It’s time to look at one of the biggest RPG titles out there and Symphonia definitely lives up to the hype. It really excels in every area from story to gameplay to music. The game is also quite long. It took me 37 hours to conquer this title and typically I finish RPGs quite a bit sooner than that. The longest ones are still the Final Fantasy titles which tend to put me through the wringer but there is no shortage of content here. Additionally I really didn’t do much of the side missions so there’s a lot of untapped content here.
The plot changes quite a lot but I’ll just leave you with the main synopsis. The game takes place on a planet known as Sylvarant where a kid named Lloyd lives. He’s not known as one of the best students but he has heart. His childhood friend Colette has been selected as the Chosen which is a great honor. She will go around the world and unlock all of the steals which shall regenerate the world. Currently the planet has been in decline due to the mana levels running low. Once Colette has completed her duty then this will end. Lloyd decides to go along with her in addition to his best friend Genis, their teacher Raine, and a bodyguard known as Kratos. There are a lot of seals though so they will have to move quickly. Additionally they will have to watch out for the Angels, Desians, Government, Rebels, and a few other factions.
Right away the game introduces you to the fact that this planet is pretty messed up. For starters, there are human farms that exist on all of the countries. Desians use the humans as slaves in these places and the world just accepts this as a necessary evil rather than taking them down. The humans live in fear all across the globe. Then you have the half elves who are considered less than human and discriminated against throughout the planet. They certainly don’t have it easy and with each group having another one to look down on, nothing is changing. Lloyd wants to change all of this but he isn’t sure where to start or how to do it. Whenever he tries to save someone it ends up backfiring which does hurt his confidence quite a bit.
In game reviews I don’t usually write much about the plot in part because there isn’t a whole lot to say. RPGs are different in that respect because they have such a long story that really goes into detail thanks to how lengthy the game is. You’ll go through several parts in the story that will feel like the climax and then the story suddenly transitions. There are quite a lot of twists and turns here as well as a really large character cast. There were 2 villains that vanished for so long that I even forgot they were in the game. It was almost like a surprise that they returned although of course they had to return at some point. It was only a matter of when and not if they would return.
The gameplay is a real time 2D fighter. You use magic or physical attacks as you smash away the opponent’s health bar. You can have a team of 4 fighters running around so when it’s one enemy it’s best to completely overwhelm them. Watch out for knocking an enemy down since they will gain temporary super armor to all of your attacks. There’s a good amount of strategy in the fights but if you want to just whack away you can also focus on gathering extra level ups. I made sure to fight quite a lot so that I was over Level 60 in time for the final boss. I’ve noticed that in most games if you’re over Level 60 you’ll be okay and it worked out for me. I lost to the final boss once but I quickly regrouped and won the next time. As long as you have a good plan you’ll be set. The gameplay is very smooth and very easy to get used to. There are also several points in the game where you are forced to make changes that affect the next few scenes which is cool. That part seemed ahead of its time.
If there is any negative with the game it’s just that at times it can be hard to know where to go. The game can be vague with directions and the map doesn’t help for new areas since it doesn’t show up until you visit it. If you don’t know where to go then your only bet is to check the huge hub world and talk to everyone or look it up. Some of the puzzles could also be a bit much as you’ll have a huge dungeon where getting the puzzle wrong means backtracking several floors. I could have done with less puzzles and more focus on just fighting through. I suppose this was meant to be a breather from the action though.
The graphics are very solid. As is the custom with Tales of titles we do have some anime cutscenes here. There aren’t a whole lot of them or anything like that but when they come it’s definitely a lot of fun. The opening is solid and the graphics in game also hold up really well. We get nice voice acting for a lot of the scenes as well which is always fun. On a technical level, it can be hard to tell which cutscenes are on auto play and which ones aren’t though. There is no visual indicator most of the time so you either have to wait a little longer before pressing A to continue or just risk it and click A after the line is over. I think what they could have done is in any cutscene where there is voice acting, set it to auto play.
Then we have the soundtrack which is definitely very solid. The main battle theme is very catchy which is good since you’ll hear it a lot. The “danger” theme as I call it is also really solid and shows up in a lot of cutscenes. Then you have the various boss themes as well. It’s an excellent all around soundtrack that has a good amount of variety. It’s all pretty catchy and works out quite well if you ask me. This is definitely the level of quality I would expect to see.
It goes without saying that the game has a lot of value to it thanks to how long it is. In terms of replay value I would say there is a lot less since by the game it’s not like you can go back to do most of the side missions. Still, if you take care of them from the start then you’ll be well off. As far as I know there isn’t a post game but with 37+ hours at the ready you’ll have definitely had your chance to see the world in the meantime. The writing is definitely on point and the character cast is pretty solid. I’ll talk about them briefly now.
Lloyd is the main character and he’s a solid lead. He’s pretty head strong and jumps right into action. While he blames himself for getting a village blown up and a lot of lives lost, he did make the right decision. Everyone would have preferred he ignore the human farms so it would be less work for them, but ignoring evil just makes you complicit in it. Lloyd may not be the strongest guy around but he does a really good job in taking down the villains and acting right away. He does his best to come up with ideas that work out for everyone as well. You really can’t fault a character like that.
Then you have the heroine Colette who has to suffer with this great burden of being the Chosen. Often she keeps it to herself and never complains. She’s a very solid character who is willing to make any sacrifice if it’ll mean helping the world. She’s a very nice heroine and also a good fighter. Colette is definitely not a character you will forget about anytime soon. Then you have Lloyd’s best friend Genis who is less remarkable than the first two. I feel like he can go a bit too far with constantly insulting Lloyd if we’re being honest. His elemental attacks are solid though and he’s a good support character. He’s just not as strong as the rest of the cast.
Then you have Raine who is the wise member of the group. She definitely gets really into her studies. She is always around although I’d say her role is a little smaller than the first 3 characters. You’ve also got Presea who joins the main cast later on. She is emotionally distant compared to the rest but that ties into her origin here. She’s a fun character and fits in pretty well with the group. She definitely isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Then we have Regal who is a pretty solid fighter. I disagree with his decision to keep his hands chained the whole game but at least he has a reason for it. He can also fight really well which is handy for your ally to have here. You need other capable fighters.
Then we have Sheena who was a ninja antagonist at first but eventually she came around. She’s one of the more entertaining characters. At first her quest for revenge was treated rather lightly as she kept failing over and over again but as a hero she is very dependable. Without her summoning abilities the heroes really would have been in trouble quite a lot. She’s also pretty quick to call Zelos out on his antics. From the supporting characters I would say that she was the best one. The other characters in the party couldn’t quite match up.
Finally we have Zelos who is also a Chosen fighter so he’s pretty tough. He doesn’t take things very seriously compared to the other characters though and loves to goof around. He’s an entertaining character even if I wouldn’t say that he’s one of my favorites. The guy always makes his presence known though and that’s important for a side character. Then we have the mysterious Kratos who is a great character. I would go as far as to say that he is the best character in the game. He has a lot of questionable moments in the title to be sure but he’s definitely solid. The guy gets a ton of hype throughout the game and is certainly one of the strongest fighter. Without this bodyguard around the characters would have been doomed many times over.
Then we’ve got a whole slew of villains such as the Grand Cardinals and other factions. They’re all pretty solid. The only villain who I’d give a thumbs down to was the doctor with glasses. You’ll know him when you see him. The rest were pretty solid and all look pretty good when they’re getting in on the action. King Yggdrasil is the highest ranking villain and he’s definitely solid. For a villain you always want to make sure that their motive at least makes sense and I can get on board with his plan. Naturally it is an evil one as he is a villain but the fact that you can follow the logic of it is what’s important. He’s a very interesting figure and puts up a solid fight. There are many other characters of course but these are the main ones.
Overall, Tales of Symphonia is excellent and it’s one of the main reasons why I am a huge fan of the RPG genre. By the time you’ve completed the game it’s like you’ve just completed a whole experience. You’ve gotten to know the characters for many hours. In a way it’s like playing through an interactive anime. I’d definitely consider RPGs to be one of the best genres for that reason. I would still put fighting games as the absolute best of course, but RPGs would be second. I won’t go too much farther into it since eventually I plan to have an editorial ranking the genres at some point but of course it’s tricky because there are so many sub genres and such. Regardless, whether you typically like RPGs or not, I would definitely recommend picking this one up. Symphonia is the perfect Tales of game to start you off on the franchise.