Some series are instant classics. Every sequel is treasured. Others have one brief moment in the sun, one game where it all comes together - and so far, the Tales series is definitely that kind. Fortunately for GameCube owners, that one brilliant game is Tales of Symphonia. It's hardly perfect, but it's so enjoyable and attractive that it's hard not to get swept up in its charm. It's easy to overlook its shortcomings.
Speaking of which, things here are pretty by-the-book. In a fantasy world of elves, half-elves and humans - and a lonely dwarf - one girl is chosen to journey from temple to temple to fulfill a prophecy. Of course, there's more to the story than it seems - and you soon figure out that the good guys are really the bad guys, some of the bad guys are actually good guys, the real bad guys are led by an immortal megalomaniac and there's a whole separate world across the sky.
This would still probably be too dull and confusing to take if it weren't for the game's characters. Lloyd, the game's lead, is basically just a good kid trying to do what's right, without the canned anger of most RPG heroes. Collette, his best pal and the focus of that prophetic journey, is really just a ditz, but she's nice and gives the other characters something to play off of. Best of the bunch are kid genius Genis, his sarcastic sister Raine - who likes to smack around anyone who gets out of line - and the enigmatic swordsman Kratos. There's also a playboy, an escaped convict and a sexy ninja girl.