As noticed by someone who’s played each at least half a dozen times! I’d rank Tales of Symphonia easily in my top ten games of all-time and a lot of that came from how familiar it felt. I truly wonder how much I would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t played Secret of Mana over a decade earlier.
Major spoilers for both games, obviously!
They’re action RPGs.
They’re noted for great soundtracks.
At least three-player co-op! Now there’s an RPG rarity.
Both games have a way to break boss battles with stunlock by exploiting quirks of magic animations. In Secret of Mana you can begin casting a second attack spell before the first spell’s animation ends; in Tales of Symphonia you can cancel a casting animation to reset your combo, giving most magic users near-infinite combos. (Tip: It’s easier to get the timing down for Colette and Sheeena than for Kratos, Zelos, or Regal. Raine can technically pull it off too, but it’s much, much tougher.)
While creating wiki templates for my upcoming RPG, I used sample information from my character Celty. I could stop there and ask a question I’ve thought about idly: I spotlight my characters like Final Fantasy VI or Tales of Vesperia spotlighted theirs, where each of them has shining moments and a fan could make a dozen compelling cases for who the “true” hero is, so why is Celty my “default” character—my template? Is she my favorite? No. Is she my strongest hero? No, although she’s up there. Is it because she’s playable for a longer time than any other character? We’re getting warmer, but then why is she the first playable character—the Terra or Yuri Lowell to others’ Celes and Estelle Sidos Heurassein and Rita Mordio?
I found that my answer lies in the heart of battle my history. (Sorry, Ryu!) Most of Celty’s modern profile was created within the past three years, but when I decided to add a Trivia section about her past, I set myself on the path to uncovering ancient secrets. At first I meant it only for simple asides: her gameplay abilities were designed with speedrunners and single character challenges in mind, she was originally imagined as a warrior mage and not a martial artist, and her name predates Celty Sturluson from Durarara!!.
On that last point I paused. Celty was one of my longest-surviving characters, going back at least to 2000 or 2001 when I first had the crazy notion that I could make an RPG one day—but could I find out how long she’d been with me? I dug into old documents. The truth I found shouldn’t shock you (hint: it’s up in the blog post title), but it shocked me: I’d created Celty as early as December 1997. I had made her a legendary NPC in the computer RPG creation tool Blades of Exile. She was not only “one of” my longest-surviving characters, but the third longest-surviving.
Celty is my “Bulbasaur”: a character who wasn’t my first creation but will always be #1 in the Pokédex.
If that was the end of the story, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. The real end of the story is that I found epiphany and revelation and truth. I dug into my past to answer a single question and walked away with an answer to a second and infinitely more important one.
Ryu and Ken may rule their street in the fighting game genre, but monks and martial artists have become a feminine archetype in RPGs. Since the 8-bit era, at least one heroine from a high-profile, genre-important, worldwide million-seller RPG in every generation of game systems doesn’t settle for standing on her own two feet. She kicks with her own two feet, punches with her own two hands, and furthers the idea that in the RPG universe, every lady with working arms and legs should do the same. Forget Beauty and the Beast. From medieval tomboy princesses to prehistoric hut dwellers to modern girls living in dystopias, Beauty is the Beast and her killer instincts are a tale as old as time.
Above: fighter girls across the ages. Chronological by game release date, not her own in-universe era!
Alt/title text available to those who hover.