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Why Tales of Symphonia Remastered Falls Short of Modern Gaming Standards

It’s too late; players are well aware of what great remakes and remasters look like.



Tales of Symphonia Remastered

Where Does Tales of Symphonia Remastered Fit in the Modern Gaming Landscape?

Remakes and remasters occupy a unique space in the video game landscape. While new IP and sequels to beloved titles are typically preferred, there’s no shortage of fans clamoring for their favorite classics to be revitalized. Publishers are incentivized to oblige; not only do remasters in particular take fewer resources to produce than a brand new project but there is also less uncertainty in terms of sales since an audience is already established for the game. As long as the remake or remaster is quality and doesn’t break the bank, there’s a good chance it’ll be a success.

However, certain expectations come with the terms “remaster” and “remake” these days. While the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were plagued with legions of halfhearted HD remasters, recent years have been far more impressive.

Not only have top-shelf Resident Evil and BluePoint remakes set the bar in terms of what high quality looks like, but storied series like Final Fantasy and Halo have enjoyed such impressive remasters that they’ve become the standard way to experience those games (the Halo: Master Chief Collection is particularly outstanding). For better or worse, having all of these strong touchpoints is what ultimately spelled doom for the recently released Tales of Symphonia Remastered.

Tales of Symphonia Remastered

Make no mistake: Tales of Symphonia Remastered is horrendous in its own right. It runs at a baseline of 30 frames per second (half the frame rate of the original on GameCube) and drops well below that when too many enemies are on screen or when exploring certain dungeons. None of the textures have been redone, and both the sound effects and soundtrack have been left virtually untouched. Not only have no accessibility features been added, but even modern conveniences like skipping cutscenes are nowhere to be found. All of this is to say, even in a vacuum Tales of Symphonia Remastered disappoints on nearly every front.

That disappointment was simply amplified by releasing within weeks of Dead Space (one of the best remakes of all time) and Metroid Prime Remastered (one of the best remasters of all time). Both of these showed what’s possible when classic titles are given the love and care they deserve when being updated for modern audiences. In fact, Metroid Prime Remastered was updated so heavily that calling it a remaster may be doing it a disservice. Not only were all the models and textures completely redone, but a new lighting system was added, the controls were modernized, and the soundscape was enhanced.

It’s the exact treatment a classic like Tales of Symphonia deserved but didn’t get.

Metroid Prime Remastered
Image: Nintendo

The fact of the matter is that something marketed as a remaster can’t just be a simple port anymore; it needs to improve the original in meaningful ways. Bringing a beloved title to modern hardware will always be worthwhile to increase accessibility, but simply increasing the resolution of the visuals and charging $40 (the same price as Metroid Prime Remastered) isn’t going to land well.

The lack of a complete visual overhaul isn’t even necessary if other improvements are made. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy IX remaster, for instance, made minimal improvements to the visuals but added key quality of life features like autosave, a game speed boost, and an “enemy encounters off” toggle. Features like these significantly improve the player experience and make it easier to look past the dated graphics.

What’s most bizarre in the case of Tales of Symphonia Remastered is that Bandai Namco recently released a markedly better remaster in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle R. Not only did the remaster up the graphical fidelity from the PS3 original, but the team at Bandai improved the fighting mechanics, added new characters, doubled the frame rate, overhauled the single-player content, and released even more new characters as DLC.

The bones are the same, but so much was added that it feels good to buy at it $50. By comparison, despite offering a much longer experience and being $10 less, Tales of Symphonia Remastered feels like a rip-off.

Brent fell head over heels for writing at the ripe age of seven and hasn't looked back since. His first love is the JRPG, but he can enjoy anything with a good hook and a pop of color. When he isn't writing about the latest indie release or binging gaming coverage on YouTube, you can find Brent watching and critiquing all manner of anime. Send him indie or anime recommendations @CreamBasics on Twitter.