I think this piece will be full of a lot of things people have heard repeated consistently over the last few weeks. Tales of Symphonia has had a troubled history of ports, with each one coming with some form of new issue or downgrade. Many will tell you the GameCube original still holds up, and I’m sure they’re right. I’ve never played Symphonia in that version, my first attempt was on PC. While it took me a couple of tries to wade through the old voice acting and dated battle system, I came to appreciate what it was going for. For the series’ first true 3D outing, this game set a standard the games follow met in various ways. Tales of Symphonia is a classic, but its latest Nintendo Switch release is such a fumble that it makes it impossible to review the game hidden beneath such a lackluster remaster.
I don’t think there’s even room to discuss aspects of this version like the combat, story, or characters because there’s a reason why this game has been beloved for around two decades. If you play this latest console remaster on any of the other systems it is currently offered on you will be able to see the original vision mostly unblemished. There is a lot to nitpick, from visual aesthetic tweaks to the framerate still targeting 30 frames per second (whereas the original release caps out at 60), but frankly, if this were the case on Switch I would find this remaster serviceable for those without any other means to experience the game.
This version at its core is based on the PlayStation 3 remaster, but with adjustments made to the lighting and character outlining. Having not grown up with the original version, I’m inclined to find this version of the game the best to look at in my opinion. I’ve never been a big fan of the harsh shading and thick outlines, even if I admit that was a conscious artistic decision. I won’t make any grandstanding statements on quality, but this version on the Nintendo Switch OLED Model screen was easier on the eyes than I expected. The only sore spot is the textures, which have been poorly AI-upscaled and look like murky images overly sharpened. This is less of an issue undocked, but quite noticeable when playing on a TV.
The place where the Switch version massively deviates in quality from its console brethren is that a few of the most important visual effects are completely broken now. I have no way of knowing what happened, but I have a vague idea. The game seems to use temporary screenshots in its transitions, and somehow when porting this remaster to Switch everything relating to this has broken. Battle transitions are the major one, which used to have a classic glass shatter effect on your current scene followed by a smooth transition to battles. When you’re playing an action RPG, and every single battle transition is a hard cut to a black frame, then a white frame, then a fade-in, that’s far from easy on the eyes. If you have a history of epilepsy, stay away from this version until it is fixed. This seriously gave me minor headaches, it bothered me a lot.
What isn’t as egregious but certainly annoying is that this also affects the game’s user interface. When pausing the game or viewing a skit, both of these are supposed to be on top of a still of the game, but now just appear suddenly over black backgrounds. No transition, just a hard cut. It leads me to believe that whatever they’re doing to take a temporary screenshot is meant to be used across all three of these effects and it being broken just leads to ruining all the effects. You will spend most of your play time doing these three things, so this is a massive flaw that is hard to overlook.
In addition to these serious visual issues, the load times are quite slow and cutscenes now have several glitches when specific camera cuts take place. The framerate is also not at a stable 30 frames per second, and I’ve seen it dip when simply running around an unbusy town in the game. It’s just generally sloppy, and I can’t see why a game with roots in the GameCube would run and look this poorly unless there was just no time for any optimization.
Apparently, Bandai Namco Entertainment is working on a fix, but, as of writing this, we have no idea when this will be coming out. I had considered waiting for the patch and reviewing it after the fact, but the best-case scenario of this patch would be reporting on a simple, solid version of a classic game that deserves better. This could have been a way to right the missteps of the previous remaster, but that’s not what we got. Tales of Symphonia is not my favorite game in this series, but I’m worried about what it would mean if this is the new standard for Tales of remasters going forward. I hope this is fixed soon because the game underneath this is quite good.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment