If someone is in love with Bandai Namco’s Tales series, odds are it was Tales of Symphonia or Tales of the Abyss that did it. The problem is, the former wasn’t as widely available as the latter. The PS2 was more popular than the GameCube, after all, and Abyss saw a rerelease worldwide on the 3DS. Symphonia‘s improved PS2 release remained trapped in Japan, and it’s only now that we all get to reacquainted with Lloyd and Colette thanks to the Tales of Symphonia Collection.
Which is fortunate, because Tales of Symphonia is easily one of the best installments in the Tales line. Perhaps even the absolute best. The story starts out familiar. The world is in danger, and coincidentally enough our hero, Lloyd Irving, happens to have grown up with Colette, a girl dubbed the Chosen who must awaken the Spirits to preserve the peace.
Yet, the journey is anything but stereotypical. Being Chosen is more a curse than a blessing, and questions of identity and balance are brought into play in one of the best JRPG “reveals” you’ll ever see. Tales of Symphonia has drama, love, moral dilemnas and life lessons, accompanied by skits to flesh out the characters and make the player feel like one of the crowd. It’s a story that has proven it transcends time, as I found it just as enjoyable now as I did originally. In fact, I think I loved it more, because it reminds me of the kinds of amazing stories we don’t often see anymore.
The result is a world that isn’t quite peaceful yet, despite everything that Lloyd, Colette, and their friends fought for in Tales of Symphonia. Which is where Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World‘s story begins. Emil watched Lloyd kill his parents, and has naturally held quite a grudge. He meets a young woman named Marta, who is on a quest to awaken the cores of the Centurions that should be regulating the flow of mana into their world.
However, these cores are in some demand. Lloyd is searching for them, as is a man named Richter that seems kind, yet cruel, all at the same time. Not only that, but Emil and Marta keep meeting and working alongside people from the original Tales of Symphonia, causing more confusion as to what’s really happening. While it may seem less intriguing than its predecessor, the more you play, the more depth Emil, Marta, and their story gains.
Within the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, it’s really Tales of Symphonia that’s getting the most extra love. It’s visuals are almost always crisper and more detailed, which is only natural. It is over 10 years old, and something would be wrong if the PS3 upgrade didn’t look remarkably better than the GameCube original. That isn’t to say Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World doesn’t look good, but it’s only a about six years old and isn’t that different from its Wii release. Both games do seem to run more smoothly as well.
Tales of Symphonia has more additional content as well. Bandai Namco relied on an improved version of the PS2 version of the original game, which makes for a richer experience for the rest of us. I learned more about Mithos this time around, though I don’t think I noticed any other additional story elements. There were also mystic artes for each character, many more costumes (some from other Tales games), and a few extra fights. Honestly, I couldn’t really pick out all the changes, because it’s been so long since I beat the original game. But I will say that Tales of Symphonia seemed fuller and richer this time around.
Which makes the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles version of Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World seem even more bare. Frankly, it had a rough time competing with the original to begin with, as the first game is just so incredible. But here, there’s even less of a draw for people who already played it once before, as there really isn’t much new. It is the European version of Dawn of the New World, so we do get extra accessories for Emil and Marta and a Gallery, but that doesn’t compare to the frest coat of paint and bonuses Symphonia has.
Especially since one of the changes gives us something Tales fans loves in the games – voiced skits. Sadly, the English versions usually aren’t voiced. However, the Japanese versions are. So, if you decide to go with the Japanese language option, you’ll hear those dulcet tones during those extra moments. Not all skits are voiced though, even if you go with Japanese voice acting. There are some, ones that alter character relationships, that have none. Still, some voice acting is better than nothing.
Still, I noticed that the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles only further cemented my belief that Tales of Symphonia is an exceptional game. It’s just a wonderful adventure, and holds up as well now as it did over 10 years ago. At the same time, I think this compilation actually made me dislike Dawn of the New World more. I suppose I appreciated its storyline a bit more, since I was coming right off of the previous game, but it’s new characters, monster collecting, and general concept didn’t feel as strong and inspired as the first.
That doesn’t really matter, though. Tales of Symphonia alone is more than enough reason to pick up the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. Think of Dawn of the New World as a bonus, something extra you can play sporatically if you’re really interested in seeing what happened to the characters you’ll absolutely grow to love after the original ends. Tales of Symphonia is exceptional, and thanks to this collection, it will finally get the audience it deserves.
Food for Thought:
1. There are dual-audio language options available for both games.
2. Aside from the dual-audio and the remixed opening songs, it didn’t sound like anything special was done for either games’ soundtracks or voice acting.
3. You have to have save data on your system for Graces and Xillia if you want the costumes.