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Tales of Symphonia Remastered Disappoints at Nearly Every Turn

Instead of encouraging new audiences to enjoy a classic, Tales of Symphonia Remastered actively makes a beloved JRPG worse.



Tales of Symphonia Remastered

Tales of Symphonia Remastered Switch Review

Developer: Bandai Namco | Publisher: Bandai Namco | Genre: JRPG
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 |  Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

The original Tales of Symphonia has long been lauded as one of the best JRPGs of all time. An introduction to the Tales Of series for many in the West, Lloyd’s classic adventure with his ragtag team of friends delighted a generation and gave the GameCube some much-needed genre representation. Decades later, many still defer to Symphonia as the pinnacle of the franchise (which is saying something considering how beloved Tales Of is as a whole). As such, it’s no wonder that so many fans watching the September 2022 Nintendo Direct cheered when Tales of Symphonia Remastered was announced.

However, in 2023, the gaming community has certain expectations for dedicated remasters. On the heels of the glowing reception to Metroid Prime Remastered, it’s clearer than ever that players notice the amount of work put into bringing a beloved title to a new generation. Tales of Symphonia Remastered doesn’t only fall short of its massive potential, but it falls so below expectatons that it feels like an insult to the legacy of the original.

Tales of Symphonia Remastered
Image: Bandai Namco Entertainment

A Classic Tale

If Tales of Symphonia Remastered has anything going for it, it’s that the timeless story of the original is still intact. The world of Sylvarant is plagued by an evil force known as the Desians, a breed of powerful half-elves trying to enslave all of humanity and exploit mana in dangerous ways. A Chosen is born every generation and tasked with restoring world peace (quite similar to the Hero in Dragon Quest XI). However, there’s no guarantee that the Chosen will succeed, and the last one failed.

Symphonia is about Lloyd’s journey with Colette (his childhood friend and the new Chosen) to regenerate the world and bring peace to Sylvarant. LLoyd, Colette, and their friends set out on a pilgrimage around the world to visit sacred temples and unlock Colette’s angelic restorative powers. Along the way they help towns in need, liberate people from slave labor camps known as Human Ranches, and make valuable allies who pledge allegiance to their cause.

It’s a wonderfully told story full of genuinely surprising twists and a cast of characters that thrives in its diversity and warmth. Thus, it’s a shame that Tales of Symphonia Remastered doesn’t do much to enhance the storytelling experience for a new generation. Outside of a basic increase in resolution, there’s no improvement to cutscenes or visual effects. And if you’re a series fan used to having a full English dub for the skits between party members like in Tales of Berseria, Tales of Vesperia, or Tales of Arise, bad news: the skits remain totally untouched here. Re-dubbing the entire game would’ve been a significant task, but the end result would’ve been something much more accessible for modern audiences.

Tales of Symphonia

Painfully Slow Action

Tales of Symphonia Remastered is a JRPG with real-time, instanced combat. Lloyd is the only playable character, but his playstyle is accessible and diverse enough that it only ever gets a little monotonous. Players can hack-and-slash their way through enemies by spamming the A button, but adding a directional input results in unique auto-combos. Furthermore, any of these A button auto-combos can be combo’d into a special attack by using B and a directional input. These specials consume mana and range from a flurry of sword swipes to acrobatic maneuvers and attacks that stun and knock over enemies.

It’s a system that’s easy to learn and easy to play on autopilot while listening to a podcast or watching something in the background. However, it’s worth noting that Tales of Symphonia Remastered is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game and thus doesn’t support 60fps like the GameCube version did. It’s unclear whether the source code has been lost to time or Bandai simply didn’t deem it worth the investment to take advantage of modern hardware, but the result is a remaster that feels noticeably slower and clunkier to play than the original.

New players might be surprised to learn that Tales of Symphonia Remastered is somewhat open world in its design (though towns need to be loaded into). Overworld exploration is quite freeform; aside from being blocked off by the sea and mountains, the world is your oyster. The story is linear, however, so even if you happen upon a dungeon or passageway early, it’ll be blocked off in some way.

Monsters taking the form of nondescript blobs roam the overworld and can theoretically be avoided, but there are always some that rush the party and force an encounter. In the end, exploration feels like walking through tall grass in a classic Pokémon game; it gets frustrating pretty quickly. Including an option to turn off random encounters in this remaster would’ve been a huge plus. At the very least, an auto-battle option would’ve mitigated some of the annoyance here (and is something Bandai’s own One Piece Odyssey benefits greatly from).

Tales of Symphonia Remastered
Image: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Presentation Woes

This leads us to the core of what makes Tales of Symphonia Remastered so disappointing: it’s hardly been improved at all. While the graphics certainly look brighter and cleaner compared to the original GameCube release, it’s clear the absolute bare minimum has been done here. Character sprites have simply been up-resed, environmental textures are smoothed over and blurry, and there are no redone assets to speak of. Even worse, Remastered doesn’t even run at a locked 30fps; areas with special effects like sandstorms or lava will drop the framerate even lower, and battles themselves can chug in certain situations.

The audio doesn’t fare any better. To be fair, the soundtrack remains as stellar as it was 20 years ago, with beautifully orchestrated melodies punctuating every somber moment and lighthearted romp throughout the adventure. Unfortunately, the sound quality of the PS2 version hasn’t been updated at all during the remastering process, and the beauty of the OST suffers for it. This is especially evident with the sound effects, which sound distorted and crunchy and can grate on the ears.

Then there are the myriad missing quality of life features. Most glaringly, the load times are simply unacceptable for a 2023 release of a 20 year old game. Whether it’s going in and out of shops, transitioning between sections of a town, or (worst of all) entering and exiting battles in the overworld, loading consistently takes a jarringly long time. Then there’s the fact that there’s no auto-save, and since you can’t skip cutscenes, dying during a boss sequence becomes a serious test of patience. Add in the lack of double or quadruple game speed options (something Square Enix nailed with several of its Final Fantasy remasters) and occasional crashes, and this version of Tales of Symphonia simply doesn’t live up to its immense potential.

Tales of

Tales of Symphonia is an all-time classic JRPG and arguably the best Tales Of game ever made. Ironically, Tales of Symphonia Remastered is easily one of the most disappointing remasters of all time. There are no significant improvements visually, audibly, or gameplay-wise that warrant buying this version. In fact, it’s worse than its original release in terms of framerate and stability. For a company that just put out one of the best remasters of the 2020s thus far with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle R, it’s shocking that Bandai dropped the ball this hard. If this is what Tales Of fans have to look forward to in the future, it may be best to stop asking for remasters of other entries altogether.

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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    March 4, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    You can play as any character

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