Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is an updated re-release of two games from Namco Bandai. Tales of Symphonia was released in 2003 for the Nintendo Game Cube and later for the PS2. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World was released in 2008 for the Wii and then this combined set was released earlier this year for PS3.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is a well-loved role playing game in Japan. It’s spawned all kinds of spin-offs including several Manga series. It received some critical acclaim in the United States as well, so I was eager to give it a try. I have to say I love Japanese simulation games like Harvest Moon and I’m a fan of several Manga and anime series as well, so I’m familiar with a lot of the imagery and symbolism common in Japanese books and video games.
That said, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles has more than its share of mashed up religious and mythological symbolism and frankly it’s a little distracting. There are angels dressed like Catholic cardinals with wings. There are references to dwarvin rules, mana, a goddess, ghosts, zombies, priests, priestesses and a chosen one. If Harry Potter were a girl fighting ghosts and zombies in Middle Earth to raise a goddess, you’d have Tales of Symphonia. It’s as if the game writers put all their favorite things into one story.
If, however, you can get past the seriously strange mythos of the game, it’s at heart a group adventure focused around Lloyd and Colette. Colette is the aforementioned chosen one. Lloyd is her best friend and faithful companion. There are other characters that come and go, but Lloyd and Colette are constants. If Colette can restore mana to their world, Sylvarant, the goddess will awaken and their world will be right again. Unfortunately, in their quest to restore their world, they realize that their efforts are damaging another world, Tethe’alla. Whew, complications! Holy multiple universes! And now we’ve included Quantum Physics for the win.
The game has an interesting, albeit strange, storyline but there are some frustrations as it plays out. First of all, there is very little spoken dialog, so you have to click out of dialog boxes constantly. Because it is such a complex story, there are a lot of characters talking. This includes extra skits that you can skip if you want, but you miss a lot of story if you do. Unfortunately, they aren’t video cut-scenes. They are just talking heads, so more clicking for you. Clicking out of dialog boxes gets old pretty quick for me, but you might be more tolerant.
I’m also not in love with the fight mechanics. They are clunky and sluggish and feel older and more out-of-date than they should for a game originally made in the 2000s. The combos are sort of silly and the bad guys vary in strength, as they should, but the fights are not the kind of thing that makes you shout “AWESOME!” when you’ve beaten someone, even someone fairly high level.
Game play is largely based on picking the best character to fight the baddies and healing yourself when necessary and using your group effectively to problem solve your way through the game. There are many locations on what becomes a complex map. The graphics are beautiful and ethereal in the way that Japanese animation has come to be known for. The music is also good. The opening song is actually great. I want it on my iPod. I wish it was used more during the game, but a lot of the game is fairly silent with dialog box after dialog box.
Who is best suited to this not terribly old-school JRPG? Anime fans and JRPG fans are going to enjoy this the most. Impatient people who don’t want to spend a lot of time clicking out of dialog boxes (like me) should probably avoid this title.
However, if you can get past it’s flaws, Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is worth a play and since you get both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in one package it’s a good deal. There is a lot of bang for your buck in this re-release with hours of gameplay. JRPG fans check it out.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles earns 3 out of 5 GiN Gems.