Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment Developed By: Bandai Namco Studios, Tri-Crescendo Genre: Role-Playing Game Rated: T for Teen (Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence) Release Date: October 20, 2015 Screenshots:Link Amazon:Buy Now! Written By: Matthew Prunty
November 9, 2015 - Very few franchises have stood the test of time and are still considered gaming favorites among their respective genres quite like Tales Of. While some would argue that there have been franchises that have been around for decades, majority of them are not consistent in their games releases. In helping to celebrate 20th anniversary of the Tales Of franchise, Bandai Namco released Tales of Zestiria; the 15th main installment in the long-running franchise for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC platforms. For anyone familiar with JRPGs; especially those of the Tales Of variety know that epic boss battles, a simple; yet convoluted story and humorous dialog segments are parts of your epic journey. Tales of Zestiria debuts at the end of one generation and at the start of another, but doesn’t fully appreciate the hardware it was built upon.
Tales of Zestiria’s story has a simply premise which is all based around a young man by the name of Sorey. Sorey is an adventurous human who loves history and uncovering timeless mysteries. His partner in crime is Mikleo, a water Seraphim who is like a younger brother to Sorey. Living together with other seraphim in the mountainous village of Elysia, Sorey and Mikleo often go off exploring the nearby ruins in order to discover something new about the world. One day while exploring the ruins, Sorey and Mikleo come across a young woman lying unconscious with no one else in sight and decide to bring her back to their village to rest up. Shortly thereafter, the young lady; Alisha, leaves the village to head back home. A chance encounter with a Hellion known as Lunarre who both threatens the village; as well as Alisha, forces our young heroes to venture off after Alicia to ensure she makes it home safely. Upon arriving at his destination, he becomes involved in an incident, ultimately leading to him becoming the Shepherd (a messiah-like role called upon to quell the malevolence befallen the world.).
One thing you will notice immediately when playing Tales of Zestiria is the fact that the first several hours of the game is utilize as your in-game tutorial to get you caught up on how Tales Of games work. Those familiar with the franchise will see this as redundant, but considering each and every Tales Of game has its own unique tweaks to the battle system, there is something to be learned from the tutorial. It is also during these hours where character and world building happens. Questions like “What are Hellions?”, “What are the responsibilities of the shepherd?” and “Why hasn’t there been a shepherd in a long time?” are answered, allowing you to gain context and have a clearer picture of your mission. However, once your group of merry men… and women starts to form, the on-screen action starts to pick up and from here and the comradery becomes affectious.
Once the action does pick up, you will notice several departures from previous Tales Of games to help lament this title within the coffers of history. The first change; though subtle, is actually a significant one. When you are engaging a hellion in battle; no longer does the battle switch to a generic pre-determined battlefield for you to fight on. If you engage an enemy near the edge of the cliff, that’s where the battle will take place. This subtle change keeps the players engage within the world instead of having a disconnect due to the lay of the land changing. Another welcome change brought to Tales of Zestiria are the open landscapes, which are bigger than the ones in the previous Tales of Xillia series. You can literally go anywhere at any time without penalty. Now obviously you want to follow the story so you are better prepared for your epic battles, but you could literally take on the boss long before the ending of the game… but guess what, you will be dead instantly. Also encompassed within this open landscape are a multitude of things to do. This includes the likes of loot collecting, exploring forest areas, caves, dungeons, ruins, cities, castles, etc. The world of Glenwood is vast and unique that you rarely see the same building or environment twice.
Customization, a tried and true factor of the Tales Of franchise, is back and is true staggering. You have your battle gear that each character; including the seraphim, can sport to better prepare themselves for battle. Equipping gear is pretty straightforward, but determining what stat buffs you need or want and whether you want to use one of three of the same weapon; each with their own buffs can be a bit daunting. Not stopping there, you can fuse like-minded weaponry and gear together in order to make a more powerful piece (something from Tales of Graces F), assign small adorable creatures known as Nomin to various pieces of your gear for stat boosts and acquiring new skills, and even stack various equipment skills in order to gain a cumulative benefit. Even after all that, there is still more to the combat system that makes this experience unique to the Tales Of franchise and of Tales of Zestiria.
Tales if Zestiria is the first of two Tales Of titles that have been released on both the PS3 and PS4 console. While we all have high hopes for the next installment… Tales of Berseria, lets talk about the visuals in Tales of Zestiria. First and foremost, you won’t tell a difference between the visual fidelity of the game builds. To be fair, originally Tales of Zestiria was designed just to be released on the PS3 console, before a PS4 version was announced a little later. What has always made Tales Of games unique on the visual front is several different art designs combined. Cutscenes are presented in an anime style presentation. While majority of games often use in-game cinematics, the inclusion of anime makes me hope for an actual anime series…LOL. Character controlled models sport a visual presentation similar to that of NIS America’s Time and Eternity title. With regards to the overall presentation of the world within Tales of Zestiria, it’s solid but nothing memorable. Then again Tales Of titles are not known for their visual prowess.
The voice-acting in the beginning was a little rough. Kind of like your first day of school meeting new people and not knowing what to say to one another. After the first couple of hours are behind you and more individuals start joining your cause, you see the characters open up more with witty banter back in forth, making fun of one another, and even moments where a particular character acts like she doesn’t know what’s going on…. I’m looking at you Lailah. What’s greatly appreciated about the voice work is how they deal with the real-world themes presented within the game. You can hear the emotion within the voice actor/actress voices when delivering certain lines that will help to get you emotionally invested within your team. The musical score is phenomenal thanks in part to the collaborative work of Motoi Sakuraba and Go Shiina. The tone they set with this score gets you amped for the battle segments and emotionally connected at those important informative segments.
With more and more JRPG titles making their debuts on the PS4, Tales of Zestiria is one of those gems that shouldn’t be passed up. Whether you are a long time Tales Of fan or making this your first venture into the universe, you are in for a treat. With a phenomenal musical score, loveable characters, a diverse and intuitive combat system and limitless customizations opens, no two experiences will be the same.