Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tales of Symphonia #2 - Everyone Is Hiding Something

Everyone is hiding something. At least that is what it seems like. Colette is turning less and less human with each seal that we destroy. Genis and Raine seem to be hiding the fact that they aren't real elves, for whatever reason. Sheena, the character who started out by attacking us but has now joined forces with us, seems to be hinting that she is actually from another dimension (?). Kratos the mercenary says he is only in it for the money, but is he really?

The only one I really trust is myself, Lloyd. Even I seem to have a colourful past, the difference being I don't know about it myself yet. Since I was found next to my dead mother by my adoptive father it seems like both my birth parents were something special. I don't know what but I am sure to find out soon.

I am curious to see how her character develops.

It seems clear that this game is trying to throw me a curve ball by pretending to be trope when actually there are plenty of twists along the way. We'll see I guess.

This game is actually clever in many little ways. At this one point I was required to run between two cities that were a bit of a trek in between, I was given the option to accompany an NPC to get between the cities instantly. Nice. Another cool feature is an option to "Customize" weapons so even old weapons that you've outgrown can be customized into a better one. And the "long-range mode" on the map actually means enemies won't move when you don't, so they can't attack you unless you let them, which is very convenient for when you want to explore the world map.

They've also added another interesting feature to bolster your feelings towards the characters. Whenever you're out and about you can get a prompt to press the Z button, if you do you get to watch a little conversation play out between some of the characters where they talk about all matter of things, usually something connected to where you are story wise but usually not crucial to know. These conversations are entirely optional (I think!) and there are many. I try to watch all of them, but they can really pop up absolutely anytime. I know for sure I missed one because it popped up right as I was entering a town, and once I loaded in it wasn't there anymore. They're pretty fun to watch and really do help build the characters a bit, so that is nice. Very nice also that if you happen to replay the game you don't have to watch through all of that dialogue again if you don't want to.

The enemies on the map have generic models, so you never know exactly what you'll encounter.

Another interesting thing that happened to me was that I went to open a seal but got beaten by the boss. What actually happened was that I beat the seal boss but then Sheena attacked me right after, before I had saved or gotten a chance to stock up on any items (all of which I had used on the previous boss). She beat me and I decided to go a different route. I went to another seal, which turns out was probably the one I was actually meant to take, because it was a lot easier. Sheena attacked me after this boss too, but the save spot was in a different location so this time I at least had the opportunity to save in-between. I beat her this time, and when I got to the other seal she didn't attack me. It seems it was entirely possible to tackle that part of the story in two completely different locations on the map, and if I hadn't failed the first time I wouldn't even have known. 

It probably doesn't matter much in the long run but it's cool to know the game has this flexibility programmed in to it. Makes me wonder where else it can differ like this.

Also can I just throw in here that I've always loved the little Gamecube discs. They are the cutest.

There are other tiny details that add to the overall feel of quality too, like how the doors only open one way (as is usual with doors). On most RPGs the characters always push the doors open. But in this game, they'll push it one way and pull it another. You can also choose whichever character in your roster you want to display and run around as. It's a minor thing that doesn't really change anything gameplay wise, but it's fun to be able to do.

Most importantly this game just plays well. While so far it might not be reinventing the wheel, it has definitely polished the details and worked out a lot of typical JRPG kinks, making for an easy moving whole. It pulls you forward without effort, even though as I've mentioned before it's far from an easy game. I hope this quality sticks throughout, because so far I am having a lot of fun with it.

Images from,

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

I Am Playing Tales of Symphonia

 RPG's is one of my favorite game genres so it gives me the hives whenever I think about all the RPG series out there that I have barely even touched on. Ys, Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Shin Megami Tensei (and Persona) to mention a very few. And also, of course, the Tales of-series.

I have played Tales of Phantasia though, I even own a Japanese copy even though I don't own a Super Famicom. I can barely remember anything about it but I remember two things clearly - I had fun with it and I especially enjoyed the combat.

My knowledge of the Tales of-series doesn't stretch much further than knowing that there are many of them at the moment, and that they hold a pretty good standard overall with some few low points. I don't exactly know which games are considered high or low points in the series though, but everything I have heard about Tales of Symphonia have been good things.

I remember watching my brother play it way back when it was released, he would've been around 15 and me around 18, and even though he seemed to have a great time with it and I thought it looked like fun I never got around to trying it myself. I have no idea what 18-year old me spent all days doing to be honest, but it should've been playing more video games for sure. Then he went on to sell the Gamecube and the game and regretting it ever since.

I got myself a copy quite a while back, with the thought in my head to redeem myself and get around to playing this game that I should've played already long ago. Well, I finally got around to it and I quite like it so far.

I am just over 7 hours in, though that doesn't mean much since I've come to realize that ToS is a game that does require a fair bit of grinding. I don't remember that ever being a thing in Tales of Phantasia! I don't mind though as the combat is as solid in ToS as I remember it being in ToP. 

For you people who don't remember the combat or get it confused with similar styles in the Star Ocean and Grandia series, the combat in ToS is in 2,5D (you can't control you character up and down but it will automatically follow enemies who move there). You control a party of up to four characters and they fight independently until you choose to give them commands. It works pretty well for the most part. Some times you're weaker ranged characters will decide to go all full contact MMA with a boss who three-shots them and some times they use their strongest and most expensive attack on an enemy that is easily killed anyway. But while you don't have much control over their direct movements you have a lot of control over their decisions so I feel it mostly comes down to how much you want to micro manage them.

The combat is definitely not on the easy side either. You not only can but should choose between a wide variety of attacks, and of course block and dodge things. Blocking and dodging is absolutely crucial to not become minced meat. There are often tactical choices to be made regarding which of the up to four (or more?!) enemies you should handle first and of course there are weaknesses and resistances to take into account as well. It might sound like much, but instead it makes every fight full of action and fun.

It definitely does help that combat is not random in this game. The enemies are always visible on the map, like in Grandia for instance, and you can in theory avoid almost every fight if you're sneaky and quick enough. In reality the game absolutely forces you in to a lot of combat, and it's really for the best. The enemies are quite tough and getting money for new gear does not happen quickly - if you want to be prepared for the dungeons to come you are going to have to do a lot of grinding ahead.

If the combat is the game's strong point the story and characters are about as trope as they come. You play as young sword fighter Lloyd Irving, a rascal who doesn't pay attention in school but also quite charming. Your adventure starts when one of your best friends, Colette, who happens to be the chosen one, requires your aid to get to different seals on her pilgrimage and some bad guys are trying to stop her for unknown reasons and... yeah I won't bore you further. You could copy the story from any 500 previous JRPGs and you know what this is all about. 

Kratos is so cool.

You collect a pretty ragshag team who, at least as far as I have come, all bring an interesting variety to combat and also all feel about equally useful (though definitely not equally interesting). Kratos, voiced by none other than Cam Clarke of Leonardo the Ninja Turtle fame, is a mercenary who is quite overpowered when he first joins you. He is also the only one who dabbles in all schools of fighting, he is strong in both offense, defense and healing and absolutely invaluable in the team. Then there is Colette whom I've already mentioned. She is the typical bit of a wonky girl character who keeps falling over on the battle field. She seems to be the weakest character when you start out but it is clear she will become stronger and stronger as the game moves on. Then we've got the "elf" siblings Raine and Genis. I say "elf" because it is hinted so far in the game that they are actually half-elf. Why they would hide this fact is unknown to me.

The enemies of the game are very anonymous so far. All I know is that they're half-elves called Desians (or along those lines), so maybe Raine and Genis used to belong to them and left, or something? Time will tell. They keep human farms where they... actually seem to farm humans, for unclear purpose. Collette is a descendant from an angel who needs to unlock seals to "heal the world". Like I said, the story isn't really the compelling part of the game. Just as with Grandia, what keeps me interested and entertained is mainly a really fun gameplay. The characters are growing on me though, and they're all quite endearing if nothing else.

The game has some other neat features that makes it easy to like, other than the fact that it doesn't have random battles (I can't stress how grateful I am that it doesn't have random battles). For instance it has a "long-range" mode on the world map which makes it slightly easier to traverse. Even more helpful is the "synopsis" feature which in short sentences wraps up where you're at in the story and what you need to do next. So awesomely necessary for a forgetful mind like mine, now I don't need to spend the first ~15 minutes of each session trying to remember what I was doing next, nor keep handwritten notes next to the game.

There is a lot more to say but I think I have been going on for long enough so I will keep that for future posts. Long story short, I am enjoying this game so far. It has really fun combat, decent characters and a story that I think might have some tricks up its sleeve. And even if it doesn't I think I'll have fun nonetheless.

Images from,,