Now that the project I’m currently working on for which I didn’t really have much time to complete it and which I insisted in doing cleanly despite the time constraints (beleive me: It’s worth it. Read about that later) is coming along very nicely, I actually had some time to do a little gameing yesterday.
About two weeks ago, I bought Tales of Symphonia for my gamecube, but only yesterday, I played it for the first time (while still waiting for Mario 64 to arrive for my DS I’ve imported and actually got last week). Read about my more-than-plesant experience:
First of all, I actually could buy a legal european version. Relying on grey import was – for once – not necessary despite Tales of Symponia (just “tales” from now on) being quite a hardcode RPG. A really big THANK YOU! for that, Nintendo.
Additionally, while I would have preferred playing it in english, the german translation is really good (completly unlike the miserable translation of Pokémon, for example) and thankfully, the voice actors where not synchronized and the english actors did a very good job on this one.
One thing is stupid though: You cannot turn off the german subtitles and they do not vanish automatically. So it’s necessary for me to hit the A-button in just the right time not to create unnatural sounding cutoff sentences. This was a problem in the first 15 minutes. After that I got quite used to it, maybe also because the german translation really is good (I’d translate most of the sentences like they did).
The next thing I did not like at first was the story: First, you have this “Wake the goddess to save the world by unsealing four seals” which sound kind of silly for a hardcore RPG. And then there are the two other main themes: “Girl on a pilgrimage to save the world” and “Boy brings destruction to his own village because of an accident and gets banished for that. His first station on the journey is a desert”.
Both of those themes should sound familiar to you, the first one being a FFX-ripoff, the second one being from the best RPG of all-time, Xenogears.
Fortunately, this feeling of “seen-that” quickly begins to wear off after about two hours where the party crosses the sea and lifes (hopefully) through the Governour Dorr-sidequest. Now, that’s something new (and great too).
As I’m just about ending said quest, I don’t know anything further to say about the story, but I’ve read great things about it.
I really like the battle-system. It’s a bit like “Star Ocean”, fast-paced and doable none-the-less. In the desert just at the beginning after being abducted by those maybe-desians (the enemy race opressing the humans, strangely equipped with technology well beyond that of the humans), I was hopelessly under-leveled: Those visible enemies on the world map invite you to skip instead of fight them. In the end, I got around, but it was not easy there.
On a side-note: Speaking of advanced technology: Why the heck does Raine seem to know all that stuff? What is it about her? If she has something to hide it’s much better done than Citan in Xenogears where this is clear from the beginning. Besides: I really like her character. She is very likeable.
Another thing I really, really like is the graphics: I love this cell-shading technology – especially if it’s done as well as in tales. It’s like watching an animee – just interactive.
On and talking about “interactive”: In contrast to what I had to rant about in Xenosaga, in tales, the balance between interactive and non-interactive sequences is done very well. It’s never boring and the story is always developping. Very nice.
All in all, tales certainly is the best I’ve seen RPG-wise on the gamecube and it even matches some of the better-known Squaresoft titles. I really hope, the story continues as it is now and does not fall back to re-telling things already told by other games.
If you have a cube and are longing to good RPGs on it, go and buy tales. You will not regret it.
So, now I’m just going to recompile and upload my little Java-Applet and then I’m off home to play another round of tales…