Essentially all of Luke's snappy, over-compensating bluster, difficulty adapting and need for validation during the first section of the game looks very different once you realize that he’s a seven year old child who’s been expected and pushed to act twice his age his whole life.
Arietta's stating that her opponents will fight as a team of four during her Duel to the Death sounds as though she is adhering to the Arbitrary Headcount Limit, but there are exactly four people she has a grudge against; Luke, Tear and Jade for killing the Liger Queen, and Anise for her responsibility for Ion's death. Granted, you don't have to use those four.
The ending to the game leaves a lot of things open-ended, like the new role of the Order of Lorelei, the place of replicas in the world, and the identity of the Luke who returns to meet the others. But that's all part of the game's point that the future isn't set in stone, and there are many possibilities. Starting from that point each player can imagine the world developing in a totally different way.
Lorelei reveals that Van has trapped it to Luke by calling him "The One Who Would Seize Glory" which is the meaning of his name, translated from Ancient Ispanian. Thing is, Lorelei didn't mean to say it that way, it's just that its message was telepathically translated for Luke to understand, so everything ended up being translated, even a person's name.
Fridge Logic: Then why is Luke's name never translated, too?
Because it isn't saying 'Light of the Sacred Flame, find The One Who Would Seize Glory!'. Lorelei sees 'Luke' as a name, but 'Vandesdelca' is more of a word during that exchange to it.
It also could be because Lorelei was panicking; saying Luke's name was easy but not Vandesdelca, especially considering the circumstances.
Luke's inferiority complex and angst gets a lot worse during the month long timeskip, this makes perfect sense since he had nothing to do that entire month, so naturally he'd dwell on his insecurities and they'd get a lot worse without anyone to help him.
This is further supported when talking to the servants at his manor at this time. The player can clearly see their thoughts, in which, because he is a replica, they think that he is mentally unstable and wonder when he will turn homicidal. Spending a month with people who treat you like you're some kind of psycho is not generally beneficial to self-esteem.
Ion has no identity or existence outside of being Fon Master, but it's not because he's Married to the Job- it's because he's a replica of the original Ion and is only 2 years old. His entire life so far has probably been one big long epic cram session of everything he'd need to know to be able to be the Fon Master- the structure, history, and practices of the Order of Lorelei, the Daathic Artes, how to read the Score, the names of important people in the Order, important figures from the Order's history including all of the Fon Masters who came before him, geography, important events and figures from Auldrant's history, and the political structures of all current and past nations in Auldrant... On top of learning how to do basic things like speaking, walking, and dressing himself. He has no identity outside his job because he hasn't had a chance to form one. His job is the only thing he's ever known. This probably wasn't intentional, since most other characters outside the main party don't have an existence outside their jobs, but for Ion, it actually enhances his character.
The above also makes his early line about how his "body just isn't built for Daathic fonic artes" that much better in retrospect.
There's a tiny bit of foreshadowing about Guy's past that is so utterly brilliant it deserves to be put here, even if you notice it after you've learned his backstory. All throughout the Fabre mansion are banners with a very Kimlascan-looking symbol on them. It's probably the Duke's symbol, or maybe the King's. Either way, there's a banner above Guy's bed, but it's folded over so the emblem is blocked. It's because he despises Kimlasca and Duke Fabre. What a splendid touch!
Another sneaky bit of Fridge Brilliance for Guy. Remember in Tales of Symphonia, how Kratos and Lloyd being related to each other is foreshadowed by the fact that they both hate tomatoes? There's another piece of food-foreshadowing here. Every person in Tales of the Abyss has an extra ingredient they'll add to their food, if given the option. Guy's is always fish. As anyone who grew up on an island would know, fish is pretty much an island staple. Maybe Guy misses the cuisine from Hod?
How did Dist survive getting hit in the face with a Fragmented End? Enemy Mystic Artes can't kill the target. Dist was reduced to one HP just like the party!
The four Fonon clusters you gather in the Sephiroth correspond to the Second through Fifth fonons, and are gathered in the same ways (Yellow/Earth/Second fonons are broken with Mieu Attack, Green/Wind/Third Fonons are out in the air, Blue/Water/Fourth fonons, you have to battle in an allusion to the conversation about the Fubras River and how water is dangerous, and Red/Fire/Fifth fonons are gathered with Mieu Fire).
You have to complete the entire plotline up until the final battle in order to unlock Peony's last set of costumes. Why? Look at Luke's Wild Saber costume a little closer. He's wearing a shredded part of Asch's clothing, which was presumably taken from his corpse. Somehow.
There's a stealth sequence in the game in which you're trying to avoid fighting the opposing soldiers for fear of causing trouble. If you can't complete the sequence with stealth, the game lets you simply fight your way through... but doing this doesn't harm your cause, because afterwards you find out that someone else is in the area killing the same soldiers. All your killing just gets attributed to someone else, so you face no consequences!
In what most people seem take as Anise being a jerkass and a hypocrite, she's the person who is the most overtly harsh to traitors like Luke, Guy, and Spinoza and is always the last to forgive them. By the second or maybe later if you haven't cottoned on, it becomes clear that she's trying to make the others hate traitors so that they'll hate her. She actively speaks up against trusting Spinoza, trying to turn the group away from him and is clearly less than happy that they trust him, even with surveillance. Anise could also be seen as pushing her frustrations at what she's being forced to do onto the other traitors in the series. The only traitor Anise doesn't hate is Dist, who she makes clear, especially in the manga, she pities for being lonely. Or as she tells Nebilim, being a "stupid, rotten, friendless, ugly, snotty, poor excuse for a human being".
Even the intro has a bit of brilliance in it. During the scene where Luke and Asch are battling, Asch jumps over Luke and attacks. Luke then turns away and runs. He runs up the pillar, then uses this advantage in height to fight back. It's all a metaphor for the game itself. At first, Asch is better, and easily conquers Luke. Luke then begins to run away from his troubles, but with the help of his friends, he becomes a better person, and rises above Asch, and in the end, faces his own problems.
When the party asks Rose to smuggle them into St. Binah, she offhandedly remarks her birthscore didn't mention this event. Is this a throwaway line or subtle foreshadowing that Luke's activities are derailing the score?
Some of the party's specialty dishes give a little bit of trivia about them:
Tear's recipes have a recurring theme of adding protein and carbs like eggs and potatoes. These would be ideal dishes to eat when you're expecting to endure great physical activity like what a soldier might have to endure. Even Tear's cooking shows her combat mindset.
Jade avoids fatty meats and will use tofu in meat recipes. Either Jade is a vegetarian or he's very health conscious.
Jade also adds weird modifications to things, like potatoes on pizza, which sort of dovetails with his mentioning in a skit that he uses his cooking to subtly experiment on the party and find out more about their tastes. He may not be doing science for a living anymore, but he's still a bit of a Mad Scientist at heart.
Anise adds beef and fruit in her recipes. These are ingredients that the sustenance farming economy of Daath would be in short supply of. In fact, none of Anise's ingredients can be purchased in Daath.
Prior to Akzeriuth, Asch repeatedly engages in senseless acts that damage his credibility with the protagonists, especially Luke. Many of these (berating Luke, trying to kill him) could be explained by jealousy or an attempt to derail Van's plans, but his possessing Luke and trying to kill Tear seems inexplicable — until one realizes that Tear is Van's sister, and killing her (especially if he could get away with it) would be a way to lash out against Van.
Though there are other replicas like Ion only Luke seems to be able to alter events and push for change in the world despite repeated comments on how all replicas are not bound by the Score due to their nature. Why Luke though? Well it might have to do with him being the Scion of Lorelei that is, he is Lorelei, just not the Lorelei who made the Score. Who else would have the power to take down the Score and force the world into another future than Lorelei himself!
If you look at the lyrics of the Anime Theme Song Karma, it's very obvious that the song is from Luke or Asch's POV (but most likely both). It seems to be talking about their relationship with Luke and Asch as replica and original and how they can't seem to exist in the world together, in the same spot. Except then it ends saying they are together in the same spot, describing not only how they managed at the very end to truly acknowledge each other, but if you choose to take the lyrics as solving the Gainax Ending, that the man who comes back in the post credits scene is both of them.
Compared to most Squishy Wizard characters in the Tales Series games, Jade is one of the few that has very few Novice level spells. In fact, after he gets hit by the fon slot seal, he's pretty much useless until you level him up enough. The brilliance comes in the fact he's a Child Prodigy; as that, Jade had no trouble using advanced level fonic artes and it shows in his arte list there. He only has two novice level fonic artes because he had no need to learn more than those two before he could switch to the higher and more interesting spells.
Until much later in the game, nobody really knew Auldrant was a shell floating above the true earth, consisting of a bottomless mudpit and poison miasma. When you go to Akzeriuth, the Miasma starts up...Oh, Crap! - the miners of Akzeriuth Dug Too Deep.
What exactly is the process of Luke's death? If you think about fonon separation it sounds like he's literally dissolving on a molecular level, but it doesn't seem he's in pain. So either he is and he's keeping very quiet about it, or he isn't, and he slowly falls apart into nothingness without even noticing. I can't decide which idea is more terrifying.
Fridge Brilliance and Fridge Horror: For much of the game, the faction that is trying to egg on a war is doing so because according to the end of the Sixth Fonstone, the war between Kimlasca and Malkuth will bring on prosperity. The entire future of the world, from start to end, is written on seven fonstones. After the war between Kimlasca and Malkuth, there's only one to go. And notice that all the stuff about prosperity never mentions Malkuth. The lost seventh fonstone—the very thing the Order of Lorelei has been working towards for over 2000 years—probably doesn't have prosperity and puppies and rainbows at the end of it.
The Score. According to the game, the Score doesn't just describe world events, it covers aspects of individual people's lives. For instance, people use it to plan their meals. Also, when Luke apologizes to Teodoro for Akzeriuth, he is told not to because it was preordained by the Score. Moreover, it's pretty clear that Auldrant has its fair share of crime. Given the above, what happens if the Score tells someone that he will become a terrorist, a serial killer, a rapist, or a child molester? The person has the choice of becoming a monster or committing sacrilege by defying the Score (unthinkable in Auldrant). Then, he will either be punished (probably by death) if "The Score made me do it" isn't a defense, or he will go around continuing to commit heinous crimes.
Well... some Scores aren't read. Death Scores aren't. Scores that don't dictate anything other than the above-mentioned puppies and rainbows don't get read to people, unless it can be vaguely implied that the aforementioned puppies and rainbows will come along after the tragedy (such as "prosperity" after a genocidal war). So they become people like that of their own accord which is probably a small comfort because they don't have to choose the path that either way will get them shamed forever. I think the more horrifying part is the victims aren't told, either, because otherwise they'd try to avoid it. People are only told about bad things like that if they're supposed to do something specific in response to the knowledge (such as avoid it, stop the terrorist before he can do anything more than what's dictated in the Score, etc...). "The Score said I would do it" is probably a legitimate defence, but the Score also probably predicts them getting beat up by the loved ones of whoever they hurt and being imprisoned. People like Mohs would make sure that they were allowed to carry on whatever they do until the Score said otherwise, then arrange for them to be arrested quicker than you can say "Bob's your uncle!"
OP is also missing a pretty big point in the game's logic, too. Even if someone did know they were destined to be a murderer or rapist, and did every possible thing to avoid it, even publicly refusing to follow the Score, they would end up committing such an atrocity anyway. That's why the detail about the Tower of Rem being a miner's city was added. The prophecy about the Light of the Sacred Flame leading his people to a miner's city and then causing his own death had to be fulfilled. The Score might not be fulfilled in ways you expect, but it is always fulfilled. What I thought was even creepier is imagining someone who would vow to never murder anyone, no matter the circumstances, damn the Score, and then imagining what kind of situation would have to happen for them to commit a murder. Then I realized - it would probably be something like the kind of situation that forces Luke to kill the guard on the Tartarus. Self-defense, nearly an accident, but somebody still died and it was Luke that did it.
The whole game is basically this when you take into account one single fact Luke is only seven years old throughout it all, at most eight by the end. Take into account everything that happens and what Luke has to do and everything gets downright uncomfortable to even think of.
Luke and Van's relationship is very disturbing when you realize not only is Van lying and ultimately sees Luke as a thing, some of his tactics used to make Luke dependant on him are very similar to what sexual predators use on their victims. And, again, he does not see Luke as a person at all. Take into account The Reveal, the fact Van knew all along, and suddenly there is a very disturbing thing one could add to the plot without causing massive changes to circumstances...
Why do replicas have free will even though they're composed of the seventh fonon and thus completely part of Lorelei's fonon and in its power?This becomes clear when Lorelei tells Luke that Luke and Lorelei are one and the same being. According to the definition of a fonon sentience, Luke is one. Since Luke has the power of Lorelei and is equal to him, replicas aren't under Lorelei's jurisdiction, meaning he couldn't foresee their actions and include them in the Score.
The Japanese have a rather selective definition of what personal responsibility means, just like the Americans. That's why. Responsibility never attaches to the people who are the highest on the hierarchy, it's always the subordinates who should have done something. That's partially why the recent Fukushima disaster happened; the Japanese are not fond of whistleblowers (and even less fond of people who "make trouble"). To the Japanese, the idea that it was Luke's fault rather than the fault of the guy who manipulated him would seem to make sense. After all, Luke was the one who "pressed the button", so to speak. The fact that he didn't have enough information to make the right decision would simply not register to Japanese audiences. To them, "he pushed the button so it's his fault" is a simple enough explanation. It's how Americans think too, unfortunately; as long as you even bring up the word "responsibility", all thought seems to stop and the guy being accused of lacking it is automatically assumed to be at fault, no further investigation or level-headed inquiry necessary.
It's the same reason Asch has a grudge against Luke, transference. In both cases Luke isn't culpable in any way to either problem, but since both the party and Asch can't lay into the REAL cause Van, they're piling all of their anger and resentment onto Luke instead. In short, they need someone to blame and Luke is a convenient scapegoat. Luke was just a tool to Van, he's no more at fault for what happened to Akzeriuth than a gun is for the fact that someone fired it.
I was irritated by Luke at that point too, and I think a big part of it was how he went about that scene. Remember, up to then, he was treating Akzeriuth as less of a town of people in need and more of a ticket to his own personal salvation. After the event, the way he acted made it seem he was less interested in confronting the enormity of the tragedy that had just occurred, no matter who caused it, and more concerned with making sure everyone knew that HE personally was not to blame. I think if he'd shown more of a damn for the people of Akzeriuth, either then or at any point before then, the party wouldn't have been nearly as hard on him.
Let's go down the list, shall we?
Tear: She'd already been through a lot with Luke, and he just blew off her concerns. Oh, and if only she'd been successful in her attempt to kill Van the disaster wouldn't have happened.
Jade: Having already met Asch at this point, there's little question he knows Luke is a clone. Which means it's Jade's fault Luke even exists, so he takes Luke's involvement kind of personally.
Anise: She had a pretty good idea what was going on, but she chose her parents over the people of Akzeriuth.
Guy: He thought he was Luke's best friend, but Luke ignored him just like everybody else. For extra angst, how many times do you suppose he thought of killing Luke as a way of taking revenge on the Duke? Worse, the damnable problem of feeling both of those at the same time.
Natalia: Until she found out the Luke was a clone, she just plain never emotionally grokked that Luke didn't remember their childhood together, so she's got the same betrayal feeling going on that Guy and Tear do.
Everybody: They thought they were Nakama. Add in Luke's glory hounding and adamant refusal to accept any responsibility and he's already got emotional flak coming his way. This makes it easy for any and all additional baggage to head his direction.
It's kind of hard to say that they were True Companions since all of them were keeping secrets from one another, something that Luke repeatedly stating, yet they still kept him in the dark. Which is partly why Luke was so frustrated by his 'friends' by the time they reached Akzeriuth. Add to the fact that Luke is mentally seven, was trapped in his own mansion his entire life while being told that he lost all his memories, and was forced to act like a teenager despite still having the mind of a child, it's little wonder he acted the way he did. At least Guy owned up that Luke was the way he was because of the way they raised him, taking partial responsibility for the tragedy of Akzeriuth. In fact, most of the party began treated Luke a little better, outside of Jade and Anise, once they realized they he was basically a child, even Jade and Anise has some justification. In Jade's case, he was disappointed that Luke refused to take any responsibility for what happened and Anise because she was projecting her own issues of being a traitor.
The Isle of Feres. Not so much the island itself, not within the realms of the universe, but everyone's reaction to and especially Jade's comment about it: "A floating island? That's physically impossible!" and yet... this is long after he learns the truth about the whole Outer Lands ordeal, where the entire world is floating. Admittedly they're two different concepts, but honestly, knowing that it's possible to make the entire world float would make it a lot more believable for a tiny island to be floating. It's just a little peculiar that everyone is so quick to be shocked that a single island is floating, even if the mechanisms used to make the world float no longer work. They're acting like they've never seen anything like it. It's just a little... weird.