Tales of Symphonia(2)

Genre: RPG
Year: 2003
Developed by: Namco Tales Studio
Published by: Namco
Platforms: Gamecube, PS2, PS3, PC
Feeling Like: Maestro

Third year in Bigelow was fun.

Every year in Bigelow was fun.

Mount Allison is a five year haze of partying, studying, making new friends and playing video games. One of the many benefits of living in a house with 100 other people in an atmosphere that fosters co-operative shenanigans is that you’ll never have a hard time rallying troops for a gaming session. Even playing single player experiences garnered small crowds, killing time between their next class or just seeing why an open door had some noise accompanying it.

Randy, Dave and Fuzz were/are three of my favorite friends, particularly when it came to gaming. It was very predictable that we’d all live off campus in 4th and 5th year together, but I’m talking about third year specifically. The year of no NHL hockey, season tickets to the Moncton Wildcast, my first single residence room, improved grades, insane winter weather (even for the Maritimes), the Rolling Stones concert and the last night I’d ever spend in Bigelow House. We win all the games. Especially Tales of Symphonia.

Tales of Symphonia(1)
Fuzz (hands), Me, Dave, Randy (bottom) also Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic

This was one of the few titles we could find that had four player co-operative mode. Four players – all of us. Not fighting each other, but joining forces in an epic role playing adventure. Oh, we were SO in. Easiest purchase I’ve ever made.

It was a privilege, for the most part. The cel-shaded graphics looked pretty decent, especially when Randy hooked us up with a different kind of connector cable to my enormous, yet tiny-screened, TV. I think we went from VGA to component? Or the other way round? Either way, colors were vibrant and the framerate didn’t drop in combat, even with all of us jamming away at various enemies in real time.

Tales of Symphonia(6)
Button mashing was my only strategy

I felt so badly for Dave. We each had one or two set characters, but Dave got the mage-boy with a yo-yo. Do you know how spells are cast in this game? By furiously tapping a single button to cast it faster. Speed was of the essence, since you could get hit by enemies and that would interrupt your spell. Or, we’d need a heal ASAP. Like right now. SOMEBODY HEAL ME. Have you ever had to take a physical breather from playing a video game? Dave did, and I don’t blame him at all. Frankly, I’m surprised his thumb still works. I asked him if he had any memories of us playing Tales of Symphonia together.

Dave: Just the ptsd from having to press that same button over and over. And that it was a lot of fun.

The chaotic nature of the fights only led to further hilarity. Nobody really cared if we yelled like hyenas right after dinner, as long as we kept it quiet once loud hour was over. Tales of Symphonia would have been logistically impossible during exam time – where 23 hour per day quiet time was instituted.

Tales of Symphonia(3)
Amen, Lloyd

I don’t recall much of the plot, that wasn’t the hook for me. I know there was a betrayal here and there and possibly a parallel world? And Colette has to sacrifice herself to save the world(s)? I wasn’t super interested in the story or the world building as much as other games. Partly because while the four of us may have found total synergy while battling enemies, outside of combat we may as well have been the Golden Girls managing a baseball team with Who on 1st base. Constant arguing about where we should go. When we should go. Wait, go back in that house. Why? I saw something. No you didn’t. Yes I did! Randy, stop it I’m trying to position him! – I controlled the main protagonist, but the others could control the camera. No, we’re done in this city. Wait, I need to sell that item and see if I can afford my new armor. Hang on, go talk to that guy. Which guy? The NPC behind the Inn. No, the other way. Oh wait, maybe he was inside the Inn? Ok, now talk to


Maybe there’s a reason that four player co-op seldom exists. I really should have conceded primary control to somebody else, but it was my Gamecube, my TV, my room and my game so I felt it necessary to man the helm, so to speak. Besides, bickering about where to go was half the fun and it wasn’t like we were rushed for time.

Tales of Symphonia(5)
If two’s a party, and three’s a crowd, what the hell does that make us?

The soundtrack didn’t blow my socks off. I really should have a listen sometime to rekindle the ol’ auditory nerves, but I don’t have a burning desire to do so. I do know that Lloyd and his friends insist that they holler the name of each ability upon performing it. SONIC SWORD RAIN! sounds acceptable the first 38 times you hear, but afterwards it just becomes a loud dance of slashing and fireballs. At least the monsters know what hit them.

I didn’t have the desire to accompany my buds on the post game dungeon, but I hardly minded sacrificing my space for the three of them to continue. I encouraged people, often, to play games while I was taking a nap or even studying. Background noise and company put me at ease. I rarely locked my door. I would often leave my Gamecube on and my door wide open in hopes I’d attract somebody to come play, or just come chat while I was trying to get a high score on Ikaruga. 

If you haven’t experienced it, it’s a very difficult joy to properly convey with written words. Having like-minded nerds living with you just down the hall is an underrated commodity. Consistently set schedules of anything non-school related made it all the sweeter. Dinner time was at five (for some reason) and it was rare our house didn’t eat all together in Meal Hall. Tales of Symphonia was always right after we arrived home. The perfect apéritif.

Tales of Symphonia(4)
It was the best of times, it was the Comboist of times

We each had two characters; naturally we gave Fuzzy the petite blonde angel healer, Colette. Dave was the kid magician in shorts with a yo-yo, Randy and I shared the sword-wielding dudes. Randy really should have been the leader, he controlled the camera most of the time anyway.

I miss Randy.

He’s good at everything, even being humble because if you TELL him he’s good at everything, he’ll say that he didn’t get 100% on his ancient hieroglyphics exam that he was taking for fun last month or something. Whether it was playing defense in hockey, school, baking bread, singing, being handsome or deconstructing convoluted plots of JRPGs, Randy was our go-to.

So much so, that I have to include another guest post on the 500, this time from the man himself.

Well, I remember really liking the ritual of it all. How we would all sit down and play together and how we were each always the same character. We’d call out to Dave when we needed healing, and real time and spacial mechanics of the battle system felt really fun. Kind of like a precursor to the feeling of playing World of Warcraft or something like that. Everyone would have their moments running into battle over confidently only to get owned pretty quickly and had to have their friends cover for them or come in to save the day while they get healed at the back. Except for maybe Dave, since if he got into trouble we all kind of died.

As a teen it was actually pretty common to go over to someone’s house and watch them play an RPG like Final Fantasy or something like that. With Tales of Symphonia, half of it was like that since only one player could control the main story. I don’t remember ever being bored by that dynamic or feel like I didn’t want to play. It’s kind of awesome that four people could get together and beat an RPG in a reasonable amount of time given everyone’s different schedules.

There was also something hilarious about getting into the roles of each character, like Fuzzy playing a petite blonde heroine when he was kind of the polar opposite of that. The goofy story only accentuated these things more. I remember laughing quite a bit together while we played.

Tales of Symphonia(7)
Fuzz is not petite, or blonde, or a world-saving heroine. But he did love eating cake in my room, apparently. (Dave, Randy on the left)

I keep thinking back a lot to how great the local multiplayer was. Online is fine but it feels like a fraction of the fun playing all together in the same place.

That’s all I can really think of right now. If anything else comes up, I’ll let you know.

(Randy’s writeup finished)

Anything else not needed. As usual, Randy nailed it.

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