Tales of Symphonia was a formative experience for me. For my young 11-year-old brain, it redefined my understanding of the JRPG genre. The vibrant presentation, action-focused combat, and mature story took me by surprise. Weekend after weekend, a friend and I would explore the world of Sylvarant together, making incremental progress in each play session. While I had played a few JRPGs before, none had hooked me the way Tales of Symphonia had.
Despite my deep reverence for Tales of Symphonia, I haven’t touched it since 2004. I don’t really know why. I bought it on PC a few years back, but it just felt wrong to play that game sitting at my desk one random evening after work–almost as if it would tarnish the magic of that experience and the memories tied to it. However, with the release of Tales of Symphonia Remastered, I decided it was finally time to return to this world to see if it was as good as I remember. The result was a bit mixed.
Tales of Symphonia follows a kid named Lloyd Irving as he accompanies the Chosen One on a globetrotting adventure. The Chosen One, Colette, instructed by divine prophecy, must “regenerate” the world in order to end war, famine, and hatred. It seems like standard JRPG fare, but the story is darker and far more complex than it initially lets on. Despite trying to do the right thing, Lloyd and his companions are confronted with moral quandaries that often leave a trail of destruction behind them. What makes the story so effective is how it rarely shies away from the consequences of our heroes’ actions. Conflicts are rarely resolved neatly, and the story is better for it.
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