|Dev: Namco Bandai Games|
|Pub: Namco Bandai Games|
|Release: February 25, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Simulated Gambling, Suggestive Themes|
by Sean Engemann
Sony seems to be under the impression that the JRPG genre is a cow that can be endlessly milked, as PlayStation consoles are continually littered with them. HD revivals appear now and then, with some definitely standing out among the crowd. Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is one of those stand outs, bringing arguably Namco Bandai's greatest Tales series to a North American PlayStation audience that has been left in the dark until now. The original Tales of Symphonia was released for the GameCube, and its sequel, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World for the Nintendo Wii. The PS3 compilation entitled Tales of Symphonia Chronicles bundles the two games together, adding high-definition graphics, trophies, and additional content. It's a good value for a great series, but buy it for the gameplay, not the HD upgrade, as the visuals are more a touch-up than an overhaul.
The overall storyline is one full of clichés, with our Tales of Symphonia hero Lloyd joining friends to save the world and avenge the death of his mother at the hands of the evil Desian organization. Betrayal and intervention from higher powers follow you around the adventure, and there are very few surprises. However, it is a well scripted plot and the characters are amicable enough that you'll likely shed a tear or two through the dozens of hours it could take to finish. Dawn of the New World has a slightly less tugging of the heartstrings, mostly because the split personality of Emil, shifting from timid to aggressive, is just plain annoying. Its story casts Lloyd as the antagonist, responsible for the destruction of Emil's hometown of Palmacosta. The journey is to track down the "would-be" hero from the first game to answer for his crimes. It's not as interesting a plot as the world saving task given to Lloyd and Collette (the Chosen One), but it still has a few interesting twists.
Fortunately you'll likely be hooked for the entirety of the chronicles since the real-time combat is so well crafted. In a somewhat 3D plane in Symphonia and a full spectrum in Dawn, there's an anxiety to be precise with the controls, even in the throwaway encounters. Taking the reins of just one team member, you can give general AI commands to the others, which does a surprisingly good job. Damaging enemies builds up a Unison Gauge, which when full can be unleashed as a full party pummeling. Skills are built through EX Gems, with plenty of different combinations yielding additional bonuses. Each character can equip four EX Gems, and you gain new abilities through use, rather than from leveling up. With all the class customizations and combat modifiers, despite being a real-time system, you'll rarely find yourself in a tedious button-mashing rut.
There are a few standout features that seem commonplace nowadays, but were pioneered by games such as Tales of Symphonia. An achievement system called Titles awards you perks for completing certain objectives. Collecting ingredients for cooking recovery food after a battle highlights one of the first uses of a crafting system. Dawn of the New World adds a monster collecting and breeding feature to play around with. None of these additions are by any means revolutionary, but they do add more layers of gameplay to either supplement combat stats or provide a practical side hobby.