Released in North America in 2004, Tales of Symphonia is a highly under appreciated RPG which has such a deep and ever varying story that those who have played it, consider it to be a potential masterpiece. Tales of Symphonia is the 5th in the Tales series, a series of generally unrelated plot games released by Namco Bandai. In this throwback Thursday post, we will be exploring why Tales of Symphonia was and continues to be a Tales fan favorite. Before you continue,
I warn you that this review will have Spoilers in it, so tread lightly. Lets give a general overview of the game’s world first and foremost. The beginning of the game is set in a world called Sylvarant, a world that is on the verge of dying from lack of Mana. Parallel to Sylvarant is a world called Tethe’alla, which is currently a prospering world. The worlds are set up with 5 seals, that when they are locked the mana is declining in that world. The Chosen of Mana from each world (often shortened to just Chosen) is the only one who can unlock the seals, in return they are slowly turned into angels (or lifeless beings as they are called later). The worlds are run by an organization called Cruxis, they present the Cruxis Crystal to the Chosen and is also almost entirely made up of angels. They guide the chosen at each seal. There is also an organization called the Desians, they are made up entirely of half-elves (half human, half elf if you didn’t gather), they only flourish in the declining world. They hate humans and try and enslave them in human-ranches. In these human ranches, they take the life force from the humans and put them into little spheres called exspheres. The exspheres can be used to enhance somebodies fighting capabilities, though most people who use them don’t know what they are actually made from.
Lets move onto characters, shall we?. Few RPG’s have as in depth characters as this game. Each and every protagonist have a deep and thrilling back story that helps drive this story. Even the antagonists have driving back stories, they aren’t the general “I want to destroy the world because I’m evil” vibe that most RPG villians throw out. Lets start with Lloyd, the main character of the game. Lloyd was raised by a dwarf on the outskirts of the small village of Iselia, it is revealed that his mother was killed by the desians to get the exsphere that was sucking her life away. He wears this exsphere in the game and that’s what allows him to fight. Lloyd is stupid, simply put. He often tries to think things through but very rarely comes up with a good solution. That being said though, he has a strong sense of justice (as most protagonists do). He also rarely discriminates on upbringing or race, which is a very rare thing in this world considering most people discriminate against half-elves, dwarves…people with different hair color…basically everything. Even though he clearly isn’t a dwarf, he still calls Dirk (the dwarf who raised him) Dad, simply because he loves him for raising him, even after he finds his real Dad, he still calls Dirk ‘Dad’. Lloyd is the member of the group who wants to change the world without resorting to killing or hurting people, and what he lacks in intelligence, he makes up in heart. After him is Colette, she is the chosen of Sylvarant, she is clumsy but has the same ideals as Lloyd, she also comes from the same village. Throughout the game, she slowly turns into an angel, though never looses herself along the way. Next is Lloyd’s best friend Genis, he is a Half-elf who grew up in Iselia as well with his half-elf sister Raine. He is the young genius in the group and often berates Lloyd on his lack of intelligence. Genis’ sister, Raine, is also a playable character, she is called ‘The Professor’, thanks to her job and level of intelligent. She is the healer of the group. After that is Kratos, you first believe that he is a mercenary who offers to help on the world of regeneration, it is later revealed that he is an angel of Cruxis and also, secretly, Lloyds real father. He is calm and collected and is the voice of reason in the group. Next is Sheena, she is a ninja and the first person the group meets from Tethe’alla. She is also slightly clumsy and originally meets the group in an attempt to assassinate Colette to prevent the world regeneration. After that is Zelos, who is the chosen of Tethe’alla. He is women hungry and perverted and although he is ignorant and prejudice before, he learns over the the course of the game. Presea is young ax-women from Tethe’alla, while she looks young, she is actually almost 28, this is because she went through an experiment when she was younger that prevented her from aging, and while it was reversed, she still looks really young. Finally is Regal, he is prisoner who was locked up for murder. Though he actually turned himself in and pleaded guilty because the murder was an accident and he felt terrible because of it. The person he killed was his wife Alicia, who had turned into a physical monster, and who was also Presea’s sister.
These 7 are the main protagonists in the game, I could go on and on about every single character in the game, but lets be honest…who would read that.
The first part of the story revolves around Lloyd, Genis, Colette, Raine and Kratos helping Colette finish the world regeneration. At one point Sheena joins them, when they are trying to save people from a human ranch. When the reach the final seal, it is revealed that the true purpose of the World Regeneration is to find a new body for the Goddess Martel, who died 4000 years ago. While the group revolts against this, Kratos betrays them and reveals himself to be an angel of Cruxis. It is also revealed that Cruxis has been using them for a long time, and that the Desians are actually part of Cruxis. They escape with help thanks to the renegades, who are an anti-desian group and escape to Tethe’alla where they receive help in reviving Colette from angel state. After this they try to find a way for the two worlds of Sylvarant and Tethe’alla to coexist without relying on stealing each others mana. They decide to use the summon spirits to severe the ties. When the succeed in doing this, the giant tree of ever flowing mana goes out of control and starts to destroy everything. They manage to stop the tree, but the worlds are left connected. They decide to fuse the worlds into one and use the giant tree to supply mana to it. They succeed and destroy cruxis along the way. When the tree is born again, its weak and feeble, so they are tasked with the job of guarding it until it grows strong enough to fend for itself.
As I stated before, the game is honestly a work of art. My favorite part of the game is that you can choose how events unfold. While the overarching story stays the same, you can decide how the characters feel about each other and how different events unfold based on your in game decisions. The battle system is also well done, once again it lets you choose how you want your character to grow, what sets of moves they learn and the weapons they use. The effort that Namco-bandai put into this game is clearly tremendous and the story itself is breathtaking and extraordinary.
If you haven’t played this game, I highly recommend it.