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A Beginner's Guide to Tales RPGs


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Blackiris_
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Joined: 06 Sep 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:32 am Reply with quote
Favorite is by far Abyss, probably followed by Phantasia and Eternia (both are easily the best-looking games in the series, if you ask me). Haven't played Symphonia/Vesperia yet. Graces f seems to have the best battle system.

I wasn't really a fan of Xillia. Xillia 2 was a bit better, but not a great game. I've only played 6 hours or so of Zestiria, and it was rather mediocre.

The series biggest fault: Motoi Sakuraba. He's also done some good music work for Tales, but most of the musical pieces are uninspired, unmemorable, lame iterations of his previous works. They should hire a new composer. Go Shiina's work on Legendia and Zestiria was fantastic.
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meiam



Joined: 23 Jun 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:34 am Reply with quote
I feel like I have to mention Grace F which has by far the best/most complex combat system of any tale game that I've played (almost all of the one release in north America)... sadly it also has the worse story and character, its everything that's bad about anime without the usual good that come with it. But man, that gameplay is so good, and the system used to boost your character power make even regular fight fun since your always trying to do some small objective, like using a certain technique as much as possible or finishing a battle in a certain amount of time. Sadly the combat system fall apart a bit at the end, with the dumb AI frequently causing you to lose fights and boss becoming quite cheap.

Otherwise I pretty much all agree with the list, Vesparia has the best character, abyss the best story, Xilia could have been a great game if they didn't axe half of it and refined the battle system so that it wasn't just spamming special attack.

Phantasia, the first one, is pretty damn good too if you can track it down I'd recommend it. I have a soft spot for legendia too because some of the stuff the story does are really interesting, sadly the gameplay isn't all that great and it takes awhile for the story to get interesting.
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DLH112



Joined: 10 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 11:46 am Reply with quote
I never understood the hate for Zestiria. I wouldn't say it's the best or anything, but its miles better than Legendia and Dawn of the New World, and at least on par with Xillia. All of the "best" ones have a slight problem (though mainly because i don't have the 3DS version of Abyss).
Symphonia is good but the mechanics are outdated now (no 3D movement).
Abyss on PS2 i enjoyed a whole lot, but the load times are atrocious.
Vesperia's PS3 version (which had additional stuff) never came out in english. There's a website that has every line of text translated in order (in a nice presentation too) though, so i've considered playing it.
Graces F has the best battle system but other problems Sad .

Other than the Alicia debacle (which wasn't a problem with the english release), and a meh/maybe below average story I didn't have any problems with it. Some of the mechanics were changed up a lot so I wouldn't recommend it as a first game to represent the series, but maybe the series will stick with some of that too.
I haven't looked at Berseria much really and maybe what does stick will just be for this duology.
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HarimaANN



Joined: 03 Jan 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:27 pm Reply with quote
My favorite was definitly Tales of Eternia, as it was the first Tales game I actively played and finished, even though I started with Tales of Phantasia on SNES.
My other picks would be Tales of Symphonia, Legendia (Why the hate? I quite liked the concept of after-story character arcs) and Xillia (the first one, didn't like the second one that much).

Sadly I'm with the people that think Zestiria to be a disappointment, as the characters and the story were just bland and bad, especially the as-a-side-note introduced main villain. And the game had a rushed feel all over, especially dungeons were just plain aweful graphics wise. The main point against it though is that Alisha was kinda introduced (even in commercials and stuff) as the female main character, but was tossed aside quite quickly, which was just bad character usage imo.

Interested to read other ppls thoughts on that.
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thenix



Joined: 18 Apr 2012
Posts: 265
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:30 pm Reply with quote
When I think of my experiences playing Tales of Games I think of games that are more than any other series like playing a full season of an anime show. Also very long games.
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EducatedRuffian



Joined: 09 Apr 2015
Posts: 76
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:32 pm Reply with quote
To be honest, I got into the franchise by watching the anime/ova series of Tales of Symphonia, and would recommend anyone who wants to get into Tales to do the same. (Not strictly Symphonia, but watching the anime series of a Tales game)
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RDespair



Joined: 24 Apr 2006
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Location: California
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:58 pm Reply with quote
My general opinion on the Tales series is that none of them have particularly good stories, so you're best off playing the one with the best gameplay which most people agree is Tales of Graces F. People complain that Graces F's story is questionable, but honestly, I didn't notice it being any worse than any of the other 6 or so games in the series that I've played.

Last edited by RDespair on Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Wingbeats



Joined: 23 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:59 pm Reply with quote
I'm a newbie to the Tales franchise, though definitely not JRPGs as a whole. I picked up Xilia a year ago and played through most of it...while I found the story kinda bland, I did like most of the characters. Most of them. I hated the annoying little girl, though. Unsure if I'll finish the game...

I play my 3DS a ton, however, and I didn't realize Tales of the Abyss was ported on that. Is the port alright? I'm adding it to my wishlist now for when I'm done with Fire Emblem Fates.
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Dextres



Joined: 04 Oct 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:04 pm Reply with quote
Tales of the Abyss is what got me into the Tales franchise and was what I finish the game to completion(and a couple more replays afterwards as well). Tales of Legendia...I still haven't gotten past the begining part of the story mode and just fell out with it over time.


Tales of Graces F, mainly got that just to support the industry; but when I get a PS3, definately will play it(since alternatively I have already spoil myself with youtube video of the gameplay etc.).

Tales of Vesperia-Love the game; but attempt to be a completionist or go through a second playthrough once I finish it. Disappointed as well about the PS3 version.

Tales of Xilla 2 looks promising to me and is my wishlist, not sure about Tales of Xilla.
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redcar



Joined: 04 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:07 pm Reply with quote
Thanks for the article! My wife and I have been playing Tales games for years, both separately and together with friends and family, so I'm always happy to see the series get more attention. I think you did a good job of hitting all the important points about the games, though it can't be understated how much of a draw the cooperative gameplay is. For some reason Tales is the one of the only jrpg series to consistently explore that space, and it's really fun and rewarding if you can find the right people to play with.

In past discussions, I've ranked the games I've played like this (opinion zone starts now):

1. Tales of Phantasia
The first Tales game I played. I have the same rose-colored glasses for this game that many people seem to have for Symphonia, in that I played it in college and it's still pretty great despite some flaws inherent to its time. Dhaos in particular was the most compelling part of Phantasia, though most of his status as a tragic hero wasn't expounded upon until a later game. Still my #1 favorite, after all these years.

2. Tales of the Abyss/Tales of Graces
These have to be tied for #2. Both have lovable characters, a fine degree of polish, an interesting world and mechanics, and a good ratio of hits by Motoi Sakuraba (who usually has a very hit-or-miss track record). I'd say Abyss probably has the edge in plot and characterization, but Graces has the edge in its fantastic (if controversial) battle system. Abyss seems to be beloved by most, but to this day I'm still confounded by the lack of appreciation for Graces. I'm guessing a lot of people just didn't play it for some reason? Or didn't like the battle system, despite it making casters actually usable? Regardless, I feel it could use more love.

3. Tales of Vesperia
After having played this, I definitely understood why people are such fans. It has a lot of polish as well, and the three older party members are just full of wonderful snark. That being said, it gets decked a few points in my book for having an unsatisfying final third with an unconvincing final threat. Still, a solid entry.

4. Tales of Symphonia
My wife's first Tales game, which seems to be held in very high esteem by most people who started playing the series around that time. I do think it's a little overrated, and Lloyd/Colette/Genis tended to grate on my nerves, but it did have a really good story. The callbacks to Phantasia didn't hurt either. The graphics and battle system are definitely relics of their time, but overall they're not bad.

5. Tales of Xillia/Tales of Xillia 2
After playing these, me, my wife, and her brother together arrived at this conclusion: both of these games are 75% of a full game. Neither feels terribly complete, both felt like they had rushed development, and both have distinct ideas that would have been better served if they were completely unrelated. Still, they're both absolutely gorgeous, and the battle system and characters were pretty great. Gaius is up there with Dhaos in my favorite antagonists of all time. Also, the ability to overlay random sprite models on playable characters in the second game was utterly hilarious and they need to do it again.

6. Tales of Zestiria
This game was also gorgeous...but it had some serious problems in the writing and programming departments. Some of the story moments were confusing, and the battle system was specifically designed to be played by one or two players. This made things really annoying when you wanted to play as one of the seraphim, since you would arbitrarily get switched out of the party or shuffled around the menu for no reason. Also, the battle camera was actively hostile to multiplayer play in small spaces. Overall though, I think the main problem was that Zestiria was a little too close to a "standard" jrpg story. Usually the writing in Tales games is at least somewhat more interesting, but the plot this time just felt bland overall. The game definitely had a ton of phenomenal music though, courtesy of Go Shiina.

7. Tales of Eternia
I think I played this game a little too late for me to love it. It's not a bad game by any stretch, but it definitely feels like a representative of that period of jrpgs (both the good and the bad). It doesn't help that I didn't really take very strongly to any of the characters. That being said, it did have a number of compelling plot twists.

For my money, if I had to give a recommendation for players looking to try out the series, it would probably be Tales of the Abyss first and maybe Tales of Graces second. I feel like those are the most accessible of the "modern" entries. In any case, thanks again for writing this! After Zestiria I was a little worried for Berseria, but I've heard early reports from people who have played both and it seems like things have improved greatly for the latter game (despite a lack of new work from Go Shiina). Please Bamco, just put a little time and effort into what you make and don't rush to hit anniversary deadlines!

Blackiris_ wrote:
The series biggest fault: Motoi Sakuraba. He's also done some good music work for Tales, but most of the musical pieces are uninspired, unmemorable, lame iterations of his previous works. They should hire a new composer. Go Shiina's work on Legendia and Zestiria was fantastic.

Yeah, Sakuraba produces incredible and memorable music about 10-20% of the time, but the rest is kinda boring. I agree wholeheartedly that they should bring Shiina back much more often.
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zawa113



Joined: 19 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:34 pm Reply with quote
I've certainly played my fair share, I'll chime in

Symphonia-yeah, first one I played too. I enjoyed it overall, but Colette is certainly ungodly annoying (and her AI in combat makes her terrible, but you put a real person there, and she's amazing, believe it or not). Still, I mean, this was half the reason people owned Gamecubes back then (well, that and zelda and smash bros). I don't think it's aged too badly, but not as well as the other games either. The lack of 3D battlefield really does hurt its combat, which makes other ones age better in that regard, and the graphics are fairly obvious. The story is still solid, even if some of the characters are awful and annoying.
Phantasia GBA-dear lord was this terrible. Like, I'm not sure if the original game was this bad, but this is a really bad port. The game moves like freakin' molasses during combat, it's just terrible. The GBA can do really good action RPGs (Summon Knight: Swordcraft Story), but this was just not good. The terrible combat rendered this unplayable imo.

Abyss-second game I played, I loved the combat, except for never knowing what element on the ground could react to which of my attacks, it was all trial and error, I wish there had been some sort of indicator somewhere that would've hoped make that less annoying. But I really hated the story and characters on this one. Luke annoyed me to no end, he was plot stupid and just really bleeding heart, so him, I did not like. Of course, it's not possible to dislike Jade, he's still one of my favorite Tales characters (the fact that he's the only one who seems to call out Luke for being stupid and annoying only added to my like of Jade). Worth it since it's easy to come by and the gameplay is good and Jade is awesome.

Legendia-ah yes, the black sheep, almost always left out of multi-game artwork. It's obvious that someone completely different developed the game, but it's actually my favorite in the series. I feel like it's the only game that has other characters call the main one out for stupid decisions and not just instantly forgive him for one thing, so that felt more realistic to me. The combat is on a 2D plane (with no 3D option), so it wasn't the best in that regards (and the AI is still a bit stupid, even worse, you can't plug a second controller into this one, unlike other Tales games, my solution was to only use one close up attacker (me) and have everyone else be mages or mid-range (so I used Moses a lot)). But the so-so combat wasn't enough to deter me in any way, and I liked how TP came back over time, it prevented the mages from becoming so instantly useless after a few battles, which plagued the other games quite heavily, and using arts a bunch could unlock new versions of them, so that was good too. But I just liked the story and the characters the most, so it mainly wins there, but you have the added bonus of the best looking dungeon backgrounds (even if a straight line is the most common answer) and having Go Shiina do the music. You might also recognize him as doing the really really good pieces in Zestiria. Motoi Sakuraba is ok, but it all sounds so samey after a while, Go Shiina really is something special, and I'm glad they used him. Even the people who don't like this game still admit it has some of the best music in the Tales series. Even for Shirley's tendency to get kidnapped, she's not that bad of a character. And I agree, the story takes a bit to get going, but the characters just have such great chemistry that it's worth it. Also, I do find it kind of funny that the guy in the OP built up as the main baddie is like, the disc 1 final boss, you beat him about a quarter through the damn game.

Vesperia-Never beat this one, I hated the combat, I hated how the enemy AI always worked together better than my own damn allies, and I just didn't care for the stories or characters. I only got it because I used to have a 360.

Xillia 1-I loved the game, it and 2 are tied for my second favorite in the series. I enjoyed the characters and story, but I think this one has the best gameplay. The link thing made TP not be much of a problem, so kudos there. Definitely highly recommend this one, Millia is ridiculously fun to play as, one of the few true battle mages of the series. I like how she can add just a small bit of fire or full out cast the spell, it made playing as her a ton of fun, easily the best playable character in any Tales game
Xillia 2-play X1 first, but yeah, I liked this one a lot too, even if I think the "silent protagonist" thing was kinda of lame. Ludger is my second favorite to play as, switching between weapons and having lots at your disposal for on the fly strats was great fun! Also, there's a cat in the game, so, hooray!

Graces f-not a big fan of this one, I don't like its gameplay. I didn't get too far, but the story seemed ok, but the combat was so bad, I just could not survive a damn fight (I seriously put the whole party on AI and babysat their status ailments, and it did better than me, and I swear I'm not typically that bad at games in general). I might try it again someday, like I said, I was getting into the story just fine.

Zestiria-easily my least favorite of all the ones I've played. First, it brought back that awful combat thing from Graces, so no thank you to that one, then, you were always forced to have certain characters in your party, and then, I just flat out hated Sorey. He went into the whole "chosen thing" a little too excitedly to the point where it was his only real personality, being the damn chosen one. Not even having a yellow color-scheme Toph substitute was enough to save this game. Though I'm all for having a bromance in a future game. But on combat, I like being to pick where I put things and not just loop endlessly on the same stupid attacks, I like that balance between regular and special attacks, but mixing them, then not letting the player change them, it's just so disappointing. I guess it's more fighting game-like, but the way past games had it was way better! If you have a PS3, ignore this one and grab the Xillia games, they're probably cheaper anyway. I'm just hoping Berseria won't keep the combat system, maybe then, I can play it.

When I get a Tales game, I usually expect a so-so story, there are better RPGs out there for that (in fact, I'm playing one right now, go play Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2, people!), but I'm usually just there for the gameplay, and if I'm lucky, maybe a good plot or characters will be there? But yeah, for action RPGs, gameplay is usually really awesome.
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#845616



Joined: 05 Oct 2015
Posts: 9
PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:46 pm Reply with quote
Looks like i am the only one who played Tales of Destiny 2 (Real one, for PS2) and Tales of Rebirth...
I am also currently playing Tales of Destiny Remake on PS2.

And fun thing is, Tales of Destiny 2 and Tales of Rebirth are amongst of my most favorite Tales games.
Gotta love Mutsumi Inomata character designs Anime smile
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John Thacker



Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:14 pm Reply with quote
Zestiria's camera issues by themselves completely ruin the game for even two player. For those of us who enjoy playing Tales games because of the multiplayer, it is clearly the worst.

One that is currently available but hasn't been mentioned in this thread, for good reason, is Tales of Hearts (R, for vita). Also should be avoided compared to the other titles (though again my multiplayer bias for playing these with my wife colors my view.)

Other than that, one thing to take note of with the Tales series is the distinction between "flagship titles" and "companion titles." The Tales Studio will generally put out lower quality games (often sequels in the same universe) using largely the same engine as a previous game. These are not as good, but fans of the series know that and lower expectations accordingly.

classicalzawa wrote:


Abyss-But I really hated the story and characters on this one. Luke annoyed me to no end, he was plot stupid and just really bleeding heart, so him, I did not like. Of course, it's not possible to dislike Jade, he's still one of my favorite Tales characters (the fact that he's the only one who seems to call out Luke for being stupid and annoying only added to my like of Jade).


I completely don't understand your reaction here. In the second half of the game, nearly all the characters are *extremely* hard on Luke, mostly for him refusing to accept responsibility for something that he insists (largely correctly) wasn't "his fault" because he was too ignorant. I actually found Luke to be more realistic and less plot stupid (and certainly not bleeding heart at all) than most amnesiac characters. All that makes him pretty annoying for a lot of the game, but at least he's more justified in being a moral and emotional six year old for a lot of it and shows some personal growth.

The story and plot again made considerably more sense than most Tales game, aside from the silly jargon of putting "fon-" before everything.
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meiam



Joined: 23 Jun 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:30 pm Reply with quote
John Thacker wrote:
I completely don't understand your reaction here. In the second half of the game, nearly all the characters are *extremely* hard on Luke, mostly for him refusing to accept responsibility for something that he insists (largely correctly) wasn't "his fault" because he was too ignorant. I actually found Luke to be more realistic and less plot stupid (and certainly not bleeding heart at all) than most amnesiac characters. All that makes him pretty annoying for a lot of the game, but at least he's more justified in being a moral and emotional six year old for a lot of it and shows some personal growth.

The story and plot again made considerably more sense than most Tales game, aside from the silly jargon of putting "fon-" before everything.


Abyss goes to interesting place, but the way it treats Luke is a bit weird,spoiler[ Luke is completely justified in saying that he couldn't possibly know about it (plus he was literally mind controlled when everything happens) so its weird that every other character pile on him like that, especially since some of the character should have known far more than Luke about what was going on and did nothing, no one even point out that Ion is actually the one that open the door, so he's at least as responsible as Luke (except he knew what was behind it and wasn't mind controlled on top of it). So I find it quite disappointing that Luke eventually accept responsibility (of something he's not responsible for) essentially because he got bullied into it by his "friend". Still there's enough interesting stuff that happen for me to still consider it the best story in the franchise.]
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zawa113



Joined: 19 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:05 pm Reply with quote
Even if things weren't Luke's fault, he then just spends the rest of the game whining about it the whole time anyway, making him incredibly annoying to me. I feel like during every single conversation, he somehow went back to mentioning that event and how much he's grown since it, and if he somehow didn't mention it, someone else would. Jade is the only one who calls Luke out for being whiny and refusing to move on and stop being annoying while everyone else is just helping him lick his wounds and going "there, there, baby". What happened to the jerk who almost told a merchant to go -eff himself after taking an apple and being too ignorant to know what money was? At least that was something different for an RPG hero, so I kind of liked the different thing and him being so obviously full of himself. I also think that going from someone that self-absorbed to someone that bleeding heart is completely unrealistic, and he seems to do it in the span of just a few conversations. I was really disappointed in Luke as a protagonist, I guess you could say. I just feel like everyone forgives him and gives him a great big hug way too easily after being hard on him for like, half a week.

Man, I had almost forgot about the camera and "on field battle" thing in Zestiria. I remember, one time, I was in a dungeon, and I was going in one of those small corridors to the next part, and I got trapped into a battle, so almost half of my field was a tiny corridor with some leftovers on the side, where I had to do all my actual fighting while the AI (good and bad) got caught like idiots. I think it was at that point that I went "yep, this was definitely a bad idea, seemed cool on paper, but definitely a bad idea". Also, it makes the over world ungodly large for absolutely so reason except to add space for these stupid battles. I hope they don't go with this again, nice experiment, but just go back to what you guys had, seriously!
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