At the beginning of this month, Tales of Symphonia was re-released on the PC via Steam. While Symphonia might not be my favorite one of the series, it’ll always be the closest to my heart since it’s the game that got me into Tales in the first place. There was just something so satisfying about pouring tens of hundreds of hours into the story about Colette, the Chosen of Mana’s journey to bring mana back to her declining land, and all the twists and turns that come along with that. (And then realizing you have to do yet another playthrough because you wanted to have the Flanoir date with Sheena and didn’t realize that Zelos gave you a special item if you did it with him, so you couldn’t finish filling out your item collection book. Ugh!)
While its PC port is… reportedly janky as hell, I’m thrilled that fans have another chance to play through the game, and that others who weren’t able to get it for the Gamecube or PS3 now have another medium to experience it on. Honestly, there was a lot to love about Symphonia, but one of my favorite parts was the character Raine. I can’t say that I really related to her on a big level, but I wanted to be her. She was strong in her convictions, yet willing to hear other sides to conflicts; she cared deeply for her brother and her students even if she showed this best by giving more homework; and she had a nerdy hobby that she was unapologetic about, even if others were put off by it. While the game didn’t have much time to go into it, one thing that always intrigued me was her relationship with her brother Genis and how they ended up in the small village of Iselia. If the anime went into it more in detail, I’m uncertain, but today’s fic gives a closer look at a possible chain of events that led both of them to where players find them at the beginning of the game.
A little more than a month ago, I brought to light my dislike for the white mage trope in RPGs and my wishes that such lazy tropes would be re-worked into more dynamic characters in the future. I still very much think this, but in writing said article I made myself consider the white mages that I had already come across in my gaming life. Unsurprisingly, the character that I automatically think of when considering this trope is not, in fact, Yuna from FFX, but Colette from Tales of Symphonia.
This is an obvious choice in my case because, while my brother certainly is a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I never really got into it until X-2 and honestly, I’m still not really into the series beyond that specific game. Instead, my first true foray into the JRPG scene, and probably the RPG scene as a whole, was Tales of Symphonia. Its story focuses on a religion that has been perverted to the point of sacrificing someone in waking up the goddess that will bring mana back to the world, and it just so happens to be Colette that has been chosen to—rather, has been bred to—become this sacrifice. However, most people aren’t aware that this ‘chosen’ will end up giving their life, and instead believe that they will become an angel. As such, it makes sense for Colette to carry the typical angelic-healer looks and personality: blonde hair, blue eyes, white clothes, and a sense of self-sacrifice that could make anyone around her feel ashamed.
Yet Colette isn’t the healer/white mage of the group. In fact, Colette gets no healing abilities and is actually more aggressive in her play style. The healer in Symphonia is Raine Sage, a somewhat bitter half-elf who has more fondness for ruins than for the people around her. I bring these two up not because Colette is exempt from the white mage trope due to her lack of healing skills (she’s still a “white mage” in terms of motivation), but because the game actively presents opportunities in which the audience can re-evaluate the inherent tropiness of having someone be a “white mage” in the first place.
I wanted my first Magical Mondays to be some closer look at a magical system that I’ve come to know well over the years. I wanted my first one of these posts to be about… well, magic. And this is still about magic, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the flashy kind of magic—not the kind of magic where I can set fire to a pile of hay with a flick of my hand, or the kind of magic where I would be able to manipulate your thoughts in a certain way. This is the kind of magic that wriggles into your head and sits there, making you wonder if this magic is actually plausible or if it was just terrible writing or bad translation on the source’s part. For those that have played Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, you probably have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about, but for those who are unfamiliar, allow the main antagonist, Richter Abend, tell you what I mean.
Yes. This stupid sentence—“courage is the magic that turns dreams into reality”—is what has been bothering me. In general, it’s obvious that this is meant as a platitude in the same vein as “you can do anything you put your mind to”. Many games have the same sort of one-liner that gives you the theme or driving force of the game and its characters. Yet the difference between those games and New World is while in other games this theme may be stated once or implied, in Dawn of the New World this sentence is repeated over and over and over again, so much so that the sentence has become a meme in the Tales of community. With so much repetition, the sentence becomes more than a theme; it’s so prevalent that it’s as if the writers want their audience to take it literally. So fine, let’s see how courage is utilized as a magical device within the game, or if it’s even used at all.