Article first published as Playstation 3 Review: ‘Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles’ on Blogcritics.
As someone who regularly dozes off during long turn-based combat sequences in role playing games, I have a special appreciation for the "Tales of" RPG franchise and its real-time combat system. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of these rereleases for the Playstation 3, at the end of its lifecycle, while I’m searching for games to justify my launch day purchase of the Playstation 4. These are the most significant prejudices I bring to the table as I review Namco’s "Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles," which includes both "Tales of Symphonia" and "Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World."
Though nowhere near as popular as Square Enix’s "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest" franchises, Namco’s "Tales of" series spans almost 20 years and over a dozen titles. Despite a long history, "Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles" only contains the main "Symphonia" game, which was originally developed for the Nintendo Gamecube and Playstation 2 and its direct sequel for the Nintendo Wii, "Dawn of the New World." Fans of the two "Symphonia" games will be happy to know that both games are now offered with their original Japanese voicework in addition to the new 720P HD presentation.
The original "Tales of Symphonia" is without a doubt the main draw for "Chronicles" even though it is about ten years old now. Though the story is better and the content more substantial, the original game definitely shows its age. Besides an uneven graphical update, the game suffers from many of technical limitations of the era. The menu systems, the over world, and the only partial voicework are the most obvious indicators of the game’s age. That being said, the original "Tales of Symphonia" is the meat of this set and fans should be more than happy with the upgrades that were done.
"Dawn of the New World" didn’t need nearly as much updating, though the second game doesn’t feature hardly any of the anime scenes the original was filled with. The sequel primarily utilizes motion captured animation sequences for cutscenes. The voicework is also substantially more complete in "Dawn," but the downside is that the annoying main character is one of the biggest complaints about the game. Of course, the star of "Dawn of the New World" is the improved combat system. Significantly deeper than the original game, "Dawn" introduces a monster collecting mechanic and even allows four players to fight at the same time.
If you’re a fan of the "Tales of" series or other classic JRPGs and own a Playstation 3, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider "Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles." Though imperfect, the HD treatment is more than adequate and the Japanese voices were only an option for importers. Namco has also introduced a handful of new artwork, costumes, unison attacks, and bosses for the pair of games. With over 90 hours of gameplay, "Chronicles" is an undisputed entertainment bargain. Easily the definitive version of these two games, I do have to wonder how much of an audience there really is for this compilation. With the Playstation 3 on the way out, is this really something many people want to invest in?