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Exhuminator
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Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others learn).

by Exhuminator Fri May 19, 2017 5:51 pm

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So let's say you've lived under a rock and never played a Tales JRPG before. Looking at the available releases is a bit daunting. I mean there's 16 games listed in the main series alone. Then there's even more pseudo-sequels and spinoffs. It gets pretty intimidating and confusing quickly.

So for a beginner, what's the best Tales JRPG to start with? Which ones should be avoided? What are your favorites? Does each game have its own independent story? Do the original Tales games still hold up? What is so special about Tales that keeps this old train still chugging along? What is this whole Mothership and Escort thing about?

To help jog memories, here's the main entries:

1995 Tales of Phantasia
1997 Tales of Destiny
2000 Tales of Eternia
2002 Tales of Destiny 2
2003 Tales of Symphonia
2004 Tales of Rebirth
2005 Tales of Legendia
2005 Tales of the Abyss
2007 Tales of Innocence
2008 Tales of Vesperia
2008 Tales of Hearts
2009 Tales of Graces
2011 Tales of Xillia
2012 Tales of Xillia 2
2015 Tales of Zestiria
2016 Tales of Berseria

There's plenty more than that though:
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Please share your advice, suggestions, and personal experiences with this series.
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MrPopo
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by MrPopo Fri May 19, 2017 6:11 pm

The Tales games tend to be very formulaic from a story perspective. In addition to common elements like the summon spirits you usually have the case of discovering that some element that everyone relies on actually comes from a horrible place, and the party has to decide what to do about it. The other main thing is the obvious action battle system.

The division between Mothership and Escort titles is best thought of as "flagship" and "spinoff". It's like how Final Fantasy has the main numbered entries and then some spinoffs. For the most part the Mothership stuff is standalone. The main spots it is not is the couple of direct sequels; Destiny 2 and Xillia 2. A few other titles are connected in the same world but by thousands of years; in these instances having played one before the other gives you some nice bonuses and call backs/forwards, but you can still fully enjoy the games without playing the other.

Personally I think the best places to jump into the series would be either Phantasia if you want to go from the beginning, or your choice between Symphonia and Vesperia. Both of the two are very representative of a core Tales experience and core combat and character advancement systems. Some of the other titles get into some more esoteric mechanics that can turn someone off; Zestiria comes to mind.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by CFFJR Fri May 19, 2017 6:58 pm

Jeez, I didn't realize there were that many.

I've only played two, Phantasia and Xillia, and I never finished Phantasia.

Xillia was a blast though. Loved it.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by Xeogred Fri May 19, 2017 7:40 pm

PartridgeSenpai is one of the experts I think.

I'm sure we all have that one series or two that we keep sinking time and money into, but then when it's all said and done you walk away with nothing but confusion. This sums up Tales for me. I have played:

Tales of Phantasia
Tales of Destiny
Tales of Destiny 2 US (Eternia)
Tales of Symphonia
Tales of Graces F

And have not beaten a single one. Phantasia seemed alright and I'm not sure why I stopped. Destiny had one of the most insane high encounter rates I've ever seen. Eternia I was actually just playing a few months back and got stuck on a boss, but it was also when Breath of the Wild came out so there was no turning back. Symphonia I got to the second disc on but stopped, I can't really remember much of it at all now when I look back, frankly I remember a lot more about PSX JRPG's I played and loved growing up way before I played this one. And while I liked Graces F and put a lot of time into that one, the cooking mechanics really killed the game for me after so much time. It was basically a huge annoying amount of micromanagement you had to handle in between every single battle, along with the skills for the characters. You could have them auto learn skills and even set priorities, but it was still driving my OCD nuts. This game just had way too many damn systems for its own good.

The other big issue with this series to me is that the stories tend to be about as generic and safe as it gets. Extremely cliche', trope filled simplistic save the kingdom stories.

I still get the itch to keep checking out more. When you're in those battles, it's fun, but everything else in between is such a mixed bag. But honestly at this point I don't know anymore, five games in and I'm still not totally sold on them. I think I should get back to Star Ocean (sci-fi bias might help me care about them more) or something else.

A part of me still likes that this series does well though. It's nice to see a big JRPG franchise going strong that isn't Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by alienjesus Fri May 19, 2017 7:48 pm

I've only played Symphonia, and I adored it. I've put several hundred hours into that game over at least half a dozen playthroughs as a teenager.

Oddly though, I've never moved onto another entry in the series. At various times there's been ones I mean to pick up on the 3DS, Vita or 360 but I guess they all just liked more of the same to me. As in, I'm sure they were still great, but I wasn't sure I needed them if I already had played one as much as I had, y'know?
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by PartridgeSenpai Fri May 19, 2017 9:14 pm

Xeogred wrote:PartridgeSenpai is one of the experts I think.

:oops: :oops: :oops: I'm very flattered, Xeo Senpai, but I honestly think Popo Sensei has played a lot more of them than me. Also I have very little experience with the older games, so I'm not sure how to talk about them. The oldest one I've played is Eternia (which I will admit is a pretty damn hard game) but I never beat it. I could honestly talk about the series a LOT either way though, but I'll try and spread that out over several posts by mostly responding to what y'all are talkin' about (as that's what's on my mind atm).

For the record, while I own every one but Tales of Destiny 2 (the one that isn't Tales of Eternia) and Berseria, I have only beaten:

Tales of Symphonia
Tales of the Abyss
Tales of Innocence R (which I technically haven't beaten yet but I'm nearly at the very end, so I'm counting it here)
Tales of Vesperia
Tales of Hearts R
Tales of Graces f

MrPopo wrote:The Tales games tend to be very formulaic from a story perspective. In addition to common elements like the summon spirits you usually have the case of discovering that some element that everyone relies on actually comes from a horrible place, and the party has to decide what to do about it. The other main thing is the obvious action battle system.


The formulaic nature of the narratives is something I've noticed is a lot like how Final Fantasy does it (I haven't really played many JRPG's outside of FF, DQ, or Tales, for the record). In Final Fantasy you have some summon/spirit names which appear in a lot of the games, and similarly Tales has recurring elements like the summon spirits with the same names. On a more structural level, as both series tend to have a save the world/universe (not usually universe in Tales, tbh), they both have very common trends that revolve around changing the player's perspective on the world. There's usually some system or mcguffin that makes that particular entry different from your standard Western Fantasy game in some way. In Tales of the Abyss it's Phonons, in Tales of Vesperia it's Blastia, in Final Fantasy 6 it's Materia, in Final Fantasy 10 it's the summon spirits/summoner's pilgrimage thingy.

Then at some point around the end of the first or second section of the game, there's some revelation about this system that completely changes how your characters (and by extension the player) view the world and everything in it. Tales doesn't always follow this formula (I wouldn't really say Innocence does), and neither do the FF games (I'd be hesitant to say 4 does, for example, but perhaps I'm remembering incorrectly), but it's a general rule they tend to stick to. I think Tales tends to use the tropes well and tell very good stories with likable, well written characters. I haven't had any huge grievances with the writing of any particular game in the series, with the only sticking points being Hearts and Innocence (for different reasons which maybe I'll write about later as they don't feel appropriate to insert into this very general conversation about the series as a whole).

MrPopo wrote:Personally I think the best places to jump into the series would be either Phantasia if you want to go from the beginning, or your choice between Symphonia and Vesperia. Both of the two are very representative of a core Tales experience and core combat and character advancement systems. Some of the other titles get into some more esoteric mechanics that can turn someone off; Zestiria comes to mind.


I also agree that the beginning is as good a place to start as any, or Vesperia if you want a good current-ish-gen burst of Tales (as that's one of my personal favorites). While I do love Graces, as Xeo points out, it's a bit complex for someone who's unfamliar with the series to just jump right into it. Hell, even for a veteran like myself, the combat took a lot of time to get the hang of.

While Symphonia is certainly popular (for whatever reason :P ), I'm not sure it's the best entry point in the series. I didn't feel it had a terribly gripping story, no matter how quality the English voice cast is. The combat system also has some really serious problems given how you fight in 3D environments which you can't properly navigate. Free-running (moving in a direction other than forward and back between your target) wasn't introduced until the next game in the series, and I feel Symphonia suffers for it. On that note, however, that next game in the series is a very quality one, in my opinion, and Tales of the Abyss is a much better mid-2000's entries-level place to start in the series, I feel. The mechanics are very similar to Symphonia's, and as it's also an entry available on the 3DS, it's very palatable to be played portable. I will mention, however, that even though Tales of the Abyss was the first game in the series I played and beat, I didn't really fall in love with the series until Vesperia, so take that for what you will.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by BoneSnapDeez Fri May 19, 2017 9:21 pm

This is one of those series that feels way too bloated, with games that are too long that don't do quite enough to differentiate themselves from one another. Most of the 7th gen stuff, for instance, all just blurs together in my head.

That said, I have a couple of old faves.

Phantasia is a blast and hugely impressive for a 16-bit title.

And both Symphonia games are excellent. Memorable characters, stellar combat, solid soundtrack. Unpopular opinion, but I think the second one is better than the first. The Wii controls are so fluid and awesome.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by pierrot Fri May 19, 2017 9:58 pm

I beat Tales of Destiny II (Tales of Eternia) in high school, and then Tales of Symphonia when that was released. The wheels fell off after that, though, and I've never gotten very far in any other Tales games. I put a few hours into Legendia, but it wasn't too good. Played a little bit of Tales of the Tempest, but just ended up selling it. Played a few hours of the Symphonia sequel, but also ended up selling it. Played the intros, maybe, of Rebirth, Abyss, Vesperia, and Graces.

Outside of Phantasia, I think I own all of the PS1, and PS2 titles in the main series, but I just can't tolerate the "anime" of it all, anymore. I have a feeling that Tales of Destiny, and Tales of Destiny 2 (JP) are games that I could potentially handle, if I gave them the time, but I don't really feel like doing that.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by PartridgeSenpai Fri May 19, 2017 11:32 pm

pierrot wrote:Outside of Phantasia, I think I own all of the PS1, and PS2 titles in the main series, but I just can't tolerate the "anime" of it all, anymore.


Honestly I think the "anime of it all" is one of my favorite parts. I can see how someone wouldn't care for it though.
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Re: Let's discuss Namco's Tales series (and help others lear

by Segata Fri May 19, 2017 11:41 pm

I always felt this was insanely impressive for SNES.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3SA9LuqQgA
Not just because it has voices but voice acting and a full song.
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