’s a good reason Kratos is one of the most popular characters in the game—I think he’s got the best character arc of all of them. Unlike Lloyd, who tends to be purely focused on whatever the goal is, Kratos has many conflicting loyalties, and although he tries to do what he can to satisfy all of them, he ends up looking really bad. But he doesn’t justify his decisions, merely lets them work themselves out.
GAMEPLAY: The battle system is the action-fighting style that makes Tales games so much fun. All of the characters are solid on the field, so who you pick is generally going to come down to personal preference (with the exception of a few bosses that will require certain characters, mostly Sheena). Raine is the only real healer, though, so she does tend to take priority in most party formations.
The dungeons are very puzzle-heavy, which can be a bit of a chore in the middle of the game when you have to hunt down multiple summon spirits one after the other. That being said, once solved the puzzles also tend not to reset, so any subsequent visits do go faster.
There’s plenty of skits and extra content available. I did most of the sidequests, although I skipped much of the Colesium simply because I was too low-leveled to make a good run of the advanced modes and did not feel like grinding (though as an aside, any Tales game does make grinding less a chore simply by turning up the difficulty, at which point even regular enemies can become as difficult as minor bosses, and they will drop additional EXP to boot).
One fairly major aggrevation for completionists is the sheer amount of replays the game will require to get everything. There is a certain scene in Flanoir, particularly, that has unique story content (plus in most cases some only-in-this-version title or items) for every single playable character. That’s nine scenes. Some of the titles will combine, so I think the actual number of playthroughs required to get a full 100% on titles and the Collector’s Book (required for a title for Genis) is 5. I was able to save right before Flanior and watch both Kratos and Collette, and I do think Kratos has the best scene of the nine, but picking him does cause some major changes in the plot later on.
OVERALL: I did enjoy this, and beat the game in about 75 hours having done most of the content (again, excluding Colesium as well as certain character weapons that required Level 80 to obtain, and skipping the optional dungeon). The ability to carry forward bonuses for new games using the Grade earned in battles from a completed game means any subsequent playthrough would be faster, but I doubt I will be playing through again anytime soon. One big difference from some of the later Tales games is that the clear files created after you beat the game do not allow you to keep playing on that same file, but rather start a New Game+, so do anything extra you want before the final boss.
Fans of the series have likely already played this, but to those who are thinking about diving in, the PS3 collection offers a great opportunity to get both this game and its sequel for a reasonable price. There is plenty of footage on Youtube if you need a visual of how the game looks and plays. The PS3 version does include a few things that will make life easier, such as additional compound Unison attacks, but they’re more tweaks than anything and either version would play largely the same. I rate this game Recommended.