Game review: Tales of Symphonia - Part 4

TL;DR: It pissed us off.

Written by ritabuuk and dubiousdisc
Posted on March 10th 2018

Please know that this page is going to be full of unmarked spoilers for Tales of Symphonia, so, if you don't want spoilers, don't read this page. Sorry, but the way this game is, and the way we are going to be talking about it, there is no way we can mark them.

This is the final part of our Tales of Symphonia review. We're assuming you're coming from Part 3 of this article, but, if you're not, probably go read that first.

Sidequests?!

Since Denise happened to look at a walkthrough when we were stuck in the Hallways of the Same, she saw in the table of contents that this game has a boat-load of sidequests that we never ever saw and are never in the journal Quest Log, and just are entirely hidden?? It turns out many are only possible after the doctor scene in Snow Town, but there are also a lot of things we left undone because we didn't even know about them and nothing gave us a hint, and the game is linear, and we even spent all that time going around in the boat and only got punished for daring to explore, so we dunno what we did wrong, and we think the game is at fault here, because side-quests? Sign us up! Don't keep that hidden. Geez!

So we're now going on a side-quest binge for anything that is still possible to do.

The ninja duel and the Elder

Part of why our side-questing started was because Denise said, now that Colette is healthy again, we should go fight ninja guy like we promised. And Rosy was all, no, this game is so linear, remember? They will tell us when it is time to go fight him, just like saving Chocolat and all that.

Kuchinawa duel
He beat the snot out of us...

Except not this time. It's listed as a side-quest in the walkthrough, and yeah, we can do it now, even if it isn't in the Journal Quest Log. Argh. Why even have a quest log if it doesn't log your quests? So we go, and Denise reads aloud to Rosy that the walkthrough recommends saving before you enter Japan, just as she enters Japan... so now we have one shot (our last save was like an hour ago). So we have to fight as Sheena alone against Kuchinawa, and considering we never use Sheena and her abilities all take so long, we lost. Goodbye. At least it doesn't do Game Over, and it doesn't seem to make much difference. We did get Corrine's bell back, and Kuchinawa left in a huff all disgusted that he was holding a grudge against someone so pathetic and goodbye. Well, whatever.

Elder and Volt
Stop wandering around, grandpa, and go back to your body.

After that, we go back to Japan and it has now unlocked a side-quest about reviving the Elder. It turns out that he's been astral-projecting into the Temple of Volt, and we go talk to his ghost and let him know that Sheena isn't seven years old anymore, and that he's in a coma. So he goes back to his body to wake up. Kinda underwhelming. We just had to talk with him. And he doesn't have any problem with the lost time or anything. Nope. Easiest coma ever.

Waking up the Elder unlocks another little thing where Sheena is elected as the next Elder. So much for Kuchinawa's opinion. Sheena vows to make the town good enough for him to come back and respect her, but really, he can fuck himself and Sheena should not waste another moment thinking about what he thinks because he's trash. Anyway. Now she can wear a maroon robe, but we like the purple better.

Wait, so changing the overworld character does something?

So now Denise scrolls through the sidequests to see what we've been missing.

It turns out that changing the on-screen character does do something, despite our initial assessment that it is completely cosmetic. If you equip a certain Exsphere and select their Personal skill, this gets unlocked:

Why is this never advertised anywhere???

We saw Zelos's ability, but we thought it was passively happening, or just hadn't been triggered yet, and we didn't know he had to be the one walking around on the screen to have it happen. It wasn't that clear on that point.

There are titles associated with having Colette talk to every dog, and Zelos talk to every woman and little girl in the game, but these might not even be possible for us anymore, considering that Palmacosta is underwater now, so if there were any women or dogs there, oh well. But we are doing it now anyway, because we are enjoying it, and Zelos is a great source of money and additional dialogue. If only we had known of this sooner, and could have done it all along, instead of as a binge right now.

Luin Reconstruction Fund
Funded with Zelos' body.

We also found out that we can rebuild Luin. To trigger this event, you need to talk to Pietro in Hima, not once, but twice. We happened to have talked with him once before, but that was not enough to trigger this event. After we went to talk with him again, now he is in Luin, and looking for donations to rebuild the town. And so we are putting all of Zelos' gigolo money toward the reconstruction of Luin, and slowly seeing the town come back together again. And we love this sort of thing, and we would have gladly been doing it all through the plot. Why is this so hidden, why do you have to talk with him twice, and why isn't this advertised as a major quest of the game?

Zelos' party, and the pope's end

So next, we go to Meltokio, where Zelos is accosted by his girlfriends on the steps of his house, and they talk shit about all the female members of the party. Zelos is all, "Hey, I have only one body to give you at a time, so I can't possibly please everyone at once, and jealousy is not cool". Nice defusing. And for how this party of prudes treat him like a skeev, you can't knock on Zelos here, he is open about his open relationships. Very open.

Zelos wearing the mask
He looks like a plague doctor, which would normally be cool, but...

The party is so fed up with all of Zelos's attention that they give him a mask. Zelos is all, so what, I rock this too. Except his girlfriends fail to recognize him and say he's ugly :*(

To be fair, the mask is super ugly (or, well, it obscures Zelos's beautiful face and hair), so we immediately find out how to disable it. It is by switching the titles, and so we can swap Sheena back to the purple outfit.

It is a bit weird that this causes the title to change immediately, when other times we have to manually switch it. I know they want the clothes to be shown changing, but they never explain in-game that they can be changed back or how it works or anything.

Next we go inside Zelos's house and find out that he's been called to the castle, and apparently the Pope has kidnapped the Princess, and wants Zelos to be exchanged for her life. So we go to do the exchange (plotting that Zelos will somehow save himself afterward), but Zelos recognizes that the Princess in the exchange is indeed not the Princess! It is Kate in disguise and she warns us, but then the traitor-detecting drugs(???) kick in, and she starts passing out. So we save Kate and bring her back to Zelos's house, and she's in Zelos's bed (though just alone, yeah). And she is being treated. And the butler is all, are you okay with this, sir, and we learn that Zelos's previous bitterness towards half-elves is because his mother had been killed by a half-elf, but that he recognized that he was wrong to put his hatred onto all half-elves and he is trying to be better about his prejudices. So actually that previous conversation where Zelos seemed very much self-aware about his own prejudices... is actually not so much bad writing... since he had been having introspection about this all along... the bad writing part is just how it was dropped so suddenly and again, here are the author's personal notes just as dialogue.

So we go to that stupid Forest of Evil again, and we fight the Pope and save the Princess, and that's the end of the Pope's plot line, which is an optional, kinda unsatisfactory end to a major plot line of the game?? Weird. In any case, Zelos tells the King to undo all the Pope's laws that are against half-elves, and the King says a stupid thing about how it will take a long time for public opinion to change on that, and yeah, so change the law, kthanks. And Zelos has a redeeming moment. And the king invites him and the rest of the team to a party.

The dinner party
Don't lose your tux, Lloyd!

Then we go back to Zelos's house, and it turns out we have the invitations already! There's a contrived mix-up with Lloyd's clothes so he can be the last one there. Whatever. And we choose to meet Zelos on the balcony (we get the pick), plus we can talk to THREE other party members. At least they set the rules clearly this time. On the other hand, why only three, but whatever.

So we talk to Colette, since we want to, and we unlock her dress. Learning that talking to a party member unlocks that particular costume, we decide to talk to the least stupid looking people. So, for our remaining conversations, we talk to Presea and Regal (with the added benefit of giving Regal a fucking shirt, rather than the training bra).

So we go talk with Zelos on the balcony, who is a bit more somber than usual, all, look at all these pathetic rich people. Lloyd is surprised by his attitude, and asks, doesn't he love these sort of parties? Zelos makes the point that it is tiring to be not serious all the time... revealing that he does indeed act the way he does for the sake of everyone else. Meepsies.

We are more and more convinced that Zelos is from a different game. Or maybe this whole game came out of a D&D campaign, and the person playing as Zelos was clearly the best writer.

The very important hot springs

We finally got to go to the hot springs, which have been taunting us for the entire game, and... nothing of importance really happened.

Hot Springs
Why does every Japanese game need the thing of spying on the girls at the hot springs?

The beach, aka The Part Where Zelos Gets A Thong

Lost Kids
Why are they named after the Little Women for no reason?

We went to Las Vegas. In front of the hotel, there was a mother who was looking for her four daughters, which she didn't care to go search for herself, and so sent us. We have to search the town and talk with all of them and one of them needs to be talked to thrice... It's very stupid, but in the end we send all four daughters back to the hotel.

Somehow, this unlocks the ability to go to the beach. Why couldn't we just choose to go to the beach?

In any case, the way it works is that you can pick one character to go with Lloyd, and then there will be two more characters with you, who will be the ones that have the most affection for Lloyd. After some deliberation, we chose Zelos, with our rationale being that last time that we checked on the fortune teller, he seemed to be the one with the least affection for Lloyd of the characters that we care about, so this seemed like a good chance to boost that. Sorry about Colette, but we've done stuff with her already. Turns out that Colette came anyway, since she was otherwise the top affection character. There was Sheena there too. Both of them in their bathing suits, which are relatively modest, thank god. THEN WE SEE ZELOS.

Zelos in his Swimwear... or more like birthday suit.
Dear lord.

Zelos was standing behind a post that covered his nethers, so he looked completely naked with the post acting as a ridiculous censor bar. But when the camera turns, we realize that the truth is not too different, as he is wearing... the tiniest purple speedo... it's closer to a thong than a speedo. And sunglasses. And the sword, somehow attached to this narrow strip of the fabric. We laugh for a solid five minutes. We unlock this costume, which we then used later in the colosseum to please the audience all the more.

We find it hilarious that one of the most scandalous outfits of the game belongs to him. Seriously, all of our underwear is bigger than ... that thing.

It's so small that we are not sure where he's keeping his entire package. That thong must have hammerspace for his balls.

We are glad that we did this.

Virginia

Virginia
It's your daughter who looks exactly like you but with a color-swapped outfit.

We went again to Exire and there we learn that that's where Raine and Genis' elven mother Virginia is. Gotta say, Virginia doesn't really rank high on our list of elven-sounding names, especially next to names like Raine and Genis. But anyway, we meet her, and... she's lost it. She's talking to a doll as if it were baby Raine, and she still thinks she's pregnant with Genis. Even though Raine and Genis are like... 11 years apart. What's the gestation period of elves? Ah, nevermind, she's lost it, nevermind.

Anyway, seeing this pitiful scene, Professor Raine Sage does the most tactful and intelligent thing ever, which is to start screaming abuse at Virginia until we're asked to leave (for making baby Raine cry). This could have been really poignant, but it's just abuse. And the fact that Raine was just being abusive to a traumatized woman is not really addressed either. In fact, everyone is all, "Oh, Raine... you did your best." Yelling that at someone who's obviously mentally ill, "It's all your fault!" and "You abandoned us!" is absolutely doing your best, and a mature decision that we can all stand behind.

We then go and learn, in a diary, that Raine's mother was only doing everything that she could and abandoned them for their own safety, which is what caused her to lose her sanity. Only then is Raine sorry. Really, she couldn't have guessed that her mom is not having a mental breakdown just for shits and giggles?

We had said in the past that we bet that when this Exire place becomes relevant, all of a sudden everyone will be talking about it. We were right.

That disgusting sidequest with the Katz

Emo-Katz
The Katz are also involved in all sorts of awful minigames that make us want to die.

In Meltokio, Genis sees a kid chasing a Katz dude. We've never actually mentioned the Katz people, but, like the Penguinists are people in penguin suits, the Katz are people in cat suits, and everyone treats them like animal-people. We guess this is a post-furry liberation world, where everyone accepts that furries are truly animals. Anyway, the human kid tells Genis that his grandpa is dying, and that his grandpa wants to see a Katz before he dies. Genis says he will help, and goes to talk with the Katz. We learn that the grandpa has previously experimented on and abused the Katz, which is why they want nothing to do with him.

Genis, for some reason, really feels for this dying guy, to the point that he goes to Katz island and talks with the elder and begs him to please help this dying nazi. There is even dialogue where Zelos, once again the only sane person in the party, points out that, if someone who oppressed and abused half-elves was on his deathbed and wanted to see you, would you want to give him the benefit of peace of mind before he dies? Would you want to let him feel like everything he did was okay? In spite of the Katz telling Genis that they're absolutely not going to see this nazi, and Zelos explaining the psychology of the situation to Genis in a way that we would really think that someone named Genis Sage would not have trouble understanding, he still wants to do this. Since none of the Katz are going, Genis gets a costume (it's the one that this guy previously used to hunt the Katz) and pretends to be a Katz. Genis goes to the old man, but the old man sees through his disguise immediately. Note that he can tell the difference between a boy in a cat-suit vs. a true furry in a cat-suit. Anyway, this nazi is still happy that Genis did this. He says that oh, that costume brings back some memories. He's completely unrepentant. This is really disgusting. To add to the amount of absolute disgusting, a Katz shows up, for some reason forgives him, and he dies. This was awful and offensive in about nine hundred ways.

What's the moral here? If someone is dying, you have to make them feel fuzzy before they die? Even if they tortured you? Even if they are genocidal maniacs, and not even remotely sorry?

How can anyone write something like this and not realize that this is absolutely horrible?

The Colosseum

We did the colosseum. There are two battle modes, singles (fight with only one character) and group (fight with a party), and a few levels of difficulty for each. We ended up doing the singles with Zelos first. In the colosseum, you can't use items, so characters with both healing and attacking capabilities are favored. At this point of the plot, that would be Zelos, which is why we picked him to start with. This was a lucky choice, since beating the first round of singles as Zelos reveals that there's an optional questline here. To get to the end of that, you have to beat the singles mode as Zelos at all difficulty levels, and then the hardest one not just once, but twice. We finally managed to defeat the hardest mode the first time, and we're left with a cutscene of just Seles leaving. You might have never guessed that, if you do it again, there's more. Why would you do it again anyway? He got the title of Grand Champion and all, why would you think there's more?

Zelos fighting Seles
I love you sister! Now die!

But, if you do manage to do it again, you'll be treated to the grueling hard mode, and then at the end you have to fight Seles, in a streak, after the whole mechadragon and everything. We got to her, we lost, and we're not doing this again.

Similarly, if you do the group mode, in the hardest difficulty you'll have a bonus battle with the characters of Tales of Something Else. Which you're not prepared for at all by the end of all that, and you'll get destroyed. We're also not doing that. Again.

...We later read that in that particular bonus battle, you can use items. Even though it's a rule of the colosseum that you can't use items. Is that a bug? If not, why change the rules on us without telling us?

The casino

Casino
So, who's the most awake?

Because of the walkthrough which we were checking to make sure that we did all the sidequests that we suddenly realized were available, we learned that, if you go to Las Vegas and stay in the super expensive hotel, it will let you go to the casino at night. Note that this doesn't happen when Lloyd gets the free stay in the hotel. You have to pay for this, and how would you guess that there's an entire section only accessible if you stay in the hotel? No one talks about it, and your only hint is the transit rails going in a third direction, but we thought it was just cosmetic.

The casino section has a blackjack table and slot machines. There's also a roulette table that you can't play at. We suspect the developers ran out of time.

First we have to get chips though. So we take the precious money we've been raising for Luin, and get some chips. We also sell a couple Exspheres. Yes, we're literally gambling with human souls. This does not raise any objection from boo hoo Lloyd, somehow.

We got 20 chips to start. We look at the slot machines and see that they cost 10 chips just for one play. No way.

We go to the blackjack table instead. It's actually a pretty nice rendition of blackjack, with a cute special deck with special pictures of the characters (although, imagine going to a casino and playing with cards that have pictures of you). We thought to play the game as Zelos, of course, given his character. For the record, this deck has the Queen with a picture of Zelos and Sheena. We'd imagine he'd be concerned that the cards are shipping him.

Blackjack
Awkward...

The instructions that go with this game of blackjack say that if you find yourself losing, you should walk away and switch character. We think this implies that it's getting later in the night, and your luck is running out, and Zelos is getting tired and betting his purple thong. So we privately referred to this as the 4:00 AM mechanic of the game. Playing the game, we also have a strong suspicion that the table is rigged, because you are more likely to lose the longer you play, and it's statistically very unlikely that the dealer on average has 18-19 (which almost always happened; 17 was not enough).

That aside, the game was fine, and fun. The only real flaws of this game would be that:

  1. There is no counter for your running total as you count up to 21. While this is true in a real casino, it would have aided your learning and understanding of what's going on. It does provide a rulebook, but it's a good thing that Denise already knew how to play and could teach Rosy, because at first she didn't get it, and the game didn't do much to help.
  2. Blackjack seams
    We'd be making that face too if our portraits had been cut up so poorly.
  3. The game shows the reaction of the character playing the game with an animated portrait in the corner. That's wonderful, but this portrait was obviously slapped together in five minutes on the last day of work on this game, because you can see the seams of the parts that move. Like, really obviously. There's a rectangle around Zelos' mouth. Yike.

We started off with little piddly bets so that Rosy could learn and figure out how it works. Besides, we've managed to scrape together these 20 chips, we can't afford to lose them. After a while of tutorialing with small bets, we managed to go up and down and end up with a whopping 29 chips. We start betting a bit bigger and very painfully work our way up to about 50 chips.

Then we had an idea.

You cannot save in this whole casino part. You can only save before you stay at the hotel. However, there's nothing stopping you from saving, going to the hotel, getting to the casino, and then betting everything at the blackjack table. Since we know that the game deteriorates the longer you play, we think that it's at the very first time that you should bet the most. We did this, and we won, doubling up to 100 chips. We then left, saved, and did it again. This costs 400 gald per stay. However, every time you do this, Zelos' flirting powers are reset, which allows him to talk again with ladies and get more things. So we talk with a couple ladies, and they give us more than 400 gald, thereby covering our hotel stay. While this takes a lot of time in cutscene land of save and go on the rail and get out and in and out, it's less time than actually playing that much blackjack.

And at this point, we'd played enough blackjack and we wanted the prize, which was one of the Devil's Arms for that other quest. So we do this a few times around, resetting when needed, and we get to 250 chips pretty quickly, and we buy what we wanted. And, thanks to Zelos' flirting mooch powers, we end up with more money than we started with, despite spending two weeks in the most expensive hotel of Las Vegas.

Luin and Aifread

Aifread
All for some stupid pirate costume.

So, with all of Zelos' colosseum wins and prostitution funds, we remade Luin. There, we met Aifread at long last. He was first mentioned a million jillion years ago, and we were given a letter to deliver to him, and this has been haunting us since the beginning of the game.

Aifread sent us on a wild goose chase through the whole world, because his buddies died and he wanted us to REPENT, because it's Colette's fault apparently. At the end of that we get the Spiritua Ring, which is a key item and as such completely useless. But we have that. So we finally give him the letter, he gives us a letter back, and when we deliver it, it turns out that the girl at the beginning of the game was a money lender and was only looking for payment, which now we have to supply ourselves. We do so by selling the Spiritua Ring (this is all mandatory and through cutscene once you begin the quest). So the quest is over, and we got nothing out of that. It was just an exercise in wasting our time. That letter has been weighing on our heads since the beginning of the game. We spent 455,500 gald to restore Luin to be able to talk to this douche and nothing came out of that but a stupid pirate costume for Lloyd, and the slightest oblique mention of possibly Raine's father.

Aifread apparently appears in all Tales games but who cares! Make it be worthwhile!

Zelos fundraising
After all his, uh, work!

By the way, Luin was restored and we got statues of some party members and we couldn't pick of who, we got to be made honorary mayor and there was a choice that amounted to nothing since it goes back to Lloyd... What was the point of all of that? We are glad it let us rebuild Luin, but way to make it be unsatisfactory at the end.

Mostly it felt really weird that the townspeople automatically made statues of Raine, Lloyd, and Sheena. Maybe Lloyd and Sheena okay, but Raine? What does she care? Not Colette? And, in our particular case, not Zelos who sold his body to raise the funds for this city? Couldn't it have possibly let us pick?

The Devil's Arms

Abyssion
Not shady.

Along our quest, we find some items with creepy names and descriptions. We meet a guy in Snow Town named Abyssion who explains that these are cursed items, and we need to collect them all to lift a curse on him and his whole family.

Abyssion
Mwahahahahaha!

We do so, which takes a while considering one of them requires us to win it at the casino, and Abyssion tells us to meet him in the deepest room of the Temple of Darkness. O...kay. He's got a good sense for creating the right ambiance, we guess...

Nah, he's a villain. We knew that, duh. He's named Abyssion, for fuck's sake. Oh my god, he has the Necronomicon, lol. He uses the Necronomicon to go Super Saiyan. We're only joking on the Super Saiyan part, Raine literally says that he has the Necronomicon.

Abyssion
Get a good look at this Super Saiyan piece of shit.

We beat him, and that's it. The end. This took a while but didn't amount to anything other than a difficult boss battle with this jerk. Now you can use the Devil's Arms, which become more powerful based on the number of enemies defeated, and it stacks across playthroughs, so that if you're a loser who wants to replay this game, this game will get easier. But we're not, we're more of the kind of losers that write a 70,000-word essay about a game we didn't enjoy, so that's it. All that blackjack for some dude with the Necronomicon.

In any case, overall, this sidequest binge was so much more enjoyable than the rest of the game. Guess why? Because it was actually letting us explore and pick where we wanted to go and there's actual stuff to do and things to see, instead of being herded here and there and everywhere. Can you imagine, a game being more pleasant when it's a game instead of a series of chores? Who'd have thunk.

And these are things we could have completely missed. Nobody told us there were sidequests. Most of these were not unlocked until this point of the game, and the game previously made a point of punishing us for having the audacity to explore instead of going straight to the next plotpoint.

Well, now we're ready to move to the next plotpoint.

The Tower of Salvation Again Again

We go to the Tower of Salvation and Zelos betrays us. We've been fearing that Zelos is intended to be some sort of red herring and/or, depending on how bad the writing is, actually going to betray us. However, when we got to this part, we're actually weren't too worried, because:

Zelos
Zelos doesn't have that great of a poker face.

Though we couldn't help but laugh at this gem of real, actual dialogue:

  1. Lloyd

    ...You’re lying! I still trust you, you hear me?! You’re the one that told me I could trust you!

  2. Zelos

    What are you, stupid?

Pronyma Metal Angewoman shows up, and she and Zelos cackle maniacally as they take away Colette. Now we have to go after them.

It turns out that whether or not Zelos actually is a traitor depends on the player's actions during the game. Specifically, if you're "dating" Kratos or not. Remember back in Snow Town, when we talked to Colette? It turns out that you could be a monster, and tell Colette to fuck off. Then, your second best friend will show up, and wants to talk. And you can be a monster, and tell them to fuck off too. Eventually, Lloyd turns away everyone, and Kratos comes, and they have a bonding moment, during which they talk about Lloyd's past, but it's nothing we didn't know already.

So, if you had this important moment with Kratos, Zelos will betray you, because Kratos and Zelos exist in the same gameplay niche, and there can only be one.

This makes no goddamn sense.

Zelos
Nooooooooo...

The only way in which this makes the slightest shred of sense is if Zelos was high enough on your friend list to show up in Snow Town, and Lloyd turns him away. When Zelos is there knocking, nearly begging Lloyd to talk, he's suicidal. And Lloyd says, "Fuck off". Zelos says, "I see how it is". And then he can betray the party, as an intentional act of suicide. Yikes.

But, otherwise, it's just that Kratos and Zelos can't exist in the same universe, outside of that one dungeon where it was okay (probably by mistake).

Anyway, no matter what, we enter the root dungeon. In this dungeon, everything was hard to understand visually. We'd be walking on what seemed like an open passage, but we'd be stopped by a wall on a different plane. We'd have to go to stairs that were all the way in the background and impossible to tell where the door was, and we had to slam our way until Lloyd would walk through.

The first thing we had to do in this dungeon is get to the other side of a see-saw platform bridge. Lloyd contemplates splitting the party, which would have actually given more reason for the next plot contrivance to happen in a less contrived way, but no. To do this, we decide to make a convenient hanging rock fall in the middle... To do so, we burn the roots holding it up. It was just colossally dumb.

In this dungeon, we have to use the Sorcerer's Ring's main fire function to remove roots. Now it's just the basic ring. We've had gimmicks, we've had stupid gimmicks that half-worked, now they just completely gave up.

Regal: You shall not pass!
We can't believe they just did that.

The later part of the root dungeon is the barest minimum of a "maze". We get through one floor of the maze, and then we're treated to a cutscene in which Regal sacrifices himself so that Lloyd can go on. We get through the next one, and then there's a cutscene in which Sheena sacrifices herself. By the time we get to the next room and a cutscene with Raine begins, we know what's going to happen, even though this is where it starts to get a bit stretched. With Regal, he needed to block a horde of angels, so it made somewhat sense that he blocked the door and stayed there to kick all of them while Lloyd ran forward. With Sheena, that she fell into the hole was an accident. Then from then on, it's just, quick, this character needs to die dramatically! With Raine, somehow, opening the door causes the room (containing the computer that opens the door) to fall apart. We imagine that Yggdrasill must really hate his computer techs, and set up this whole trap room with a bucket underneath where used computer techs can be collected at the bottom of the chute.

As we go through the next part of the maze, we start placing bets on who's going to be next. Rosy bet it was Presea, since she's less important to Lloyd than Genis. She won the bet!

Presea gets stuck and attacked by vines, which somehow Lloyd doesn't bother to try to even cut with his two swords, because he must dramatically go on.

Genis has a panic attack and doesn't follow Lloyd through the hole they made in the forcefield. This is so contrived.

Through the maze, we also notice that one of the items we get from the chests is, conspicuously, a shield, which can only be used by Zelos or Kratos. Hmm, hmm. We also get a circlet when we were left only with Genis and Lloyd. The circlet is only for girls. Hmm, hmm.

Lloyd reaches the final room where a mysterious sword is holding the door open, and in there there's Yggdrasill trying to put Martel's consciousness into Colette, and all our party members (sans Zelos) saying "Hello!" from up in the balcony, like some sort of dumb stage play. Of course they all lived, and somehow got there before Lloyd. Like there was any doubt.

This was all cheap drama for the sake of drama, which failed to even be drama because how can it be dramatic when it's so comical, really? You go room by room, and you know someone is going to sacrifice themselves because it's happening one by one, and you know they're going to come back, because they gave it away with the treasure chests, and what sort of game would end with just Lloyd and the rest of the party dead? We mean, that would be ballsy, but this game and ballsy don't belong in the same sentence.

They didn't even have the balls to have it be just Lloyd against Yggdrasill or even just Lloyd against Metal Angewoman. Like, there's zero tension. He gets to the room, and there's the party. There's not even a half second where Lloyd is all, "Oh no, I must do this alone, they all died so that I could stop him, and now I must stop him, and I hope I am strong enough to do it all alone..." Like... it still would have have been cheap if, say, you do have one fight alone, and half-way through, say, the party rejoins... but the way this game did it is not even playing by the rules of the dumb drama. The trope is supposed to heighten the drama and raise the stakes, but this just fails. We all know what's going to happen, it's so transparent, and they don't even go through with it. They do the contrived thing of everyone sacrificing themselves one by one, which is contrived, but it's the price they pay to then have the suspense be raised, but before they can even cash in on that suspense and do that, everyone all comes back.

It's so poorly written that it spoils itself. We don't believe for one second that anyone died. So it's just pointless.

It's another case where the writers have no balls, but act like they do. They want to have someone die, so they make it be Corrine, who is a non-character (and he comes back during one of the sidequests anyway). They want to have a character betray us, so they make it be Kratos, but then he's clearly not betrayed us, and you get his clone to fight in the party in his place within 30 minutes. They want to have the entire party lost and Lloyd alone... to bring them all back immediately.

Pronyma
That was it?

Anyway, the party is back, and we fight Pronyma. We beat her, but it doesn't matter. Yggdrasill kills her for being annoying. Considered how designed she seems to be, we thought she'd be more important, and we've been waiting for her moment of importance... nah, she never had any point, and Yggdrasill kills her for no real reason.

Anyway, Yggdrasill is still doing the thing, and does manage to put Martel into Colette's body... Martel/Colette stands up and she's like, "Dude. What the fuck." He thinks she's saying, you look stupid in that badass, oh-so-hot adult body, which makes him turn into little kid Mithos again... and she's like, "No, really, I meant, what the fuck in general. I've been here watching everything happen for all this time and you've been doing everything wrong". Mithos is in disbelief and is all, "No, she would never say that, it has to be a mistake, of course, this experiment failed, it can't be really Martel".

In our path in which Zelos was not a traitor, he swoops in, pokes Colette's crystal in such a way that it shuts down, and is all, "What, you thought I was really betraying you, lol, you're so stupid." Of course he was doing a double-spy sort of thing behind the scenes, which was how he got the thingy that will let a non-elf use the magical sword, and now we all beat up Yggdrasill. Once again, we're treated to the whole, OH NO, HE SO STRONG! But we beat him relatively easily.

With the last of Martel's consciousness, she makes the big mistake of saying that, "You know, seeing you do all this shit, makes me wish that the elves had never left the elf planet". Mithos/Yggdrasill once again completely misinterprets her dying wish as, oh, we should go all back to elf planet, and leave this place to die! Mithos is champion of hearing what he wants to hear. Moral of the story: don't try to talk to a egomaniacal man like Mithos, he'll just twist whatever you say to suit himself. In any case, he dies, and goes back into a crystal which Genis can't bear to toss away since they were friends for fifteen minutes and so on.

Now to unseal Origin and all that shit. Lloyd will need to fight Kratos!!

Kratos and Dickpenisman Origin

You're about to fight your father, remember?
Oh, sorry, I forgot.

We go to Elf Town and we talk to all the party members and have the drama of, one way or the other, Kratos will need to die, oh no, oh no.

In the night, we talk with Colette, being our special friend, and promise her that we'll go on adventures afterwards to get all the Exspheres for reasons unclear.

Colette in Lloyd's costume
How shippy.

If you decided to go to Dirk's house right then, you get a stupid cutscene in which Colette gets Lloyd's clothes. This is only available now and we have no idea why anyone would program this to exist.

We go through yet another elf forest, which is one of those infinitely-repeating-screen sort of dungeons, and to solve it you have to shoot a forest creature on fire so that it pops out of the stump with the tail on fire and tells you which way to go. We are not even kidding. You can't make this shit up.

Kratos and Lloyd
Dun dun dun.

Anyway, it's pretty easy, thanks to the flaming butt of that poor creature acting as a signpost. We arrive, we fight Kratos, we beat Kratos, and he unseals Origin. Oh no, he's going to die! Except Yuan swoops from nowhere and says, I lent him some of my mana, he won't die. So this was something that could have been done by anyone at any time and nobody thought of this and... HUSYTNAHASD JN???

Kratos and Yuan
AARGH!

Once again, build up all the drama for, nevermind.

Origin
Of all the dumb designs...

Origin is unsealed. He looks like the stupidest thing we've ever seen. He's a dick with hair and four arms. He's ugly, not majestic at all, like a Generation V legendary Pokémon that has been flushed down the toilet. He's a fusion of the previous summon spirits, and the whole world is lucky that nobody burst into laughter the moment he showed up, considering he has the power to just end the world.

We coax him into helping us through a long and pointless dialogue, and we fight him. "Oh no, he sooo strong!" We beat the snot out of him in three minutes.

Kratos is now already standing (so much for almost dying), and we're ready to leave and make the ring for the sword, but inexplicably Mithos' crystal pops up and possesses Lloyd. Since Colette was our best friend, Colette goes to help Lloyd, and Mithos now possesses Colette. And he disappears with Colette. Again. She doesn't get a break in this game.

Lloyd tries to stop Mithos from taking away Colette by telling him, "But we'd promised to go on adventures together!" To which Mithos understandably replies, "I don't care!"

Derris-Kharlan
Though, let's be honest, lol, elf planet.

The sky breaks, and elf planet is revealed to have always been right over there. Like, how did we not hit it while flying on the planes? Apparently it was concealed, but whatever. It shoots meteors down on elf town and destroys it. (Good, now we don't have to go there anymore).

We go to Dirk's house and he makes the ring, and Lloyd has a touching moment with both dads, who should be kissing already. Not that we want to see that, but they seem like they should.

Okay, so we beat the game

And like, nothing makes any sense and nothing was answered.

Derris-Kharlan
This stupid color puzzle...

We went to Elf Planet, which is a maze in the dark with many rooms in some mansion. Elves have strange tastes. There's a giant dragon guarding the door, but it's no big deal.

You might be tricked into going straight for the dragon and miss this entire optional dungeon, but you should explore this dungeon for two reasons.

First, because there's treasure to be found. In fact, storybreaking treasure. Let us explain.

Dad swords
Thanks, dads!

So, before coming here, Kratos and Dirk used their Dad powers to forge for Lloyd the vectors of the Eternal Sword into two cool glowing swords, the ultimate Swords of Dads, for Lloyd to use.

About 15 minutes later, while exploring this dungeon, we find a chest hiding behind a wall that has the Ninja Sword, which only Lloyd can equip... and it's better than the Dad Swords. So meaaaaaan. So we equip it, and the end-game cut scenes still show Lloyd using the Dad Swords, but he's really using these swords of some dead ninja of who cares.

Why did they design it this way? Don't give Lloyd any new better swords than the Dad Swords, no matter how hidden this new sword is. You want him to be using the Ultimate Swords of Dad. Come on. Put something for someone else in that secret chest. Geez.

  1. Lloyd

    Oh thank you, you are both the best dads a man could ever ask for. I will cherish these ultimate swords and use them in my final battle against Mithos.

  2. Like fifteen minutes later

  3. Lloyd

    Hey, cool, these swords are better (chucks the glowing swords aside)

  4. Zelos

    ...And people say I’m the traitor.

The other reason why you should explore this dungeon is that it will unlock a warp back to Tethe'alla, where you can take care of all the sidequests that got unlocked just NOW.

Why does this game keep doing this? Can you imagine how this happens in-universe?

  1. Lloyd

    WE MUST GO FINISH THIS, AND FIGHT YGGDRASILL ONCE AND FOR ALL AND wait sidequests.

Many games do this, but not that many games force it to happen NOW in this narrow window in front of the final boss... Usually, here would be where the player realizes that the game is about to end, and willingly backtracks to take care of anything that they have left pending and undone, but... for some reason, Tales of Symphonia only unlocks these sidequests in front of the final boss. It keeps a tight schedule on your sidequesting. You can't do any of it until it wants you to.

Anyway, after all that's done, we fight the dragon, and we meet Yggdrasill. He has a throne, of course. He has the end-of-the-game villain monologue that he just can't stand all this half-elf discrimination and that's why he wants to destroy the world. Oh yeah, and Martel.

He tells us that he can transform into anything, and so proceeds to become little kid Mithos, just for shits and giggles. With the whole party about to face Mithos for the final battle, everyone is all countering his arguments and saying how they will defeat him for the sake of a better world, and no discrimination and high and mighty and booyah. And then Regal just says like, a recap of what the Great Seed is. Regal had nothing cool to say.

At one point, Mithos is talking about how half-elves have nowhere to live without being hated, and Lloyd, the cis straight human man, who has never faced any discrimination in his life, is just like, durhur, live anywhere and be out and proud!! And that will magically protect you from hate crimes! Discrimination has been solved! And, while Mithos is mostly an evil idiot, here he shakes his head and WE TOTALLY SYMPATHIZE WITH MITHOS SHAKING HIS HEAD HERE.

Sigh
Sigh.

BUT LLOYD IS THE HERO AND MITHOS IS THE ZERO

Mechamithos
He could be anything, and he picked this.

And that's why we beat the snot out of him. First, we fight him as Mithos. But then, his second form is Mithos... in a gundam suit? What? Why? He just said that he has the power to take on any shape he wants... and... the designers put him... visibly at the controls... of a giant mecha space suit. Why didn't he become his adult form, or rather, why didn't he start in his adult form and then the final, more powerful form is his child form? After we fight him in the gundam suit, he's just there again in the cutscene as a child all the same. Or, if that's too redundant to fight his adult form again, why didn't he then turn into a horrible monster or a gelatinous blob or any sort of final form trope of a more powerful form. But little kid Mithos piloting a gundam??? Anything but that!! Like, okay, if Mithos became a cliched monster, we'd be here complaining that why didn't he do anything else, but we'd be wrong, the gundam suit is worse.

Watching the party smack at this gundam suit with their swords. Pfft.

What is a space suit even doing in this game? Did the elves originally come from space, is that what they are saying? So, what, the elves came from space, planted a tree for their own protection, on a planet that already had humans? Is that it? Nice people. And then they go angst in their little forest town. You're telling us that the colonizers are the ones that are oppressed by the native inhabitants of this planet, and that we should feel sorry for them? Wow. Never write anything ever again.

Anyway, now that Mithos is properly beaten up and Lloyd has the magical swords of Dads fueled by the power of Origin which lets him break all the rules of the game, Lloyd wants to unify the world. It went something like this:

  1. Lloyd

    Origin, grant me the wish of putting the world back exactly how it was before!

  2. Origin

    Okay.

  3. Lloyd

    Wait, what’s going on, this is bad.

  4. Origin

    Well, yeah, before the world was split, the world was about to end. That’s why Mithos split the world in the first place, yaknow?

  5. Lloyd

    Well, now what do we do? I demand that we fix it!

  6. Origin

    Okay, I can grant that wish, but seeing as you seem to make really careless wishes... I should probably tell you that this will probably kill you. Is that okay?

  7. Lloyd

    Shut up, just do it.

  8. Origin

    *Sigh* Okay. I just thought you should know, no need to get mean.

Not that anything bad happens to Lloyd or anything. This was just another pointless amp the drama moment.

Angel-Lloyd
Ughhaushdai god.

Because you know what happens here? Lloyd gets stupid giant angel wings, and he flies. These wings don't look anything like any other angel wings in the entire game. Why are they so huge? Why are they so uncool? Why does Lloyd not even flinch at the fact that he suddenly sprouted giant wings and is suddenly flying? Why are these wings even showing up? It was a major plotpoint throughout the first 20 hours of the game that Colette had to suffer to get her wings and become an angel. Lloyd can just sprout them with the game-breaking sword. And all that Colette has to say to this is just, Yay, now we'll match at our wedding *nuzzle*

In mid-air, the sword disappears, and then oh no, the sword is gone, and then the sword just reappeared, like, haha, fooled you. What the fuck. It looked like some G-mod parody of itself.

Martel and Tabatha
WHAT IS GOING ON?!

And then, everything just dissolves into incomprehensible anime cutscenes of fake poignancy. The tree is back, and there's Tabatha, who becomes a goddess, and Martel? What the hell?

Also, didn't we destroy Martel's Exsphere? Isn't she dead now? How is Martel both Mithos' half-elf sister AND a fragment of the goddess AND Tabatha? Did the Tabatha experiment actually work after all? Is Martel split across so many clones at this point that she can't die?

Generally what the fuck is Martel? And who is the Goddess? The Goddess is the tree AND the seed AND his sister AND the robot... WHAT THE FUCK.

And Colette saw all of Martel's memories, could she explain? Apparently not, since she is confused too.

And now, Lloyd goes to the tree, and promises the Goddess to water it for her while she goes on vacation... and Tabatha tells him to name the tree. He says, "I'll name the tree......." and then it cuts to black! The end!

WHAT DID LLOYD NAME THE FUCKING TREE?

IS IT SYMPHONIA?

We've been waiting to know what is Symphonia since we started playing this game. It's not the world, because the worlds are notably named Sylvarant and Tethe'alla, and they hammer that in so much during the plot, so no. Maybe it's the name of both worlds combined? But wouldn't that have come up? So, is it the tree?

Logo
What's a Symphonia then?

You know how there is the whole like, crowning badass moment of video games when the title of the game finally comes up in the end? It fills you with the feeling of awesome, even if it is completely unwarranted. So, if the tree was named Symphonia, why doesn't he say it out loud? Why does it end with the credits interrupting him?

UNLESS HE NAMED THE TREE YGGDRASILL??? OHOHOHO. Which would be just as stupid. Tabatha asked him to name the tree something that's appropriate to this new world of happy where everyone will not be discriminated against. So he named the tree Adolf Hitler. Yeah, that's essentially what that would be. Also, yeah, funny, he's already named after the world tree, how convenient.

Like, if Lloyd named the tree something that revealed something something, that would be a revelation. Or if Symphonia meant something, somehow, that would be a revelation. If it was somehow important to name it after Yggdrasill, it would be something... But as it is, the game might as well be called Tales of Doodlebug, and he named the tree Doodlebug. Or Bob. And saying it that way reveals just how non-majestic this all really is.

Canonically, there doesn't seem to be an answer, so all of this is a complete non-point. But, apparently, in the manga, Lloyd names the tree Gonzales.

All this to say that Lloyd should not be allowed to name trees.

Yuan
Looking at the official art, there's no mustache. We kinda liked him better with the mustache.

Then again, is that how the Summon Spirits got their names? They were named by some other dork all "Shadow" and "Luna" and "Origin" and *snort* "Celsius" and "Maxwell" (dude, you don't understand science, stop trying to make science jokes).

What was with that flashback with Mithos holding dead Martel and Kratos and Yuan going to attack someone unseen... what was that all about?

What even was Yuan's final point in the end? Cause we never really knew... We couldn't even tell if the black line on his face was a mouth or a mustache. Apparently just the mouth. But we had to look it up.

After the end of the game

Exspheres in Space!
Exspheres! In! Space!

To make sure that nobody uses the Exspheres for evil anymore, now Kratos gets to commit suicide by being abandoned on the moon that is flying out to space, and he's going to throw all the Exspheres into space, where nobody can do anything with them. Even though it's implied that space travel exists in this universe. And even though we have established that the Exspheres are the lifeless beings formed of human souls... condemning their last shreds of consciousness to wander aimlessly in the cold dark nothingness of space. What the fuck! And this is how Kratos decides to finally take responsibility for his own actions and be an adult. By condemning all the people whose death he is pretty much responsible for to being lost forever in space. What a nightmare.

During the ending before, Lloyd made a big deal of all, this is my final wish, blah blah blah... and then, later, Kratos is just like, oh yeah, I can just ask Lloyd to use that sword of his to wish me into space. No biggie. Like, Lloyd is the friend with the cool sword that grants wishes, and now all his friends and even his supposedly responsible father just take his wish-granting sword totally for granted.

Earlier, they make the whole point of there is one special character who is going on a journey with Lloyd to gather all the Exspheres and... this doesn't come up in the ending at all. In our playthrough, we had that scene with Colette, and Colette does appear with Noishe while Lloyd is telling Dirk about what he is going to do, but is that hard-coded to be Colette, or is that the only hint that Colette is the one coming with Lloyd? Would Colette have done something else in the end if someone else was going with Lloyd?

What in the end was up with Noishe? They make a whole big deal of how Noishe is the first living thing and could turn into a human, and it was like, totally something that was going to happen, wasn't it? But then it never did. Noishe's presence added nothing to the game, except that unintentionally hilarious scene with Kratos in the beginning.

Don't tell us, is Noishe the goddess too? They're both green.

Raine and Genis are now door-to-door proselytizers of please don't hate half-elves. This gives us zero warm fuzzies.

Lloyd's mom has been avenged
That was pretty much the last time we heard of Anna.

What was the whole big deal of Lloyd's super special awesome Exsphere? What was the whole big deal with Anna?

What was the deal with Spiritua? Was she the Goddess too?

Zelos with wings
Also wings.

What was the deal with the angels? Why do the people closest to Mithos get wings? Is it because they are lifeless beings now? Is it because they are half-elves? But Kratos is said to be human? Is Kratos a lifeless being? Is that why he can live forever? Is that why he is a jerk? Does Zelos get wings if he betrays you because he has been turned to a sorta half-elf? Is that what happened to Kratos? What are the angels?? What is Kratos? What was he teaching Mithos about anyway, way back when? To be a mercenary? To toss things into space? Why does Colette keep her wings? Because they are cool? Because once you have wings, you keep them? Does that mean Zelos could have wings too after double-crossing Mithos, but he's cool enough without them? Or what the heck? Does Lloyd still have his wings under his jacket, conveniently tucked into hammerspace?

Zelos becomes a respected ambassador for both worlds. He says something about how he's not running away anymore. He was saying this before too, in the dungeon of everybody's fears, but... at that point, if he is still in the party, and not dead, and able to be saying these lines... THEN HE NEVER RAN AWAY FROM ANYTHING. So he can chill and go easier on himself.

By the way, if Zelos did indeed die at that point, after one cutscene, no one ever mentions him again, and it has no impact on the plot, except that you get Kratos in the party rather than Zelos. Mean!

Zelos
If it feels like you're not being respected enough, that's because you're not.

The harder-to-get secret ending is shittier than the regular ending. In the regular ending, no one dies, and Kratos waits at Dirk's house for Lloyd to return from the final battle. If you get the secret ending, Zelos feels like no one trusts him or cares about him and his life is shitty anyway, so he does a charade of betraying the party in the hopes that they kill him, and they do, and then he is dead, and the player suffers, but Zelos was right, and no one in the game actually cares. But you get Kratos in the party. Was it worth it, you monster?

Presea was 12 when the experiments started on her, and now she is revealed to be 28. We thought she was going to be like 48. She's been angsting about all her wasted years and... she's 28. She's still got so much life ahead of her. We understand that from a sexist viewpoint, women might as well be dead when they are past 20, and obviously this game was not made by award-winning feminists, but geez.

Also if she was 12 when she got frozen, do the game designers have any idea what a twelve year old girl looks like?? Presea looks like she's five.

Zelos

And Regal seems to be now dating Presea. Because she's the replacement for her dead sister. We never see Regal remove those shackles, and honestly, he shouldn't.

And the credits.

During the credits, we get to see the pseudo-storyboards of the highlights of each character in the game. There's Lloyd leaving town, and Colette praying, and Presea at the grave, and... Zelos in his sunglasses and thong omg we can't believe they did that, lol.

Why was Lloyd the hero in the end?

This game had two Chosen Ones, maybe even three if you want to count the Legendary Hero Mithos... and none of these Chosen Ones got to save the world in the end.

In the beginning, we thought this game was cool that you get to play as the Friend of the Chosen One(s), and not as the literal Chosen One yourself... but nope, Lloyd is the plot's Chosen One in the end. It would maybe be cool that a game has a Chosen One, but in the end someone else is the hero... but not when the hero turns out to be the player character! That's not innovative! That's tricking us into thinking it is innovative when in the end, it is just the same old same old.

Lloyd
It's the same old teenage male hero with sword.

Lloyd is the one that is able to just use the reality-bending sword that he shouldn't even be able to wield... the game teased us for a second by saying that Zelos could probably wield it, so maybe Zelos would be able to do that part of saving the world, but no, it's Lloyd.

And Lloyd is the one that sprouts the super giant angel wings... Colette has wings, Colette was supposed to be the angel; she went through torture and suffering for days and days in order to grow those wings, and she almost died in order to become an angel... but we guess that isn't good enough; Lloyd just pops out some wings, no problem, and gets to be the real angel.

And Lloyd is the one that is able to save the world simply because he says that he wants to, by the sheer power of him saying that he wants to... Mithos was supposed to be the hero who risked everything in order to save the world, but apparently he couldn't do it for whatever reason. But somehow Lloyd can without even really trying.

And Lloyd is able to bend any rule that the game established earlier, and save the world when no one else could. And Colette just gets to watch and nuzzle him in midair. And Zelos is either dead or just standing around on the ground next to the other losers like Regal. And Mithos is the villain now, and the writers can't seem to make up their minds about what even are his motivations any more. There's a total of nine party members, but in the end it all rest on Lloyd. Lloyd is the one who saves both worlds, and undoes all the problems of the past, and sprouts the wings, and becomes an angel, and wields the magical sword, and revives the goddess, and (poorly) names the tree. Just because he is the avatar of the player. We hate it.

Thinking about it, if the climax needed an angel with wings in the end, why couldn't it have been the Chosen Semi-Angel Colette? And if the climax needed someone to wield the magical sword, why couldn't it be the Chosen Magic Swordsman Zelos? And if the climax needed someone to wish that the goddess would be revived, why couldn't it be Mithos who has been trying for the last 4,000 years to revive his dead sister who is somehow also the goddess?

If the climax of the game is all about forging a new world where humans and elves and everyone else can live in harmony together, why is that world forged by one straight cis man who has Main Player Character powers? Wouldn't it be more poignant, rather than doing the 41st "mercy killing" of the game, if instead Lloyd and Genis and everyone convinced Mithos that it is worth trying to create a world where we can all live in harmony, giving him the ability to have that be the pure wish of his heart? And if they they all worked together, using all the different skills they have, as magic users and half-elves and Chosen Ones and summoners and all... if everyone worked together to manage to forge that new world?

But no, Lloyd is the the only one who can, and the only one with all the glory. Just to ingratiate the player. Blaargggh.

Our thoughts on the characters

The party
You are all pointless.

Thinking about the party members, most of them, really, either have no character or no reason to be there. Let's recap a moment:

So in summary:

The Chosen Ones

Thinking about it, what we thought would be the most interesting feature of this game is that it deals with what happens when you're the Chosen One, and the concept that there are two worlds, and the hero of one side is the enemy of the other.

We were thinking that, if we were to rewrite the game, we would keep this plot, but focus on that instead of spreading it across nine playable characters and 25 pointless plotpoints and unimportant villains. At the core, the plot should have been about Colette. In the beginning, we thought that's what it was going to be, and, for a while, it luckily was. That's what drew us into the game in the first place.

Colette
She was supposed to be the hero.

So, in our version, nice, naive, and optimistic Colette goes on this whole journey to save the world as the Chosen One. In the other world, the other Chosen One, disillusioned, raunchy, and lazy Zelos, is also forced to go on some sort of journey to save the world. At some point, the two of them meet, and they're enemies at first, but later, as Colette learns that saving her world will doom the other, she makes efforts to save both worlds. And Zelos learns from Colette how to have hope for the future. They decide to team up, and become unlikely friends, and save both worlds.

There. This is what the plot should have been about. This is even what the plot is about, except they only half did it, and covered it with all sorts of other extraneous tangents. We got to see Colette being the Chosen One, but Zelos ends up being the Chosen One only in name. We don't even really get to learn what does the Chosen One of Tethe'alla do, except be royalty. During the plot, Zelos does learn things from Colette, and he does say he respects her a lot for being the way she is, and he has some character development, but that entire arc is just put on the side in favor of Lloyd and Regal and Presea and all of these useless people.

If only they cut the game down to a quarter of its length, and focused on this story arc. The entire plot of Colette in the beginning ends up being completely inconsequential to the ending of the game. So what was the point? And Zelos can just as well die and be forgotten and never mentioned again.

And then the plot has about 10 false endings that don't make sense with each other. The first arc is about Colette, and we get to Colette's goal of transforming into an angel, and plot twist! This is bad! And then we have to save Colette, and we do, but now her Key Crest is bad, and Presea has problems, so now we have to save her again, and Presea too! Then we get all the Spirits and say goodbye to the world, but nevermind! And then the tree is going crazy, so we shoot it with a cannon! But that's not the end either! Then Colette has skin disease! And we save her for the umpteenth time! Then Mithos turns out to be evil! And to be the final bad! And then everybody dies, but not really, except maybe Zelos! And then we need to fight Kratos! And then Elf Planet shows up! It's just dragging on and on, and we can't care about any of this.

Kratos and Zelos and recycled characters

We've mentioned several times that Kratos and Zelos play exactly like each other, with the same kind of attacks, the same special moves. They are both magic swordmen, humans that have ingested the weird angel stuff... but there are several problems with them playing exactly like each other.

Zelos
There's good with the sword, and there's ridiculous.

From an in-universe perspective... Zelos is 22. Kratos is more than 4000 years old. By making them play exactly like each other, the game is telling us that they are interchangeable in skills. But we can't possibly believe that Zelos in his 22 years got to be as good as Kratos, who has 4000 years of experience of being a professional mercenary. Either Zelos has absurd superhuman skills and is a major sword prodigy (we don't doubt he's skilled with the sword, but...), or Kratos sucks that hard and hasn't learned anything in 4000 years. Or both. The developers really weren't thinking about what it meant for the characters of Kratos and Zelos when they made them play exactly like each other .

Kratos
Kratos, stabbing Zelos in the picture above

From a game design perspective, it's clear that they wanted to have Kratos leave the party, but oh no, if Kratos leaves the party, what if someone liked playing as Kratos, and they're disappointed! Rather than having the balls to have the character leave the party, and have it be meaningful and poignant, Zelos just comes in ten minutes later and replaces him, being exactly the same as what Kratos had been. It's the same thing they did with Corrine, where Corrine died, which is minor enough already to not upset you, but then they had to make him come back from the dead anyway. Either have the balls to do it, or don't.

It also creates this strange opposition between their characters that doesn't really exist in the story. Because they fill the same role in your party, they can never exist in the same place, except in that one part with the human ranch, which might be more of an oversight than anything serious. You end up with either Kratos in the party or Zelos in the party. If you want Kratos in the party, Zelos MUST DIE. Eesh. If you want Zelos in the party, Kratos doesn't die, he just chills with Dirk for a while, and the dads get to catch up.

One key feature of the plot is the choice between Zelos and Kratos, but, considering that they play exactly the same, there's no gameplay reason to favor one over the other. It's not like you've unlocked the ability to have Kratos in the party, and he's so super amazing, and he'll be awesome with the final boss. No, it's just exactly the same as if it had been Zelos. And, story-wise, the canon ending is the one where Zelos is in the party, and it's not like the other ending is different, it's just the same one without Zelos' dialogue and presence. And that's why nobody seems to even remember or react to the fact that Zelos has died - because they're all written to have the same dialogue either way.

Similarly, reading through the transcript of the game revealed to us that there were several points in the plot where Sheena may or may not join the party, based on how much Lloyd has managed to win her trust at that point. If Sheena joins the party earlier, it is not like anything really changes... she chimes in with a few lines here and there, but the other characters react the same whether she is there or not... so Sheena is essentially a ghost for all the impact she can have on the plot at that point (since she might not really be there yet), just the same as how Zelos is essentially a ghost after the point where he might die (since he might actually be dead at that point). When gamers say they want branching storylines... this is not what we meant.

This strange opposition between Zelos and Kratos transfers to us, which we're sure was not the intended effect. The result is that we have to sorta be against Kratos, because we like Zelos. And there's no reason why we couldn't have liked both. It doesn't actually make sense why talking with Kratos causes Zelos to die. It's not like they stand for opposite sides of a moral issue, like everything that happens in The Witcher. No, it's just like, if you talk with your dad, your friend dies. Why would you ever talk with your dad, then?

Tales of Symphonia talks itself up about how your choices matter. Except none of your choices really matter, as the same thing will happen in either case. The only thing that really makes a difference is if you talk with your dad so much that your friend dies.

By the way, remember that in the end, Kratos is just throwing Exspheres into space. Yikes. That's going to haunt us for a long time.

And what about the boat?

The boat had no point whatsoever. It was a thing for about fifteen minutes, and it doesn't let you go anywhere. You can try to go places, but that's the part of the game that is most linear, so it won't let you do anything when you disembark. Why even let us go at all? We went to the hot springs and to the Southeast Abbey and both of them were obviously "come back when this is actually a thing".

The entire boat mechanic is sandwiched between the Noishe mode, which is the main mode of locomotion in the first part of the game, and the planes, which are the main mode of locomotion for the second half. In between, there's this obviously half-baked boat that, the moment that you upgrade to the planes, becomes completely obsolete. You can still use Noishe after you get the planes (and you will for quick movement on the ground), but you have never a reason to use the boat again. As a matter of fact, we have never touched the boat ever since. It's probably still there tied to a dock somewhere, rotting. In fact, when we opened the game to get a screenshot of the boat for this article, we couldn't find it.

They wrote the game only forward and never revising anything, so they wrote that now we're on the other side of the bridge, and we can't go back because we're wanted, and how are we going to get back... oh a boat. Of course. A boat powered by the gods, by the way. Then later they wrote the cooler planes and forgot the boat.

Still no sea monsters or anything.

In conclusion

As we said in the beginning, most of this article was made out of the notes taken at the time, with some minor edits. Now, with some distance, we can review all of this in a more digested way.

This game sucked. When we started playing this game, we weren't expecting too much, to be honest. We knew this was a beloved classic, but we weren't expecting world-class writing or anything. We were expecting a 7/10 game with highlights and flaws, that we would enjoy with some critiques.

What we were not expecting is that the plot would be offensive, and so full of holes and meaningless jargon that it completely falls apart under the barest of scrutiny.

Older JRPGs tend to have writing which is sparse and contradictory and bad. They feel like they were written as they went along. Tales of Symphonia should have been past that, though. And it talked itself up for its writing. It tried to be ambitious with the plot, but it reads like it was not only written linearly without editing, but with a generous sprinkling of very problematic plotpoints treated as philosophical poignancy.

We are confused as to why this game is such a beloved classic. Maybe you had to be there. But it's not like we have a problem playing old games (that's what we mostly play, really), but...? Is it just that everyone played it when they were kids at the time, and didn't notice how shallow the plot is, and can think of it fondly now with the distance of memory, editing out all of that drawn out bullshit, and keeping the gems? If they were to replay it as adults, would they also be disappointed?

The only thing this game really had going on for it, in our opinion, is its battle system. But that's hardly saying much. Lately, we seem to be finding a lot of these games where the writing is terrible, but the game is fun (Eternal Sonata, Valkyria Chronicles...), and we can't recommend them, and the bad writing sours us for the gameplay. :(

As we said in conclusion of the Eternal Sonata review: you can make a game that is fun and good-looking, but, if the writing fails, the whole game fails.

In terms of good-looking, we want to give credit to the ambitious art style this game had at the time. They were pretty early to be attempting artistic rendering, and it does look unique for the time. Yet, they also did the entire thing with the animated swinging faces, which could have been great, but they weren't ambitious enough there. They stopped at being okay, rather than making it be really good. The dungeons and cities look pretty fine, kinda generic, but usually not ugly. The overworld, on the other hand, is ass, and we understand that they were going for a retro but 3D look, but... it's a wasteland of green with nothing to look at but the black blobs.

The music of this game puzzles us. It's such a long game with such bad music. It ranges from forgettable to please mute the game. Never have we played a game where, throughout the entirety of it, there hadn't been a single track that was in any way exciting. Not even the final boss music or the colosseum music. How did they manage to make it so bland, we don't know.

We've talked at length about the characters before, but, summing it up, most of them weren't there, and those who were had many problems in their writing. We're going to remember Colette and Zelos fondly, but also with the rage of what happened to their characters, and how they deserved so much more.

We don't know if we will be playing any other Tales games, but, given what happened with this one, we're not exactly looking forward to any of them. Besides, we hear that they all follow the same formula, and the last thing we want to play is more formulaic bullshit. Maybe, maybe not.

In conclusion, we finished Tales of Symphonia with all the optional things to be able to be done with it, wrote this, and we put this game in our Steam category of "Never play again". Would we recommend it? Maybe to replay it if you have already played it. Or maybe don't, so that it can stay as a fond memory. And if you haven't played it, yeah, don't.

References

Notes

  1. When you have to fight against Kratos as a bad guy, he has access to both the S-versions and the T-versions of his upgraded moves, meaning that he is stronger than anyone in the party could ever be. But, when he's in the party, he has to follow the rules. Is he holding back? Why?
  2. We found out later that the people who stay with Lloyd in Snow Town depend on your relationship values with them. For us, our best friend was Colette. It's anyway the most canon path.