Alright, I’ve been waiting to write this for a while. I wanted to beat both games before I said anything, to ensure I was speaking with all the facts known.
Let me begin by saying I played Xillia first and then Symphonia. My friend, Alex, played Symphonia growing up and I got him to play Xillia. When he beat Xillia, he begged me for years to play Symphonia but something always came up.
This Spring, I finally got around around to keeping my promise to him. For us, I prefer Xillia over Symphonia and he prefers Symphonia over Xillia. I think it’s just coincidence that the first game we played from the series is the one we like best and that it’s more what the games are talking about that makes it our favourite.
I also want to start out by saying that Xillia borrows a lot from Symphonia. Symphonia came out in 2003/2004 and Xillia came out in 2013/2014. One thing I enjoyed about the Final Fantasy series (when I played them) was that each story, each world, and all of the characters were honestly unique.
I’ve gone back and forth on what I really want to say about these two games because I feel like it’s a meaningless discussion yet it’s important.
Symphonia copied a lot from Final Fantasy X in my opinion with going from temple to temple and collecting summons in order to save the world. Then there was the whole religious affiliation that fell apart and didn’t even feel like a religion at the end of the day but a political faction that rooted its power into religion as a “Divine Rule of Kings” strategy.
I say again and again that I would’ve loved Symphonia as a kid. However, as an adult, it was hard to keep going because I kept waiting for it to get good, like Xillia was for me right off the bat. Then again, I feel like Xillia was for a maturer audience anyways. To explain why is in the details: how the characters spoke, their stories, how the world looked (graphics). Symphonia felt like a badly cliched anime. There were too many one-dimensional trope characters.
Xillia is what Symphonia should’ve been and I say that knowing Symphonia is America’s darling of the Tales series.
I laughed when we discover who Lloyd’s father is because it’s ridiculously far-fetched because we don’t see enough development between those two characters. Sure, you can argue otherwise but it brings me to my next point: Symphonia has hardly any structure. It is way too easy to miss important details regarding character dynamics, character backstory, and overall plot. If you just do what the game asks of you and I mean running from town to town, you’ll end the game clueless of why the party is even together and what their true purpose is. You have to run around the world map and find glowing circles to initiate an understanding of why the party is together. Xillia on the other hand is much more structured albeit linear. But I like linear. At least linear makes sense!
It’s a little unfair to say that Xillia has the better battle system (even though it does) because it’s an improved version of Symphonia’s. All Tales games have the same system but each later release has new additions that make battle more fun.
I could go into why Xillia is better but it’s essentially the game Symphonia wasn’t, as I said earlier. I won’t waste your time. Both deserve a play-through: Xillia first, then Symphonia so you can be mindblown about what Xillia is about and then Symphonia to see Xillia’s roots.
I’d rather spend my time applauding what Tales consistently strives for: social justice discussions. Symphonia talks about class and about how different races primarily fall into certain classes. A party character gives a speech about unfettered capitalism and why poor people shouldn’t cry about being poor if they work hard enough but that party character has always been well-off and he benefits by the system greatly so he has no ethos. It was a shame no one rebutted him but whatever. Meanwhile, Xillia talks a lot about sexism, gender identity, and environmentalism/energy crises and how the environment/energy crises affects class structure and the overall system. Xillia talks about maintaining the willpower to realise your dreams and most importantly, it gave me courage to fight for my beliefs and my respect.
My friend told me not to bother with Symphonia’s sequel as he pretends it doesn’t exist but Xillia 2 was pretty good for a sequel. Gaius is what Zelos should’ve been and the only thing Symphonia does better than Xillia is their cooking system. Also, Xillia has Ayumi Hamasaki. Beat that.
Those are my thoughts! Reply me if you have something to say.