As a gamer and a huge fan of manga and anime, JRPG’s are pretty much a no-brainer for me. But I’ve noticed that in the current market and generation they do get overlooked by the majority of gamers and this absolutely breaks my heart.
After the news this time last year that the Tales studio was getting shut down there was a single tear shed for them, but there was still the news that Graces and Xillia were still getting released. Xillia is the last confirmed release from the Tales series. There are rumours of Xillia 2, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for it.
I think I’ve rambled enough already, so without further delay I’ll get into the top 5 reasons why you should take the time to sit down and play the Tales series.
1. Engrossing Storylines.
The first thing that anyone can say about the Tales series is that the storyline is always gripping. You’ll most likely go into what I call the Gaming Zone where you don’t do anything except sit and stare at the TV, completely forgetting about hunger or bodily functions. All that matters is what is happening before your eyes.
As I write this I’m currently playing through the latest instalment in the Tales series, Tales of Graces F. I’ve spent entire days playing this game and not even batted an eyelid until I’ve stretched and realised that it’s suddenly not daytime any more.
Of course I’m not going to go into any details about the storylines, but suffice to say that they are of epic proportions in each and every game.
2. Relatable And Enjoyable Characters.
As with any JRPG you play there is always going to be a multitude of characters to meet and interact with, as well as level up and fight with. One thing that I only recently discovered, however, is that you can give characters extra items. So right now I have a character that walks about with a watermelon on her head. Yep, you did read that right. A watermelon.
The really cool thing about the characters in the series is that in each game there is a unique character that represents a different part of the human psyche.
Of course with anything that comes out of Japan, the main character is always having self-confidence issues and there is always that other character that is in someway related to the main protagonist that is an utter badass. Vesperia by far has my favourite though, a dog called Repede who forever had a smoking pipe in his mouth and attacks with a knife. What more can you want from a dog?
3. Gorgeous Environments.
Graphically the games aren’t up there with the likes of the big AAA titles but they have their own charm in their simplicity. The environments are always so bright and colourful and so easy to get lost in! In the cave areas there’s always some sort of wonder to behold and each city is something that you could only ever see in your wildest dreams. Just don’t do what I did and spend half an hour just wandering around admiring them. You’ll end up completely forgetting what you were supposed to be doing to progress the story further.
I still don’t know how I feel about finding a house inside the stomach of a monster..
4. Out Of The Ordinary Combat.
The combat for JRPGs have always been a little different and ‘out there,’ the combat here is no different. Each character has individual skills and attacks that they learn but each one leads to different combos. Constantly holding up while attacking will lead to one combo where as holding up for 2 attacks then down for 1 then left for another will lead you to another combo entirely. With the combination of A-Artes and B-Artes the combat possibilities expand yet again. The combat is made fair, though, by the use of the CC System which limits slightly the amount of attacks you can make at any one time. You can restore the CC by use of items, guarding or just not attacking.
There are also the special attacks that you can use when the combat goes into an ‘Eleth Burst,’ which is when you get an unlimited amount of CC to use for a short amount of time. The special attack gets its own short animation before you get to behold the silly amount of damage that you just inflicted on that poor enemy.
5. Fun Character Development.
Developing characters in games is always fun and rather rewarding. Seeing that little ‘Level Up!’ appear always gives you that little smile and a feeling of “BRING IT, WORLD” for five to ten minutes until you meet that enemy who just squashes you like a bug *cough* final boss of Vesperia *cough*
The character development in Tales works just a little bit differently. You have your standard levelling up for your stats, but you also have a secondary levelling system that is designated solely for your Artes. Meaning while you are levelling up that physical attack score of yours, you’ll also be earning new Artes, levelling up your current Artes and gaining some bonus stats.
Graces, however, has changed their Artes levelling system to ‘Titles.’ Each character has over 100 titles to obtain and with each one you can level it up 6 times (1-5 and then to ‘mastered’) and with each level you, will gain either bonuses to your stats or new Artes. The titles are gained for various things such as progressing the story, repeating attacks, shopping, dualizing (creating useful items and equipment) and so on.
One thing I will add here, if you live in the UK and would like to get your hands on copies of these games, don’t hold your breath to find them in stores. You might be lucky and find one or the other, but they will be highly priced; definitely go online!
[Written by contributor Declan McGeachey]