Tales of Symphonia Chronicles PS3 Review

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Tales of Symphonia was without question a fantastic Japanese RPG for Nintendo’s GameCube. In fact, it’s actually my favourite Tales of game in the series’ nearly 20 year history. It was the first time the series moved from sprite work into 3D models, vocalising similarities to Final Fantasy VII. In fact, it’s not that far from the truth to say that Tales of Symphonia is the franchise’s Final Fantasy VII, where a lot of new fans came into the series through this game, while the title is also claimed, by some of the fan base, as one of the best in the franchise. I am sure you can imagine my excitement when Namco Bandai announced that a HD release was coming to PlayStation 3 that would bundle this excellent RPG along with its sequel, Tales of Symphonia – Dawn of the New World, which isn’t a classic like the original, but is still an enjoyable JRPG in its own right that rekindles a connection with character favourites from its predecessor.

Rather than flood this review with the summary for the games, I’ll just say that nothing has changed in regards to the story for both of these titles, since these are direct ports that have been tweaked for the higher resolution (720p). If you want to know a bit about the stories in the games, then you can check out the reviews linked in the first paragraph to get more of an in-depth description. This review will focus solo on how this title is for the PlayStation 3.

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The key title in this collection is Tales of Symphonia, and there would be no doubt in my mind that if this bundle was just Dawn of the New World, then it wouldn’t be as worthwhile. It’s not just for the fact that the English version of Tales of Symphonia was exclusive to the GameCube; the title also became rare that picking up a second hand copy now is virtually the same price as buying a new video game today. There’s no need to panic any more, as fans that missed out on the title can now pick it up, along with the sequel, for a fair price and for what is mostly a great port.

I say mostly, because Namco Bandai has opted to go with the PlayStation 2 version of the game to receive the HD treatment, a version that stayed in Japan. Content wise, this is better than the original GameCube title, since it came with little extras, such as characters having additional attacks, new costumes, new character titles, new events, while a couple of glitches got fixed and more anime cutscenes were introduced. They’re not extras that will shake the world at its core, but for fans, it’s nice to know you’re getting the most content complete version of the game.

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The problem is that Tales of Symphonia for the PlayStation 2 had its frame rate reduced by half, running at 30fps, rather than at the GameCube’s silky smooth 60fps. It’s something that I instantly felt going into the game’s battle, as the movement looks and feels sluggish. To be honest, it’s not a deal breaker, it still plays well, since 30fps doesn’t stop you from being able to pull off those easy combos. It’s just that since this is the HD version, you would also expect it to be the version that performs the best. It has, after all, been selected to be brought to the PlayStation 3 to preserve the game on a newer system.

Forgetting about the frame rate and speaking about the presentation, Tales of Symphonia’s art style used cel-shading to bring across an anime visual look, which back in 2004 was gorgeous. 10 Years later, the game doesn’t look quite as remarkable, lacking any sort of makeover that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, a game that used a similar art style, received for its Wii U revision. This graphic style does lend itself to looking sharper on a HD display, and, while the overworld looks barren and blurry, the rest of the areas come across as best as they can without being completely remodelled and re-textured.

ToSC03On the audio side, the games now have dual audio; both Japanese and English can be selected in this bundle, a nice inclusion for the hardcore Japanese fan who loves hearing the original language dub. It seems I have been focusing a lot on Tales of Symphonia, but all this applies to Dawn of the New World as well, with that title looking slightly better in HD, due to coming from the Wii and the character modelling being more closer to human proportions, rather than the more chunky look in Tales of Symphonia.

I do have an issue with Namco Bandai; they wasted the chance to make this HD release come across as a way to celebrate the games. There are no additional extras on top of what comes within the games – no artwork, bonus interviews, making off or even the Tales of Symphonia OAV that was released. This is straight up two games stuck on a disc, and in my mind I feel that this was a wasted opportunity to celebrate the best Tales of title.

ToSC04It’s crazy that it has been 10 years since I originally played this game. It might not have the magic that it did back then, since the mechanics have aged – there’s only linear motion in this game, meaning you cannot move Lloyd and the rest of the gang in a full 3D space, which the sequel, and future titles, added into their battle mechanics. This is also from an era where cutscenes were forced to be watched, side quests were truly hidden away without being revealed in a checklist and save points were scattered apart. People brought up on more modern RPGs might have an issue with this, but for me, it brought back the nostalgia I have missed from the genre in an era where I experienced most of the greatest Japanese RPGs. These games will keep you busy for a while, with Tales of Symphonia coming in close to 50 hours for just its story and Dawn of the New World sitting around 30 – 40 hours.

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is a great chance for newcomers to look into one of the best RPGs that Namco has ever put out, with a little extra bonus known as Dawn of the New World thrown in for good measures to complete the Symphonia storyline and offer the most comprehensive package. It’s also a nice trip down memory lane for fans of this engaging Japanese RPG series, who want to revisit Tales of Symphonia with minor additions and the challenge of picking up a platinum trophy. Overall, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is one half fantastic and one half decent, but more importantly, it is easily worth the price of admission for the first title alone.

8/10

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Version tested: PS3

Developer: Namco Bandai Games

Publisher: Namco Bandai Games

Genre: Role-Playing Game