Tales of Symphonia Impressions
We take a look at Namco's upcoming GameCube RPG.
We'll begin emailing you updates about %gameName%.
As one of the only three role-playing games to be released on the GameCube up to now, Tales of Symphonia should be a treat for owners of the console who have been craving a console RPG. The sales of the game haven't been exceptional in Japan--only about 230,000 copies have been sold since the end of August--though this is likely due to the lack of the console's market penetration.
Tales of Symphonia takes place in a world named Silvaland, which is imperiled by a lack of mana--the source of all life. The main character is a boy named Lloyd Irving, who attends school with his friend Collet Brunel, a shaman. According to legend, a shaman can save the world from its sufferings by becoming an angel. So, Collet goes on a journey to become a savior. Lloyd and their friend Genius Sage accompany her on her mission, but little by little, the party discovers that things aren't exactly what they seem to be. The party soon discovers that there is an alternate world named Tesseala and that their mana is being shared between the two worlds so that the prosperity of one means the decline of the other.
The scenario in Tales of Symphonia is well written and possibly a bit complicated in terms of its story. There always seem to be three or four things happening at once, so if you don't have a good memory or keep notes while playing, you may get lost, especially if you stop playing for a while, then attempt to come back to it later. Fortunately, the game has a "scenario" option that keeps record of your characters' actions, and it comes in pretty handy. The game also has a "skit" system that lets party members converse directly with each other, which seems to give more personality to each of the characters. Some of the skits and scenario decisions can affect key relationships and ultimately may change some events in the game.
In terms of graphics, Tales of Symphonia drops the traditional 2D graphics that Namco used in its Tales of Destiny series and uses fully 3D, "superdeformed" characters similar in style to those of Final Fantasy VII. Tales of Symphonia doesn't use extremely complex graphics; the character textures seem a bit plain. The game also seems to have frame rate issues on the field map screen, though these issues probably won't bother players after the first few hours of playing.
Tales of Symphonia uses the "linear motion battle system" that the Tales RPG series is known for. The system takes some consideration toward the new 3D field and fixes the player on a plane with a single enemy, but the fundamental concept is still the same. The changes seem to be more visual than anything else, although it can be difficult at times to place your character between a party member and the enemy. Computer-controlled characters move through sets of AI commands, or they can be controlled manually if you hook up extra controllers on the console.
Aside from the main story, Tales of Symphonia has a good number of side quests and minigames that should keep players occupied for hours. Collecting surnames for the party members through battles and events also seems interesting, as it reveals trivial tidbits about the characters and sometimes comes with bonus costumes that characters actually wear onscreen. Tales of Symphonia is scheduled for a US release next year.