Remakes, remasters, revivals and reboots are flooding the entertainment industry, and gaming isn’t exempt from this trend. Tales of Symphonia was critically acclaimed back in the Ye Olde Gamecube Era, but how does it stand up against the other nostalgia traps of late with Tales of Symphonia Remastered? Unfortunately, not well.
The combat is absolutely the high point of Tales of Symphonia Remastered. It's a classic JRPG system with a unique 2.5D perspective and incredibly customisable strategy mechanics. Setting up your party members with different directives and targets while you hack and slash your way through a variety of enemies as Lloyd is very satisfying and infinitely enjoyable, even for a novice like myself. The ebb and flow of battles feels very natural and intuitive. The camera is positioned in such a way that you can move it freely until you lock onto a target, which will shift the perspective into two dimensions so you’re facing your target directly and revolve around you as you switch between targets and characters. It sounds complicated but it’s all so masterfully crafted that it feels seamless. All the clunkiness that plagues the overworld controls (See “The Bad” section below) disappears as soon as the combat animation plays, all the effort went into this fantastic combat system.
Tales of Symphonia Remastered has its lion’s share of writing problems (also discussed below), but the shining light cutting through the fog is the characterisation and dialogue. The characters are all fleshed out beautifully and their interactions are heartfelt and often hilarious. The voice actors are giving it their all in every cutscene and it makes the already enjoyable writing shine even brighter. There are optional dialogue encounters scattered throughout the game and these little tidbits of character interactions make for such a rich supplement to the primary dialogue and makes the characters feel like people I know. I feel like I know exactly who Lloyd and Genis are, which is a true achievement by the writing staff and voice actors.
- Deep combat
- Solid characterisation
I’ve reviewed a few remasters in my tenure on this site and there is a troubling commonality to them: they all do the absolute bare minimum, and Tales of Symphonia Remastered is especially guilty of this. I understand the desire to capture the precise feeling of a classic game in a remaster, but following this path strictly only serves to amplify the flaws of the original. For example, the overworld is an unscaled, mostly empty, flat surface with amorphous blobs wandering about that represent groups of enemies. It looks and feels so lifeless and uninspired. The overworld controls definitely feel like they’re from 2003; they’re clunky and unwieldy throughout, with no quality of life adjustments for the modern audience. This “remaster” feels so much like a port, you might as well dust off your GameCube and play the original version--they’re exactly the same. There was no effort taken to tweak any mechanics or breathe any new life into Tales of Symphonia. This is the most copied and pasted remaster I’ve ever played and it’s so disappointing.
The historical moment of the original Tales game was awkward even way back when. The way the entire map is traversed, in which you walk from landmark to landmark as a hulking behemoth relative to the map itself, feels even older than the GameCube era: the game it reminds me of most is Chrono Trigger without any of the pixel-art charm. This setup worked so much better in SNES era JRPGs because the colourful, pixelated graphics made it feel like developers were fully utilising their limited hardware, whereas the washed out polygons of the Tales map feel like the developers were cutting corners. This is a mid-90s relic of a JRPG that just happened to come out in 2003, making the 2023 Remaster feel all the more dated as a result.
This story is also completely unhinged. Imagine Fullmetal Alchemist to the power of Kingdom Hearts with a Dragon Ball Z twist. The plot is so meandering and complicated that after a certain point, my eyes just glazed over during cutscenes because I had no idea what was going on. Essentially, the plot involves turning someone into an angel via an ancient ritual, realising it’s slowly corrupting their humanity and going to a parallel universe to undo the ritual they just did, something about harvesting human souls to create magical rocks, fascists from Purgatory and pretend fascists who are actually ancient assassins of angels… you see where I’m going with this. It’s such a heavy burden to place this much buckwild plot onto your audience and expect anyone to care about it. As a writer and a gamer, it’s incredibly frustrating.
- A bare-bones remaster
- Feels dated
- Ridiculous story
Final Score: 6/10
I really wish I had more good to say about Tales of Symphonia Remastered, because I was really excited to get a review copy, but was ultimately let down by the experience. It’s hard to say who this remaster was made for because it’s identical in almost every way to the original (which will probably shatter some rose-coloured glasses for original fans) and too dated for a new audience to really sink their teeth into. The world of gaming already moved on from this style of game decades ago, and this love letter to 90s JRPGs which was appropriate in 2003 falls flat completely 20 years later. This was a remaster, port, whatever it is, that ultimately doesn’t feel warranted. The combat and character study are the saving grace of this game and without these beacons of quality, the whole game would be a dud. Releasing so close to Metroid Prime Remastered has only shown more clearly how short Tales of Symphonia Remastered falls.
Thank you for checking out our Tales of Symphonia Remastered Switch review, thank you to Bandai Namco AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: