Tales of Symphonia Remastered Regenerates a Great Classic

Welcome to Save State, where the deluge of remasters is overwhelming. Lots of new, interesting games have released in the last few weeks, but what’s better than a new, interesting title? A remastered old one! Tales of Symphonia Remastered has released for the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, so I picked it up almost immediately and began playing. So, join me on this trip down memory lane as we set forth on a journey of regeneration.

Tales of Symphonia wasn’t the first Tales game to release in North America, but it was by far the largest up to that point. The story started off somewhat simple, following the journey of a lovable idiot named Lloyd Irving as he travels across the world of Sylvarant with the Chosen of Salvation, hoping to bring peace and prosperity to their world. The Chosen, a young girl named Colette, must follow divine prophecy and regenerate the world, ending famine, and defeating the horrible Desians who have enslaved the people of Sylvarant. Symphonia starts very by-the-books JRPG, but the tale becomes dramatically darker and more involved as time goes on, ultimately being a story of racism and finally accepting loss.

What really made Tales of Symphonia stand out was the excellent cast of characters. The cast of Symphonia, as a whole, is among the best the series has ever seen, with each character having their own purpose or coming to grips with the fact that they don’t yet have one. The impetuous and charismatic Lloyd leads the ragtag group through a variety of intrigue and plot twists, backed up by his best buddy Genius who is a well-meaning half elf and a brilliant spellcaster. Kratos, a cold and demeaning mercenary, cares more about the party, especially Lloyd, than he lets on, perfectly fulfilling the role of a father figure and mentor to the brash protagonist.

Tales games are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and everything in between, and Symphonia has all of these in spades. What really helped sell Symphonia back in 2003, in spite of a relatively childish script and awkward localization, was a very competent set of voice actors who portrayed their parts very well. You have to keep in mind- 2003 was a scant 6 or 7 years off from “Jill sandwich” and just 3 or 4 years away from Sonic Adventure characters making absolutely insane facial animations while they spoke. So, it meant a lot to have a great voice actor like Scott Menville, the voice of Robin from Teen Titans, voicing Lloyd in Symphonia.

All the twists and turns in Symphonia’s story, coupled with themes that still resonate strongly today, gives it a timeless appeal that still draws the player in a full two decades after its release. While the story of Symphonia is clearly above reproach, what really set Tales of Symphonia apart from its contemporaries was its combat system. While it may seem more dated nowadays, back in 2003 there was nothing quite like it. The Multi-Line Linear Motion Battle System let you move to attack your foes in real time, mixing normal attacks and special attacks to combo your enemies.

You can’t free run in Symphonia like you can in Abyss or the many Tales games that came after it, but you lock onto an enemy to move in a two-dimensional plane to your target, and can change targets multiple times to get the right angle to attack your foes (for example, if there’s a large enemy guarding a lot, you can target a small creature behind him, move past his position, then lock back onto the large enemy to hit him from behind and trigger a guard break). The combat system is really fun, and the easiest way to explain it is if Super Smash Bros stamina mode was a JRPG, because you mix your normal attacks plus a combination of level 1, 2, and 3 techs by combining presses of the A and B buttons and corresponding directions.

Tales of Symphonia didn’t receive a lot of visual upgrades in its conversion to modern gaming platforms, nor did it receive a lot of customization options or quality of life features. In fact, Tales of Symphonia Remastered largely seems to be nearly 1:1 with its PS3 port from many years ago, that came packaged with Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. While it’s less necessary for those of us who have played Symphonia numerous times in the past, it’s still unfortunate that the remaster didn’t include a method of tracking quests, since a good number of them are missable. Those afraid of missing side quest rewards, however, might still want to have a guide handy.

While Tales of Symphonia is one of my absolute favorite games of all time, the remaster from Namco Bandai is probably one of the worst ways to play if you have a Nintendo Switch. Supposedly the PS4 version of it runs substantially better, but the Switch version has enough wrong with it that it simply can’t be recommended. Load times are bordering on poor, and there’s immense slowdown in some areas like the desert or some dungeons that result in single digit frame rates. There are numerous crashes, which makes the absence of basic quality of life features like auto saves even more abhorrent. The save system from the GameCube days is still present with no auto-save available, so getting a persistent crash in a dungeon before hitting the respective save point resulted in a few hours of progress lost across roughly 5 crashes to the Switch home screen.

After crashing for the fifth time, I figured I’d have a more enjoyable time playing Symphonia on my old GameCube. While looking for my old console, I also found a completely different GameCube than the one I was looking for that I didn’t even know we had, which was just an interesting find. Booting up Symphonia again for the first time in years reminded me that the original version from 2003 is the only version of Symphonia that has 60 fps in combat, something that each following port was missing for some reason. While the GameCube iteration is definitely blurrier than its more modern contemporaries, the added smoothness in combat was immediately noticeable.

On top of that, because my old GameCube saves were still intact, I got to reacclimate with quite possibly one of the best New Game+ systems in gaming: the Grade system. In Symphonia, doing well in combat awards you Grade points, but you don’t quite know what they do until you beat the game. Upon loading a cleared save file, you gain access to the Grade Shop, which lets you spend the points you earned for doing well in combat to retain your weapons, skills, gems, or even modify how much EXP you gain from combat! You can choose to gain ½ EXP, 10x EXP, or even scale your EXP to your combo multiplier, so you can do wacky things like level Colette from 6 to 250 in a single battle with a 9,999 hit combo. The simple fact that the New Game+ features are rewards for playing long and playing well was just such a well thought out system, and it’s something the Tales games became known for throughout the years.

That being said, Tales of Symphonia Remastered is a great time… when it works well. Those who have PS4s or Xbox Ones would be much better off getting those versions of the title rather than the Switch copy, at least until the Switch version receives sizable patches. The original GameCube version is still absolutely worthwhile and runs at 60 fps in combat and isn’t missing dialogue in strange places like the PS3 version. That missing dialogue also carried into the remaster. It’s strange for such a beloved title to still not have a definitive version after this many years, but even with some of the warts, Symphonia is a game I can recommend wholeheartedly to any fan of RPGs, just not on the Switch.

With that, we’ll bring this edition of Save State to a close. Join us again in a couple weeks when we cry because we realize we can’t hug every cat. See you next time!

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