With Tales of Berseria launching in the UK on the 27th January for PlayStation 4 and PC, I decided to put together a top 5 Tales of Series moments list. I thought it more interesting than just characters, since there are so many here. Because of the way these amazing stories are written, some of the scenes in my time with the games really did stay with me.
Plus I love this series, there are ups and downs here but it’s a game that I always look for and will be again this month. So I’m also bringing some history behind the series, my time with the series and discuss why it’s not so highly regarded here in the west.
This list will only include entries from Vesperia and beyond. I’ve heard a great deal about Tales of Destiny, Symphonia and Abyss. But it’d be disingenuous to include them when I’ve never played them, I wouldn’t say no to a PS4 collection though.
There are going to be a heap of spoilers in the list itself for the games mentioned. You will be warned before hand and the spoilers themselves will be written in green and italics.
A Brief History of Tales
The Tales Of franchise came to light in December 1995 with Tales of Phantasia on the Super Famicom (Nintendo). Not quite the length of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, but twenty one years is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a highly-regarded franchise in Japan and has been gaining traction elsewhere ever since.
Though the Tales Of games are separate stories (save for those with the same name i.e. Xillia, Xillia 2), their feature sets are consistent throughout. Their art is reminiscent of (and often produced by) Japanese animation studios (anime). They always have real-time action battles wherein the AI typically controls the other characters. Skits (brief, optional scenes whilst travelling, usually resulting in greater character development and/or world building) are a mainstay too. There are many features that make Tales Of games unique.
Since Tales of Symphonia (PS2, Gamecube), the series has grown more popular in the West. Vesperia marked the first and only exclusive Xbox 360 Tales game on our shores, though it still released on PS3 in Japan. Since then, Tales Of games have released on Playstation systems consistently, with Tales of Berseria making its way to Playstation 4. It should be noted that Berseria is also out on Playstation 3 in Japan.
David Game Speculation: Tales Of Popularity
Why isn’t Tales as widely regarded in the West as its fellow JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games)? My assumption is that it’s down to how JRPGs were initially adopted and embraced. Tales games feature an action-based, real-time combat system that differs wildly from other typical JRPGs of the time.
Turn-based battles were all the rage in the days of the Super Nintendo (Famicom). It’d make sense that a franchise shunning conventional norms and embracing its Japanese roots visually would be jarring to some. Especially in the early home console boom. Of course, that’s all speculation on my part. If you’re educated in the matter, feel free to lay down some wisdom in the comments below.
My Personal Tales Of History
Tales of Vesperia was my first venture in to the Tales universe. Its characters, world and systems make it one of my top five video games of all time. Yuri Lowell’s journey resonated so well with me and his sidekick – the pipe-smoking wolf Repede – is also one of the greatest party members to have ever existed.
The twist mid-way through Vesperia (which we’ll revisit later) hit me on an emotional level because that game does such a great job of its character and world building. Even Karol has a touching back story and dream he wants to achieve. Though Yuri is the main character, the supporting cast stand on equal ground with him. I truly feel as if Vesperia is a masterclass in character development, not to mention it had a stellar localisation in the West. It was also the last game to feature an explorable world-map in traditional JRPG fashion.
After Vesperia: Peaks and Valleys
Since Vesperia, it’s been a struggle to hit me the same way. In the same vein that people who love Final Fantasy VI or VII couldn’t recapture that feeling with future installments. The games that came after it were good. Tales of Graces F was enjoyable, but it suffered by being the first to remove the explorable world map feature. Xillia had a great cast and plot but the Western localisation of Milla Maxwell fell short. Her recordings were clearly of a lower audio quality than the rest of the cast. Not in performance, in literal quality. A noticeable drop occurred whenever Milla spoke in English.
I’d argue that the closest the series has come to recapturing the Vesperia magic is with Tales of Xillia 2. Though it has a huge caveat in having to play the first game beforehand, the Kresnik legacy and silent protagonist pay off really well, and seeing those Xillia characters after the events of the first game resonated with me, even if I did had my gripes with the first installment.
Zestiria: The Low-Point
I’d say my first disappointment with an entire game happened with Tales of Zestiria. The characters were so cookie-cutter (save for Rose). It felt lacking in creativity. In a world of “spirits”, most resemble humans? That rubbed me the wrong way . Sorey is a poor protagonist and his supporting cast aren’t much better. Their motivations are as generic as they come and only Rose shines through that darkness.
What sealed it for me though were the weak antagonists. Their setups were great. Legitimately. If they’d followed through on their antagonist story-lines, it would have served the main cast’s development tremendously as well. Instead, they all fell drastically short of meeting their potential and the moment I realised that’s how it was going to be, my hopes for Zestiria’s redemption were shattered. A series I’d revered for its characters and story-telling had failed me on both counts. Not to mention the wide-open fields with barely anything to do in them. There’s a lot that bothered me.
Berseria: Cautious Optimism
Zestiria wasn’t a bad game; it was just a disappointment. It was a bad Tales Of game. So naturally, upon hearing that Berseria was somewhat linked to Zestiria’s world, I’ve been on the fence ever since.
Velvet, however, immediately strikes me as a more compelling character than Sorey. Her supporting cast look interesting and their motivations seem deeper than Zestiria’s lot too. I’ll admit that I’m disappointed in Bandai Namco’s decision to censor some an important moment in the plot, but I’m reserving criticism of its impact until I’ve played the game.
Berseria seems like a darker tale than the previous games, but I hope it maintains the trademark levity in its skits and that Velvet’s ultimate techniques / over-drives / bursts are more interesting than Sorey’s. Although Zestiria’s merging system was cool, it didn’t live up to Ludger Kresnik’s Chromatus power in battle from Xillia 2. I’m hoping Velvet is an entirely different beast, though I’ve deliberately avoided specific details to avoid getting my expectations too high as I did with Zestiria.
Onto my top five list of Tales Series Moments gamers, enjoy.
5. Asbel Lhant is Disco-Ready in Graces F
I had to have a “joke” entry. Asbel Lhant is a fine character, but his attitude and outfit don’t speak much to each other. One is a sign of a dutiful young man, the other seems to imply that he’s about to start a Bee Gees tribute band.
Honestly though, I did enjoy the flair of Asbel’s clothing and it’s certainly more distinct than many of the later game characters.
4. Rose’s Character in Zestiria
I know this one’s a bit of a cop-out, but I couldn’t find a Zestiria moment that wasn’t sullied by somebody else’s involvement. Instead, Rose’s character arc is not only the best of the Zestiria cast (an easy hurdle) but one of the best Tales characters I’ve had the pleasure to get to know. Spoilers below.
Rose is especially enjoyable because of her internal conflict. She’s willing to murder for what she considers to be the greater good, but stays her blade at the mistakes made by children.
Despite her willingness to dirty her hands, she’s a pleasant addition to the group and her relationship with the Wind Spirit Dezel is vital to the plot. In fact, Dezel’s own story serves to enhance Rose’s appeal that much more. She’s a strong leader and a contrast to Sorey’s bland “good guy” routine.
3. Tales of Xillia’s Opening
The Tales Of games have fantastic openings. All of them are a joy to behold. The top of my own personal list though is Tales of Xillia. A huge part of the opening’s impact lies with the song accompanying it, and no song has covered as wide an array of “feels” as Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Progress”.
From the sweeping orchestral hits at the start with the characters on the cliff to the more somber piano solo featuring Milla and Jude’s first encounter, the song and visuals match perfectly and it sets the tone for the incredible journey ahead. If only Milla’s English audio could have been given as much care.
2. Tales of Xillia 2’s Masked Man Reveal
Buckle up. This is about to be all-spoiler city.
The journey of Ludger Kresnik eventually leads you to a fractured future. The Masked Man reveals himself to be a future version of Ludger – your voiceless protagonist – with the intention of killing you, taking his daughter Elle with him and wishing to be reborn. In his own dimension, he’d killed essentially the entire cast of the first game. He’d also killed his brother Julius and Father in order to obtain his perfect Chromatus.
This was the main pay-off for Xillia 2’s set up. It was risky to have a voiceless protagonist for the first time (to my recollection) without an upfront explanation. Fortunately, the Masked Man reveal justified that decision and it was an incredible moment.
1. Vesperia: You Thought This Was the End!?
Holy Guacamole; let me tell you about my all-time favourite moment in the Tales Of franchise. The previous four were difficult to choose from, but the top spot was decided from the moment I considered writing this article.
Mega-ultra spoiler warning.
Just when the cast of Vesperia had taken down the surprise villain, Alexei, and prevented a catastrophic explosion; tragedy strikes. The team are separated by the falling Blastia that crushes Alexei, leaving Yuri alone at the edge of a platform.
The sound of metal clanks, Yuri turns to face his old friend Flynn when BAM! Knife in the gut. Sodia, one of the knights hunting Yuri under their misguided sense of justice, takes the opportunity to complete the mission. Yuri then plummets from the platform, bleeding all the way.
The build up to the battle with Alexei is excellent and it really gave you the feeling that it was the final battle of the game. Little did we know that there was something much bigger at play. Regardless, Yuri’s Fall is my favourite Tales Of moment. In a way, justifiable, given some of Yuri’s own reprehensible actions as the game’s Anti-Hero.
Those were my Top 5 Tales Of Series Moments
I can already hear the shouts of “Kratos” in my ears, but I never got around to Tales of the Abyss. Symphonia too. Maybe if Bandai Namco re-release a few on the Playstation Network I’ll give them a proper shot.
All I’m wondering now is whether or not Berseria will land a place on my next Top 5 list. Bandai Namco seem confident in it, whilst I maintain a self-protecting skepticism. I remain hopeful at the very least.
But enough about me! What are YOUR Top Tales Of Moments? I did my best to diversify my list but you feel free to do as many as you want from a single game. I look forward to reading your top spots!
Update: Corrections have been made. Thanks to the Tales Series Fan Group Facebook page for keeping our details in check. (Specifically Ellen S. F. Carvalho, Kiim Gee and Cody Smith). These were:
- I initially stated that all mothership Tales games had four playable characters in battle. That wasn’t true. (Credit: Ellen S. F. Carvalho)
- Originally, I stated that Berseria would be Tales’ PS4 debut. In fact, Zestiria was. (Credit: Ellen S. F. Carvalho)
- Not all seraphim in Zestiria look like humans. The normins don’t. (Coincidentally, this reminded me that I actually liked the Normins! Thanks again Ellen)
- Finally, I made it sound as if Tales of Symphonia isn’t available on the Playstation Network. It is absolutely available on the Playstation 3, but it is not available on Playstation 4. (Credit: Kiim Gee and Cody Smith).