So I'm deciding to take a page out of my CV blog: Swole Your Role co-creator's book Deranged Midget's playbook doing a video game review. The game in question is called...
Opening vid for your pleasure.
So about 8 years ago, my best friend came over and brought this little, undiscovered gem of a game over to my house. I was about 12 years old at the time and we played it. Non stop for like....2 days. He was about 1/6 inward on the story but the second I picked up the controller and started hacking away at people I was hooked. The game is called Tales of Symphonia (derp, like the title says.) It was an RPG game that came out in 2004 in the U.S.A for the Gamecube. Now, let me clear something up, I'm not a big anime fan. I have always liked specific anime series and anime games. This game blew me away when I got it for myself. I've had it for 8 years and have played through twice with about 300 hours logged onto the first game if it gives you an idea. There is a sequel to the game called Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World and I will also do a blog review of that game as well. So let's get to the actual review of the first game with this.
So the game itself is incredibly long and spans 2 discs so I will make this as brief as possible without spoiling much. About 4000 years before the actual beginning of the series, the world had different races. Elves, humans, dwarfs and half elves. There was this great war between 2 worlds called Sylverant and Tethe'alla with 2 half elf siblings named Martel and Mithos. They had 2 companions named Kratos and Yuan. The group stops the war between the 2 countries by using something called the Eternal Sword which grants the wishes of the wielder. They wished the 2 countries became 2 separate worlds. The worlds feed of mana and apparently there wasn't enough so that is why he did what he did. Mithos was going to reunite the worlds when a special comet came called Dherris Kharlan and use the mana from it to from Great Seed and germinate the seed into the Great Kharlan Tree to sustain both worlds. Anyways, some humans are trying to monopolize the great seed and Martel is killed. Mithos gets pissed and hates humans for killing his sister and for the humans being total racist d-bags to the half elves. So he comes up with this plan by putting his sister's soul in the Great Seed using magic and then wait thousands of years finding ways to become immortal and find her a new body through things called exspheres which are like parasitic orbs that grant superhuman stats and powers. These exspheres eventually turn you into monsters but if you have something called a keycrest, you are basically free of worry.
Fast forward to the beginning of the game, humans are still d-bags, half-elves are even more persecuted. The lands are ravaged by monsters and there are protectors of mana called summon spirits which were apparently always there. There is like one for each element. Martel is now considered a Goddess and creator of all. The goal is to regenerate the world. There is someone from each world called a chosen and they are basically glorified sacrifices to Martel in an attempt to find a body for her in some convoluted plan from Mithos. You're a character named Lloyd Irving and you have a thing for the Chosen (at least at the start of the game and for the true canon ending of the game.) Your best friend is a element controlling half elf who is a super genius and kind of a jerk. Your party starts to fill quickly but eventually becomes a bit more sporadic with a very versatile cast of multi-dimensional characters in personality and battle wise. The game is then set and filled with a very malleable and player driven story with multiple choices that affect the path and ending of the game and a HUGE free roam map with dozens of weapons, armors, powers, spells and abilities. You set the game's path as you see fit, which is why I said the canon ending is for the chosen but you have about 9 different ways to end the story depending on your relationships with your party. You can have them all be best friends, some new love, some not, or even have them hate your guts. The game is also hysterical and filled with tiny skits that pertain to your choices providing a better feel to the game.
So yeah. You have deep characters, an intricate plot and a deranged, genocidal half elf with a justified motive in a world that mixes past with present while adding in some science and magic, you get this game.
Brief bios of the characters.
Age: Previously: 17 (ToS). Currently: 19 (DotNW).
Lloyd is the main protagonist. He is a stubborn idealist with a hot head and a good heart. He has a thing for the chosen, Colette, in the canon ending of the game where she reciprocates those feelings. He uses dual swords, preferably katana esque swords. His gameplay style is a fast paced, rapid, capable combo linker that ties in with fast paced special attack followed by a heavy, powerful attack. Lloyd is the quickest character in running and attack speed in any of the ToS games with a medium attack power, a medium defense, and a high level of health. He is essential for any front line character capable of distracting multiple foes at once and with the extra hp, can take a hit and keep on dishing and with a high tp level, he has bountiful use of special attacks for a melee character.
Age: Previously: 16 (ToS). Current: 18 (DotNW).
Colette is the love interest of the main character. She is very clumsy which provides many interesting and comical situations to the game. She is very kind and also likes dogs quite a bit. Colette is also an "angel" which adds a dynamic to her fighting style since she flies er floats. Her weapons are dual wield chakrams. Colette's a solid character if you have the patience to use her. She is kind of slow in speed and doesn't have much finesse like others do. So she kind of has a hard time linking her chains together, but the upside is she has techniques for every range on the field, from short, to mid,to the most powerful spells in the game. She is a decent speed in spell casting and with her mid-range attacks with magic powered special attacks, she is a force when used properly and shines bright on a team rather than by herself.
Age: Previously: 12 (ToS) Currently: 14 (DotNW).
Genis is a super genius half elf with a bit of an attitude but that is due to being persecuted all his life and is Lloyd's best friend. He wields kendamas. His fighting style is best suited for team use and for behind the front lines. His physical stats are terrible. He has a 2 hit max combo with no linkable specials and slow attack speed and slow running speed. He has a decent amount of health but a very high amount of TP allowing for his ace. Genis is the most powerful spellcaster in the game. He knows spells that cover all basic elements outside of darkness and light and can decimate entire fields once leveled up enough. He can easily 2-3 shot most enemies with his more powerful spells.
Age: Previously: 23 (ToS) Currently: 25 (DotNW).
Raine is Genis' older sister and is incredibly quick tempered and smart herself with a fear of water and a fetish for ruins and old historic things ensuing many shenanigans.Her weapon is a staff. She suffers from the same problems Genis does and makes up for it in spells. Her offensive spells are light based and very powerful but few unlike her brother. Her main goal is that of a healer, removing stat effects, resurrecting dead players, multiple enhancers and field wide healing spells. She is a very useful character when used right, just not one that will be best trying to get kill shots with.
Age: 28 (ToS) not playable in DotNW: Kratos I won't spoil too much about him. He is a mercenary and is the calm, quiet type but is a machine on the battle field.He uses a sword. His running speed is moderate, his attack speed is slower than Lloyd's but still solid and his attacks reflect his power and skill. He also knows some solid healing spells, low to mid level basic elemental magic and has a higher strength level than Lloyd with a solid defense and solid level of HP and TP but he can burn through TP fast if constant use of special attacks. He can also learn the highest level light spell given the right circumstances.
Age: Previously: 19 (ToS) Currently: 21 (DotNW).
Sheena is a passionate and impulsive, albeit clumsy, assassin of the Igaguri clan in the game. She has a tough exterior that belies a very insecure woman due to a past mistake. She is also implied to be Zelos' canon love interest but it's the underlying subtleties that give it away. She uses cards and is a summoner. She also is one of the most powerful characters in the game for many reasons. Her attack speed is high as is her running speed maybe even being faster than Lloyd, though I am not sure. She has a solid combo ability and uses quick paced but powerful special attacks that have varying effects from blowing enemies away to reducing various stats on the opponents or stealing HP. She can also employ elemental based magics onto teammates or herself for element attacks. She is also capable of resurrection herself. And her best ability is when you get hit enough and in a short time you go into an overlimit mode which makes you invulnerable for a period and much stronger. In this state Sheena can summon any of the summon spirits you come make pacts with. These spells range are very powerful and some can solo entire fields in one shot. She is fast, has a decent attack strength, is very versatile and has a solid amount of health, defense points and TP for special attacks. Sheena is an easy replacement for Lloyd if it comes down to it and is probably my 2nd favorite character to use.
Age: Previously: 12 (ToS) Currently: 14 (DotNW).
Presea is a pink haired girl little girl and is the strongest physical member of the team. Yes, the 12 year old sweet, pink girl is the tank and physically strongest member in the game rivaled only by Regal. She is very quiet and straightforward but somewhat shy too and is Genis' love interest. She uses massive axes as weapons, she has a high health amount, solid defense, moderate TP, very strong and surprisingly quick in all areas of speed. She isn't much for linking though and has few specials that can link. Her combos are short and can leave her wide open in mid swing if an enemy blocks but she is just a beast and can easily make up for a few hits here and there.
Age: Previously: 22 (ToS). Currently: 24 (DotNW).
Zelos Wilder is a guy, kind of looks like a girl but is a guy. He is also the flirtatious ladies' man of the group. With him you can talk to any woman in the game and they give you free stuff. Aside from that, Zelos is very intelligent despite acting like an idiot. He is extremely funny, despite having the most f*cked up backstory in the game, and is also implied to be Sheena's love interest. His weapons are swords and daggers, and he is very similar to Kratos being a magic swordsman. Zelos and Kratos are replaceable in the game as you only get either one but I won't spoil how or why. Zelos runs at a similar pace to Kratos and suffers from burning through TP like him but knows the same spells except the angel spell, Judgement. The difference between him and Kratos though they know the same moves is that Zelos attacks faster and more fluidly. His attacks reflect finesse and can combo easier than Kratos and his special moves tend to hit easier than Kratos' versions. (they do different versions of the same titled attacks). He has a solid strength, solid health, knows some moderate spells and is stronger than Lloyd albeit slower. You can give him or Kratos jet boots to increase their speed and they basically become better on the front lines than even Lloyd and have the spells to back up.
Age: Previously: 33 (ToS). Currently: 35 (DotNW).
Regal, like Kratos, I won't spoil much. He is very serious, very quiet, a very good cook and can be funny when he has to but it scares the team due to his naturally stoic nature. He uses his feet to attack only using greaves as weapons. He is the only character than rival Presea in strength. He knows basic healing too and has a decent running speed and attack speed. His combo ability is kind of poor with regular attacks, but his special attacks can link for a solid combo and he has a few evasive moves and is the only one that can do that. He has a decent defense, solid health range and tp range. I don't like using that much but I've seen him used by my friends who like him and he can pretty much take out fields of 4 different enemies without getting hit. This is impressive for being a front line guy.
So much for brief bios...Anyways, the gameplay is pretty simple at first but tends to get pretty strategy oriented later, but I'l explain it after the basics. HP= health points, how much damage you can take. TP= tech points, these allow you to do your special attacks. You go from town to town doing X point of the story. There are dozens of side quests to keep you busy and took me 250+ hours counting my second run through and I still have not completed every task. The side quests range from item hunting that might take you a day or 3 to do to just boss fights for special weapons or abilities like one of Sheena's summon spirits. The game is huge. There are plenty of puzzles to keep things challenging and many different types of enemies. The gameplay allows you to use any 4 characters in a free for all style fight. You have many different items and weaknesses to exploit on enemies to use your advantage. You can program each character to do a specific task like make Raine constantly heal when HP tends to dip. You can make them conservative about special attacks that waste TP and make them only use combos etc. If you don't do anything, each character has a natural AI program that allows them to do their own thing. The fighting is slightly fast paced and the bosses can be pretty hard but not unbeatable. The strongest boss named Abyssion was a side quest boss and he took me over an hour to beat. Almost 2 hours I believe to beat him using a strategy, otherwise, he would kill me in 45 seconds. So each character has strengths and weaknesses and the strategy program allows you to exploit that for your benefits.
Each boss is different, so different strategies might have to be used. You can also stay in hotels to rest up, customize weapons and new armors and accessories. You can also cook meals for after fights and there are at least 20 different recipes and you actually have to grocery shop for ingredients.
Pros n Cons
1) Gameplay. The gameplay is smooth and fights can be hard at times, but the versatility of all the characters allows different strategies and ways to beat enemies.
2) Art. The art is a cell-shaded type and it is just awesome IMO.
3) Story. I can't explain how deep and intricate the story. It has so many twists and turns that just keep you hooked from beginning til end.
4) Characters. All of the characters are connectable too. They are very deep and complex characters with very different problems and very different growth patterns. They all change from introduction of them to the end of the game. I like the character development and effort they put into it.
5) Voices. Can't have bad voice actors now can we? The game really went out of its way to get great voice actors and none of them seem out of place for their characters.
Scott Menville whom voiced Robin in Teen Titans captures that strong hearted teen character really well and he really shows Lloyd's character, his anger, his love, his passion and growth as a character.
Heather Hogan captures Colette's sweet nature yet twisted and unsure path of being the chosen.
Colleen O' Shaugnessey makes Genis sound smart but you can tell the persecution he has been through.
Same with Kari Walhgren whom did Emma Frost in WATXM and Haruko in FLCL for Raine. She captures that quick to anger, yet spunky and crazy self Raine is.
Shiloh Strong did Zelos' voice and he did an amazing job capturing the cocky, suave, yet flirtatious nature of the character but also gets Zelos' pain and suffering across.
Cam Clarke does a fantastic job showing the stoic nature of Kratos but also shows the deepness the character has.
Jennifer Hale just does awesome showing the strong woman Sheena is but captures that underlying torture the character has. Hale is known for doing Bastila from Knights of the Old Republic, Jean Grey from WATXM, Ms. Marvel in Avengers EMH and Sam from Totally Spies.
Crispin Freeman voices Regal. He captures the character's stoic nature and displays how Regal still bares his sins and search for redemption.Crispin did Tony Stark in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. He has done many voice overs like Alucard from Hellsing, Rude from Final Fantasy 7 and much, much more.
Tara Strong (does she need an introduction?) voices Presea and does an amazing job on the quiet and straightforward girl. She matches the speech of the girl's personality so well.
5) Versatility. The game is just so malleable and has so many funny parts to sad parts to some of the most f*cked up stories these characters have.
6) Something I forgot to add the first time through this. The music. The music is absolutely stunning in the game and fits each town, each skit, each event and just every moment in the game. It ranges from a cheery little melody to a haunting and sad symphony that gives you the chills. There are no wasted songs in this game.
1) I don't really have any cons. If I had to say, is the puzzles can be pretty challenging and the bosses can be pretty hard so do level up. But the game isn't meant to be easy but doesn't go overbearing like Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2.
The game is gold. Not many people have heard of it and it's one of those games that should be more praised. It also spanned into a manga and anime OVA (neither fo which I have bothered to check out.) If you are an RPG fan, then you will love it. It's kind of old being around for 8 years or so but stores like Gamestop or Disc Replay or online stores like Amazon should have it for cheap and if you still have a gamecube or a wii, I definitely recommend getting it. It's my favorite game and has been for the past 8 years. It's just an all around perfect game.
I will also be doing a blog on the second game when I have the time. It won't be as long as this one, but this one I got out what I needed to for the characters since they return in the 2nd game with some new faces.