Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
Tales of Symphonia / Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World
The fifth main game in Bandai Namco's Tales series.
PG for Mild Fantasy Violence and Coarse Language
*Interestingly enough, back in 2004 Tales of Symphonia was classified as M for Low Level Animated Violence. Ten years really does change perceptions eh?
Bandai Namco Games Australia for providing a copy of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles for review
Unlike other Tales games which have received at least a decent degree of attention in the international market over the past few years, you could be forgiven for not having had the opportunity to check out Tales of Symphonia. Internationally, ToS was only released on the Nintendo Gamecube, and due to the shorter lifespan and decreased market attention of the Gamecube in comparison to the PlayStation 2 (Which Japan received an enhanced port for) it soon became one of the harder-to-find and more expensive pre-owned titles on the market. I for example have only ever seen a single “new” copy of the game back in 2005, and to this day have been left frustrated that I never picked it up (Due to not being heavily into RPG’s at the time).
Following on the successes of recent Tales series releases including Tales of Xillia and Tales of Graces F, Bandai Namco have managed to fast track its localized release of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles which hit store shelves the other week. This 10th anniversary collection features both the original 2004 game and its 2008 Wii sequel, leaving the gameplay relatively untouched but adding a few nifty features and high definition visuals. But in the gaming industry ten years is a long time… and does Tales of Symphonia still have the potential to stand strong against newer titles in the Tales series? Read on to find out!
The Tales series has generally provided gamers with plot-heavy experiences that balance well with the provided gameplay, and both Symphonia and Symphonia: Dawn of the New World are no exception. The first game follows seventeen-year-old Lloyd Irving who after being exiled from his local village follows close friend Colette Brunel on the “Journey of Regeneration”, a task to regenerate their home world of Sylvarant with many risks associated with the trek. Dawn of the New World however is a chronological sequel to the original, but similar to the direction Namco Bandai took with Tales of Xillia 2, dominantly focuses on two new characters (Emil Castagnier and Marta Lualdi) while introducing previous party members as supporting characters.
There are many similar elements that are shared across the JRPG series including a world being impacted by the depletion of mana, it inevitably being left to the younger generations to save the world, a high number of comical “skits” and several more I shall let you find out for yourself. Both games offer a number of distinct plot twists and starts off slow but later culminates into one of the more enticing Tales storylines currently on the market. Unfortunately this only holds true for the original Tales of Symphonia game, with the sequel never managing to reach that peak and to a degree feels like something they tacked on rather than had any initial plans for. Not bad… but not far above average.
Character development of the main characters were also strong across both games, featuring a memorable character cast with many interesting backstories and plot points which develop as they progress through their important journey. Given that neither game is your standard 12 hour affair you can breeze through in a couple of sittings… interesting characters and entertaining skits are always a plus point.
Visuals / Music / Voice Acting
Taking into account that the original Tales of Symphonia game was produced two generations of video game consoles ago and is more than ten years old, the high definition remaster of the first instalment was of a satisfactory quality. While the game looks nice on modern television screens with a few new features thrown in (New mystic arte cut-ins, costumes based on other Tales games etc.), it is not perfect. The overworld map could have benefited from a lot more attention (Including monsters being represented by blobs) and the battle backgrounds often look painted on and low resolution in comparison to everything else. Benefiting from a later release and the enhanced capabilities of the Nintendo Wii from its predecessor, many of these issues were rectified in Dawn of the New World in return for blander locales.
Fortunately things fared better in the music department, with another great compilation of background music department for both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World.
While some might have questioned Namco Bandai’s decision to include the original Japanese opening theme for Tales of Xillia but completely removed Japanese voice acting from the game, the publisher has this time decided to respond to demands and include both dub tracks with Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. Both voice casts do a strong performance of the characters, so go with your personal preference or mix and match.
I would have been interested in seeing them get the old voice cast together again and dub the skits… they end up lacking some personality due to lack of vocal expression.
Aside from some of the more recent spin-off titles each Tales game offers many consistent gameplay elements, so even if you first began the series with Tales of Xillia it should be easy enough to just pick up and play Tales of Symphonia without too much hassle or an excessively high learning curve.
As with most JRPG’s you will spend most of your time navigating fields and exploring dungeons which are filled with monsters and bosses to fight. Tales of Symphonia makes use of the more traditional Multi Line Linear Motion Battle System (ML-LMBS) and was the Tales Studio’s first attempt at delivering the 3D battlefield we have come accustomed to in the series. While there are some movement limitations which were improved upon in later instalments, the wealth of different characters you could use in your 4-person party offered ample variety and there was also sufficient challenge during boss flights, meaning you can’t simply get through Tales of Symphonia by button mashing. The usual assortment of other features such as AI commands, Artes and more make a reappearance, providing some added degree of control to the battle system.
Given its age, Dawn of the New World features a more enhanced battle system that rectifies several issues and still provides a satisfying experience. The biggest new inclusion is the option of capturing and training monsters to use during battles rather than humanoid characters. It was a creative idea, that benefits more if you choose to dedicate the time to using it.
Final Words on Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
With enough gameplay across both games that could last you in excess of 100 hours, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles does in my opinion give RPG fans a solid gaming experience for their buck. Despite the original game in particular showing its age, something that the HD remaster wasn’t able to fully cover up, the same enticing Tales series gaming experiences were there and still just as strong ten years down the track. Tales of Symphonia was well overdue for a re-release, and I hope to see Bandai Namco continue to provide their support for earlier titles in the future.
On the other hand, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World while featuring nicer visuals and a more refined gameplay experience lacked that same appeal, but still made for a worthwhile play upon concluding its predecessor. I most probably wouldn’t have paid the same asking price for DotNW as a standalone title, but its inclusion in the same collection was more than welcome.