By Ben Sykes
If you were asked to name some Namco Bandai games there are numerous titles and series that might spring to mind. Titles like the challenging Demon Souls and Dark Souls, the much-loved Naruto games, the sublime Eternal Sonata, and the completely bonkers Beautiful Katamari are just a few of the developer’s greats. One of the most enduring, successful, consistently brilliant, and my personal favourite, is the Tales of series.
In September 2005, both Namco LTD and Bandai LTD merged and became known as “Namco Bandai Holdings” and over the subsequent years, began to dissolve and absorb various divisions of both companies under the one umbrella.
In 2003, the Wolf Team development company was renamed to the “Namco Tales Studio” when Namco Bandai became the majority shareholder. This meant that the sole purpose of this team was to produce games in the Tales series. The first title “Wolf Team” developed was Tales of Phantasia back in 1995 on the SNES, and their final title was Tales of Destiny 2 in 2002 on the PlayStation 2 before turning into the “Namco Tales Studio” in 2003. Since then, many of the other mother ship titles were produced by the Tales Studio.
However, in November 2011, it was announced that the “Namco Tales Studio” was also to be dissolved and absorbed to be under “Namco Bandai Games.” The Tales Studio has left us their final legacy in the form of Tales of Xillia, due to be released later on this year.
This does not, however, mark the end of the Tales series, with new and exciting developments occurring all the time.
Before moving onto the topic of Tales of Xillia, Lets take a look at the previous Tales games that have been released in Europe.
Beware! The rest of this article contains spoilers for the older games!
Tales of Phantasia was released in 1995 on the SNES in Japan, and despite being the original title in the series, it did not make its English debut until 2006 when it was ported to the Game Boy Advance System. This enhanced port contained some nifty new features such as voice acting, a new playable character, and cooking.
The story follows Cress Albain and his journey to defeat the Evil Demon King Dhaos, previously sealed away by heroes of a time long past. Cress and his friend Chester begin their journey after a massacre in their village. Cress finds himself travelling through space and time to alter the course of history and defeat Dhaos, once and for all.
Being the first title in the series, it was a revolutionary game as it introduced the “Linear Motion Battle System,” which allowed players to move their characters across the screen to fight enemies. This deviated from the norm of turn-based combat seen in many other games at that time – and still in some to this day.
Tales of Eternia was released in 2000 in Japan for the original PlayStation console, and debuted in America as Tales of Destiny 2 in 2001. Despite this, Europe never got a look-in until 2006 when the game was released on the PlayStation Portable.
The game story follows teens Reid and Farah who encounter a crashed spaceship and an alien girl, Meredy. The trio travel to the Mintche University to translate Meredy’s speech and uncover her warning of the “Grand Fall” when the planet Celestia is going to crash into the planet Inferia. The team then travels to Celestia to stop the disaster, with the aid of the Craymels, the Summon Spirits of the game.
As became a common feature in the series, the characters gain the ability to use artes as they progress. But this is only true for physical arte users. To learn magical artes characters need to place the Craymels into a Craymel Cage, unique to each mage. By placing certain Craymel spirits into different cages, they are able to bestow new spells unique to that combination, by using the “Fringe” command.
For instance, placing Undine into Meredy’s Craymel Cage and Sylph into Keele’s Cages, unlocks the “Heal” arte. However, since “Heal” is a water based spell, only the character with the water Craymel is able to use the spell.
Although a complex system to master it offered great depth and some very powerful spells.
If you’ve read some of my previous blogs then you know that this is my favourite game of all time. It was originally released on the GameCube back in 2004. However, on June 1, Hideo Baba announced that there was to be a PlayStation 3 HD rerelease reaching Europe in early 2014. If you missed the announcement, you can watch it here.
Are they able to resolve the fates of the world? Can both planets survive, or must one perish for the sake of the other?
The game follows the journey of Lloyd Irving, as he travels with his friends to protect Colette Brunel, the Chosen of Regeneration. Her quest involves the releasing of Summon Spirit seals of the world restoring mana, the life-force of the planet.
During their quest they encounter the Sheena, a ninja with the ability to summon the released Spirits, a technique thought lost to the world. However, it is then that she announces that she is from the planet known as Tethe’alla, which lies on a parallel axis to Sylvarant, the planet they currently are on. Sheena continues saying that the two worlds are like an hour glass, with the flow of mana going from one world to the other and that Colette’s journey reverses this flow. This means that one planet is constantly thriving, while the other is dying.
Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World is set two years after the original events of Tales of Symphonia. And is the first game to appear on the Nintendo Wii in Europe. It follows the character Emil, quite possibly the biggest introvert of any game I’ve played and Marta, a girl with Ratatosk’s core attached to her forehead. All of the characters from the original game make a playable appearance in this one, with the exception of Kratos, who resides on Derris-Kharlan.
Since the re-joining of the worlds Tethe’alla and Sylvarant, mana has gotten out of control, and the land is ravaged with earthquakes, floods, and drastic changes in temperature. For instance, the once toasty domain of Efreet, in the Triet Desert is now covered in a layer of snow.
Emil and Marta are journeying in order to awaken Ratatosk, who was the Summon Spirit of the Great Kharlan Tree before it died. He was able to change the laws once to accommodate the sudden production of mana in the world, and their journey is to beseech him to do it again, to bring stabilisation to the world one more time.
Tales of the Abyss was originally released in 2005 on the PlayStation 2 over in Japan and in 2006 for America. Unfortunately, Europe didn’t get to see it until it was localised and released on the Nintendo 3DS in November 2011. It begins with a prophecy from the Phrophet known as Yulia, who was able to see thousands of years into the future, which states;
“In Kimlasca shall be born one who inherits the power of Lorelei. He will be a boy of royal blood with hair of red. He shall be called the Light of the Sacred Flame, and he will lead Kimlasca-Lanvaldear to new prosperity.”
Enter Luke Fon Fabre, nephew of the current king of Kimlasca and a boy with red hair. Seven years prior to the beginning of the story, Luke was kidnapped and as a result forgot everything: how to walk, his parents’ names, everything. As a result of this, he was confined to his home, with his only interaction being with his servants, family, best friend Guy Cecil and sword instructor Van Grants.
One day, during sword training, a mysterious woman enters the Fon Fabre home in an attempt to assassinate Van Grants. Luke defends his master and causes a hyper resonance between the mysterious woman and Luke. This causes the two to be teleported to Tataroo Valley, which begins Luke’s journey to save everyone and everything he holds dear, from the prophecy of Yulia herself.
Tales of the World Radiant Mythology is a unique game in the series. It was released for the PlayStation Portable in 2007 and allows you to create your own character – along with their job class. Initially there are four to choose from: Warrior, Thief, Priest, and Mage.
Your have been summoned by the World Tree, along with many familiar faces from across the series to protect the planet, Terresia, from a demon known as the Devourer, that consumes worlds.
Its gameplay differs from the others as you must accept and complete quests from the guild to increase your fame, and only when you have accumulated enough fame can you continue with the main storyline. With over 300 quests to complete, you’ll certainly be kept busy for a while!
If you’re looking for a game that is visually stunning combined with a story twists constantly keeping you on your toes, this is it! Tales of Vesperia is the only title in the series to be released on Xbox 360 and is also the first HD title.
The story follows Yuri as he accompanies Estelle, a mysterious woman capable of extraordinary healing artes as she journeys to meet Flynn, a member of the Imperial Knights on a pilgrimage of his own. Yuri’s original motives for his quest are centered on retrieving the Barrier core for the area of his town, keeping it safe from Monsters. However, he soon gets caught up in Estelle’s quest and protects her until the very end, changing the world as they go. Find out more about this one in my next Silent Protagonist blog!
Tales of Graces F was released just last year on the PlayStation 3, although it debuted on the Nintendo Wii without the future arc in 2009.
Heroes must step forward to defend the world, and who better for the job than the childhood friends of the king?
The world, Ephinea, revolves around the use of a substance known as Eleth, which is produced by three large obelisks known as Valkines, with each of the Valkines under the control of one kingdom. When the king of one of those kingdoms gets possessed, the creature residing in him absorbs all the Eleth from the Valkines causing them to stop producing energy for the world. Heroes must step forward to defend the world, and who better for the job than the childhood friends of the king? Enter Asbel Lhant, Hubert Oswell, Cheria Barnes, and the amnesiac Sophie.
As the friends quest to save the king, Sophie gradually regains her memories. Could what she has locked away in her mind be enough to save the world? Play the game and find out!
And now for the main event! Tales of Xillia is the newest instalment of the Tales series, scheduled for release on August 9th on PlayStation 3.
This title is so unique in its style that it has two main characters, a medical student called Jude Mathis, and a woman called Milla Maxwell, who is the incarnation of Maxwell, The Lord of the Spirits. The reason why the game is so unique is that you can choose to either see the story through the eyes of Jude or Milla. The storyline is the same, but some of the events are described slightly differently and there are events exclusive to each route. Better set some serious gaming time aside for this one!
This instalment of the series is set in a world known as Rieze Maxia, where humans coexist with both monsters and spirits. In Liese Maxia, there are two kingdoms both vying for supremacy. Each kingdom specialises in the coexistence of either species. Rashugall’s prosperity depends on maintaining a relationship with the spirits which allows the ability to channel mana in the form of Spirit Power. However, Arjur is a country whose strength lies in its military prowess and the control of monsters.
The story begins with Jude, a medical student studying in the capital of Rashugal, who decides to investigate the cause of an influx of patients to the hospital after a Spirit Arte failed at a military base. During his investigation, he meets Milla, who is investigating the deaths of a number of spirits. Milla is accompanied by the four great spirits, Undine, Efreet, Sylph, and Gnome.
There are many unanswered questions, and August still seems so far away…
However, during the pair’s investigation, they discover that the kingdom of Rashugal have begun experimenting with a power source which drains mana from the world, which is in turn killing the spirits. Milla loses the ability to summon the spirits. In order to regain this ability, the team must journey to the temple in Ni Akeria, so she may undergo a ritual to regain her lost ability. Just what is the purpose of using this technology? Why use the life force of the spirits, which grant prosperity to your kingdom? There are many unanswered questions, and August still seems so far away…
In battle, players will have the option to link two characters together to provide support for the character being controlled. As characters are paired, their cooperative gauge, known as a Linked Artes Gauge, fills up. The fuller the bar gets, the more characters can perform special attacks called Linked Artes. The artes used will vary depending on the kind the character you are controlling uses. Once the bar fills to the max, you are able to perform these Linked Artes until the gauge depletes. For those of you who have played Tales of Symphonia, I like to think of this as a mini Unison Gauge.
Have you ever played a Tales game and thought how much easier a battle could have gone if you had swapped one of the characters for another one? Well, fear not! One of the new features of this game allows you to just that – right in the middle of battle.
As much as I’m looking forward to getting my mitts on this game, I must wonder, since Japan has already got the sequel to this game, aptly named Tales of Xillia 2, will we receive this title as well? I guess only time will tell!
But for now, just watch this trailer, and wait two months, for what will no doubt be the best Tales game yet. And, after watching the video, I dare you to tell me what more you could possibly want?!