Back in September, it was announced that the beloved GameCube RPG, Tales of Symphonia, would be seeing a remaster for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. While this sounded exciting, fans were quickly disappointed that it would run at 30FPS, half that of the GameCube original. In fact, this is actually the third remaster of this game, after prior re-releases on the PS3 and on Steam.
The Tales series has a rich legacy, being one of the first Japanese RPGs to ditch the traditional turn-based combat for more of a beat-em-up system. This is something that went on to form the combat for Final Fantasy, The Legend of Heroes and, recently, the Valkyrie series. What with juggernauts such as Square Enix, Sega, and even Konami jumping on the remaster train, it’s high time that Bandai Namco maybe considered a different “Tales of” game to get the remaster treatment, and here are 5 examples that would probably be better suited:
Tales of Xillia/Tales of Xillia 2
Perhaps cheating a little out of the gate with these two, but as the first Tales games designed specifically for the PS3, these were responsible for pushing the boundaries in what Tales games would look and play like, and there wouldn’t be an evolution this big until 2021’s excellent Tales of Arise (which obviously is not in need of a remaster any time soon). The original game sold over 1 million copies worldwide, while the sequel didn’t quite measure up with only about half as many. Though, critics and fans had a generally positive reception to both games, particularly Xillia 1 and its dual protagonist gimmick.
These games would arguably still look good with a higher resolution and remastered textures, and would definitely benefit from being bundled together, not unlike Square Enix’s Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Collection. The first Xillia was a huge success in Japan, winning all sorts of awards from the likes of Sony. Xillia 2 may not have reached the numbers of its predecessor, and would be unlikely to measure up as a standalone remaster, which is why it deserves to be bundled in with the original. Not to mention, Xillia 2 was able to use all the DLC you bought for the original Xillia – clearly a collection is the optimal way to retain this feature.
Tales of Phantasia
The game that started it all, Tales of Phantasia has actually seen even more re-releases than Symphonia at this point! Originally released for the SNES, exclusively in Japan, it was later remade for the PlayStation 1, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation Portable and most recently, iOS mobile devices. Unfortunately, of these releases, only the GBA and iOS versions ever received an English localisation. Even worse, the GBA edition was pretty lacklustre, and the iOS version was online-only, with servers having shut down years ago.
This is a real shame, as this game was astonishing for its time, bringing the absolute most of out the SNES with the then-new real time combat, an epic time-travelling storyline and excellent graphics. While the impact of these would likely be lost with a remaster today, it at least deserves some kind of re-release just to make this important entry available to gamers who missed out before. A full-on remake would be the dream, but perhaps it’s best not to get too excited.
Tales of Rebirth
Tales of Rebirth came out for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, and mixed fantastic spritework with an exciting lane-based battle system, and a widely appreciated story. While it didn’t sell as well as Bandai had hoped, it won awards of all sorts, and even saw adaptations of all sorts; from novels, to manga, to audio dramas. For such a big deal, it’s a wonder why it hasn’t been acknowledged since. Of course, the reason for this may have something to do with the complete absence of an English localisation. Rebirth bore the unfortunate task of following the beloved Symphonia, which had already made the jump to 3D models and environments; western audiences at the time were far more condescending towards sprite-based games, and perhaps this is why Bandai avoided releasing it overseas.
Fortunately, with the indie gaming scene having brought 2D back for good, and other larger developers following suit in continuing to deliver fantastic gaming experiences that are devoid of polygons, now is the perfect time for Bandai to not only remaster this buried classic, but bring it overseas and let the rest of the world find out what they were missing out on. Heck, the title practically spells it out; it’s time for a rebirth.
Tales of Destiny
Tales of Phantasia may have been the game that started the series, but the first taste the West would get of this huge franchise was its follow up for the PlayStation 1: Tales of Destiny. It may have been comparatively gimmicky – a talking sword? – but would prove to be a worthy successor, going on to sell over a million copies in Japan alone, to this day believed to be the highest selling Tales game in its home nation. It suffered a lot more when it arrived overseas in 1998 however, criticised for resembling a SNES game very late into the PS1’s lifecycle.
It was popular enough in Japan to receive a sequel, Tales of Destiny 2… not to be confused with the “Tales of Destiny 2” that America would later get, which was actually an entirely unrelated Tales game, “Tales of Eternia”. Of course, with Destiny being as popular as it was, it actually received a remake back on the PlayStation 2 – once again, Japan only, but fans consider this remake among the pinnacles of the series to this very day, even adding an additional story on top of the original. Phantasia may have gotten there first, but Destiny is arguably what deserves the remaster even more.
Tales of the Abyss
Released for the PlayStation 2 back in 2005, Tales of the Abyss ranks among the most beloved games in the series, even JRPGs in general. The exciting battle system, the first in the series to allow players full free movement across the 3D battle arena, was a huge milestone. That’s also not to overlook the character development given to the main protagonist. It’s a risky move to make your protagonist a pretty awful person to begin with, and rely on the player to give them time for redemption, but Bandai absolutely pulled it off. All this got it rave reviews, not to mention a full anime adaptation.
Yet with all that success, Abyss only saw release on the PS2, and later, the 3DS of all systems. While it was nice to have the game playable on the go, it’s hardly the definitive way to play. If they insist on porting it to portable consoles, perhaps it’s time it got a proper remaster on the Switch?
Hopefully, after the small backlash from the Symphonia “remaster”, Bandai seriously considers going all-in on making at least some of these classic RPGs more accessible to audiences who missed out. Several games remain locked on dead platforms or even without having left Japan altogether. Not long ago, they even tested the waters with Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition in 2019, which sold over 1.5 million copies – incredible for a remaster. With success like that, especially in the wake of a new audience brought in from 2021’s RPG of the Year, Tales of Arise, why not go in for a little more?
In the meantime, Tales of Symphonia: Remastered releases for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on February 17th, 2023.