There’s a growing trend in game remakes that has proven to be somewhat of a double-edged sword. A lot of games are being remastered in high definition, and released with a sequel or two on the same disc. While some HD remaster collections add new features or even bits of content to give the player more incentive to pick up the pack, there are many that offer nothing more than a resolution bump. This is fruitful for the interests of game preservation and keeping classics relevant and available, but it also sets a worrisome precedent for remakes as a whole. Most of these games remain fine as they are, but the fact that it has become so easy for publishers to repackage one or two old titles without giving them the careful and lavish presentation upgrade they deserve is disappointing.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles packages two titles: Tales of Symphonia and its sequel, Dawn of the New World. Tales of Symphonia was one of the greatest RPGs to grace the GameCube, and was the series’ first 3D entry. It remains one of the most important steps forward in Japanese action-RPGs, as it was able to mix in the strengths of 3D fighters to create a more dynamic and flowing combat system, a design trend the series has kept since. Using multiple linear planes of movement solved previous Tales games’ problems with cramped battle space, and balanced issues with enemy focus and spatial strategy in a 3D environment.
There were some problems that impeded deeper strategy, such as a lack of combo canceling and side-stepping (Both of which were implemented in later games), but Symphonia was ahead of its time with combat as a whole. The game’s story might have been lackluster by the standards of many big names of the genre, but the endearing characters, fleshed out by dozens of auxiliary conversations between party members, made the tale a more engaging one than the plot gave it any right to be.
Symphonia was also notable for its use of a cel-shaded art direction, something that became one of the most iconic aesthetic directions of the generation, especially in many other GameCube games. Symphonia used thick outlines and bright colors to keep action manageable during hectic battles, and it paid off by also giving the game a distinct look. This is preserved in Chronicles, helping to compensate for dated assets with a coherent look.
Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World — originally a Wii exclusive — was not nearly as well-received as its predecessor. Featuring a controversial new monster-collection element, many felt it strayed too far from the series’ core principles. While it isn’t the worst entry in the series, it de-emphasizes developing a strong, small group of characters in comparison to other titles, removing points in its favor.
The combat uses a few new tricks that the Tales team learned from making Tales of the Abyss, but other than the aforementioned monster-taming mechanics, there isn’t a whole lot that’s new about DotNW. The cel-shaded visuals were swapped out for a more traditional anime/pastel look, and while it does take advantage of the Wii’s extra horsepower, it lacks the distinctive charm of the original.
Bandai Namco has a history of haphazardly re-releasing Tales games; the 3DS port of Tales of the Abyss in particular stands out for not adding a single new feature to the game outside of the nigh-mandatory 3D visuals. Tales of Symphonia Chronicles is guilty of a similar crime; other than the higher resolution and trophy support, there is nothing that has been added to either of these games that the world has not already seen.
There is a minor amount of new content in Tales of Symphonia that was previously seen in the reworked PS2 port, such as a handful of new special attacks, one or two new cutscenes and some new costumes. This content was never released outside of Japan, so it is technically new to western gamers, but that still means that no new content was created for Chronicles. The sequel, Dawn of the New World, remains even less altered, as it is a direct upscale of the Wii game with new controls. Bandai Namco took the lazy route for this collection, and the fact that we have seen it do this before means we should be asking for more.
It’s painful, but Tales of Symphonia Chronicles has met the same fate as Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix. The games included are absolutely worth your time and money, but the lazy presentation of these titles is definitely a letdown. Bandai Namco could have done a lot more to give these games the updates they deserved, and the fact that the improvements were so minimal feels like a missed opportunity.
Pros: One great game and one decent game in high definition
Cons: Bare-bones release, no changes or new content