My latest excuse for not updating my blog is that I was busy playing Tales of Zestiria. Since I’m sure everyone cares let me tell you all about my impeccable taste in Tales games.
My Impeccable Taste in Tales Games
All Tales games are pretty much the same. You are a hero with a big sword. You swing the sword to kill monsters and save the world along with your friends. You defeat the final boss with the power of FRIENDSHIP (and level grinding).
I like the battle system in the Tales games. It’s an RPG where you level up and have stats and equipment, but you actually get to move around the enemies and cast spells and block and dodge and stuff, so it’s not quite as boring as menu-based RPGs. It doesn’t take much skill, but it’s usually not just pressing the same button over and over again. Usually it’s pressing a few combinations of buttons over and over again! There’s some strategy in it if you want to get into the harder difficulty levels, but normally I don’t bother.
Anyway, since all the games are essentially the same, the most important factors in my evaluations of the games are:
- The cuteness of the girls.
- The amount of bad puns.
I will go through the games I’ve played and discuss.
Tales of Phantasia: The graphics were terrible (well, it was made in the 90s) and the battle system didn’t work so well in 2D. I don’t remember much of the actual game… The girls were not cute at all though. The one even had Dragon Ball Z hair…
Tales of Destiny / Eternia / Destiny 2 / Legendia: Never played. We only had Nintendo.
Tales of Symphonia: This was the first Tales game I played, on the Gamecube. It’s still one of my favorites. The girls are very cute (although Colette is also kind of obnoxious). Sheena is the cutest. The quality and frequency of bad puns is top notch. The story is slightly less dumb than most of the other Tales games, and is about discrimination. There is a big “I am your father” twist though so I shouldn’t praise it too much. It’s still a dumb generic fantasy story in the end. Just one of the better ones.
Tales of the Abyss: I played this one second, after I got a PS2. The girls were not cute at all. The anime was terrible. I never even finished the last three episodes, it was that bad. Sadly the anime has overwritten most of my memory of the game. I would probably remember the game if it were as bad as the anime, so that’s something at least.
Tales of Innocence / Hearts: It just didn’t work for me on the DS. It’s hard to precisely control things in 3D on the DS.
Tales of Vesperia: Ugggh the girls were so cute. Rita!!! She is a mad scientist. Best Tales girl hands down. This game had some of the best looking graphics in my opinion. Still looks better than the games coming out seven years later. I’m sure the story was dumb although I barely remember what it was.
Tales of Xillia: The main girl was not cute. The secondary girl was cute but she was a childhood friend so I knew my ship was doomed from the very start. The third girl might have been cute if I were a lolicon. Sadly, I am not. The story was pretty bad even compared to the low standards of Tales games (and Japanese RPGs more generally).
Tales of Xillia 2: The girls weren’t that cute, so why bother?
Tales of Zestiria
Now that I’ve convinced you of my impeccable taste we can move on. Since I finished it today, this Tales game is the freshest in my mind.
Most importantly, I can confirm that the girls are indeed cute. Rose in particular (the main girl) is quite cute. So are the other two if you’re into either little girls or old women (as usual with anime, they’re both).
Also key: excellent bad puns. The game is chock full of bad puns. Definitely top points in this category.
So one of the better Tales games.
But, since this one’s freshest in my mind, let me say a bit more.
Story The story was a fairly generic fantasy adventure, just like every other Tales game. But… they really screwed up some key parts of the story.
First of all, one of the cute girls. She’s the main character for the first quarter of the game. And then… she just leaves. No one even cares. And she never comes back. They just decided one minute that she didn’t have enough “magical power” and she gets replaced ten minutes later with the merchant girl who you talked to just a couple of times before. It was really weird. It felt like she was supposed to be the main character, but then the writers just changed their minds. On the bright side, the replacement ended up being a much more interesting character, but it still felt like a waste.
They did a similar thing with one of the male characters. Halfway through the game he dies. It’s supposed to be totally tragic. But then before you fight a single battle he gets replaced with a different character who is the exact same. It sure didn’t feel like much of a loss. Probably one of the least impactful death scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
Ethics The strangest part of Tales of Zestiria was that it was (unintentionally?) one of the darkest Tales games yet. This is a story of evil triumphing over good.
The main conflict of Zestiria is that people can absorb negativity and then they literally become monsters. Our hero is a “Shepherd” who has to take care of the people. Just like Jesus I guess, except he takes care of his sheep by executing the ones who go astray. Actually, he doesn’t do it himself, since that would dirty his hands and turn him into a monster. His girlfriend does it for him.
The main character has conflicting feelings about this. He doesn’t want to kill people. At heart he is a good person. But his friends tell him over and over and over again: if he hesitates, it will only lead to his death and the destruction of the entire world.
So he struggles over this for most of the game. And in the end, he comes to a conclusion: he can do what he does because he does it for his friends. He won’t become a monster because he’s pure of heart, and he does everything out of love for his friends.
In the end, he beats up the villain’s sidekick. He tells her he’s doing it all for his friends because they believe in him. She tells him that the villain is her friend and points out that he wants to kill the villain. He then lectures her on friendship some more. She points out that his entire philosophy is mere sophistry. He beats the shit out of her and leaves her behind crying and half dead as he heads onward to kill her best friend. As he leaves, he asks one of his companions, “Do you think we got our message across to her?”
Then he fights the final boss. To defeat him, he literally uses all his friends as bullets, presumably killing them (although somehow they magically come back to life; I couldn’t follow why). But it’s okay because he did it all for his friends. And his friends wanted him to do it. For the sake of the whole world.
Then he kills the bad guy and the world is saved. He didn’t turn into a monster because he did it all for his friends. He was still pure at heart. He did it all for love. He did it for the bad guy too. Since he’s a hero, he saved the bad guy in the only way he could be saved: death.
I don’t know WTF the people writing this were thinking. No one thought there was anything wrong with this…?
To be fair, tons of anime is like this. Jesus said to love your enemies. Anime says to love your friends and then beat the crap out of your enemies because you have friends. As anime Jesus said,
Gameplay There are two main twists on the usual Tales gameplay. The first is that you can combine the human characters with the non-human characters to become stronger. This worked pretty well and added some variety. It also made you think about elemental weaknesses much more than one normally would because each transformation focuses on a single element. It’s also not always the best to transform, especially if you’re fighting magic users. And there’s a cost to it.
The other major change is that the equipment has this system of properties which you can combine and merge to make shapes on a grid and get bonus powers. It was a cool idea, but kind of annoying since you’d put all this effort into arranging your equipment only for it to become totally obsolete pretty quickly. I played around with it a ton at the start, but eventually just gave up since it was too much effort and only modified it occasionally, like when I lost to the final boss. Then I reorganized my equipment and also gained five levels and beat him quite easily. I’m not sure which part it was that made the difference.
I have great taste. Tales of Zestiria is like every other Tales game. Rita is cute.