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An Introduction to the Tales Series

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The Tales series has been gathering fans since 1995 in Japan, and 1997 in America. Granted, out of the 14 Tales games released, only 9 have been localized. Partially due to the lack of a fan base at the start, Namco Bandai has finally gotten wise and realized that the Tales series really does have a niche of fans in America that absolutely adore these titles. In the past few years especially, the Tales series has seen an abundance of launches and relaunches, with even more upcoming localizations announced. It’s an exciting time for JRPG gamers.

With all these Tales games now available, however, one might be confused as to where to begin, especially if the Tales series is a foreign title to you. And that’s where I come in. I have spent countless hours playing all the localizations, and although I love them all, I have a few favorites that in my opinion are great introductions to the series.

First and foremost, a huge chunk of Tales titles are PlayStation exclusives, so you will need a Sony system if you want access to a butt ton of games. A 3DS will give you access to Tales of the Abyss, a Nintendo GameCube will let you play Tales of Symphonia, and a Nintendo Wii will allow you to play Tales of Symphonia 2. Sony fans are lucky enough to have access to last two games in HD on PlayStation 3 as well.  If you’re a Microsoft fan, however, unfortunately you only have access to Tales of Vesperia.

So you’ve never played a Tales games. Perhaps you’ve never played that many Japanese RPG’s to begin with. In fact, your idea of a JRPG consists of a turn-based battle system and hardcore level grinding, much like Final Fantasy. You’d be surprised how often I hear these ideas from the customers that come into my store. But Tales is different. Forget the turn-based concept, picking and choosing what attacks and magic you will use. In Tales, you will control one of four characters on the live battlefield. Each character has standard attacks such has hack and slash or beat ’em up style moves. But it’s the “Artes” you will find yourself utilizing the most as you run around freely, targeting whichever enemy that meets your fancy.

Artes are specific moves that will delve into your “TP” or Technical Points. Magic users will waste away their TP on healing or elemental spells, while characters that utilize their weapons will consume their TP to unleash devastating attacks that can vary from character to character. The more attacks each character uses, as well how far one is in the progression of the game, will designate how many attacks one can have at the palm of their hands. Of course, as more artes are learned, deciding which attacks to bring into battle will be key, as you can only link a specific amount of moves to the controller’s buttons at a time. CPU controlled characters can use as many artes as they want, however, the character you decide to control will usually be able to utilize roughly 8 artes at one time. Obviously, the further on in the game, the better the attacks. You’ll find yourself eventually leaving behind the old artes, and linking the much more powerful ones, that will also drain larger amounts of your TP. With that being said, each title’s battle system will vary in minor ways due to updated mechanics.

So which title is the best to start with? After going over all the titles, I’ve narrowed it down to three specific games in the series, all of which have some things in common with each other.

Tales of Destiny 2

Don’t be deceived by the 2 in the title. This is not an actual sequel. In fact, this game was titled Tales of Eternia in Japan. In any case, if you are into retro games, this Tales title is an excellent place to begin. You will need an original PlayStation, PlayStation 2, or backwards compatible PlayStation 3 to play this title. It all begins when Reid and Farrah, small town best friends, accidentally find a strange looking girl named Meredy, who has come from the other world that lays above their own. Armed with the knowledge that both worlds are drifting dangerously closer together with an inevitable collide, Meredy has arrived to stop the destruction of both worlds.

Tales of Symphonia

Literally thought to be the best Tales game in the series, this title is playable either on the GameCube or the PlayStation 3 as part of the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. The land of Sylverant is in decline until the day the Tower of Salvation appears. It is then up to Colette, The Chosen, to make a pilgrimage to all the shrines across the land and ultimately to the Tower of Salvation to awaken The Goddess Martel who will then shower the world with prosperity once again.  However, sometimes things aren’t always what they seem, and our heroes must uncover the truth of the angels and their sacred order.

Tales of Xillia

The most recent original title on the PlayStation 3, and with a sequel on its way this summer, Xillia has officially taken the number one spot on my favorites list. It was the first time you had the choice of playing through the story as one of two main characters. Jude Mathis is a medical student who fights with fists, while Milla Maxwell is the human embodiment of the God Maxwell who fights with both a sword and hard hitting magic. When a device that could potentially destroy the world goes missing from a research facility, Milla and Jude’s fates are set on a path that they cannot turn back from. Slowly but surely, they begin uncovering the truth about their world and even Milla herself.

Obviously I’m being slightly vague due to the amount of spoilers I don’t want to give away. Each story line is full of so many revelations that it would be a shame to give any of it away. What I am willing to part with is the fact that each game contains a second world, one always more underdeveloped than the other. To be fair, the dual worlds is quite common in other Tales games as well, but these three games in my opinion utilizes it in the best way.

Each game has plenty of side quests and side stories to complete on top of the main story line. Although some level grinding will be necessary, by completing the extra content you won’t feel as if you are simply running around trying to gain experience. In fact, you will more than likely be having too much fun knocking the stuffing out your enemies to even mind the extra battles. In Tales of Xillia in particular, the extra battles allowed me to explore linking characters’ artes and learning what the best combinations were.

Finally, what really makes a Tales game are the gorgeously detailed anime graphics. Every inch of a Tales game is beautifully detailed, as if you are actually playing inside an anime. As shown above, the cut scenes are what place these games apart from other JRPGs. Although sometimes the scenes are few and far between, you will never be disappointed by one, and it’s a great way to break up the game play at times.

Whenever any customer comes into my store seeking to delve into JRPG’s the Tales games are always at the top of my list. It’s a step away from the Final Fantasy series that most gamers seem to picture when it comes to JRPG’s, but it’s also not such an obscure title like the Ar Tonelico series. It’s the perfect medium and an exceptional series to get into if you are looking for a different type of game to play. I can assure you that you will find yourself taken far away from your living room, bedroom, gaming room, etc, and find yourself deeply immersed in the world of Tales.

 

About Emily Horton

Emily is just your average twenty something girl who discovered her love for gaming at the age of three or four, all thanks to her older brothers. Mario, The Lion King, Aladdin, Zelda were her first loves, but Pokemon, Final Fantasy, Tales, and pretty much all Japanese games eventually fell into that category. She has an unhealthy obsession with Pikachu, hoodies, her 3DS, t-shirts, plushies, and purses. She may also fancy herself as an excellent lawyer due to number of times she has played through the Ace Attorney series. Outside of videogames, she is a Disney, Harry Potter, and Tolkien fanatic, while also recently discovering that she is now a hardcore fan of Supernatural thanks to Netflix allowing her to watch eight seasons rapid fire. She has elvish writing, the Deathly Hallows, a rather large Tinkerbelle and a large Yuna from Final Fantasy X all tattooed on her body, with only more geeky stuff to be added. Currently working on her own fantasy novel, she hopes to publish it eventually once all the kinks are worked out.

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