Tales of Symphonia is definitely the best game for the Gamecube and one of the best games out there. Everything, the characters, the story, the gameplay, even the cliches, are awesome. The sequel is amazing too.
One thing I love about Symphonia over any other RPG I've played is the sheer number of named NPCs with just enough personality and backstory to be really interesting and lovable...while still leaving a great deal of blank slate even with major characters for Fan Fic to explore. Certain subsequent games in the series may have been shinier, but leaving so many loose ends and opportunities for Alternate Character Interpretation means that there's always more to discuss and develop in Symphonia.
I, not meaning to discount the greatness of Symphonia, must also give a mention to its successor Tales of the Abyss, a game that I started playing (after a slow start) and then suddenly realized three weeks had gone by and I had experienced one of the wildest emotional roller-coaster rides ever. I sympathized (and, at times, empathized) with Luke the whole time. To this day, Abyss is one of my favorite Japanese RPGs.
Just throwing this out there - Abyss IS this troper's favourite Japanese RPG of all time, and along with Mass Effect 3, it's the only game in history to make her cry. The most interesting part was that I kept on noticing things that were done similarly to other games - Garnet'sImportant Haircut is very similar to Luke's, and the whole Score and, more importantly, defiance of the Score thing makes me want to shout "Put the reins of history back in the hands of man!" But what I noticed was that Abyss did all of these familiar plots better than I'd ever seen them done. Stakes were higher, characters were lovable but fallible, and the battle system is what happens when you perfect the post-2D, pre-Vesperia Tales style. I liked Tales of Graces,lovedTales of Symphonia, but Abyss I flat-out worship.
I, while still not discounting the greatness of Symphonia or Abyss, need to give a shout out to a lesser-known game between the two - Tales of Legendia. The brilliant story, coupled with brilliant characters, almost makes you look over the step back on the battle system and the lack of voicing in the second half of the game.
Same guy who promoted Tales of the Abyss, now back to promote Tales of Vesperia (starting to think at some point we should just promote the entireTales Series). It's quite possibly the most well-made Tales game yet, with a whole slew of options for kicking your opponent's ass and the most comprehensive battle system in the series yet, allowing anyone to pull off spectacular feats. That's not even mentioning the well-told story with its fantastic English dub, or the fact that Yuri is quite simply one of the most awesome characters ever. It's the first, and so far only, Xbox 360 game for which I've gotten 1000/1000 Achievement points, and if the PS3 version comes out in North America, I swear up and down I will buy the system just to play the game through again (well, and for inFamous and Metal Gear Solid 4, but yeah).
As a person who has played other Tales games that haven't been brought over here, I must say that while the above mentioned titles are good games, within the franchise as a whole they're the weakest to me (mind you, that's saying something). For me, Tales of DestinyPS2 and Tales of Rebirth are definitely the highest points of the series. The former in particular is by far the most frantic and fast-paced - unlike the Team Symphonia games that most people in the states have played, simple button-mashing won't lead you to victory even in normal mode - and the absence of TP in many of the Team Destiny games encourages high-hit combos (combo-ing being the most fun thing about the Tales series for me) and balance between the early artes and the more powerful artes you learn later on because of the CC system: no artes ever become obsolete in a sense and they all prove to be useful. Destiny PS2 is probably the first Tales game that introduced aerial combat, which to this day is a very addicting part of the Tales battle system to me - juggling enemies in the air and trapping them in a combo is always so much fun. With Tales of Rebirth, it had a very unique battle system for a Tales game (that promotes more planning on the part of the player - spamming attacks absolutely is a bad call in this entry), but the story and characters were its high points for me, and the way it approached racism and discrimination was, in my opinion, the best compared to the other Tales games (it was a lot more intense and dark, in a good way of course). Overall, these two games are some of the most polished Tales games that Namco Bandai has ever put out and it's a shame they never got released stateside. Destiny Remake is considered one of the best Tales games in Japan and should have been considered the same over here (too bad Symphonia gets most of the thunder here - don't get me wrong, I like it and it contains some of the favorite characters like Colette and Zelos, but c'mon guys).
Tekken, the fighting game franchise that defined my entire childhood. With each installment, the guys at the dev team give us an experience that's better than the last. Constantly updated graphics, gameplay that's fun as hell, easy to learn but stupidly hard to master and always improved/balanced throughout the years, a quirky yet awesome cast of characters, highly accurate representation of both obscure and well-known martial arts, the right combination of humor and seriousness in its (fairly decent) story, outstanding soundtrack... What more can I say?!
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is due for release in less than a week, and it's boasting the promise of being the best installment in the series to date. And it's looking great so far. After one. Full. Decade! Bamco really DOES cares about and listens to the fans. They really DO learn from their mistakes (*coughScenariocoughCampaigncoughTekkencough6cough*).
Xenogears, despite the budgetless second disc, is one of the greatest stories ever told in video game format. I pity the person who has not experienced the awesome that is this game. It has everything, conspiracies, giant robots, magnificient bastards, the works.
I honestly can't decide whether I like Origins or Eternal Wings better - the two are currently tied as my all-time favorite video games. Both games have excellent stories that start out kind of simple, but get interesting really fast. They're satisfyingly complex, and both games have a major plot twist or two somewhere down the line. The characters are interesting. Sometimes they fall into certain archetypes, but never entirely. They also change and develop over time, especially in Origins. The way that the games involved you was a cool concept, and it was pulled off really well. The gameplay was fun and original. The battle system was very different between games, but both times it was fun and kept the battles from getting all that boring. The world of the game is fascinating - it's the kind of place that I really wish I could visit. The visuals were beautiful and creative. I'd say that Real Is Brown was subverted, but the game was never really aiming to look realistic. Sure, the games have their flaws (especially Eternal Wings), but they still managed to work really well. And of course, the music is incredible. Look it up and you'll see what I mean. They're real underrated gems, and I really wish more people knew about them.
The Xenosaga trilogy. Although I don't find it as good as the first half of Xenogears in terms of story, I personally don't mind the long cutscenes because the lovable cast of characters easily makes up for it (sans Shion). And the music is absolutely gorgeous, 'especially' in the first and third games. The fact that my opinion of the series hasn't degraded in the slightest ever since I played Episode III is impressive, considering that my opinion of Video Games tends to degrade over time. The only other JRPGs that I've played that come close are Persona3 and Valkyria Chronicles.
Seconded. Not a fighting game fan, but any game where Darth Vader fights ninjas gets a pass from me.
I enjoy the unique twist on fighting games it added 2-4 with the weapons system. I do admit that, for online matches, it's unbalanced, but for just against the computers or against friends, it's awesome because you can change how you fight while using the same character. Although i wasn't able to play it, i was sad to hear that it got taken out of 5note there are still differnt weapons, but they don't have effects they just look different, which is great for customization to help look unique because it's on one of the most memorable things.
Ridge Racer. Just Ridge Racer. It's my favorite game series of all time: amazing scenery, addictive gameplay, exciting races, fabulous cars, catchy music... And cars based on the Devil and the Angel. You just can't get any awesomer than that.
If Namco makes another Ridge Racer game, I would love to see real life music, especially by artists such as Deadmau5 and Pendulum, a full Career mode, a Racing team manager mode, a livery editor, a track/open world editor and many other things. If this happens, I would be like: THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER!!!! CHRONO TRIGGER, ZELDA OCARINA OF TIME, SUPER METROID, FINAL FANTASY VII, EAT YOUR HEART OUT!
.hack(Yes, that is how it's spelled), is a game that I believe that the storu and soundtrack are the defined shining point. I refuse to say anything about the story other than the premise, which is about a group of people, of various ages, playing an MMO titled The World... and then they learn that, via the mysterious girl in white, or the virus known as AIDA, that The World is much more serious than one would expect. While the first four games had pretty good gameplay, it did admittedly drag on due to little changes between games, but the G.U Games made the gameplay so fun, so addicting, that you just never want to stop. And the soundtrack? Dear lord the soundtrack. The freaking soundtrack. Oh, and the vocalists of both those songs did this.