The world of Sylvarant is dying. However, a prophecy speaks of a chosen one coming to protect the world from its own demise. Spurred on by this prophecy, Lloyd Irving and friends find themselves in the middle of a journey to bring their world back to health. What they are unaware of is that while they are helping their world revive, they are destroying another. Lloyd and friends will find themselves both the hunters and the hunted through many twists and turns.
Tales of Symphonia uses a Linear Motion Battle System(LMBS), which not only sounds interesting but leads to interesting battles. LMBS is a real-time battle system that allows you to move both vertically and horizontally on the screen. When engaging the enemy, players choose between using normal attacks for close combat or launching magic attacks from afar. Players can not only instigate, block, and evade attacks using the main character in battle, but will also have the ability to control how ther party members fight. For those who don't feel like micromanaging to that degree, there is also the capacity for up to four different players to step in and take a character; however, the downside to this is that the camera focuses on the main character so some players may find themself fighting offscreen.
On top of the aforementioned normal attacks that was mentioned above, there are tech attacks that can be used by pressing the "B" button in conjunction with a direction with the Control Stick. Some tech attacks are spell-based while others are weapon-based, depending on the character. Each time a tech attack is used, it depletes the character's tech points, which can be refilled with items, certain spells, and even just a basic attack. During battle, action can be stopped to target enemies or to use items. It's even possible to command other party members to use tech attacks during this time.
Tales of Symphonia gives a great deal for the player to customize and this includes the characters themselves. This is achieved through the use of Ex Gems, which players can collect throughout the game. Each character has slots for up to 4 Ex Gems. Different skills can be learned through the equipping of certain types of Ex Gems and each one is level specific. Different combinations lead to enhanced battle skills. Throughout the game, characters earn different titles. For example, Genis Sage starts out as a Magic User and quickly earns the titles of Honor Roll, Brotherly Love, and Sorceror. As the characters level up, their attributes change differently depending upon which titles they carry.
Side quests play a very large role in Tales of Symphonia. As players travel through the world of Sylvarant, there will be many individuals who require their help. Forgetting which quests remain unfinished is never a problem, as the menu contains a list showing all quests and uncompleted quests (shaded yellow.) Previously visited towns and landmarks are also viewable in the menu from the world map. A listing of the inventories from shops in each town can also be accessed from the map. Throughout the game, characters may cook food which, if created correctly can completely refill Health Points. Tales of Symphonia will also require the use of 3 empty blocks on a memory card for game saves.
In a genre that the Gamecube seems to see very few good titles in, Tales of Symphonia shines through as proof that there is still a good reason to own a GC. If all shapes up the way things look now then this could be a step in the right direction for getting good RPGs for the Gamecube. Tales of Symphonia will ship across North America next month.