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Tales of Symphonia Remastered review: Not perfect, but close enough

Tales of Symphonia Remastered is a classic game that still needs an overhaul
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Tales of Symphonia is a classic. This year the game celebrates the 20th anniversary of its launch in Japan, and if you ask Tales fans, Symphonia is the equivalent of the series’ own Final Fantasy VII. This game made an impact, had an incredible story, and was easily one of the best RPGs on the Nintendo Gamecube, up there with Baten Kaitos and Skies of Arcadia. But you probably wouldn’t guess that from looking at it now.

This is a near-two decade old game, after all, and things are looking a little dated, even when compared to Tales games that were released just a few years later in the same console generation. Symphonia’s 3D characters with chibi proportions look cutesy or even “childish,” and the brightly saturated world belies the emotional story that you’ll find inside. Frankly, the presentation and original English voice acting do more to harm Symphonia’s chances than help in 2023.

This is a shame, because Symphonia really does deserve the same appreciation Final Fantasy VII still receives – a brand new remake of Symphonia’s world would be hugely appreciated. But instead, we’re getting the fourth port of the game, and it has just as many issues as the earlier versions do.

Characters look great, as long as you don't look too close.

Characters look great, as long as you don't look too close.

Let’s get this out of the way early: Tales of Symphonia Remastered runs at 30fps on all platforms. This isn’t a case of needing more power, it’s simply down to the code the game runs on, and all ports based on the PS2 version run at this framerate – unlike the silky-smooth 60fps Gamecube original. That’s strike one, unfortunately.

Strike two is the visual quality in this remaster. Forget about the bright colors – that’s just how the game is supposed to be. The problem lies in the updates. Most of the attention in this remaster has been paid to characters. The models look identical to the original, but with considerably sharper textures on clothing and faces.

It’s an improvement in most places, but if you’re playing on a large TV, you’re going to notice that Lloyd’s face, for example, is a fair bit blockier than you might expect for a remaster. Plus, the texture on his right side suspender isn’t properly lined up. It very well may have been exactly like this in the original game, but yesterday’s obscure mistakes are being blown up in high resolution for us all to bare witness to in 2023.

The LMBS combat is still great fun.

The LMBS combat is still great fun.

So the port, and remaster job in general, is acceptable. It’s not great, but if you’re looking to play Tales of Symphonia on a modern system, there’s not going to be many other options. Here you can play through Symphonia and you aren’t likely to run into any issues that weren’t at least present in the original ports of the game. It’s just a good thing that the game itself holds up so well.

It has been years since I revisited Symphonia, and it feels like coming home. Lloyd’s Dwarven Vows that he learned from his adopted father, Colette’s journey of World Regeneration, the hidden pain of the elf Raine and her brother Genis – these character stories are the reason Symphonia is still held in such high esteem, and the overarching story that brings them all together is filled with various twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing until the end.

Symphonia divides me right down the middle. On the one hand, I adore this opportunity to revisit characters and a world that I fell in love with as a teenager. On the other hand, this still isn’t the kind of game I can recommend to most people. In 2023 especially, unless you have a high tolerance for “retro” visuals and sensibilities, it’s a tough sell.

Skits include full VA when you choose the Japanese voice language option.

Skits include full VA when you choose the Japanese voice language option.

Tales’ iconic Linear Motion Battle System has been bettered since Symphonia. The visuals have been outclassed. The only thing Symphonia has that just can’t be replaced by another Tales game is the story of warring worlds and emotional bonds between friends. No other Tales game has this same story told in this way by these characters, and that story, those characters, deserve to be brought into 2023 in style. A full remake of the game is still the dream, but for now, we have Tales of Symphonia Remastered.

If you’re a JRPG fan either looking to return to Symphonia or experience the story for the first time, Tales of Symphonia Remastered is a great way to do it. It might get a couple of strikes for being an “imperfect” experience, but it’s still a quality one. 

Score: 7/10

Version tested: PS5