Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is a bundle of two classic RPGs releasing for the first time on the PS3. This release now enables many gamers that are relatively new to the series to finally experience two great games that were released over the last decade, Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Tales of Symphonia was originally released on the Nintendo Gamecube, and tells the epic story of Lloyd Irving as he travels across the land to bring peace to the world. Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World was later released on the Nintendo Wii, and picked up years after the events of its predecessor.
Both games are similar in nature, right down to the gameplay mechanics, engaging battles, removal of random battles (a staple of the genre), and even the storyline. The biggest difference between the two games is that Dawn of the New World allows monsters to join the team after being defeated. This concept is unique in the series to these titles, and quite rare in the genre as a whole, but on the whole neither game particularly pushed boundaries.
A major plus for both games is the accessible menu and gameplay system. RPGs are often loaded down with cumbersome and difficult to navigate menus that often filter into the gameplay itself. Both Tales games manage to keep things simple while also adding a nice level of depth to the gameplay.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles makes very few adjustments to the original games. Many developers make a habit of re-releasing games with remastered HD graphics, but even the graphics are barely touched upon, leaving a slightly dated feel throughout. The graphics have of course been reworked some here, but without the benefit of a side-by-side comparison you will probably struggle to notice many significant differences. Minor texture upgrades have been implemented, and the cutscenes reworked, but there are still several notable areas where the graphics border on blurry and unrefined.
As for the game's audio, the musical scores and dialogue are sharper, but again are left for the most part unchanged from the originals. This is not a negative, however, as the soundtrack created by Motoi Sakuraba et al. is truly spectacular.
The most notable additions are actually fairly minor. You now have the ability to earn and wear new costumes, trophies have been added, and new attacks and monster features. They're not superfluous however, and in fact these new features blend in very naturally with the game, such that only hardcore fans of the originals will find them at all jarring.
When originally released, both games were quite visually impressive for their respective platforms. The original game required two disks on the GameCube, and it boasted some of the most beautiful and immersive environments in the genre at the time. However, some of its graphical limitations now stand out. While some may appreciate the quaint, untouched feel of Chronicles, it is hard to overlook some of the limitations that probably should have been touched upon whilst these games were being updated.
Both games' combat systems work really well and have largely stood the test of time. Gamers control one member at a time, while the rest of the party contributes through their particular supportive role, be it a mage or healer. Special moves can be activated, and unlike most games in the genre, the player can dodge enemy attacks simply by moving to the side. Items are easily accessed during battle, and actually act as a way to pause the game during the action, ensuring you will never have a stressful moment of frantically rushing for that critical heal. The combat, like most games in the genre, gets old fairly quickly. The repetitive button mashing used to attack your foes will wear on you, but is still more engaging than similar entries.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is a great release for those who never got to experience the original Tales of Symphonia or Dawn of the New World games. Both games are relatively difficult to find on the original systems, so Chronicles is a sigh of relief for huge fans of the genre aching to play these games. The combination of old school gameplay, a beautiful soundtrack, and an engaging story leaves Tales of Symphonia Chronicles as a must play for JRPG fans.
This review is based on a retail copy of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles for the PS3