What helps make the characters so likable are the skits that play out when you hit the Z button. Each adds a few moments of optional dialogue that has little to do with the story but a lot to do with giving you an idea of the way these characters think. Result: the usual "fantasy racism" plot is trotted out again, but thanks to how vulnerable and likable Genis and Raine are, it's barely irritating. You'll laugh, and grow to like everyone in the cast.
It's the gameplay, though, that makes Tales of Symphonia so addictive. There's no turn-taking here. You run right up to your enemies and smack the living daylights out of them. You'll control Lloyd (typically, though you can choose to control anybody). He's got a whole mess of special moves to pick from, all easy to execute. The feel of the sword-slicing action is just right; there's weight and impact. The rest of your party doesn't just stand dumbly by either. They'll let loose their own attacks and spells - though if you want something specific done, you can always give them direct orders. The battles are almost constantly fun to play, with creative enemies and challenging bosses.
The world of Symphonia is also so appealing you'll want to explore it. The game doesn't force you to go where it wants you to - at least, not nearly as much as most RPGs. Each town and dungeon looks special and different. Sure, it's all fruity fantasy stuff, so if that's not your taste, you're going to get bored fast. But if you like to look at these bright and cartoony graphics, you'll find yourself in a paradise of color and shape.