Saturday Summaries 2019-01-26: Tales 101 Edition

Ben and Rorie hinted in the last episode of UPF that there might be a Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition Quick Look on the horizon. If so, it will be the first Giant Bomb video feature to acknowledge Bandai Namco's long-going Tales franchise. Given the average Giant Bomb visitor might not know too much about the series, I thought I'd throw together a little fact-list:

Giant Bomb: The Home of Anime
Giant Bomb: The Home of Anime
  • There are presently sixteen core entries in the franchise. The first was Tales of Phantasia, originally released in 1995 for the Super Famicom (SNES). The most recent was Tales of Berseria, released on PS4 and Steam in 2017.
  • Of those sixteen, three - Tales of Destiny 2 (2002, PS2), Tales of Rebirth (2004, PS2), and Tales of Innocence (2007, DS) - do not have official English localizations. There is a fan translation for Innocence, though no-one's finished one for the other two yet.
  • Of the remaining thirteen, two - Tales of Destiny (1998, PS1) and Tales of Legendia (2006, PS2) - have never been released in Europe. Yeah, I'm annoyed too.
  • If you are interested in Tales but didn't know where to start: First, there's no real continuity except for the sequels (as in Final Fantasy), so you're safe to jump in anywhere; second, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Berseria are all highly-rated and presently available on Steam. Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Berseria are also available on PS4.
  • From there, Tales of Xillia and Tales of Xillia 2 for PS3 or Tales of the Abyss for 3DS or Tales of Hearts R for PSVita are decent choices on systems which are still relatively active. Tales of Graces F for PS3 and Tales of Zestiria for PS4 might be worth following up on, though keep in mind those two were received less well than the above.
  • Anything older and you're looking at original systems only: Tales of Phantasia (GBA port, the only one that was localized), Tales of Destiny (PS1), Tales of Eternia (PS1 for US, PSP for EU), and Tales of Legendia (PS2).
  • Quick note on Tales of Eternia: It was originally called Tales of Destiny 2 in the US, even though there's another game with that name. If you're looking on online stores, Tales of Eternia is the one with the green-haired girl on the box art.
  • Only two of the core entries are direct sequels (Tales of Destiny 2 and Tales of Xillia 2). The Tales of Symphonia sequel, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, isn't a core entry. I believe the reason for why this is the case is because it sucks.
  • Likewise, Tales of the Tempest (2006, DS) was later downgraded from a core entry to a spin-off because no-one seemed to like it much (it's also never been officially localized).
  • Speaking of spin-offs, the only localized one besides Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World is the crossover dungeon-crawler Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology for PSP. I found it a bit too grindy for my liking, but it does feature a lot of older Tales characters if you want some idea of the franchise's history.
  • Want anime? We got anime! Tales of the Abyss had a 26-episode TV adaptation which followed the events of the game. Tales of Vesperia has a prequel movie called Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike that isn't required viewing to understand the game (unlike, say, the Final Fantasy XV movie) but adds some context behind one of its central relationships. There's also a Tales of Zestiria series but I don't think anyone cared.
  • As for the games themselves, the combat always operates on a variant of the LMBS (Linear Motion Battle System) which has a real-time focus that combines normal attacks and "artes" (special attacks and spells). Each game has its own rules for their particular twist on LMBS, so even if all the Tales games resemble each other there's usually a few game-specific mechanics of which you need to be aware. Think of it like the anime fighters from Arc System Works: there's a bit of a learning curve, but once you've mastered one it won't take nearly as long to master the next.
  • Outside of combat, the Tales series are fairly traditional RPGs. They're not necessarily huge open-world games where you can run off and explore in any direction, unlike Final Fantasy XII or Xenoblade, but there's usually plenty of side-content to find. Like Dragon Quest, they have a formula and like to stick to it, which is why I might recommend you don't try to play multiple Tales games back-to-back.

You should be good to go after all that. If the recently released Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is your first Tales game, you could certainly do a lot worse. From there, there's a huge back catalogue to dig into if Tales turns out to be your jam. If not, there's been enough of an RPG renaissance of late to find something more to your liking. Have fun, chums.

Neon Prism

Coming down from Mass Effect Andromeda, which I played for far longer than was strictly necessary, I was in the market for something short and relatively mindless for my Indie Game of the Week. I say "mindless" in more of the zen sense where I didn't have to focus too much on text and juggling multiple objectives and could just live in the moment. Neon Prism is sort of the same contemplative vein as Flywrench and other psychedelic action games that perhaps owe a debt to Jeff Minter's command of trippy fluorescent visuals. It's simple enough in structure - get to the end of each level - and the challenge level is gentle enough with no real mid- to late-game additions to your repertoire to throw you off. It does suffer from being unpolished, though, from the way your craft sticks to the edges of walls to the unpleasant default tank controls.

The appeal of a game like this is contingent on its ability to be chill and gradually subsume you into its EDM-enriched flow (for lack of a better word) to the point where you want to keep going regardless of any actual challenge it might present, but Neon Prism's usability problems can't quite get it there. Like a relaxation spa that has loud construction work going on next door.

Link here: Indie Game of the Week 104: Neon Prism

Valkyria Chronicles 4

I don't have anything new to add about the game itself - it's been over two weeks since I last booted it up for anything besides screenshots - but I have continued my attempts to categorize and rank the various members of Squad E: the elite Ranger Corps that collectively comprises all the playable characters in Sega's newest game in the anime war strategy franchise.

This week incorporated the twelve shocktroopers and six snipers into the overall rankings. Valkyria Chronicles's recruits are always a bit unstable, and I feel these two classes in particular attract the majority of the psychotics. After all, it's a sniper's job to quickly murder half the map from a decent vantage point, and once you're giving the shocktroopers flamethrowers their work charging the front line can feel a bit grisly. I've continued to emphasis how each character might be better suited for different strategies - though each soldier "class" has a general role to play, there's some nuance depending on the map and your own playstyle - so hopefully what began as a blog series to dunk on all the weirdos you can come across might now also be of informative use to anyone interested in playing the game. I'll be skipping next Tuesday's slot to focus on a new blog feature for this year, but the week after that should see the final entry in this rank-'em-up feature.

Link here: Valk-tier-ia Chronicles: Part 2: Shocktroopers & Snipers

Mass Effect: Andromeda

I'll say this for Mass Effect Andromeda: it sure has a lot of game in it. The previous Mass Effects were these focused affairs where you'd have a few linear self-contained story missions and a decent amount of optional side-quests and planet exploration to keep you engaged. While that is still the case for Andromeda, it strongly takes after Dragon Age: Inquisition (using the same engine, Frostbite, which carries most of EA's games but only used in an RPG context for these two and the upcoming Anthem) in creating these huge maps with multiple objectives to pursue. It thus merges the expected level of content from the Mass Effect series - story missions, loyalty missions for each member of your party, and scanning planets for resources and neat little descriptions for why they would be a sucky place to live - with these enormous environments to wander across in your Mako-like Nomad vehicle. There's some precedent for that with the first Mass Effect, of course, but nothing like the expanses found on Eos (big desert), Havarl (jungle), Voeld (ice), Kadara (wastelands), and Elaaden (another big desert).

It's hard to make a case for Andromeda because there's no getting around the sheer volume of glitches, issues and bugs that still pervade the game to this day, though it's reportedly nowhere near as bad as it once was. I will say that the party starting growing on me before too long, and some effort was made to inject the usual BioWare balance of pathos and pithy back-and-forth. Though very few characters had what I would call a distinctive model - most, even major NPCs and squadmates, looked like something the character-creator randomizer spat out - and hardly anything in the way of emoting, the characters themselves were the right balance of familiar archetypes (the krogan, Drack, was a surly bastard who knew all there was to know about handing a dude his own ass) and diverse personal backstories that might suggest why they were eager to join an ambitious iniative that would have them leave behind the Milky Way and everything they once knew. It was nostalgic to hear audio clips of Liara T'Soni, or meet Zaeed's estranged son or Conrad Verner's equally starstruck sister, and though the game could've fallen into the trap of being too fan-servicey it's far more invested in carving out its own path. I can admire a franchise looking for a fresh start, even if it was also a false start in this case.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

I received a number of new games towards the end of last year, but I've no space on my PS4 without taking off some backlog items that have been on there for almost a year now. Looking for something considerably shorter than Andromeda, I took a chance on the new South Park RPG which I probably installed sometime last winter and forgot about. I've been on the outs with the show itself for a while, but the last game - The Stick of Truth - was a very smartly designed RPG that not only did right by the show and its style and lore and sense of humor like no other South Park game prior, but carefully built its encounters - both story and random - to offer a decent challenge level that never felt like mindless grinding or some arbitrary obstacle in your path placed there to pad out the runtime. All killer, no filler, which is something I usually only see from Indie games like Zeboyd's output (Cosmic Star Heroine was criminally overlooked) and that Battle Chasers: Nightwar I played a few weeks back. It feels like RPGs are starting to split in two directions: the ever-present enormous 80+ hour open-world epics, of which I still have plenty left to play in the backlog, and these more streamlined 20-30 hour affairs which benefit from a certain amount of focus. You will need to appreciate the show and some of its more questionable punching-down humor to get the most out of The Fractured But Whole, and maybe a sense of the monolithic Marvel Cinematic Universe it riffs on, but the core combat and exploration systems are as solid as any RPG I've played in recent memory.

Right now I'm moving forward with the plot missions, learning some new traversal-enabling skill as a result, and then taking laps around South Park to see where I can use it for all the treasures and in-jokes that are now accessible. That loop has been a blast so far. I think I can say that when it comes to The Fractured But Whole, I'm definitely pro-laps.

Movie: ???

[TBD! Ran out of time, I'll have something here later today.]

Start the Conversation