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Tales of Symphonia

Preview By: Siou Choy

Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
Genre: RPG
# Of Players: 1
Accessories: Memory Card
Est. Release: April 2004
Posted: 12-15-03

Fans of Namco’s Tales series of RPGs for the Playstation (i.e., Tales of Destiny and Tales of Destiny II) rejoice:  Tales of Symphonia is on its way, representing the first game in the series to make the jump to 3D.

Silvaland (doubtless situated far from YouDaRock Land… sorry, J-pop in-joke) is the setting for this latest  series installment.  You take on the role of the heroically named “Lloyd Irving” (good lord, couldn’t they have come up with something just a LITTLE less nerdy?) and his friends (which I’m amazed he has, considering…).  Regardless, this little group discovers that their world is somehow inextricably linked to another; and more, that these two worlds must remain in balance, or both risk imminent destruction.  Being one of these cheesy RPG “adventures”, naturally it’s up to our intrepid hero to set both worlds right.

There are a fair number of side quests and “mini quests” you can take part along the way to alleviate your boredom with world politics.  Your party members can converse with each other during the game, providing clues to your quest and plenty of unintentional humor (just like talking to real people!).  Should you happen to lose yourselves in the morass of realpolitik or stray too far into one of these “mini quests”, just access your journey log, which helpfully provides a list of completed tasks (ooh, just like Shenmue!) and more, those yet to be completed (so in other words, your whole future is mapped out for you from the start, just like in real life.  So much for those harboring any faith in the so-called American Dream…).

The Tales series is known for its linear motion battle system, and Symphonia follows suit, but with the added twist of taking place on a 3D plane.  Here, party members can run around other characters to attack a particular enemy, or back away from the action to cast spells.  The other members in your party can either be given over to the computer’s AI or you can have a friend plug in a controller for a little help during battles (of course, there’s not much for them to do the rest of the time, so they’d have to be pretty lonely friends to agree to this).  Since most of us will likely be stuck with the AI option, thankfully the game allows you to set the other members in your party to fight in a certain pattern (for example, delegating one character for any healing needs).  Or you can just leave it all up to the computer, and trust it has your best interests in mind.  What the hell, you do that at the voting booth every year, why not here?

Tales of Symphonia is a visual treat, in comparison to its forbears: saturated in bright colors and peppered with cute character design, Symphonia’s world seems vibrant and alive.  A mix of 3D animation and cel-shading make Tales of Symphonia one of the best-looking RPGs to date.

Given the rather sparse showing of RPGs on the GameCube, Tales of Symphonia should prove a breath of fresh air for genre fans on its release next year.

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