This week’s “All My Stars” (back from hiatus due to university work) is larger in scope than usual. Rather than focusing on one product I’m going to focus on a series of games that have always been my safety cushion of gaming. There are days when the formula of JRPG’s gets super boring- the antifeminist tropes, the big blurry eyes, the same quest and story rehashed over and with hours of grinding. It’s enough to put you off the genre for a lifetime. I’ve always found the “Tales of” games to please me though. I know when I’m picking one up or replaying it that I’m going to have a good time, lots of room to breathe and it’s going to be of a reasonable difficulty. I’m not going to need to grind much, the story will flow well and the gameplay is easy to pick up and enjoyable. One of the best bits of these games though is the story itself. What on the surface would appear to be a run-of-the-mill anime game would prove to be something both beautiful and emotionally involving.
The first “Tales of” game I played was Tales of Symphonia. I got it for the Gamecube at Christmas along with Animal Crossing and Paper Mario- what a combination. I didn’t actually pick it up however until about February after coming home from a week long school trip ridiculously home sick. So I nestled in my living room in a blankie and started playing. It seemed like an average friendship based anime- let’s go on an adventure and fight bad guys and stuff! The battle system was new to me though- the idea of running around and hitting things myself with a variety of different buttons and styles was fun and fresh against a background of turn based waiting games. Yet the thing that made Tales of Symphonia so good was the twist. The story is so intensely dark and unique once you get going and there are so many different narratives going on at once. It tackles issues with race, culture, religion, relationships and much more. What was a normal fantasy game turned into something much deeper and more exciting than I could have hoped for. So from there on out I was hooked.
The only downside to this newfound obsession as a tween was until recently, not many games have been translated or received much fame. Most of the games I had to wait for over two years to see it in English or there was no localisation at all. This was back in the day when Japanese games were still a bit of an enigma and not very mainstream. Publishers didn’t have confidence in the sales of these games and the industry itself was still in a period of great change. Over the last couple of years this has gotten a lot better however and I can happily say I have played many more of the series and never been disappointed. There are certain ties through all the games- strong themes of friendship and the way in which people shape and effect their world. There’s always this brilliant universal scale to everything I find fascinating but the games stories all differ a lot. They all keep the emotionally involving tone but the characters and plots themselves greatly vary. The female leads can go from quiet and strong to complex and wild. The designs themselves are fresh every time and the leads are different each time. One thing I found with Tales of the Abyss (released in Europe for the first time on the 3DS port) is that I hated the main character at first, which seems extremely odd. Why would I play a game where I was forced to control a snot nosed spoilt brat? I was patient though, as the supporting cast and world were intriguing. There’s a reason this kid is such a dick- and there will be consequences. We see the world change and become warped through this person’s decision and it highlights a great contrast on the traditional heroic RPG.
“Tales of” games are so reliable in that I’m never disappointed. It’s like a quality assurance sticker on a face cream- you just know instantly that you’re going to enjoy this in some way or another. It’s a good money investment in a world where consumers are desperate to one-up each other and have to fight tooth and nail for sales. I’m all for change and innovation but Tales remains a classic in my heart. There are so many platforms and stories you can choose from- from the more science fiction based on Xbox 360 to the purer fantasy rereleases for PS3 and PSP. If you’re bored waiting between titles or just want something a little different, I highly recommend any of them. Tales of Symphonia is still my favourite and the HD port is just about to come out in Europe next month, so please check it out!
Apologies for the lack of activity. University essays are handed in and I’m more active than ever now! Please feel free to follow or message me @gee4arika on tumblr and twitter!