Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review: Not my favorite, but a worthy RPG experience

Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review: Not my favorite, but a worthy RPG experience

This beloved RPG classic, renowned for its rich storyline and memorable characters, has long held a special place in the hearts of gamers. However, I am here to take off my nostalgia glasses and provide an honest and comprehensive look at the game, breaking down its battle system, story, characters, music, sidequests, locations, art and graphics, customization system, and overall quality of life. Whether you're revisiting this beloved title or discovering it for the first time, join us as we explore the facets that make Tales of Symphonia a worthy RPG experience while examining where it might fall short of its lofty reputation. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review: Not my favorite, but a worthy RPG experience.

Battle System - 8

I can confidently say that this is the peak of 2D Tales battle systems, as well as one of the most unique in the entire series. Every game before Tales of Abyss (including games released after this game) utilized the LMBS (also known as the Linear Motion Battle System). This means all the games before Tales of Symphonia and a few after it were solely on a 2D plane, akin to a Street Fighter game. But Tales of Symphonia wasn't like that. This game utilized the Multi-Line Linear Motion Battle System (ML-LMBS), which, in essence, is 2D fighting but on a 3D plane. This meant there was a 3D battlefield, but as you targeted an enemy, it would manipulate the battle scene to become 2D, as influenced by the targeted enemy's position. It's hard to explain if you haven't played it, but if you know, you know. The battle system in this game is innovative and wholly unique—I've never seen any game have a battle system quite like this. This battle system allows for a limiting battle system where you can't just free run away from all your problems, but it also allows for more movement and allows the player to take different paths and trajectories to fight in a fun and unique way that never gets old. This game sits between the old Tales battle systems and the new Tales battle systems, making this game's ML-LMBS one of the most fun and unique action RPG combat systems I've ever played.

Story - 7.5

In my Thousand-Year Door and Live A Live reviews, I said the individual moments of those games were greater than the sum of their parts—I'd have to say this game was the opposite. I loved the overarching plot here, but this game had so many weak, slow, and dull moments, as well as considerable discrepancies in its pacing. For almost a fourth of the game, you are just collecting summons, with very few exciting plot moments or locations to incentivize the player to continue playing. While the second half of the game has some extraordinary moments, most of it is comprised of fetch quests and lots of convoluted, underbaked B-plots. However, the overarching themes of fighting against racism, uniting two different groups of people against a common cause, witnessing redemption arcs, and stopping religious corruption. While I don't want to get into spoilers, this game does have some fantastic plot twists that don't come out of nowhere, and it has some beautiful moments during the very beginning, middle, and end of the game. Nevertheless, this game's plot slowed to a halt so far that I had a hard time appreciating some of the things it did very well, so while I loved the overarching plot here, it felt so stop-and-start that it almost gave me intellectual whiplash at times... I had little motivation to continue playing during some of the game's slower plot moments.

Characters - 9

As I said in my article discussing this game's characters, I adore most of the characters in this game. Almost every character was endlessly charming, with Kratos being my absolute favorite! Sheena and Zelos were close runner-ups, of course. However, there were also some very annoying characters here. Genis (at least during the second half of the game) and Mithos were both pretty horrible, and I wanted to rip my hair out every time they spoke. However, even with those two pissing me off, this score is a 9 for a reason. There's Lloyd Irving, the dumb and lovable (albeit tropey) RPG protagonist. There's Colette Brunel, the Chosen One, set to save the world. There's Kratos Aurnion, a mysterious soldier with unknown motives. There's Raine Sage, who's basically an older, much more interesting, and not insufferable version of Genis. There's Sheena, a fantastic character who feels relatable and drives the plot forward in many unique ways. There's Zelos Wilder, a charming flirt who is very kind and vital to society. There's Presea Combatir, who has a very tragic yet endlessly intriguing backstory. There's Regal Bryant, a mysterious, charming, and criminally underrated Tales character that added a lot of nuance to the plot. In summary, there are some misses here, but most of the characters are phenomenal.

Music - 8.5

This game had some excellent music! From the incredibly catchy battle theme to the multitude of awesome character themes, from the atmospheric "City of Hope" theme to the powerful world regeneration theme, Motoi Sakuraba made a very immersive soundtrack here. While this game certainly doesn't have my favorite soundtrack in the series, it is still terrific. I firmly believe the intro song is one of the biggest earworms in RPG history—I had its melody memorized after a single listen. And I suck at remembering songs! But I digress. All in all, this soundtrack slaps, but not quite hard enough to reach a Will Smith level of soundtrack-slapping.

Sidequests - 3

There are tons of sidequests in Tales of Symphonia! There's Abyssion and the Sword Dancers, both of which are fantastic super boss fights! There's the optional Katz Village, which has a fun vibe and rare ingredients to purchase! There's the Wonder Chef, who gives the player recipes, adding charm and fun to out-of-battle healing. There's the Affection system, giving the player a choice of who Lloyd can build romantic relationships and strong platonic friendships with. There's the optional dungeon, Niflheim, a unique area with awesome boss fights and a cool (albeit annoying) premise. There's finding the Devil Arms, a slew of unique and potentially powerful weapons. There's restoring Luin, a town destroyed by a villainy that you get to rebuild and learn the backstory of. There's the Colosseum, one of the most fun RPG Colusseums I've ever been through, even if it is incomparable to other games plot-wise. On the other hand, this game is plagued by some of the most awful sidequests ever put in a video game. Sure, later entries like Tales of Vesperia and Tales of the Abyss had obtuse sidequest triggers, but at least those sidequests added to the enjoyment of the game... in contrast, the majority of the Tales of Symphonia sidequests made me actively dislike this game. You must talk to every dog in the game with Colette and every woman with Zelos. You must use a guide to understand the very obscure point system for the Affection system. There's the awful old man minigame that boasted the most horrendous hitboxes known to man and woman. As someone who braved Final Fantasy X's Chocobo racing and lightning bolts quests, I can confidently say that the Old Man Memory game is the worst minigame I've ever played in an RPG. There's the horrible casino with no charm and no fun, paling in comparison to the casino found in Tales of Vesperia and being completely outclassed in every way by the phenomenal casino in Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. There's the awful Red Light, Green Light minigame. I can usually forgive older games for misguided minigames, but not Tales of Symphonia. As somebody who leveled Aeris to level 99 for just the fun of it, the tedium of these quests almost made me quit this game five or six times. I can't imagine playing multiple playthroughs of this game and enduring some of these sidequests numerous times! These sidequests actively made me hate what otherwise was a very good RPG, and that makes me sad because I have a track record for doing every quest in every RPG I play because they almost always add so much to the overall experience! But, as it stands, this game and Final Fantasy X-2 are the only games I haven't done every sidequest in... they are just that horrible. While I envy people who enjoyed their time with the sidequests in this game, that doesn't change the fact that I hate them. While this game certainly had some excellent sidequests, most of them were so bad that they detracted from my enjoyment of the story, the battles, the game, and, daresay, the Tales series as a whole. Sometimes, less is more, as Tales of Symphonia has so ungracefully proven to me...

Locations - 8

This game has some outstanding locations. From Iselia, a beautiful starting village that feels close to home (as well as having some great story moments), to Palmacosta, a coastal city with a vibrant culture and an untimely demise; from Meltokio, the capital city that is both grand and imposing with tons of fun NPCs and plot relevance, to Flanoir, a beautiful snow town (that happens to be my least favorite RPG town, which I will get into later); from Altamira, a metropolis with an amusement park, the ninja town of Myozo, the scholarly city of Sybak, and the restored town of Luin—each town here was memorable, lived in, and fun to be in. Outside of the towns, this game had many unique dungeons with various puzzles and gimmicks... but sometimes, these dungeons were memorable for the wrong reasons. This game had some unrelentingly frustrating dungeons, feeling like needlessly convoluted Zelda dungeons with the fun wholly drained out of them. However, while some of the dungeons were horrible and confusing, many of them were very charming, and all of the towns were very inspired, so as a whole, I think this category deserves an 8.

Art & Graphics - 8

This game has a charming and timeless art style, but it isn't for me. I acknowledge that it is good, but I didn't love it much outside of the stunning cutscenes. However, like Wind Waker, Super Mario World, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest, and Ni No Kuni, Tales of Symphonia has a distinct, cartoony style that (at least for many) has aged like a fine wine. It astonishes me how this inspired art direction still holds up so well today, even if I'm more of a mature pixel art or Paper Mario guy regarding art styles. Overall, the graphics in this game are timeless and memorable, but they aren't exactly what I jive with, so a 8 is a fair assessment for this review.

Customization System - 6

With titles, Strike and Technical techniques, EX Skills, and obscure Mystic Artes, this game has plenty of incredible customization system options. Unlike many games, Tales of Symphonia incentivized achievements, allowing you to equip them and gain stat bonuses... and occasionally costumes! Strike and Technical techniques allowed for a meaningful limitation on your abilities, allowing you to specialize your characters differently on different playthroughs. EX Skills also added quite a bit of depth to the game, giving the player free rein on how to customize their characters without making them too overpowered. When you equip specific EX Skills, you unlock Compound EX Skills, incentivizing experimentation to discover fantastic abilities like Concentrate, which could prevent staggering during spellcasting, or Item Getter, which could increase Colette's steal rate to 100%! On top of all of this, there were Unison Attacks, which could dish out insane amounts of damage. My biggest problem with his customization system was its over-reliance on discovery. Like most aspects of this game, discovering good Unison Attacks and Compound EX Skills without a guide was so obscure it was almost revolting. While I'm okay with using a guide, I've seen frustration and loss of interest in this system because, like the rest of Tales of Symphonia, this system simply wasn't all that well-implemented—a common occurrence in this game. A simple indication of what changing out an EX gem would impact and a page that records all the Unison Attacks used would go a long way to making this system truly special. As a whole, I thought this system fit well with the game and was incredibly innovative (especially since it fit with the story), but it was so much better on paper than in practice.

Quality of Life - 0

This game is one of the most horrible games I've ever played in terms of the quality of life. Not only do you need to do so many stupid sidequests to gain all the Titles to 100% the game, but you have to play the game at least five times to get everything... all because of the scenes in my least favorite RPG town of all time, Flanoir. I'm still haunted by the fact that I didn't 100% this game, yet I have no incentive to do so because this game was just such a mess. Outside of that, many of the game's mechanics needed to be explained significantly better. I fully support not having tons of tutorials, but at least hide away some of the more obscure tips in a menu somewhere for me to read or something. Also, like most of the older Tales games, this game has a plethora of missable items without a single indication of them being missable, making this game incredibly frustrating. This game also had lousy pacing, and the plot rarely drove forward. I'm okay with slow-burn stories that take time to set up the world and take a slow pace to tell a beautiful story, but when this game needlessly slows to a halt? That's very frustrating. This game didn't have too many bugs, and the difficulty was perfect, so those factors bumped up the score a bit. I also didn't find as many issues in the Remastered version as many others, but the frame rate dropped significantly here, which took me out of the action-based combat. I am usually very forgiving with flaws in a game, but when a game is so bogged down by frustrating game design, it takes me out of the beautiful world, characters, and story and makes me want to throw my toaster in a bathtub and electrocute this game's cartridge. Okay, jokes aside, I still loved much of my time with Tales of Symphonia. But in the end, I hated this game just as often as I loved it, which isn't a great sign.

The Verdict

Fun Factor - 5
Overall Score - 63%
Letter Score - B

I understand the love for Tales of Symphonia... It was a good game. I grew up playing this game—I played it for the first time when I was around seven years old, and I have played it twice since. While I have fond memories of this game, I didn't love it very much, and I envy those who did. With Tales of Xillia and Tales of Vesperia being two of my favorite games ever created, I expected a lot from this quintessential Tales game playing it now that I am a bit older, and I was pretty disappointed. Many believe this game to be the best in the series or one of the best RPGs of all time, but I did not feel that while playing this game. It was a good experience, but I won't be replaying it anytime soon, nor will I recommend it to people who aren't already fans of the Tales series. In the end, this game has its moments, with its battle system and characters being phenomenal, but everything else surrounding these two aspects made this game more of a chore than a fun experience.

Interested in buying this beloved action RPG and formulating your own opinion on it? Feel free to buy it through the affiliate link below to help support our website :) I personally find the PS3 version to be the best version if you have a PS3 (since it also has the sequel!), but the Remaster wasn't as bad as many people said, in my opinion, so that one is definitely worth a purchase.

Tales of Symphonia (GameCube)
Tales of Symphonia (Play Station 2)
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles (Play Station 3)
Tales of Symphonia Remastered (Nintendo Switch)
Tales of Symphonia Remastered (Xbox One)
Tales of Symphonia Remastered (Play Station 4)

Primary Version: Tales of Symphonia Remastered (Nintendo Switch)