Tales of Symphonia

My friends have recommended this game to me many times, but I only just now got around to playing it due to the imminent release of Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of the New World.

Tales of Symphonia reminds me of Growlanser: Heritage of War for several reasons.  First is that the characters seem horribly cliched at first glance.  Second is that combat is almost unbelievably smooth; very, very few RPGs get this right, and ToS has pretty much no down-time (no loading time, no gameplay freezes during battle over .5s, easy controls).  Third is that the ToS world is full of intrigue and certain NPCs switch sides at least three times – when they don’t actively admit they’re working towards three different goals.  Fourth is that, sadly, I may forget this game before too long because the experience is almost too smooth.

But it really surpasses G:HOW in many respects.  The characters are actually pretty deep, and I found myself liking all of them (except Zelos, of course; nobody likes Zelos.  I suppose Genis gets a “meh” as well).  ToS has the JRPG standard where you explore the entire world and solve everybody’s problems.  In this respect it’s cliche; in the way that sometimes people die, and they’re not always bad people, it is not.  ToS also has good music, more balanced combat, and a much more enjoyable story.

All in all, a good game with a few flaws.  Some of the puzzles in dungeons are really annoying – not in the “hard-to-solve” way but rather the “why did they force me to do the same sequence 5 times” way.  AI is occasionally sketchy, but generally at least decent.  Difficulty is fairly well-balanced.  I lost a few boss battles along the way, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a team reorganization and a bit more planning.

Tales of Symphonia is highly derivative of Tales of Destiny 2 (Tales of Eternia, for those “in the know”) plot-wise but does just about everything better.  I would particularly recommend it for someone who hasn’t played any of the Tales series before.  It’s a really polished Action RPG, even if it does everything you’d expect from a JRPG.

I’m looking forward to Dawn of the New World.

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