I’m a huge Japanese role-playing nut. My phone is filled with JRPG battle themes and there was a point in my life when all I could play were JRPGS. I just generally love Japanese culture. Every single platform I own I have a JRPG in my collection of games. From Chaos Rings on my mobile phone to Valkyria Chronicles on PlayStation 3, I just can’t get enough of them. But there are some games that have eluded me over the years. I never really had a GameCube growing up so I missed out on a few awesome games. One of them was Tales of Symphonia.


This was supposedly the game that really put the series on the map and laid the foundation for the 3D games to follow. Now after many years and many ‘Tales of’ games later, I finally have a chance to see where it began with an HD remaster consisting of not only of the original Tales of Symphonia but it’s Wii sequel as well all on one disc.

The game takes place in a world known as Sylvarant where its land and people are sustained by an energy force known as mana provided by a giant tree. This limitless flow of mana however gave rise to magi-technology which caused a great war to break out. The war depleted the Mana supply thus causing the tree to wither and die. The angels, servants of the Goddess Martel, thus gave birth to a chosen human who will journey out into Sylvarant to regenerate the world and save humanity.

TOS1 (2)

You take control of Lloyd Irving, a dim-witted yet earnest individual. One of your closest friends was born as the next chosen and you set out with her along with several other people on this journey to save the world. While the story does seem to be fairly cliché, halfway through the game the story really kicks off and it spins a web of lies and deceit that will have you hooked until the end, but it’s the characters themselves that really drives the story forward. If it’s one thing that really deters me from playing a game, is a cast of weak characters that are totally unrelatable.

However, I found myself growing to love each and every member of this jolly world-saving crew. The chosen one, Colette is one of the clumsiest characters I’ve ever seen, but her sweet and kind hearted nature and dedication to her duty made me genuinely want to protect her and keep her safe. Whereas our main protagonist Lloyd is extremely hot-headed and dense but has a strong sense of justice and is actually quite funny. Each character in this game is really well written and has a likeable personality which makes this 50-hour adventure really enjoyable.

TOS1 (1)

Tales of Symphonia is your typical JRPG. You’ll travel from town to town, battle enemies in dungeons and trek across a huge overworld. Where the game really shines though is in all the extra meat surrounding the norm. Dungeons are extremely well designed with a number of puzzles to help keep each location fresh and engaging. Towns are bustling with NPCs to interact with and some even offer little mini-games which awards you with certain items should you be successful. There are even dialogue choices that affect how certain scenes are played out and those choices extend even further into branching paths that you can take early on in the game. While these choices are obviously not as grand as say Mass Effect’s, they are welcome and do make you feel like you are influencing parts of the story in some way.

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The main draw of the series has always been its battle system, and while it has evolved over the years reaching near perfection in Graces f and Xillia, it is in no way any less fun. Battles are real-time and take place on a 3D plane but your character can only ever move on a 2D one meaning you can only move left or right. The free running mechanic was only introduced in later titles, so while battles does take place in a 3D environment , it still feels very much like Tales of Destiny or Eternia, which is in no way a bad thing.

TOS1 (4)

You have your standard 3-4 hit combo which can be linked to a number of skills. Each skill can be mapped to a combination of the circle button plus one of the directional buttons and it has an associated level attached to it which not only determines its strength but also where in the combo chain it can be used. For example, you can start out by attacking the enemy with a standard 4 hit combo and on the final hit you can activate and link a skill of any level.

However, you can’t spam that skill as there is a recovery animation before you can use start attacking again but you can combo a higher level skill from a lower level one so a level 1 skill can be linked into a level 2 skill and so forth. The other party members are controlled by the AI (they can also be controlled by another human player which is a neat feature) which does a competent enough job of getting things done but you can also set up certain tactics for each member to follow such as prioritizing healing over attacking. You can also open up a menu during battle to manually select a command to give to a certain character.

Battles require you to be aware of your enemies in order to dodge or guard accordingly. Guarding has two forms; one is effective against physical attacks and the other against magical attacks. Knowing what type of guard to use when is a very important skill that will save your behind on more than one occasion. There is also something called Overlimit which is a state that a character goes into after taking a certain amount of damage. During this state damage is lessened and enemy attacks cannot knock you back or down. On top of all the above mechanics, there is also Unison Attacks, which is a powerful move that can be activated once the Unison bar is filled where you can activate skills from each character in an all-out attack at no extra cost to your TP (Technical Points).

TOS1 (5)

There is a surprisingly deep battle system in this game but normal battles does boil down to button mashing at times. There is also a harder difficulty mode if you’re looking for more of a challenge. While normal battles are cake-walks, the difficulty of boss battles spikes tremendously in later parts of the game and you really have to hone your reflexes if you hope to have any chance of survival.

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There is not much in the way of customization in this game though. Besides your usual equipment, skills are learnt automatically during battles and there are titles which characters can earn by meeting certain criteria that boost certain stats during battle and when a character levels up. Tales of Symphonia does however have what is called the EX gem system which is never really explained properly and it’s quite annoying as it is a bit of a complicated system.

Each character has 4 EX slots in which they can equip EX gems. Each EX gem comes in 4 levels and each gem has 4 different skills. Once you equip a gem you can never remove it and that slot is filled until you overwrite that one with another EX gem. Each skill that a gem provides doesn’t really do much on its own, but if you have certain skills equipped they’ll form what is known as Compound Skills which grants much better advantages such as increased mobility in battles and being able to run faster in towns. Added to all of this, each skill also has a type, S or T. When you have a majority of a certain type of skill equipped you will learn skills in either the T or S category, but this means little to the player as you don’t know really what type better suits the character at first. This is a neat little system but it does require some experimentation.

TOS1 (3)

This game was released in 2003, and even though the visuals have been remastered, it obviously doesn’t look as good as some of the newer titles. This is especially apparent on the world map where things look particularly jarring. That said, this is by no means an ugly game. Towns and characters are brimming with colour and the world really feels alive. While character animation is quite stiff, they still look good and manage to bring their persona to life. The voice acting is neither here nor there. I wasn’t too fond of the English voice acting, but if you’re like me and prefer the Japanese audio then you’re in for a tasty treat.

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles features a dual audio option for voices that you can change on the fly. I played the majority of the game with the Japanese voices on as I felt it portrayed much more emotion than its English counterpart. I loved having this option and it was a major plus for me. The music was serviceable and falls into the typical Sakuraba territory, with a few exceptional songs, such as Fighting of the Spirit, but it does a great job of invoking those old nostalgic feelings.

Tales of Symphonia is an excellent JRPG and even though the graphics are a bit dated, its story and gameplay has stood the test of time and is testament to solid video game design. If you’ve never played any game in the series or like me you’ve missed out on this one, now is the time to go out and get this gem. The sequel however, is a different beast altogether…

[button link=”http://www.criticalhit.net/xbox-360/tales-of-symphonia-chronicles-review/2/”]Page 2 – Dawn of the New World[/button]

Last Updated: March 25, 2014

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Tales of Symphonia chronicles
I would’ve loved to give this compilation a higher score but the sequel really brought the entire experience down. That said ,this is great value for your money and the original Tales of Symphonia more than justifies a purchase.
Tales of Symphonia chronicles was reviewed on PlayStation 3
77 / 100

Umar Bastra

An avid lover of all things Japanese. I believe that love and kindness should always prevail above all else. I also firmly believe that Yamcha is the best character in the entire Dragon Ball franchise.

  • Admiral Chief of Auraxis

    Haha, of course it would be Umar writing this 😛

    • Rince


    • Umar hearts Grandia

      Hehe, of course. ‘Tis my life 🙂

      • allie

        tis your job

        • Umar hearts Grandia

          Lol allie, again, it’s not!:p

  • Umar hearts Grandia

    Hey Tales of Xillia cross over background :p lol

    What a great game this was…Hearkens back to a time when Jrpgs were king

    • fixed. ;P I can;t tell the difference. all the same shite.

      • Admiral Chief of Auraxis


      • Umar hearts Grandia

        Lol……….Damn you. Go play your kak Infamous:Second Doos

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        I know right? Rebellious teenage boy saves the world with cardboard friend character caricatures from an androgynous lady-man-boy by fighting with penis extensions while disapproving & foolish adults look on & learning valuable life lessons. *cooks an egg on Umar’s forehead*

        • Sk3tz0

          You forgot the most important factor in a JRPG.. Daddy issues..

        • Umar hearts Grandia

          You’r taunts don’t phase me. Because countless JRPGs have taught me that justice will always prevail and my friends will always have my back (Though I don’t have any friends 🙁 )

          My life lessons trumps your childish comments , be gone fiend!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Noooooooooo I’ve been vanquished by indifference! 😀

  • Rince

    A tree, that is dying because the mana has been used up, wasn’t that Secret of Mana’s story? 0-O

    • Umar hearts Grandia

      Somewhat similiar yes, but here the Gods didn’t intervene or try to destroy the humans that exploited the mana but instead the Goddess and Angels came up with a plan to restore or regenerate the Mana and the world

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      I think that’s offset by the number of trees saved from death by this review not being in print. 😉

      • Rince

        That is very true 😛

      • Umar hearts Grandia

        No complains when they burn wood to braai rats now do they

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          Is that what they eat in JRPGs?

          • Umar hearts Grandia

            Lol Yup, chug it down with a Potion. Much better than medi gel , BLEGH!!

  • Sk3tz0

    I blame GTAV for me not finish tales of Xillia.. it was an awesome game.. but will most definitive get this game as well

    • Umar hearts Grandia

      Awesome. You can get the games seperately on PSN 🙂 but Man Xillia is damn good ain’t it

  • Grimthwacker

    Tales of Vesperia is so far the best “Tales of” game I’ve played…. Have this one sitting on my PS3… hopefully I will get to in the not too distance future….

    • Umar hearts Grandia

      There has not been a single Tales game that has surpassed Vesperia in terms of story. Though right now, Graces f has the best Battle System imo

      Hope you get around to Symphonia, it’s so good

      • Grimthwacker

        I agree. Vesperia’s story was excellent. And the lead character (Yuri Lowell) was also one of the best protagonists… He was strong, and does what needs to be done. Not always what is…. politically correct or quite legal. And he never moaned or complained as far as I remember.

        • Umar hearts Grandia

          Couldn’t agree more, He was superb as a protag, though I’m quite fond of Lloyd and Jude as well. Don’t know how I feel about Zesteria’s protag though, need more info

  • Novita Anastesia


    • Umar hearts Grandia

      Hemmmmm? 🙂

  • Who says it’s not good? It’s fan to play actually. I like it!

    • Umar hearts Grandia

      I like it too 🙂 A LOT!

  • Pingas

    As much as I usually prefer Japanese voices for my games, Symphonia has one of the best English dubs ever seen in video games, and it far surpasses the original voice track. Just a heads up because the author was unaware of this.

    Also some errors – it’s Lloyd Irving, not Irvine as in the shitty FF8 character. And the Exsphere effects you mentioned are not actually compound skills but single skills.

    • Umar hearts Grandia

      Hey there, thanx for the heads up, I honestly have no idea how I misspelled his name 🙁 Appreciate the heads up. Also, I’m confused, equipping certain Exsphere skills in conjunction with each each other creates compound skills no?

      It’s not that I was unaware of this, but I personally didn’t like the voice acting, and I still stand by it, the English voice work felt really awkward at times.Yes it is good, but I felt the Japanese VA was far better.

      Also….Irvine is a cool character okay lol Even though he did chicken out and he got Squall killed at the end of disc one…..Well maybe he isn’t THAT cool. But he had a sweet hat 🙂

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