Tales of Symphonia is my favourite video game of all time. It might also be my favourite narrative as well. Symphonia contains many twists, huge build up, a deep theme, and numerous culminating portions. There are large parts of the plot that I completely missed on my first and even second playthroughs.
So, I’m starting a fourth playthrough. I’m very excited about it. See, one of the things I loved about Symphonia as a child is that I could play it with my brother and sister. In many RPGs, you have a party of four characters. Very few games let other people take control of the other party members. Many of the Tales games do though! So, while I controlled the character through dungeons and towns, my brother and sister could play with me during all the fights!
I take advantage of the multiplayer as much as possible. My first run was with my two siblings, as I said. My second was solo, and it was actually the least enjoyable one for me. The third was with my good friend during high school. It was very disjointed though, as we couldn’t play very often. This fourth run will be with my roommate and friend of many years. I hope it goes well! Moving on to though.
The story was engaging enough that they didn’t mind the portions that they weren’t playing. The game was consistently interesting, and I never got stuck. See, I wasn’t all that good at games as a kid, and older titles didn’t really help the player much. I got lost and gave up on quite a few games back then. But Symphonia wasn’t one of them.
Tales of Symphonia is a plot driven narrative, as opposed to a character driven one. The game is about seventy hours, twenty longer than the average RPG. According to GameFAQs, it’s the fourth longest RPG on the GameCube. Of course, RPG game times are inflated by walking around in dungeons and on the world map, and of course fighting monsters. I would guess that the narrative elements are a little less than half that number. Speedruns hit around 25h, add about 5 for not skipping dialogue, and another 5 for skits and it’s about thirty-five hours. For comparison, audiobooks are around eight hours, longer ones hitting fifteen. Although, if you adapted Symphonia as a book, I think it would reach only about 120 000 words, assuming you cut nothing that’s narrative from it.
So, Symphonia is a huge sprawling narrative, with lots of subplots weaving in and out of it, all relevant to the main one. If you’re interested in playing the game yourself, it’s on GameCube, PlayStation 3, and Steam (Computer). I will be playing the GameCube version, but they all have the same story. My plan is to take careful notes on this, my fourth run, and compile a large review and summary in parts as I go. So, expect that here, very soon, and about once a week.
[Update: Please note that this project has long be dropped. While I do hope one day to write a critical essay on Symphonia, and likely its characters (I think the story has enough to warrant it), the project laid out in this post ended around the time I returned to University. You can still read it nonetheless.]
[I have, however, continued taking notes, and I have a file saved full of outlines and ideas. The plot has opened up to me more as I’ve grown older, and I definitely intend to do something with it…eventually.]
I’ll see you then,
P.S. This was published on the day I started the fourth run.