Originally released back in 2003, Tales of Symphonia celebrates its 20th anniversary by porting to modern consoles. As one of the most beloved titles in the Tales Series, Symphonia carries high expectations for such an important milestone. Unfortunately, the remaster is left to be desired and the gameplay definitely feels its age, leaving the game’s story and characters as the highlights of an otherwise acclaimed entry for its time.
Though Tales of Symphonia Remastered may not be the shining gem it once was during its release, its real-time combat, the strength of its characters, and Japanese voice acting by prolific actors like Katsuyuki Konishi and Nana Mizuki help solidify why this game is at the heart of many JRPG fans.
▍An Innocent Setting That Subverts Expectations
Like most entries into the series, Tales of Symphonia starts out slow and simple. Players take on the role of Lloyd Irving, a simple village boy of Iselia who is friends with the Chosen, Collette Brunel. In Sylvarant, the Chosen must undergo the Journey of Regeneration to restore the mana within the world and seal away the Desians, who consume mana and enslave people at their Human Ranches.
Ousted from Iselia after a Desian attack, Lloyd joins Colette on her journey to save Sylvarant and bring peace back to the world. However, Lloyd and his friends will have to grapple with the hidden plans of the Desians, and the reality that saving Sylvarant will doom another world in its place.
You would be forgiven if you questioned why this title is loved by the fandom with such a generic, retro-style plot. Spending some time with Tales of Symphonia will show you that this game is anything but retro; atrocities are shown on screen, and the hero does get punished for his failures. For as much as Tales of Symphonia paints its fantasy themes, you would appreciate how it doesn’t shy away from realistic outcomes.
▍Combat Is Easy to Pick Up, If You’re Already Used to It
Battles in Tales of Symphonia are done with a party of up to four members, each with their own set of skills that are key to survival. Basic attacks are executed to damage enemies and restore the character’s SP, which is consumed when using Techniques or Artes. Keeping enemies locked into a combo with your attacks is the bread-and-butter of fighting foes, as allies can drop quickly if you’re not careful!
Tales of Symphonia doesn’t hold back even on Normal Difficulty, so inexperienced players will likely have to grind quite a bit of experience or stock up on plenty of expensive Life Bottles to get through much of the early game.
Learning new Techniques or Artes in this game gives the player some freedom to experiment, as different skills are learned depending on the character’s alignment to either Technique or Strike type. While some characters are much better towards one Type than the other, you might actually want a mixture of both as you can only learn either a Technique or Strike type skill at that current level!
▍A Hasty Console Debut With Major Flaws
Tales of Symphonia may look clean to the eye compared to the original, but fans who already got their hands on the Switch version of Tales of Symphonia will already know that this port is locked to 30 FPS. This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but with the power of the PlayStation 4 engine, it’s a shame that this version can’t take advantage of this. Notably, the original version of Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube has 60 FPS!
The sound balancing in this port is also questionable, as sound effects are much louder than the BGM and character voices. I’ve also experienced moments where the music cuts out suddenly and starts again randomly later in the cutscene, and it’s easy to tell this apart from intended changes.
The game’s font is also carried over from the original, which is quite difficult to read due to how compressed it is compared to the size of the textbox. The cherry on top is that no significant features were added in this port, especially when other ports like Tales of Vesperia on the PS3 brought new characters and addressed issues present in the main game.
▍Unintuitive Gameplay Quirks Go Unaddressed
As an older JRPG, Tales of Symphonia lacks some popular quality of life mechanics that make these games much easier, such as auto-heal and fast travel. Unfortunately, this port doesn’t add anything that could help ease the newbie experience, and the game’s Synopsis tab is only somewhat helpful in guiding players where they need to go.
Tales of Symphonia throws the player into combat prior to the tutorial, yet the combat controls are later given to the player as an item that they aren’t even required to use. It’s absolutely possible that a player can go through the game without knowing that they could jump in battle, or even how you guard attacks! On the other hand, the Cook option is available right from the beginning, but the player won’t really know how it will work until they visit Genis’ house well after the feature is introduced.
It’s disappointing that these issues weren’t addressed for such a momentous occasion, which would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce newcomers to older games in the Tales series. Praising a game’s story can only go so far, assuming that the player can get there in the first place.
▍Tales of Symphonia Remastered Falls Below Today’s Standards
The Tales of Symphonia Remastered is a disappointment compared to its shining debut on the GameCube, as it adds no new content and has performance issues that don’t belong on a modern console.
It’s hard not to see this port as anything other than a quick cash grab, which is a shame as Tales of Symphonia does an amazing job of subverting the generic adventure fantasy with its twists and turns. Anyone who is looking to play Tales of Symphonia on modern consoles may want time off, especially when you know that the Steam version provides a chapter but not a lesser option.
*This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version. Tales of Symphonia Remastered is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.
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Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review – A Let-Down of the Beloved JRPG
As one of the most beloved titles in the Tales Series, Tales of Symphonia Remastered felt short with no new content and out-of-date mechanics. The performance issues also make you wonder whether it was crafted specifically for the modern consoles.
Operating System: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Application Category: Game