This post reaches from Iselia to the Exiling. The next post will be on Triet and the Seal of Fire!
Tales of Symphonia opens with a monologue delivered by Kratos. I’ve memorized this little story, and I’ve even performed it to a crowd of hundreds as part of a community variety show. Not sure how I got away with that one!
Cool, there’s a poem. It mentions “the angel” (Martel), and how the chosen must go to the tower to regenerate the world. This poem offers a bit of insight in a fanciful way to the player before the game even starts. It makes the journey of the chosen seem like a fairy tale. On a second playthrough, this intro takes on new meaning. It’s a very elegant touch.
The game starts you off in a classroom in the village of Iselia. A bright shot of light from the temple signals that the oracle is to be to received by the chosen. The teacher, Raine, leaves to go check it out.
Welcome to Iselia, the Village of Oracles
You’re left in the classroom playing the character of Lloyd. Lloyd seems to be a fairly generic old school shounen protagonist. In the same vein as Orphen, Inuyasha, or Gourry (from Slayers). He’s a very driven, but kind of dumb and he has a very agreeable personality.
As Lloyd you can walk around and talk to people. It’s obvious who’s important by how they dress. Genus is the resident child genius mage, and Colette is the oblivious blonde. She’s also the chose one.
Woah! You may be wondering, how can such a great game have such stock, archetypal characters? I’ve seen these characters in loads of games and shows and gameshows.
Well, Symphonia starts out in a fairly standard way. It’s surprising how much it’s like every other RPG of the time. The simple truth is this, for the first thirty or so hours, the game is very normal for an golden age JRPG. It takes no shame in this, in fact it’s tagline is “Resonating with your RPG.” Many fans claim that this is one of the game’s strengths. The archetypes are used very effectively and satisfyingly, but I have a proposition for why they’re used that’s even better.
But after the thirty hour mark, all these archetypes turn around and punch you in the face with a hand full of a ton of bricks. We’ll get to that later though! For now, just know that people all over the internet agree that Team Symphonia do their tropes very very well. I’ll talk about how they mess with them in the future.
So, you leave the classroom, ignoring Raine’s instructions to stay inside. Genis, of course, protests, but not because he’s a goody too shoes on top of his intelligence. It’s because he doesn’t want to disobey his sister. Genis is Raine’s brother, and he is very loyal. Of course you convince him and then you Genis and Colette head to the temple. You can go to Frank for free healing, so this is actually a decent place to grind.
There’s trouble at the temple! You hear fighting as you approach, and at the top you see, gasp, the Desians attacking the priests! Lloyd yells at them.
“Desians?” They say, “Well then, fall at the hands of the Desians you so hate!”
The Desians are an evil organization run by half-elves. They run human ranches, where they put humans to work, mostly pushing blocks around and whipping them. The journey of regeneration that the Chosen One undergoes does two things, it brings mana (basically analogous to economic wealth and prosperity) back to the world, as well as driving the Desians away.
So you come in and help, but then the Desians send out their big strong mini-boss guy and you have a bit of trouble. Not to worry though! A man comes to the rescue. He can heal, cast magic, and swordfight too! Wow. The rest of the Desians leave, including a man with spikey hair and a big curved sword. After the fight we learn that this man is Kratos.
Kratos, a mercenary, gets hired to protect the chosen, since the priests are all dead or injured. Lloyd wants to help his friend too, so he offers to go in the temple with them. Kratos is reluctant, but is forced to submit.
“This isn’t a field trip.”
A theme that seems to run through the early points of the game is that Lloyd is very frustrated that Kratos thinks he’s a better fighter. Worse, he acknowledges that it’s true. Lloyd is stuck with this conflict that he’s always second to the older, cooler, Kratos.
The temple is fairly standard. You do a block puzzle, and then you get the sorcerer’s ring. The sorcerer’s ring is a device that shoots fire, and it’s used as a puzzle device in basically every future dungeon. It only opens a door in this one. There’s also no boss. Once you get to the altar, you meet Remiel.
Remiel is an angel, and he bestows the Cruxis Crystal to Colette so that she can start her journey. He says to go to the south to the Temple of Fire and pray at the alter there. It’s rumoured that Colette’s father is really an angel, and so she asks him if he is really her father.
“First, head to the Seal of Fire. Understood, my beloved daughter Colette?”
Wow! Fancy! The chosen is half angel.
The party exits the temple and takes stock back in Iselia. Colette is set to take the journey with the help of Kratos and Raine. I wonder who’s going to teach the classes? Anyway, Lloyd wants to take the journey too, and help his friend.
“You’ll only get in the way” Kratos says. (Note that these quotes are coming from memory)
Lloyd ends up convincing them to let him come along, and then he and Genis leave. Colette follows and says she’s sorry. She apologizes a lot and Lloyd doesn’t like it. Genis gives her some cookies for her birthday. Oh man! Lloyd forgot! He promises her a gift tomorrow. She goes back to prepare for her journey.
Iselia Forest, where the Crime is Commited
The two stop by Genis’s house to get some supplies. I read the book on his bookshelf, full of hand-me-down books from Raine. It’s a note on the Desians and how bad they are. Cool, I guess. I intend to read all the books in this game, so there’s the first one.
Lloyd goes home along with Genis. Lloyd lives outside of town, and he wonders why Genis wants to go with him. It’s to meet a friend apparently. Lloyd assumes he’s keeping a pet dog secret from Raine, but the reality is much worse…
As they go through the Iselia woods, they pass the path to the human ranch. Iselia has a non-aggression treaty with the ranch, and Lloyd isn’t about to be the one who breaks it. Or is he… Genis tells him that they already broke the rules by attacking Colette at the temple!
So they go in. Through the tall, high tech fence, Genis finds her friend, Marble. Marble is an old woman who’s stuck in the ranch. They have a nice conversation, but them Lloyd notices an exsphere. Exspheres are supposed to be rare, only Desians have them.
“They put it on my shortly after I arrived.”
“An exsphere without a key crest is dangerous!”
An exsphere is a small ball. If put it against your skin, then it increases your abilities, usually the combat ones. All Desians use exspheres. There’s a problem though, if you use an exsphere for too long, you get really sick. Don’t worry, they’ve found a solution! If you get inhibitor ore that’s processed by a dwarf, you can carve a key crest out of it. With a key-crest, you’re safe from the sickness, but still get the power!
Then Marble gets back to work. Since she’s been slacking off the Desians yell at her and then go whip her. Genis wants to stop them but they don’t know how. Lloyd comes up with a plan, Genis can lob a fireball at the Desians, and then Lloyd will run away, down the ridge, hiding his face. It’s the perfect plan!
Isn’t Marble used to whippings? Well, whatever.
The plan is going smoothly, but then Genis trips while Lloyd’s doing his distracting. He’s forced to turn around and take out the guards that saw him. Then he flees. They think they’re safe, so they split up and Lloyd goes home.
He lives in a nice two story wooden house with his father, Dirk, who is a dwarf. Lloyd is not half dwarf, but his father is still a dwarf. He asks Dirk to make a key crest. Dirk finds out he’s been to the ranch and yells at him. Lloyd learns that he can’t let his exsphere be seen by the Desians. They want it, and the Desians killed his mother in order to get it. Lloyd didn’t know that his mother was killed by Desians, just that she died.
I’m Home, Mom.
Lloyd’s mother is dead, she was found outside the ranch by Dirk when Lloyd was around two or three. The story had always been that Lloyd’s mother, Anna, was found dead with him in her arms. The truth is that she was alive, stating that Dirk was to keep the exsphere safe. She must have run off with the gem, and now the Desians want it back. It seems they will fight very hard to get it, because for some reason it’s special. More about Lloyd’s past is revealed in the future, but it’s very important that this baseline is clear.
Outside is everyone else. They’re here to talk about the journey tomorrow, it seems almost like they’re saying their goodbyes. Lloyd hasn’t made Colette’s birthday gift, and he promises to have it ready in the morning.
The next day, Dirk has the key crest Lloyd needed, and Lloyd has finished his necklace for Colette’s late birthday.
“Dwarven Vow number two: Never abandon someone in need.” Dirk states.
In high spirits, Lloyd exits the house and finds Genis.
“Genis, what are you doing here?”
Turns out Colette already left without him! They rush to Iselia and Frank (Colette’s original father, before he got replaced lol) gives them a note. It’s narrated in her voice and basically says that it’s safer for him in the village, and that after she regenerates the world they won’t have to worry about Desians anymore.
Lloyd is angry, but what can he do?
They go outside, and everything’s on fire. Lloyd and Genis run to the town entrance to see what’s going on, and there’s Forcystus, the leader of the Desian human ranch and one of the five Desian Grand Cardinals! Damn, we’re in trouble now. He says that Lloyd Irving is accused of attacking the ranch. Turns out they have security cameras… in a medieval setting. Must be magic? Anyway, he sets a big green monster on them, and we fight the first boss. It’s called Exebula, and boy is it tough.
Not to worry though, it’s taken down by Lloyd and Genis. Forcystus orders his Desian henchmen to capture them, but the Exebula grabs him! It talks in the distorted voice of Marble, telling them to run. Then, it explodes.
The Exebula was Marble. Genis takes all that’s left of her and yells.
As Long as You Have that Exsphere, I Will Hunt You Down!
The henchmen guard the injured Lord Forcystus and leave. Before they go he says one thing, noticing Lloyd’s exsphere.
“Lloyd, as long as you have that exsphere, I will hunt you down.”
Lloyd is marked, and the mayor, an unpleasant man, says to exile him. There’s argument among the townspeople, who all sound like other cast members putting on voices. (One is clearly Lloyd with a deeper voice, saying that Lloyd should be kicked out. Another sounds like Colette’s actor doing a non-cutesy voice, and another still might be Raine. I can’t tell. Just a funny sidenote!)
Lloyd and Genis are exiled. Colette’s grandmother and father, Frank, say that they should go south and track down the chosen. If they save the world, surely they will be let in again!
Find the Chosen!
Awesome! Lloyd now has a reason to finally join the Journey of Regeneration.
And so, Lloyd, Genis, and Lloyd’s big weird dog Noishe, head south to the desert.
Alright, I know that these summaries aren’t all that interesting, but it’s a necessary reference point. I’ll try to keep it entertaining, okay?
P.S. In case you don’t know what’s going on here, check out what I plan to do with Tales of Symphonia!