The Tales Series
is a long-running JRPG
series by Namco Bandai
, famous for its action-combat battle system, copious amounts of Character Development
and continued Deconstruction
of the very genre it inhabits.
Earlier games in the series were developed by Wolf Team, once a subsidiary of Telenet Japan
, which was reorganized as Namco Tales Studio in 2003. Namco Tales Studio was shut down in 2011 but absorbed into Namco Bandai, which intends to continue the series.
The series is divided into two sections: Mothership Titles (in chronological order):Escort Titles:
- Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon
- Tales of Phantasia: Summoner's Lineage
A tactics game that followed Fulein K. Lester, a descendent of Claus F. Lester from Phantasia, and his robot ally Macaron.
- Tales Of Fandom
Compilation games with the Tales characters in various scenarios. The first features the cast of Phantasia, Destiny, and Eternia, while the second stars Phantasia, Symphonia, and Abyss.
Anime adaptations of the Tales series include:
- Tales of Versus
A four-player Mascot Fighter
featuring characters throughout the Tales
- Tales of the Heroes: Twin Brave
And Now For Something Completely Different
- Tales of Phantasia
A 4-episode OVA
covering the events of the game
- Tales of Eternia
A 13-episode anime about a subplot unrelated to the actual game.
- Tales of Symphonia: The Animation
Two 4-episode and one 3-episode OVAs
, each one covering a third of the game.
- Tales of the Abyss: The Animation
A 26-episode television anime covering the events of the game.
- Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
A prequel movie adaptation.
- Tales Of Fandom Gaiden
A humorous DVD extra released with Tales Of Fandom 2, featuring the heroes of the games arguing over who's the best.
- Viva - Tales Of!
- Tales of Theatre
A set of five anime shorts given away as a pre-order bonus
for Tales Of The Heroes: Twin Brave
, featuring the Twin Brave
characters in chibi
- Keroro RPG: The Warrior, the Thief, and the Legendary Pirate
An RPG based on the Sgt Frog anime. Here because it's made by Namco Tales Studio itself, using the Tales Of series' Linear Motion Battle System and even having the Tales-styled skits. It is known among Tales fans as "Tales of Keroro" (NDS, released in March '10)
- Kamen Rider Travelers Senki: Another licensed game using the Linear Motion Battle System, this one based on the Kamen Rider franchise.
See also Star Ocean
, a RPG franchise made by many of the same creators as Tales of Phantasia
Information and tropes pertaining to the individual titles are on their respective pages.
Common and recurring plot elements:
- Plots that start as Cliche Storms but later go on to subvert and deconstruct the very tropes they employ, often by drastically highlighting the nasty downsides of them. This is one of the main reasons why the games have a fanbase.
- Implied Love Interest is usually (but not always) the approach of the romance aspect of the plots. One way to tell is if the characters just meet briefly and then stay together for the rest of the game or if they have met when they were kids.
- Heavy use of Magitek in the plot, powered by some world specific Applied Phlebotinum (lenspunk, craymelpunk, fonpunk, blastiapunk, psipunk, manapunk...)
- Life Energy, which often takes the form of Mana.
- A Doomed Hometown that often serves to Foil the core situation of the game. The Hero kickstarts his journey due to these events in search of answers.
- Religion as a major part of the world. If there's a religion, or even an organization with vaguely-religious imagery, chances are it's a Corrupt Church, with a Knight Templar or Blood Knight to boot. In some cases, they are lying through their teeth if they have any relation to the plot.
- A Big Bad with a personal reason for wanting to do whatever he's doing. He often wants to save something precious to him, or sincerely wants to Save The World. The problem is that his method most often involves killing an awful lot of people.
- If the Big Bad is a Well-Intentioned Extremist, the game will include at least one utterly vile minor villain to act as a Hate Sink. More often than not, they'll be The Unfought, quicky dispatched in a cutscene just before the major plot kicks in. In the English dubs, this character is nearly always voiced by Liam O Brien.
- Plots that involve at least two isolated worlds. These worlds will be antagonistic towards each other, though neither will be painted as outright evil. Fighting over a common resource is a popular trope. At least one world will be significantly more technologically-advanced than the other, and the most technologically-advanced world will also be the most antagonistic. More often than not, the plot will involve the heroes finding a way to Save Both Worlds.
- Evil military leaders, somewhere close to The Empire. The position of Commandant is a particularly common warning sign for nefarious schemes. Multiple times, there are named officials, and you will end up fighting them in a Boss Fight. If soldiers use the color red (or dark colors like purple), along with Sigil Spam on the armor, they are definitely a part of The Empire and the antagonistic world.
- Fantastic Racism as a whole. Several of the games have used it as their central focus and aesop.
- People in your party having the dire need of pulling off a Heroic Sacrifice to make the world a better place, with their group always trying to find an alternative to keep their member alive. This character is usually a Guest.
- A duel between two friendly characters for a reason other than malice. The fight will be used as a plot device for the two duellists to resolve the differences between them, and/or as a trial for the less experienced fighter to overcome. The importance of the fight will further be highlighted with unique battle music.
- Party members will usually include:
- A sword-wielding main character.
- One Idiot Hero.
- One kid who is much younger or shorter than everyone else. Most of the time they turn out to be the most powerful physical attacker of the party. Is usually female, but not always.
- One party member who pulls a Face-Heel Turn at some point and/or turns out to be The Mole.
- One Combat Medic. Pure medic characters are rare; characters that are proficient in healing will always have some degree of combat training to go with their spellcasting and healing abilities. Even Mint, the straightest example of a White Magician Girl in the entire series, is capable of at least summoning hammers to fall on her enemies. Usually female, and often the main female supporting protagonist of the game, but there are certainly exceptions note
- Modern Tales games typically have two healers in the main party instead. One focuses on single target healing, and the other focuses on healing multiple targets at the same time.
- A Love Triangle between three main characters of uncannily similar age appearances. It is usually The Hero, Childhood Friend, and an Ambiguously Human/character from the other world who is central to the plot. More often than not, the Hero picks the Ambiguously Human.
- At least two characters who are directly (by family) or indirectly (there are many weird cases) related to each other. Often very important to the plot.
- At least one Lethal Chef, and usually one Supreme Chef to balance it out.
- At least one character who is physically and mentally over 25 years old (ignoring the Really 700 Years Old characters, since they don't look their age). The oldest main party member in a Tales game is 62. note
- This character will almost always be the butt of jokes about being an 'old man'.
- At least ONE party member who uses a rather unconventional to downright silly weapon. Sometimes the mage, but other times, it's actually a melee fighter using the silly weapon. Such weapons include brooms, books, scrolls, urns, gigantic plush dolls, and shooting bubbles out of a straw.
- Frequently, but not always, a Guest Star Party Member. Sometimes they can be re-acquired; in the case of an Updated Re Release they may become a permanent party member, if they're popular.
- The main party is typically a Gender-Equal Ensemble. If it's not, though, the male characters will outnumber the female ones.
- A Guest who doesn't appear in normal battle gameplay and is pushed to skits (see below), but is integral to the plot, normally moreso than initially suspected.
- One Wham Episode in the perfect center of normal gameplay (it is really that horrifyingly accurate). Said Face-Heel Turn will also happen somewhere immediately before or after this time. Deconstruction will play a major part of the segment, but it will most likely not compare to the horror initiated. Due to this change in perspective, the Big Bad will end up becoming the Well-Intentioned Extremist he will be properly known for.
- Tragedies that could have easily been avoided if people would just open their damn mouths; this can range from the Well-Intentioned Extremist Big Bad doing horrible things that could have been avoided if he had only asked nicely all the way to Nice Job Breaking It, Hero because people somehow thought it better not to tell the player character vital information.
- A Space Whale Aesop that brings together all the events of any given game in order to take a stand against some relatively minor (compared to world domination and/or destruction) social or moral issue.
- A Cool Ship that is used during the early points of the game, and a Cool Airship that is used after the Wham Episode.
- The Dark Wings, a trio of quirky thieves whose role is usually as comic relief.
- A Very Definitely Final Dungeon that is floating in the sky or actually out in space.
- Lots of shouting. Almost every Tales-related meme requires capslock.
- A snowy town and a desert town; the former usually has a "romantic" atmosphere which may be explored or just touched upon.
- If there is something the entire planet is dependent on, such as the world-wide religion, the things that let everyone use artes/the things that strengthen ability, etc., chances are it won't make it to through the end of the game. It is usually revealed to be obtained or performed in a less-than-moral way or is ultimately bad for the planet, sometimes as part of the Wham Episode as well, and the second half of the game is mostly spent on fixing this problem.
- Fancy outfits worn even in the most heated battles.
- Those outfits requiring an enormous amount of bias tape for cosplayers to reproduce.note
- At some point, the party (or at least the main character) will end up in jail. It's also possible that if the party ends up escaping from the police, a very badly drawn wanted poster will feature them.
- A casino featuring poker, where the suits feature your party members.
- A mysterious island that can only be accessed in a specific way or after a specific point in the game called Nam Cobanda Isle, and it serves absolutely no purpose other than to amuse the player. If the casino is on this island, expect to be Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer (though the island has other merits that can lead to this). You can get at least one costume title here, too. It also is the main source of references to other Tales games or other Namco games in general, and contains a place for you to view the Anime Cutscenes (and sometimes your skits).
- A heart-to-heart conversation between each party member the night before the Final Boss, usually to give closure to their Character Development.
- A Beach Episode, usually in the form of a spa.
- A famous, but never seen, pirate named Aifread.
- All party members having a humorous quirk.
Common and recurring gameplay elements:
- A real-time combat system called some variation on the Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS). The battle system is reminiscent of a 2D fighting game, and focuses on chaining moves together. The player controls one character, while the other battle characters are controlled by the AI and follow general commands. Most of the time, they're actually pretty good, as they are able to hold their ground, don't use unnecessary actions, and not flailing around like an idiot. There are a few exceptions, such as Natalia being notorious for going through her TP VERY quickly, Guy from the same game using up all your items at the drop of a hat, or Raine having a penchant for trying to charge up her spells RIGHT next to an enemy note . However, if you play around with their default settings in the game's "strategy" menu (ex. telling Guy not to use items on his own or instructing Natalia to use less TP at a time), you can help control this and make them more competent on their own.
- Most games also allow you to have your friends control any of the other characters instead of the AI. Co-op play wasn't introduced to the series until Tales of Phantasia's Playstation 1 remake note , but ever since then, almost every game has allowed your friends to join in except the portable titles and, for some reason, Tales of Legendia.
- Combat techniques known as "Artes". Advanced techniques are known as "Arcane Artes". The combo system is often based upon chaining Artes into Arcane Artes.
- Evolving Attacks.
- A Mana Meter that usually takes one of two forms:
- The Team Symphonia style uses Technical Points (TP), a traditional Mana Meter.
- The Team Destiny style uses Chain Capacity (CC), where characters possess a constantly-regenerating pool of CC, and can chain special moves for as long as they have CC remaining.
- Xillia uses a combination of both, with the Assault Counter (AC) system: Artes only cost one AC, but cost traditional amounts of TP, allowing you to, again, chain Artes until they run out of AC or TP, whichever comes first.
- A form of Super Mode called "Overlimit", in which characters gain increased defensive power and become immune to stagger. At higher levels, Overlimit can even allow characters to use Artes without consuming CC or TP.
- A Limit Break called a "Mystic Arte". The requirement for activating a Mystic Arte varies from game to game, but the most common requirements are:
- The character must be in Overlimit.
- The character must have learned and equipped a skill called "Special".
- The character must successfully hit an enemy with an Arcane Arte.
- Less common requirements include having a very small amount of HP, expending a large amount of TP/CC and/or building a long-enough combo.
- A list of commonly-recurring items, such as:
- "Gald" as a unit of currency.
- "Gels" as healing items. In a change from normal RPG convention, Gels heal by percentage (e.g. 30% of a total) rather than a fixed amount.
- "Bottles" as items used to heal status effects.
- The "All-Divide", a rare item that cuts all damage taken by friend and foe by half.
- Herbs that can increase base statistics.
- The Sorcerer's Ring, an item that shoots small energy bolts and is used to solve puzzles. Its functions are usually upgraded as the story proceeds.
- Legendary Weapon: The Eternal Sword. Also known as the Sword of Time, it is capable of cleaving time and space itself.
- "Grade" as an extra unit of currency that can (for all intents and purposes) be treated as the player's "score". Grade is awarded after battle according to how well the player did, with Grade awarded for achieving long combos or blocking attacks, and Grade deducted for taking damage, using ineffective artes (such as a Fire-elemental arte on a Fire-resistant monster) or relying on recovery items. Grade awards bonus EXP in battle, but can also be used to purchase New Game+ bonuses and occasionally in-game bonuses too.
- A broadly-shared list of artes and spells. It's possible to tell how nostalgic a game is attempting to be by how closely it sticks to that list. Games such as Destiny 2, Rebirth, and Hearts tried to break out completely.
- Very common moves include "Demon Fang" and "Tiger Blade" as the first moves the sword-wielder and "Photon", one of the early Light magic spells, for the magic user.
- The swordplay style used by the main character of Phantasia (and its accompanying moveset) would become synonymous with Tales series main characters.
- There are also a few games where one character doesn't use the "Traditional" artes used by most Tales series main characters...but another character does. Examples include Chloe in Tales of Legendia (And even then, some of their artes overlap with each other or the classic Tales series heroes), Guy in Tales of the Abyss, or Spada in Tales of Innocence.
- Summon Magic, called "Summon Spirits". The core four are Sylph (wind), Ifrit (fire), Undine (water) and Gnome (earth). The most popular second-tier Summon Spirits include Maxwell (all four core elements), Volt (lightning) and Shadow (darkness). As with the Arte/Spell list noted above, you can usually tell how nostalgic a game is trying to be by how closely it sticks to this list.
- Titles, which can be attached to a character just like a piece of equipment. New titles are usually earned at key storyline moments, or for special achievements (such as building a long-enough combo). The actual effect of a Title varies from game to game: in some it is merely cosmetic while in others it affects stat growth or contains hidden effects. This is one of the more widely known features of the Tales series, since some of them can be appropriate and define the situation in which they are given or downright hilarious.
- Cooking as a means to recover HP/TP after every battle. Cooking can bestow multiple effects and vary in potency, depending on which character you choose to be the cook. It is also trained as a skill, with characters improving their skills the more they practice a recipe.
- Games with Cooking will frequently include the Wonder Chef, a mysterious individual who disguises himself as various objects around the world and- if unmasked- will teach you new recipes.
- There will also be at least one Lethal Chef in the party, with hilarious consquences.
- Skits, which are little conversations between the party members that can be triggered while travelling. They are one of the main sources of Character Development in the game. Depending on the game, skits can also affect Relationship Values.
- A rather weird bit of history: originally, the Skit system was made to complement gameplay due to hardware limitations. Most systems in the time they were produced (like the SNES, PS1, and so on) couldn't handle character-to-character talking, or even multi-character talking of more than two characters sometimes seen in Visual Novels or even Final Fantasy when synced to an actual voice, so all the essential and non-essential stuff was pushed to the skits with a floating mouth in a box talking not in sync. The system ended up being so efficient in getting the message across in many games that it ended up sticking even through the latest games in the series on their respective consoles (Xbox 360, etc.) can handle way more than the now-tradition Skit system, on top of the now-achieved multi-character talking and the animated sequences.
- Xillia introduces Chats, which are also conversations but instead occur during battles automatically. In some of these battles, they can be between the character the party is fighting against, if they also have a voice actor.
- Worth noting that, mostly because of these skits, every single game in the series passes The Bechdel Test.
- A previous Tales series character as a Bonus Boss. More often than not, he gives you his weapon as a reward, which proceeds to be one of the Infinity Plus One Swords or close to it.
- And as of late, there are four.
- An optional arena where you can take on a number of challenges, such as Solo Character Runs and Boss Rushes. You can even end up fighting your own party members.
- A Chest Monster called the Fake which sometimes drops the All Divide.
- Shoutouts to previous Tales games, as well as to other Namco characters. Especially popular are Pac-Man, The Tower of Druaga, and Xenosaga.
- Katamari Damacy seems to be getting its fair share, with the Prince making his appearance as a secret attachment for different characters (Anise's Tokunaga and a charm for Yuri, for instance).
- Names to Know in Anime: An all-star Japanese Seiyuu cast, sometimes even doing minor characters, including Norio Wakamoto, Hikaru Midorikawa, Kikuko Inoue, Takehito Koyasu, Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Seki, Nana Mizuki, Mamoru Miyano, Nobuyuki Hiyama, and so on...
- Cute monsters. Especially noticable once FMVs entered the fray; the intro to Tales of the Abyss looks like Jade, Anise, Natalia and Guy are slaughtering a horde of plush toys. One of them with a plush toy.
- A weapon claimed to be the Infinity+1 Sword that is actually the Infinity–1 Sword.
- Squad Controls: Tales games allow you to give each character orders on what to do, but sometimes they'll just do whatever. Pretty much all of the Tales games do this, with varying levels of complexity depending on the age of the entry. Most of them include preset orders for defensive and aggressive behaviors, which can then be further customized in the strategy menus. You can also choose to enable and disable certain of your party members' abilities, and most entries allow you to choose how often they use special techniques, and in some cases what kind (for example, you might be able to set the healer to focus on conserving mana, healing everyone, or casting a lot of support spells). You can also set their default distance from the enemy when they enter battle, how closely they choose to engage the enemy when actually in combat, and sometimes what kind of enemies they focus on attacking (same as the player, different from the player, flying enemies, etc).
- Tales of the Abyss allows the player to switch the controlled character in the middle of battle after gaining a particular item.
- Tales of Vesperia is similar to the Star Ocean example, in that it also allows you to set the behavior of AI controlled party members. However, it gives the player far more options to work with, from selecting formations, setting the distance AI team mates should maintain between the Player Character and the enemy, and whether to allow them to use items (and how often).
- Tales of Phantasia uses a simple method of AI customisation where you can switch the abilities you want them to use on and off.
- Many games feature an End Game Results Screen based on your gald and maximum hit combos, among other things.