Bandai Namco’s Tales series hasn’t exactly been a powerhouse here in the west compared to certain other famous Japanese role-playing games, but one entry in particular that has got quite a lot of love from fans over the years is the charming adventure Tales of Symphonia. This action-style RPG originally started out life as a GameCube exclusive in 2003 and received a PlayStation 2 port a year later.
It was easily one of the standout role-playing games on Nintendo’s purple cube at the time and for many fans remains the best entry in the Tales series to date. It’s been re-released a number of other times since its Nintendo debut – with the PS3 HD remaster also worthy of mention for bundling in the second game – however one platform it’s never graced until now is Microsoft’s Xbox. Fortunately, after 20 long years, this has finally changed with the title joining team green’s ever-growing library of Japanese-developed RPGs. So how does Tales Of Symphonia Remastered hold up?
We’ll say this now – returning players are definitely going to have some mixed feelings about this “remaster”. To put it lightly, it’s a very subtle update that will probably have you doing a double-take if you played the original and have still got your original copy of the game lying around, as there aren’t exactly drastic improvements in this latest version.
For anyone who hasn’t played Tales of Symphonia before, it’s very much a traditional RPG built on the back of the next-generation console hardware of the early 2000s. You’ve got an epic adventure about good and evil as well as the fate of two interlocked worlds. As the player, you start out by taking control of an aspiring swordsman named Lloyd Irving, who puts his hand up to guide his friend on her journey to rejuvenate Sylverant – a world running low on mana, which is used to power magic and protect humanity from the Desians (a half-elf race who have returned from ancient times to enslave humanity and generally just cause chaos).
This adventure to save the day is mixed in with real-time 3D battles (where your party of fighters can actively hack, slash and unleash powerful attacks on enemies), levelling up, some beautiful cel-shaded characters, anime cut scenes, a 3D world map filled with enemy encounters & channelling old school RPGs, and all sorts of interesting and dangerous locations to visit. RPG veterans will notice all the usual themes - with story, conversations, exploration, battles and levelling all playing a significant role in progression. Again, if you haven’t already played Tales of Symphonia, it’s one of the most endearing RPGs.
Where things fall short for the remaster of Tales of Symphonia are graphics and performance. While the resolution has been improved, bumping this modern version from 480p to 1080p and now providing somewhat sharper UI, menus and text, unfortunately, there are seemingly no visual enhancements as you might expect from a remaster. It seems to have mostly just been upscaled with minimal changes. The game is also capped at 30 frames per-second (and yes, we're well aware of claims about the GameCube source code being lost).
Bandai Namco appears to have opted for what is essentially the PS3 and even Steam version (featuring new content, some QoL changes & oddly cut some dialogue) which are both based on the PlayStation 2 release (exclusive to Japan & capped at 30FPS). In contrast, the GameCube original managed to mostly achieve 60FPS back in 2003. It’s disappointing when there’s so much to like in terms of the game’s story, characters and battles. Load times also seem to take much longer than they should on modern hardware.
Tales of Symphonia is a wonderful experience if you’re a fan of classic Japanese-made RPGs and has aged surprisingly well for a game that's now two decades old. Its real-time 3D combat is still just as enjoyable and the way the story and characters evolve throughout the journey remains just as compelling. Returning players are likely to feel the most let down here, as this really doesn’t feel like the proper remastered experience it could have been. In saying this, the fun battles & RPG elements shine through, which might be enough for some players to overlook the shortcomings of this remaster.