Developer: Bandai Namco Games | Publisher: Bandai Namco Games | Played on: PlayStation 3| Price: $39.99 | ESRB: Teen (Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Simulated Gambling, Suggestive Themes)
Bandai Namco’s Tales series of Japanese role playing games has been around as long as genre juggernauts Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest but never seems to get as much attention or acclaim. Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube is arguably the most popular entry in the series, with a decent storyline, memorable characters, and excellent combat. If you missed out on playing the game back in 2004, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles on the PS3 gives you a second chance complete with updated HD visuals and some added content. For better or worse the Wii sequel Dawn of the New World is included in the package as well.
The biggest draw Chronicles has on the PS3 is updated visuals: this is the best looking versions of both games. Tales of Symphonia in particular looks great with the visual overhaul, eliminating the rough edges of the GameCube version. Dawn of the New World looks good in HD as well, but the game wasn’t in need of improved visuals as much as the original. A nice addition to both games is the option to use Japanese voices instead of the translated English voices. Dawn of the New World’s protagonist Emil sounds so incredibly annoying in English, having the option to switch to the original Japanese voice actor was a godsend. Lastly, the included version of Tales of Symphonia is the PS2 port of the GameCube game, previously only released in Japan. This port included extra titles, costumes, and attacks for each character in the game.
Tales of Symphonia follows the adventurous and kind-hearted Lloyd as he helps his friend Colette and her companions resurrect the world of Sylvarant. The plot follows a lot of common RPG themes, which can get boring and a tad predictable at times (He was evil all along?! No!). Keeping in traditional Tales fashion, the extra dialogue you can engage in with the team is usually witty and oftentimes funny, giving the perilous journey a lighthearted feel. Dawn of the New World directly follows the events of Symphonia but isn’t as engaging due to the cast: they aren’t nearly as memorable as Lloyd and crew and spend most of their time living in the shadows of the first game’s characters (literally and figuratively). I’ve never been more unattached to a main hero than I have been with Dawn’s Emil. It’s so jarring how boring and dull a character he is (especially in comparison to Lloyd from the previous game) it makes the whole game start off on a terrible note.
The best and most fun aspect of both games is definitely the combat. Every battle takes place in real time, meaning there aren’t any menus to navigate or breaks between blows. You control one character at a time with the computer overseeing the actions of your other party members; although you can take control of them when the battle gets tough and you need to delegate tasks more wisely. In Symphonia you attack on one plane, albeit n a 3D environment, meaning you’re always in line with your enemy, but other foes/allies are spread out on the battlefield in different linear pairings. So if you’re trying to attack one specific enemy but it’s behind a group of other enemies you’ll either have to run past them and risk taking damage, or deal with them before proceeding to your desired target. This nuisance is dealt with in Dawn of the New World: you are able to freely roam around the battlefield without linear limitations.
Simple melee attacks are the appetizers to the series’ staple main course: artes. Each character learns a variety of artes, ranging from devastating magic attacks to swift sword strikes. Timing your artes in unison with your allies can create combinations that are much more powerful than their individual parts, causing your to play smart and tactfully. Learning new abilities, finding which combinations work best for your play style, and watching your team unleash their fury on the enemy is satisfying.
Tales of Symphonia was originally released on the GameCube, which had an analog stick controller, but only allowed movement in eight directions. That weird control scheme prevails in Chronicles. I had a false sense of freedom with my movement because I could tilt the control stick in any direction, but my movement on screen was that of a tank. Thankfully this isn’t an issue with Dawn of the New World. Symphonia also suffers from a poor camera at times, with extra complaints going to the overworld sections. The camera during these segments barely gives you any field of vision, causing you to carelessly run into enemies or lose track of where you’re going. Again, not an issue at all in the sequel, as the camera does a much better job staying behind your character. The soundtrack for both games is great. In terms of sound, voice acting is the largest difference between the two games. Dawn of the New World has a lot more fully voiced scenes, including voiceovers for the optional dialogue conversations between battles. Regardless, Tales of Symphonia is the real reason to pick up this package: the sequel is nice to have but pales in comparison to the original. It’s almost as if it was included to make you appreciate the first game even more!
If you have yet to play the GameCube classic Tales of Symphonia then this PS3 update is the way to go to experience one of the best games in the franchise. Overall the game holds up quite well compared to other recent JRPGs. The intricate and fun battle system will have you hooked from the first fight, and the clever writing and likable cast keep events interesting outside of combat. It’s unfortunate the same amount of awesome didn’t come from the sequel Dawn of the New World, but it’s still an alright RPG that is a nice inclusion. Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is a wonderful addition to any RPG lover’s library and a showcase of the best the Tales series has to offer.