Tales of Symphonia Chronicles (PS3) Review

Let it be known that nostalgia is a cruel beast that can ruin some of your best moments in gaming. As someone who thrived off Japanese role-playing games, there were a few titles that stuck out to me as a child. Final Fantasy X, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, and Tales of Symphonia. As such, revisiting some of these titles without nostalgia goggles can result in despair. The Tales series is one that hasn’t evolved much over the years, making Tales of Symphonia Chronicles seem like a perfect place to revisit the pedigree franchise. All great memories must come to an end though, as Tales of Symphonia is an aged product that has no place in the modern gaming world. And unfortunately, this pertains to the sequel Tales of Symphonia: Dawn Of The New World as well.

What is about to unfold is the ranting of a Tales fan looking back at a once powerful Gamecube exclusive. For those who have never played a title in the series, this isn’t a bad place to start. Just know that Graces f and Xillia feel less dated in the modern generation. To all Tales veterans, you may want to stay away. But I can’t deny that nostalgia will bring most of you here.

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles isn’t a horrible game, but every facet of it has been improved in subsequent releases.

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Lloyd (the main protagonist) and his companions are likable enough but still borderline on generic in the JRPG genre. The plot once again demands the saving of the world. This isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just retread ground is all. The battle system in the collection, however, is just not the pinnacle it once was, especially after the advancements made by Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Graces f. Worst of all are the cel-shaded graphics. Acclaimed during their original release, the blocky polygon design’s age takes away from the once beautiful art style. It becomes pretty clear from the get-go the HD upscaling did not help the classic Gamecube title. As for Dawn of the New World, it isn’t so fondly remembered, and rightly so. Ditching the cel-shading was a bad idea during its original release because it at least gave ToS an identity. Even worse, Dawn has a shorter and less memorable story. But not all is lost in this release. Even if this is an older version of the battle engine, it still is fun for those looking to discover the Tales series.

The battles in Tales of Symphonia games work a bit like a fighting title. After choosing your character, players can run up and down a 2D line to their enemy. Using specific button inputs, they can pull off special attacks (called Artes) and combos. Dawn Of The New World added a free run option, letting players move around without needing to be on a specific line. Tales games also feature co-op. Up to four players in Symphonia can team up and control one of the playable characters in battle. And for newcomers, that’s all you need. The difficulty isn’t high and there is only a small learning curve.

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Also exclusive to the Tales franchise are character portraits. By clicking the select button you can watch the characters interact through portraits about the events that just transpired. While it’s great to have some extra dialogue to learn more about what’s going on, the lack of voice acting in these parts makes it a tedious action rather than an enjoyable one.

Despite clear issues, there are some great parts of this release. Adding Japanese dubbing makes the characters much more likable, and the addition of new Mystic Artes gives much more content to an already jam-packed collection.

There are clear issues with Tales of Symphonia. But if you’re willing to trust the novelty of nostalgia, than by all means try this collection out. It’s a great place for newcomers to discover a fantastic franchise. As for the fans, just don’t be surprised if your expectations don’t match the reality of the situation. What once was a great title, now feels aged and better left in my memories than in my PlayStation 3 disc drive.

James Griffin

James Griffin is a news writer at CGMagazine. He is a former music journalist who wrote for places like Exclaim! and Delusions of Adequacy. You too can catch up in all things Japanese gaming by following him on Twitter @jamespetergriff or sending him an e-mail at james.griffin@cgmagonline.com

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