We had a long wait between Tales of Berseria and Tales of Arise, so when Bandai Namco announced they were launching a remaster of Tales of Symphonia we were excited to not have to wait too long before diving into the series again, even though it was for an existing adventure. We tested it out on a PlayStation 4 to see how it held up.
How well it holds up is an interesting question here, because even though Tales of Symphonia is widely seen as one of the best games in the series it’s also twenty years old this year – and a lot of games from the PlayStation 2 era have not aged all that well. This one still feels like it’s more than worth playing though, especially if you never played the original – which was ported over to PlayStation 3 for western audiences about ten years after the PS2 release.
Sure, some elements feel a tad dated, like how you move around the world map, but there’s a great story here and it features some great characters that come to life thanks to solid and sometimes quite witty writing. The story’s about protagonist Lloyd and his longtime friend Collette, who was picked as the “Chosen” to go on an epic quest to save the world from doom. As a good friend, you’re not going to let her go by herself, so together you set off and are joined by a host of other characters during your adventure.
And where many games within the genre have a central character and a supporting cast, Tales of Symphonia works so well because the group of heroes really connects well together and lets all of their personalities shine through. And while the narrative is great, your group also works well together in combat, which uses a system that essentially is the blueprint for the Tales games that came after Symphonia. Although it can feel a bit like a rough draft if you’re played the later games in the series, you’ll quickly feel at home with the game’s combos and dynamic switches between fighting styles – especially when you’re able to buddy up with your fellow heroes.
But while Tales of Symponia definitely holds up as a gameplay experience two decades later, it’s a shame it didn’t get a full remake or at least a more extensive remaster treatment. The visuals are sharper this time around and the character models in particular look better, but the environments you travel through look and feel quite dated and low in detail. When you switch over to any of the in-game menus, it definitely feels like a jump back in time as well – both in terms of layout and visual quality, which is a shame. Combine that with load times that are hard to explain in this day and age, and you’re looking at a game that’s great to play but that you’ll wish got a better remaster. It’s still well worth playing, but if you still have a PS3 copy and console it’s probably not worth the extra investment.