Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review
Bandai Namco’s “Tales of…” series came back with a bang with the release of Tales of Arise. Being the latest entry in a long line of games, it wasn’t hard to imagine that newcomers would want to revisit the previous titles. Having played Tales of Destiny and Eternia way back during the PlayStation 1 era, very solid and fun JRPGs in their own right, it was time to try out other entries.
Considered a favorite in the series by many, Bandai Namco gives us Tales of Symphonia Remastered. Originally released back in 2003 for the Gamecube and a re-release in 2013 for the PS3, the title went on win the favor of many. With the remaster seemingly taking things and making them better, surely it would be a hit amongst modern gamers. Right?
For the record, I have no prior experience with Tales of Symphonia, with my only familiarity being the common elements found in other Tales entries like its real-time combat system. Let’s see if Symphonia offers the same great experience as Arise and other past games in the series.
Sylvarant Needs You
Tales of Symphonia Remastered follows the standard story of a world on the brink of ruin, with its salvation depending on a handful of individuals. If you’ve played a lot of RPGs and seen a lot of fantasy-type anime, this entry’s premise and motley crew may already feel familiar. To name a few, Lloyd Irving is the hot-blooded main protagonist who acts before he thinks but whose heart is in the right place.
Colette is the ever-so-kind and bubbly heroine with the unenviable fate of being the Chosen who must journey to save the world. Raine is your big sister type who’s stern but also wise and can be a little too enthusiastic at times. And Kratos is your cool and experienced mercenary who emits a mysterious aura and you’ll wonder why he’s joining this group in the first place.
These are just a handful of the characters you’ll meet in Tales of Symphonia Remastered, and their personalities definitely show. While they are relatable characters in general, they still feel very generic and seemingly play their role as token characters in the story. In this sense, it definitely feels like a product of its time, but it really doesn’t make it any less interesting.
Color me surprised, seeing how grim the story in Tales of Symphonia Remastered can get despite the vivid colors and light atmosphere. Standing in the way of Lloyd and company are the Desians, who clearly want to be hated for their management of human ranches and their superiority complex towards said humans. They’re pretty despicable villains, and the game has done well to get that point across to the players.
Despite the overall predictability and dullness of the writing, the story is one of the stronger aspects of Tales of Symphonia Remastered. The game keeps the proceedings just interesting enough to move forward with it, and there are some interactive dialogue choices in certain parts of the game that break the monotony of the plot.
There are also random skits that pop up to provide insight into your party and their personalities, and while they work to provide depth to your party members, they’re plagued with uninteresting tidbits that could be a chore to read through.
Back to 2003
Being a remaster of a 2003 game, there’s only so much a remaster can do and Tales of Symphonia Remastered does show its age through the many character models and settings in the game. You’ll see characters talking with straight faces despite the urgency of the situation, so outdated aspects such as this may turn off players expecting a more modern take on the game.
No doubt, another highlight of Tales of Symphonia Remastered is the animated cutscenes scattered throughout the game. The whole “Tales of” series is known for well-animated intros and scenes, and Tales of Symphonia Remastered really continues that tradition while paired with a number of Japanese tracks that really elevate the experience.
Classic Tales DNA
One other aspect where Tales of Symphonia Remastered excels is in its combat, with its heavy emphasis on real-time actions, combos, and party management. You may just end up controlling 1 character at a time, but you’re free to manage your other party members’ actions by setting their AI or manually choosing their next move.
The challenge lies in careful positioning and preventing your opponents from getting the upper hand, and it’s especially tense when you’re keeping up the melee offensive just to interrupt an opponent setting up a powerful spell.
Outside of combat, traversing the world in Tales of Symphonia Remastered is your standard RPG fare of walking through a wide-open map while visiting ruins and towns. When visiting towns, you can be sure that each is supposed to have inns, weapons, items shops, and a save point. The design is all very reminiscent of its time from a couple of decades ago and is sure to bring up some nostalgic feelings for players looking to relive some old-school memories.
One particular feature I liked about Tales of Symphonia Remastered is the lack of random battles. Instead, players will be able to see enemies on the field, resulting in more deliberate actions rather than roaming around aimlessly waiting for a battle to pop up.
The dungeons you need to explore are also your standard fare with some tough enemies to fight and some puzzles that do require some figuring out to advance. What I liked is these parts not being too long so they don’t outstay their welcome, albeit the pattern will be noticeable after a while, so get ready for some bouts of repetition as the game goes by.
Tales of Symphonia Remastered is a mixed bag when it comes to audio. While music in battle, towns, and the world map were solid tunes that fit the atmosphere, none of it really stood out or stuck to memory. The English voice acting was also average at best, so sticking to the tried and true Japanese dub would be the way to go.
Overall, though, Tales of Symphonia Remastered has aged pretty decently. While there are indeed some aspects of it that feel rather old given the age of more modern-feeling titles, it remains to be a solid title, all things considered. Sadly, the effort of the remaster isn’t felt too much, and while the game looks sharper than before, it seemed to be a lackluster effort that could have been so much better than what it shows.
What We Liked:
- Story is quite solid but predictable
- Combat is fluid and satisfying
- Nostalgic RPG elements
What We Didn’t Like:
- Lackluster remaster effort
- Mediocre voice acting
Verdict: Wait for it…
I can see why Tales of Symphonia is considered a favorite in the series. Like other entries, it’s a solid experience with fun combat and a compelling story but shows its age in the modern gaming landscape. It doesn’t help that the remaster is quite a lackluster effort that could have made this outing much more worth it.
Don’t get us wrong. Tales of Symphonia Remastered is not a terrible game by any stretch, and it does tick all the boxes of a fun and solid experience, but we’re saddened by the feeling that it does deserve much more than the remastering effort that we got. With so many games out on the market today, check this one out of you’re hankering for an old-school experience.
*Tales of Symphonia Remastered was reviewed on a PS4/PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.