Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: The worst part of your favourite game

‘How can I quell these feelings I have… Aifread?’ So runs the second line of a character, Lyla, in Tales of Symphonia, after your initial interactions with her a few hours in but very close to the beginning of the game. You have to wait a long time for the payoff and well – which Hot Topic are we in?

Annoying music, bad artificial intelligence, game-ruining bugs despite 100-hour-week efforts before release day. Why should one daft side quest out of so many, across so many games, annoy more? The spoilers will come in the next two paragraphs, but it’s a Tales tradition to include (or at least mention) the pirate, Aifread. You are able take a route in Symphonia that avoids all awareness of him, but a typical first playthrough will see you visiting the village where Lyla lives.

And that’s part of the problem, for me anyway. The game holds your hand to get you to the port of Izoold and so it feels like the letter that Lyla asks you to deliver to Aifread is part of the plot. I have no problem with the deflection of these events; Lyla appears to be pining for the rascal who has skipped port and discovering where her true love lies is amusing. The discovery is entirely optional though and dependent on you rebuilding the city of Luin with your own hard-earned cash.

Once you meet the conditions – it’ll cost you a few hundred thousands – a colourful new character appears and cons you twice in quick succession. You’re now in his employ searching for a lost treasure. No surprise that his clues lead you straight to it and the revelation that he is in mourning for his dead crew, and wants you to remember all the people who died recently. Fair dos; you did cause the disaster, after all. What’s more, he allows you to keep the treasure afterwards, so is that lesson learned for us?

The nuances though. His treasure hunt is ostensibly to cheer up an unhappy world, but the churchman who reveals this inadvertently confirms that the search began before you had done anything wrong. Indeed, once you are given a reply to Lyla’s letter, you learn that he swindled a comedy debt of 100 million with various scenes playing out the ‘fun’ of your repayments as he has passed that onto you without hesitation. Your quest was well on track when you first learned that Lyla was missing him, so he borrowed money to teach you a lesson before he even knew who you were… Yep, that’s why I hate this section!

You end up with a hat for all your troubles. As a player though, I do like Lloyd’s pirate costume and ‘Arrgh, Me Hearties!’ title.
Mr Graham Addressing The Nation


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