Tales of Symphonia Remastered Review
‘Remastered’ one of those terms which is fast becoming meaningless, like ‘new and improved’, ‘unprecedented’ or ‘New York Times best seller’. These revamped rereleases have been coming thick and fast for years, and some invariably are better than others — both in terms of the base game and the how big of the facelift it receives on the way to current consoles and machines. Unfortunately, the latest iteration of Tales of Symphonia is remastered in the same way that those uniformly processed ready meals you see at the local supermarket are ‘handmade’.
I came to Tales of Symphonia Remastered as someone who never had the chance to play the original, whether on GameCube or its later PS3 release. It was one of those games I had heard of, but always remained on the periphery. When I heard the remaster was coming to the PS4, I figured it’d be a great chance to fill Lloyd Irving’s boots and regenerate the dying world of Sylverant.
For the uninitiated, Lloyd is on a journey — a FFX-esque pilgrimage with the Chosen, your childhood friend Colette, who is prophesised to be the one who will heal the world and seal away the Desians plaguing mankind. So far, so Final Fantasy X. It’s far from a carbon copy though, as rather than being the embodiment of Sin, the Desians are a race of half-elves who are subjugating and murdering humans, and are doing their best to kill the Chosen and prevent her journey to awaken the goddess Martel. This would seal away the Desians and save the world in the process.
It’s a great story, so it’s a crying shame that the PS4 edition of Tales of Symphonia feels like a PS3 port of a PS2-era game. The more I played it, the more I found my eyes drifting away from the TV and towards my copy of FFX Remastered on the shelf.
The remaster work on offer with Tales of Symphonia is an AI-based upscaling to try to make the textures look crisper. It works to a degree for the character models, and the 1080p resolution is obviously a step up from what the GameCube had to offer, but it juxtaposes horrifyingly against the poorly rendered backgrounds and scenery, to the point where it just looks awful.
What’s worse is that this remaster is locked at 30fps on any modern platform, Switch, Xbox One, or playing the PS4 version through PS5 backward compatibility. Believe it or not, that makes the original GameCube version the best-quality iteration of the game, as it plays in 60fps, and that came out 20 years ago. This game really isn’t worthy of the term ‘Remastered’.
Looking past the graphics, Tales of Symphonia has aged poorly as a game, which is a shame for such a beloved title. Some remakes come with quality-of-life improvements, but the major feature changes are mostly held back for remakes. Symphonia is basically a lightly reskinned port of the PS3 port of the PS2 port of the GameCube game, with several glaring omissions and issues that have been built on by successive games over the years.
Things like combat tutorials coming after the first few rounds of combat just feel daft, especially when the combat feels as clunky as it does to newcomers. The key bindings don’t work the way you would expect and the whole thing feels archaic and clunky. Without the benefit of nostalgia, which I’m sure would be a massive help here, the best I can say is that it’s not too bad once you get the hang of it. Combat these days is just a lot smoother than it was back then — it’s like going back and playing the original Witcher. It’s an undeniably great game, but the combat is not as good as you remember.
Navigating the overworld is equally fiddly (and ugly), with modern quality-of-life features like a journal or waypoint conspicuously missing. I flicked through dialogue too quickly and had to reload my file to figure out where I was supposed to be going. User error sure — not going to contest that one — but it’s stark that going back and playing games without these modern features certainly won’t be for everyone.
If you can get through this, there’s a great game buried in there. The story is great, the characters are mostly likeable and very well voice acted. It’s just a shame that this release doesn’t feel like it does the game justice.