Back in middle school, gaming was essentially my life: I played games everyday, every week, every chance I got. Sure, I've had friends, but that was during school. When I got home, the first thing I do is either turn on the TV to play my Gamecube or sat down on the couch and take out and turn on the Gameboy Advance that I kept in my pocket at all times. However, as much as a gamer I was, I never truly got out of my comfort zone: All I played was Super Smash Brothers Melee, Pokemon, Mario Party,
and all the other mainstream games with essentially no depth. However, one issue of Nintendo Power opened my eyes to the most amazing game I've ever read about, and the game that opened my eyes to a whole new world...
And I was blown away.
"Nothin' on You"
Yes, still doing music references
When I read the article of Tales of Symphonia
, which was pretty rare for me since I dislike reading in general, I was so taken in on the hype that Nintendo Power, the source of video game related news back then, was giving it. They mentioned a great, robust battle system, a detailed world, colorful graphics, and more. Now, despite growing up on the SNES and N64, I never strayed from games that had levels and such, so things like The Legend of Zelda
blew me by.
But for some reason, that I can't even explain to this day, I was strangely drawn on wanting to play this game. Yeah, the anime aesthetics did help in that regard (I made a whole blog
on Japanator about loving anime girls), and yes, the battle system was pretty sweet, but it wasn't because of that that I became so dead set on having this game... No, something inside me told me that this might be one of the most important games I'll ever play, despite my brain telling me it might not be worth the money (why spend money on a game that I might not like?). So what did I do? I followed my heart, saved up my money (a few dollar bills here and there) and hit up the local Gamestop.
Once I bought the game and held it in my hands, I knew that I made the right choice. The case was all shiny, the cover art appealed to me, and it felt heavy, like a REAL game. And so, on "My Way Home" from the car ride (I remember ripping the cellophane off, reading the instruction manual, and complaining about headaches during that time), I popped the first disc in (the only other game that had multiple discs that I recalled at the time was Final Fantasy 9
) and watched the intro cut-scene. The anime cut-scene was pretty good, a step up from the quality of other animes I watched, but the music really hit home; Remember, the America version didn't get a catchy Jpop song like Tales of Vesperia
did, but an orchestra of music that made me feel inspired, uplifted, and best of all, ready to play. (Or should I say "Ready for Whatever?")
While there weren't many anime cut-scenes, it DID get adapted to an anime.
Now, before I go on to the meat of this whole blog, you have to understand where I'm coming from to understand what's going through my head. The only other story-orientated JRPG I ever played was a little bit of Chrono Cross
and a few hours of Final Fantasy 9
. Chrono Cross
had one of the best game intros that I remembered at the time, with it's unique opening gameplay, that stuck in my mind to this very day. However, I was pretty young at that time, so once all the action stopped, I immediantely lost interest, a mistake I still regret apparently since people tell me it's so good... And I went on to make that same mistake with Final Fantasy 9
; Don't get me wrong, I loved playing as a pirate who decides to crash a play, and of course, Vivi, the little lovable black mage, but at one point in the game I got lost, and in m frustration on not knowing where to go, I lost interest yet again.
However, those games weren't mine, so when I stopped playing them from other people, I was pretty much "Letting Go" of them both physically and metaphorically, a decision I regret. But I wasn't going to make that mistake again, so "No Matter What," I was going to finish Tales of Symphonia now that I actually owned it. So once I booted up a new game, I kept my mind open of all the game has to show me, and what it showed me was pretty damn cool: The game started pretty decently, with school kids in school learning about not just a mythlogy, but something that actually HAPPENS in their world, before the teacher has to leave to tend to an emergency... An emergency that Lloyd and Genis are curious about.
At this point, I might've lost interest in the game, since it didn't start off as good as Chrono Cross
and Final Fantasy 9
did, but I stuck with it, reading all the text and such, in hopes that this game will blow me away like I thought it would from reading about it. And after some pretty cool turn of events (the appearance of the Desians, the introduction of the badass Kratos, and the whole "Chosen One" type deals), I started to get into the game, but that was only the "Tip of the Iceberg."
He's more badass than he looks, trust me.
Fastforwarding, I want to tell you about my experience of the game once it started to get real good. Since I didn't get far in the two PS1 games I mentioned earlier, and the fact that all I games I've played were level based, I never got to experience a true open world before (I guess Pokemon
could count, but it didn't amaze me back then), so when we get some pretty free rein to explore the world of Sylvarant, I was so taken back that I was just amazed: The wide open fields, the infinite skies, the oceans that stretched across the horizon... I had no idea how big the world could be (I was in middle school at the time).
I walked around the land, trekking my way to my destination, taking in the sights, exploring any places of interest... It was amazing to play a game that could do this! Sure, I did actually got lost on my way to Palmacosta (that was actually RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU), but the battles I had in this game was awesome... I always did wish for a game that allowed me to free in real time instead of waiting for my turn (especially for Pokemon
), and after seeing the characters pull off some pretty badass moves like "Beast" and "Tempest," my wish was pretty much confirmed.
"Beast Mode" (a track from B.o.B's mixtape)
And the story was just so interesting. Well, looking back, it was pretty simple at the time, but when I was a kid who grew up hating stories and such (always prefered action movies and skipping over any boring dialogue), it was amazing to see an electronic story that you could actually play. This wasn't like just watching it... I was playing it. And the characters grew attached to me over the scenes that I actually remembered their names and read every bit of dialogue, even all the static, voiceless Z-Skit cut-scenes (which didn't bored me for once I started to get to know the characters).
And the scale of the story also made me feel like a hero: Instead of trying to be the very best ( Pokemon
) or catching them all (Ape Escape
), I was out to save not only one world, but two worlds. I wasn't just trying to save my friend from a certain fate, I was trying to stop everyone from becoming something they're not. And I didn't know what betrayal was at the time, nor believed in anything but pure god or pure evil, so when Kratos and Zelos did what they did, I was shocked and depressed. I never felt this way in a game before... I didn't think I'd be the one who'd get attached to the characters, who feels emotion from a story... It was all a new thing to experience. I felt sad when Colette became a distant, emotionless being. I felt angry when Kratos betrayed me. I felt among friends when we're sitting around a campfire enjoying a meal. And best of all...
I felt happy to have played this game.
It unlocked a door of possibility into my world of video games, where being introduced to Tales of Symphonia made me want to play games like it. I started to play Grand Theft Auto 3
for it's action packed story and free roaming world, Final Fantasy Tactics for it's story and the ability to customize (I will write a blog on that sometime), and more, all from one game. Sure, maybe you think I'm making this game a lot bigger than it really was, but back then, this was a game with a low barrier to entry that, using past experiences with Pokemon and Final Fantasy 9
I was able to get into while still being introduced to new types of elements like story and characters. And even today, I regard JRPGs as one of my favorite genres of video games ever, with Tales of Symphonia
being the most influencial.
"Never Forget You"