In the beginning, God made the Earth. More recently, He made Tales of Symphonia.
Tales of Symphonia is Namco's latest iteration of the Tales series, and it is on the GameCube none the less.
In Tales of Symphonia (ToS), you play as Lloyd, a young Human boy, raised outside a small town by a Dwarf craftsman. He is also the companion of the Chosen, a young girl who is destined to lead the world into its period of regeneration. The story continues on from there in an epic tale, one in which there are many side stories to explore, many twists to uncover.
The battle system in ToS is amazing. It's fast paced, with enough things to do to keep you interested, but simple enough to enjoy it without too much thought. It is action-based, where you control the movement of your main character on a semi-2D plane. Your attacks form combos depending on your directional press, and you can chain skills into the combos to perform more complex moves and to stun your enemy. In battle, you are accompanied by three other companions that support you by healing you and by adding to your combos with their own attacks and spells. The AI commanding your party is intelligent and you can set the strategies that determine what they do.
The battle themselves are initiated through coming in contact with the enemies on the field, so there are no random battles. If you are skillful enough, you can avoid them (or seek them out). Another feature I liked a lot was that the game had a little synopsis option that let you review parts of the story that had already happened, allowing you to look at "clues" given for side quests.
The graphics in ToS are beautifully cell-shaded anime-style works of art. They are pleasing to the eye and have a good amount of detail. The sound is very pleasant and definitely suits the various moods portrayed in the game. The sound effects are fitting as well, but aren't very memorable.
My only frustration with the game was that some of the dungeons were very tedious, with puzzles that forced you to back-track through enemy infested areas, which tends to be very nerve racking. That being said, the puzzles are very well thought out, and are very thought-provoking, and the rewards tend to be well placed and proportionate to the difficulty of the puzzle.
Overall, Tales of Symphonia is a very solid RPG, with an intriguing story, a complex yet simple battle system, and a pull that will keep you coming back until you have mastered it. I highly recommend it to every GameCube owner and to prospective GC owners as well.