Sunday, 16 March 2014

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles

I would bet a vast sum of money or even my least-used limbs that you have already heard of NAMCO's long-running JRPG series: Tales of [insert fake name here]. If this is the case, chances are you've also heard of what is widely considered as one of the best entries in this series: Tales of Symphonia?  It had a combination of qualities that I find to be more and more scarce these days – a deep, gripping story and involved and interesting gameplay. I was rather apprehensive in my approach to ToSC – I had worries that not only would the content be rather poorly up-scaled versions of the original games, but also that the game had not aged well anyway. Much to my relief, I was very wrong.

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles Is a collection of HD remastered versions of both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World – a direct sequel. I know what you may be thinking; 'yet another  HD collection of games which have already been released?! Why would this be worth my hard-earned cash?' Well in most cases, I’d agree, but these games are stupidly rare now. You'd pay more for ToS than you would for the collection! So value-wise, it's definitely worth it, but that's all irrelevant if the games aren't any good, right? 

The updated visuals are apparent in the character models. Now when characters move around the screen, they won't look like a perambulating blobs of bright colour. The HD lends itself well to the graphical style and and does a good job of making the game shine. Unfortunately it can sometimes have the opposite effect, like when you find an area in which the lack of detail was a blessing, now brought into the searing light of HD. This is mercifully rare though.

Thanks to Final Fantasy, you'd be forgiven for assuming the combat was turn-based, but the Tales of series is known for it's real-time battle system in which you are able to move around the battlefield at your behest. This introduces a level of skill into the games, as you are sometimes confronted with bosses that you don't have to beat to further the story, but if you're good enough at the combat you can. This gives you a sense of reward that is missing from some turn-based combat systems.

The story of the ToS series is more complex than you are originally led to believe – You get a good ten hours in to the first game, thinking that you have a good idea of what's going on, only to have the game open up and the plot become something much more than you thought. The story of the sequel, while being entertaining enough to carry you through to the end, doesn't take you on the journey that the first did. You'll find yourself being one step ahead of the narrative which can be a little disappointing, but there is still fun to be had there. One thing worth mentioning would be the way in which the themes and situations of the story don't really mesh with the way the game looks. The characters have been made to look cartoonish and cute, yet you see them come to terms with some pretty dark twists and turns during their journey, jarring you in the process.

New to these games is the option to switch the dialogue tracks between Japanese and English. I found further enjoyment in this as I didn't have to experience the characters annoyingly telegraphing their moves before they make them in the same chirpy, irritating tone over and over again. This was a gripe of mine with the original game, thankfully remedied in this version. 

So the question remains: Is this collection worth your money? Well, even if you're not aware of the series, with involved, rewarding combat, engaging story and memorable soundtrack, this would be a strong place to start. For me it was a nostalgic journey through a story that entertained and immersed me in a fantasy land. For some, this fantasy land will be a whole new experience. I have to admit, I'm a little jealous! 

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is too good to pass up and gets a 4/5, []

Thomas Lees

Tales of Symphonia Chronicles at CeX

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