I originally posted this on the homepage two months ago as a status because I don’t really visit the boards (so, sorry if this is the wrong spot), but I figured I’d put it here before it gets permanently buried.
The original post:
The Tales series is my favorite game series. Despite that, I’ve really never ranked the games that I’ve completed in the series. When I finished Arise last night, my friends asked where I would place it amongst the other games, and it took me a while, but I came up with the (two) lists below and decided I’d share it here for fun. I don’t really find it fair to compare the older style (Hearts r and earlier) with the newer style (post-Hearts games), sooo I have two separate lists. [Xillia is my favorite Tales game regardless.]
- Symphonia/Vesperia – Symphonia was indeed the first Tales game that I ever played, but it’s not really nostalgia that keeps it here. I think it’s the most all-around solid in characters, exploration, combat, story, depth, music, and social commentary. It’s my most-played in the series because it’s been around for so long and is available on so many platforms now. I’ve completed it at least three or four times, and started up playthroughs a number of other times. /////// Vesperia just really blew me away the first time that I played through it. I loved Yuri as a protagonist because he was more of an anti-hero. I love the party dynamic even though I don’t care much for Karol. I adore Estelle and Judy and Raven, and loved learning about their backgrounds and goals and how they clashed with or coincided with their comrades’. I’ve played through ToV probably three times, including the Definitive Edition. I think it really overdoes the backtracking and it’s just not quiiiite as solid as Symphonia, so if I absolutely had to separate the two, it would be just below Symphonia.
- Hearts R – It’s actually been probably…four years since I played this on Vita? I don’t honestly remember much about the gameplay, characters, or story. I do remember the main premise regarding emotions (leaving that vague for spoiler purposes), but that’s about it. I do remember enjoying it well enough, though, and I’m mostly placing it here because of where I’m placing the next two.
- Symphonia: Dawn of the New World – A great number of Tales fans did not like this particular entry. It’s been quite a while since I last played it (played originally on Wii, and only barely started a playthrough on PS3 via Chronicles, so that was at least 6 years ago). That being said, I loved being able to catch monsters to raise and fight with. If nothing else, I was glad to be able to see the world after the events at the end of Symphonia. I think the story was fine, and honestly, I want to go back to this one sometime soon to refresh my memory of it all.
- Abyss – I expect to get hate for this opinion (maybe if I posted it anywhere but here). Abyss just didn’t do it for me. My brother drove like 45 minutes away to get it for me on PS2 yeeeeears back, but I never finished the playthrough. Decided to pick it up on 3DS a few years ago, and finally got through it after a few attempts about two years ago. The player is constantly left in the dark or given confusing information, or suddenly given info dumps about how the world or fonons or whatever work. My assumption is that this was to make you feel some kinship with Luke, who is oblivious to everything. The delivery of information in this game just sucked. I also HATED Anise so fucking much and wish that she had died instead of everyone just forgiving her absolutely unforgivable bullshit. Luke being annoying is whatever. I just didn’t enjoy most of the characters, the gameplay, or the story. I just wanted to get through it.
- Xillia – My favorite game in the series. <3 I love Jude and Milla so much. I still haven’t actually played through Milla’s route fully and really want to do that, but I LOVED using punchy-boy Dr. Jude. There are so many insanely gorgeous locations in this game; the story has depth and mystery and makes commentary about how people take advantage of the world around them. The music is fantastic. The bond system and character-focused sidequests are a great addition. The sparkly point exploration that was introduced in Graces is further developed here, and there’s a nice crafting system. I just love this game so, so much.
- Berseria – I loved the shit out of this game, and the emotional impact was intense after having played Zestiria, which this is a prequel to. I’ve been wanting to replay this for a good two years and just haven’t found the time. I remember the gist of the story, but not a lot about the gameplay and combat because it’s been like 4-5 years since I finished it. I do remember that there was a good reason for me to try using every character (I don’t remember if it was for trophies, titles, or something else in-game), and I actually had a great time trying everyone out until I met whatever that requirement was, even the mages/healers. I rarely enjoy using anyone but the main character in Tales because most of them feel clunky to me, and I don’t really like using the casters and standing around while they cast, but I had a great time with it in this entry. The story was crazy good and dark and it’s another one of the few Tales games where I loved the whole party. I felt a lot of emotions with Berseria, and even now when I think about it, I find myself going, “DAMN, I really need to play it again.”
- Arise/Zestiria – Considering that I just posted my Arise review, I’m not going to say much about it here other than: it’s very difficult to place such a vastly different-from-the-norm entry in the series amongst the others, but I think it’s middle of the road for me. ///// Zestiria isn’t so much middle of the road, but in regards to the other games that I need to place here, that’s kind of where it lands. I enjoyed Zestiria quite a bit. Played before Berseria (as it should be), the emotional impact of both games is intensified and I always recommend playing both, in Zesty → Bersy order. I know this particular entry got a lot of complaints, especially about the camera, but I can’t think of anything offhand that I didn’t enjoy. It’s another one where I liked the whole party, especially Sorey and Mikleo and their adorable geekiness about ruins. The Armitization part of combat was a really cool new feature, and I think it’s part of what contributed to the camera complaints, namely in small hallways/close quarters, but I never found it difficult to see or maneuver personally. The vast, open areas in the game were lovely, and the crafting system was pretty deep, from what I remember. I liked the discoveries a lot (reminded me of Skies of Arcadia, which I adore). The whole “humans don’t remember spirits/don’t worship them anymore” was a great aspect of the world-building. The Normin were cute, too. ALSO, EDNA’S UMBRELLAS. The underside of some of her umbrellas were SICK.
- Graces f – While Grace isn’t really “low” or close to the bottom for me, it just kinda ends up there when taking the other games into account. I just recently replayed this before Arise. I think it’s an underrated entry in the series that not many have actually played. Cheria is one of my most hated characters in the entire franchise , so she lowers the score, but Sophie and Pascal make up for it. I think the story is interesting, and the focus on friendship as this indomitable power (even more so than other Tales games) works well. There’s some solid music, especially since, instead of the battle music changing at certain turning points in the game, there’s different music in each major country . As you go around to different areas more freely in the later game, the variety in battle music is really refreshing. The puzzles in this game are ridiculous, though, even with a guide. I still need to go back and finish the Lineage & Legacies extra arc, as I never did the first time I played, and I didn’t have time between finishing this most recent time and Arise coming out.
- Xillia 2 – One of the greatest disappointments for me in the entire series. I was SO incredibly excited for this because of how much I loved Xillia. The ending was stupid and forced for no reason, the debt system was ridiculous. The main cast of Xillia returned as temp party characters throughout the game, but there was just never any of that dynamic and depth from the first game because they weren’t the focus. There were some things I liked, such as the combat. I’m pretty sure I liked it. I haven’t played this one since it first came out because I have no interest in doing another playthrough, so I’m kinda foggy on some specifics.
Other Tales games that I haven’t finished:
Phantasia – (I knowwwww). I tried playing the GBA version emulated a few times but I hate sitting at my computer to play games and dropped it every time. Last Christmas, my boyfriend got me a new SNES (only old system I was missing because the one I had as a kid was actually my brother’s friend’s) and a copy of the game, and I did start it again. I really need to finish it, I know.
Legendia – Absolute garbage that I will never finish.
I just never tried to access the other older games in the series that weren’t localized, so I haven’t played Destiny/Destiny 2, Eternia, Rebirth, or Innocence. (I know Eternia came out here as Destiny II due to licensing, but I still never played it.)
I’m always happy to talk Tales and hear how others feel about specific entries in the series!