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Author Topic: 60 minute Shakedown Premiere: Tales of Symphonia  (Read 2225 times)
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Dreamshadow
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« on: July 15, 2004, 01:13:24 AM »

The 60 minute shakedown:  Tales of Symphonia

   Welcome to the first installment of the 60 Minute Shakedown here on console gold.  I'm aiming to let people see  the initial impressions of the game, both for people who want to compare initial perspectives on the game to the reviews that contain much more playtime, as well as for people who are looking to buy or rent the game.  This is your disclaimer at the start:   I will be revealing some information about the game, but only what I have seen in the hour I have played it.  Technically it is an incomplete review of the game, but we are doing this to help people decide if it is a wait-and-see title, or a must-go-buy-now title.

Tales of Symphonia brings Namco's Tales series of RPG to the GameCube for the first time.  The game starts off with the main characters attending class at the local school.  They discuss the role of 'The Chosen' and the world's history.  It quickly moves to group of kids off to save the world, or more standard fantasy adventure fare, which is a little cliche, but the production values on this game are high enough for this two disk game to make it seem worth it.

Graphics:
   Tales of Symphonia brings Namco's Tales series to the Gamcube with some very impessive graphics.  They are very subtly using cell shading and standard 3d graphics to provide a very lush world that looks hand drawn, but doesn't look pre-rendered or sprite based.  The game makes much use of traditional cel animation for the introduction, and seems to imply that it will be used throughout the game for some cutscenes.  There are several places where 'Skits' occur, similar to the 'Private Action' scenes from Star Ocean: Second Story, in which you see partially animated heads with text discussing certain minor situations.  The images decpicting the characters will change depending on the discussion that occurs.  Most of the rest of the talking and non-interactive scenes are rendered in the game engine.  This led to a minor disturbing detai during several of the scenes, in which the 3d models looked like out of focus sprites rather than the nice models they were at a different camera angle.  This only seriously occurred during one major scene outside the temple.  Hopefully it is a limited event.  
   The one dungeon that I went through was well done, but a little lacking on detail.  I'm not certain if this was due to the method they used to put the textures on the dungeon, but time played will tell how this might be viewed.    These two little details didn't distract from the overall gameplay or suspension of disbelief, but instead made me go 'Huh.' for very short bits.

Sound:
   For one hour, the music was not terribly bad, but it didn't leave a lasting impression on me.  It stood as a nice symphonic score for the events going on.  It rose and fell during combat, and provided background to the events occuring.  
   The voice work in the game was top notch, and made the characters seem even more realistic and robust.  None of the voices I heard were overdone or obnoxious, though there were two that could have been.  The language used was clean and thought out, and didn't sound stilted or unusual.  I found myself wanting to hear the voices more, even in the 'Skits' that appear at some locations, and was disappointed.
   Battle and monster noises were pretty standard fare, adding to the atmosphere without causing issues.

Gameplay:
   The controls for this game are solid and responsive.  I found it easy in combat to retreat and advance as I wanted to.  Moving around town or the one dungeon was easy to do.  The field map was well done, and had a relatively standard minimap which helped in learning where to go (not that I had much choice this early in the game).  
   The battle system is nice, and feels like a proper melee should be, with attacks going off and spells being cast.  Once you have targeted an enemy you can move towards it and away from it, but not side to side (even though it seems to imply you can...most likely a misconception on my part).  Attacks are carried out by hitting the A or B button in an almost fighting game fashion.  This makes battles almost too simple in comcept, but timing is key.  Once you learn the attacks of some creatures, it is easy to duck back out of range of their next attack then dive in and hit them again.  Control of the other characters was automated, but it seemed that with three more controllers, I could get my friends in on the action.  This feature remains untested at this time.
   The dungeon was standard puzzle fare that didn't take long to figure out, and combined with the encounter system allowed me to take it at the pace I wanted to.  Having the monsters visible on the map actually made it nice to avoid some battles inside.
   The menus were easy to navigate and read, using a nice large font.  The equiment and spell settings were pretty standard RPG fare, but it fits the game.  There were two options on the menu I could not access in the first hour, though I would assume they would unlock rather quickly.

Final Verdict:
   This one looks to be a must have for my cube collection.  Absolutely beautiful locations to visit, with nice character designs from one of my favorite artists (Of Oh My Goddess fame) made this game I want to visit again.  The game also boasts some deep character customization, but I did not see that this early in the game.  No telling how cliché the plot might be in the long run, nor how the gamplay would hold up, but it certainly looked promising.  My recommendation:  definitely rent if the kids saving the world plot is cliché to you,  buy if you want to add an outstanding RPG to your collection.
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Tom "Dreamshadow" Tjarks
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EddieA
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2004, 01:55:24 AM »

That's pretty much how I'd sum up my experience so far, too.  The graphics are just beautiful.  They have the great detail of 2D, but with the advantages of 3D.  I only have two small complaints.  It would be great to be able to switch your character in battle by pressing one button, rather than going through the menu, and the Up-B spell shortcuts are hard to use without inadvertantly jumping.
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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2004, 03:12:58 AM »

LOVE the 60 Minute Shakedown. GREAT idea!!

LOVE ToS too.

Here's a re-post of what I wrote over in the other boards for those of us who aren't hardcore RPGers:

I'd like to chime in that after only about 20 minutes this is the best RPG I've ever played.

Bold statement? Maybe, but I HATE RPGs! The action battle system and the ability to see enemies on the screen (no random battles) go a long way towards helping me enjoy this. I have no patience or attention span for much of anything so racing and sports are more my style. I've tried all the FFs and 2 hours in is my longest stint. The only other RPGs that I've even remotely enjoyed are Kingdom Hearts and KOTOR. Even then I'm stuck in Hercules land in KH and I almost made it off the first planet of KOTOR.

Who knows what will happen the next time I sit down with it but, for now, this game is FUN.

Getting greedy and I'm hoping for two in a row when Sudeki comes out next week!

A question for the purists out there: Are games like this really considered RPGs in the true sense of the word?
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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2004, 05:42:30 AM »

It's times like these that I regret selling my Gamecube frown

The 60 Minute Shakedown seems like an awfully cool idea, though!!
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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2004, 12:09:14 PM »

Thanks for the 60M Shakedown.   smile

I'll be getting this and hold off on NCAA for awhile.
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Balshazaar
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« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2004, 01:29:28 AM »

My girlfriend and I picked this up.  It says in the instructions:
Quote
This game can be played with up to four player simultaneously.  When playing with four players, make sure that each Controller is properly inserted into the appropriate Controller Socket.  Please note that this manual is generally written under the assumption that a single player is playing the game.


I took this to mean that both of us could participate in the battles.  How do you get this to work?  Or how do you get any of the multiplayer to work?  I can't figure it out... Help!
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« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2004, 04:43:20 AM »

Quote from: "Balshazaar"
I took this to mean that both of us could participate in the battles.  How do you get this to work?  Or how do you get any of the multiplayer to work?  I can't figure it out... Help!

From what I know, if you plug in another controller, and set another player to Manual (inside the Tech Assign screen if I remember right), the new controller will control the extra player(s).

However, when I tried to assign myself (playing with only one controller) to another member of my party (by switching the hero to Auto, and the next hero to Manual), I couldn't control the other member. Any guesses on that part?
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« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2004, 08:45:14 AM »

60 Minute Shakedown?

For Videogames?


BRILLIANT !


LD
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Balshazaar
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« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2004, 01:56:36 PM »

Quote from: "Destructor"
Quote from: "Balshazaar"
I took this to mean that both of us could participate in the battles.  How do you get this to work?  Or how do you get any of the multiplayer to work?  I can't figure it out... Help!

From what I know, if you plug in another controller, and set another player to Manual (inside the Tech Assign screen if I remember right), the new controller will control the extra player(s).

However, when I tried to assign myself (playing with only one controller) to another member of my party (by switching the hero to Auto, and the next hero to Manual), I couldn't control the other member. Any guesses on that part?


I'll give that a shot.  The game looks great, but Namco loses huge points for not being more clear about the multiplayer aspect since they advertise it on the box, and it was one of their 'big' selling points: the first console RPG with multiplayer.  My girlfriend and I really want to play through it together, but were frustrated when we couldn't figure that out.
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2004, 06:48:50 PM »

Quote from: "Balshazaar"
I'll give that a shot.  The game looks great, but Namco loses huge points for not being more clear about the multiplayer aspect since they advertise it on the box, and it was one of their 'big' selling points: the first console RPG with multiplayer.  My girlfriend and I really want to play through it together, but were frustrated when we couldn't figure that out.


It's most definitely not the first console RPG with multiplayer. Heck - Namco's other Tales games (the PS1 one we saw here in America at least) fully supported multiplayer once you got a certain item in the game.

That and the classic Final Fantasy 3 (6 if you go by the Japanese numbering system) supported multiplayer as well, technically. Not very well (as each player got a set of characters to use in combat), but it had multiplayer.

I'll have to go plug in a second controller into my 'Cube and give it a whirl tonight.
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2004, 03:39:14 PM »

Ok, I got the MP working the battles.  It's fine, for what it is.  

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

Here are some other thoughts:

There is no sense of the pace that we should take through the game.  When Genis and Floyd go looking for the party, it seems pretty straightforward.  However, the battle against the 3 Desians at the oasis town is FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE if you are not at least level 10.  Even then, the only way that we were able to win this battle was to set Floyd to fully automatic and then stand back and heal him every 2 seconds with Genis.  My girlfriend and I were really frustrated because we saw no indication of what level we needed to be in order to win this battle.

Some monsters that are super easy to kill at one point are really tough at other points.  Snakes are a good example... if you get poisoned, and you don't have a panacea bottle, you're doomed.  The hitpoint drain is very fast and very brutal.  

I don't understand the backpacker that you meet right before the desert.  Does he activate something for you?  What?  How do you use it?  He speaks of a long-range map view, but how do you activate it?  Then he says that you have to find a new one in each 'area' that you visit.  Ok... What comprises an area?  The world map is somewhat seamless...  

The part where it's just you and Genis bugs me.  It's really hard!  You end up fighting groups meant for your entire party, but they're not present.  What gives?  While we got past this part of the game, where, exactly, do you get ANY indication of how long you should fight around while trying to find the party?

I have some other gripes, but we're enjoying it, by and large.  I don't know if we'll make it through, especially if we hit any more points like the one with the 3 Desians in the town.  There was just no indication of what level we had to be to tackle that battle.
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2004, 04:37:02 PM »

Now that I did all of that bitching, I saw this on Ars Forum:
Quote
Here's a semi-rant... So, I'm in a certain place and I fight this certain badguy. I'll just say "skull". Ow. He beat the living piss out of my entire team. So, I try again. This time, I lens him and find his weakness. He decimates my group. Third try, this time I'm ready. I almost always control Lloyd, but I know I need ___ to use ___. As the battle starts, I go to Tech and tell him/her to fire it off. Whammo. Hurt the bastard with HP out the roof. The reason I'm telling this, though, is because my person then exclaims "I found a weakness!" The rest of the battle, he/she continues using that skill, without my intervention. To no avail, mind you. The badguy still trounced us, but I just thought it was very cool that my person automatically adjusted their strategy to deal with the situation. Very cool.
...
Tailoring your group's magic/skills to the battle makes a *huge* difference in some instances. Basically, you just turn off the ones you don't want them to use. I was fighting one guy, who steamrolled us and who I noticed wasn't taking physical damage. Lensed and found that he was weak to certain magic. I shut down all the unrelated magic and we obliterated him in like 3 seconds flat. Heh.


I guess I don't know how to do this.  I've used the lens, but all I see is the amount of HP that the character has.  How do you see what their weakness is?
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2004, 05:44:51 PM »

Quote from: "Balshazaar"
I guess I don't know how to do this.  I've used the lens, but all I see is the amount of HP that the character has.  How do you see what their weakness is?

I've lensed people as well, and I've never seen a weakness sitting in the little window that pops up showing their HP/MP.

Then again, maybe I've not lensed somebody who's ever had a magical weakness, as I only use it on bosses...

I know the game pauses when you hold down the R button to change targets. Tried that? Or can you access the Monster Book (whatever they call it) during fights? I know that shows weaknesses for sure.

I'm asking all these questions, because as usual, I'm at work.
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« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2004, 12:24:53 AM »

I got the info today...   You have to use Raine to lens them -- she is the only one that sees their weaknesses and collects ALL of their stats for the book.
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