Tales of Symphonia is one of the most common answers I get when I ask “What was your first Tales of game?”
It’s usually followed by “I didn’t finish it my first time” or “I finished it but kind of forgot about it and didn’t realize how good the story was.”
Most of those people fell in love with the Tales of series through a different game than Symphonia even though Symphonia was their first Tales of game.
While this is okay, a lot of them also state that Symphonia is one of their favorite games in the series.
I have a theory on this and I want to lay it out. So… I will. Here is why I think Symphonia was a lot of people’s first Tales game but wasnt the one that made them love the series.
First off, age. Destiny and Eternia (Tales of Destiny 2 in NA) were the only western releases before Symphonia. Destiny was released in 1998 and a lot of people weren’t quite old enough to fully play through it all grasp the seriousness of the game and story. Those that were old enough probably weren’t too excited about the gameplay and battle system which was mostly turn base at that time. It seemed weird, a little stiff, and a bit clunky at times. A lot of people didnt like that and the challenge it brought. It was also the first in the series (second ever) to reach the west. It had no fanbase and the internet wasn’t exactly there like it is now.
Tales of Destiny II came out Seltember 10, 2001. That’s right. One day before the Twin Towers fell, Tales of Destiny II was released.
Okay, I have to stop. It’s Eternia. I hate they called it Destiny 2 in the west. Lol. I am going to say Eternia from now on.
Tales of Eternia had almost no good advertising for it’s western release and the status of 9/11 brought about some weird thing where people only remember the towers and not much else going on. That being said, Eternia wasn’t all that great and there were other things to be hyped about.
Namco thought that naming it Tales of Destiny II would be enough advertising since Destiny did pretty good in the west. The only problem is… they literally didn’t do almost any advertising. They kind of just threw it out there to the west with minimal effort. A big mistake in my opinion but it sold enough to try the western market at least one more time.
Now it’s on to Symphonia’ release!!!
So here is the main part to my theory on why a lot of people begin with Symphonia but never finish or it takes a different game to love the series. This whole theory is more based on people 32ish and under.
It’s because the beginning of Symphonianis bright, vibrant, and childish. I think people started it expecting some awesome adventure with a darker undertone than what we got in the first hour or the game. It takes a long time to get to the boss in the fire temple. There is one fight with humans. After that you fight bunnies and birds. Yep. You’re supposed to be on a big adventure to regenerate the world and you fight bunnies, birds, and snakes at the start lol.
Also, your protagonists are children with two adults. Raine does make the situation better with her history enthusiasm but Kratos is kind of boring tbh. The cast is kind of dull at the start. They are immature (naturally) and fight bunnies lol. I digress when it comes to their decisions with the start to an otherwise epic, monumental game.
Symphonia was released in North Amarica July 13, 2004. Also, Final Fantasy was dominating the JRPG market and FFX was released a year prior and FF X came out just before 2002 and that’s is arguably one of it’s best games, mainly among FF/JRPG newbies. FF X-2 entering NA during December the same year (2004). Final Fantasy XI was kind of a disaster but it was there as well. Crystal Chronicles was a Final Fantasy game released in 2004 that was a multiplayer and kind of a 3D battle system (in a weird, “step outside the circle and you will die” kind of way).
There are a few other games that took attention away from Symphonia such as Drakengard. Drakengard got a bunch of advertisements that year. It was everywhere. I bought it abs remember thinking how amazing the gameplay and graphics were. It was one of those “test the limits, build an amazing story, and show off current gen capabilities” games.
Drakengard took up time. People had both saved to the memory card. A lot of people played both and sometimes never finished Symphonia or half assed paid attention.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time was released. Star Ocean was a hit in the west and everyone waited forever for the new Star Ocean (TEOT). It finally came that year and Square Enix knew the west had been waiting forever for a new Star Ocean. Square Enix had the big name in the JRPG and did a beautiful advertising job.
All that being said, Tales of Symphonia is finally released. The gameplay and story were amazing. Word of mouth helped out. Couch co op existed and the 2 player option was actually fun. The second player felt way more involved and could move around during battle and at the time, a co op JRPG of that caliber didnt really exist. It drew some people in. Siblings could play an RPG together and it was actually a really good game with an amazing story and combat system.
Namco also advertised Symphonia and learned their lesson that name alone wasn’t enough in the west. They had full page ads in Nintendo Power. They advertised it in EB Games (Electronic Boutique, AKA, Gamestop before Gamestop bought them). They actually advertised it very well. I think it was because Star Ocean advertisements were out there and that was their big competitor for that release (they had to beat that before they could step to FF even though SO and FF are both owned by SE).
So… I think the flurry of all these things created one of the best games of all times. However, all the other games surrounding it and what led up to it created a storm.
A storm that had almost everyone play it at some point…. but not realize it’s a series. Having played it they eventually come across another Tales game and buy it or play it. Quickly they think “oh… that’s a series? I played that. Oh… this looks good actually.”
Thus…. we have a reason why so many people have ToS as their first Tales game, admit it’s one of the best in the series, but then tell you it’s not why they love the series lol.
Thanks for reading my essay. There is more but tbh I spent way too much time as it is and wrote out way too much. I highly doubt anyone is even going to read all this or be interested but here it is. My stupid, useless theory.