The Hopeless Boss Fight with Asch actually isn't all that tough to beat if you have enough healing items and know how to use the free-run mechanic to perform hit-and-run tactics.
The final boss isn't particularly challenging in any of his forms, and in his final form you have infinite HP and TP. Note: the infinite HP and TP phase only occurs when you have Luke and Tear in the party, and besides...what could be more satisfying than whaling on Van with impunity?
Awesome Music: One of the strongest contenders for the Best Soundtrack in the Tales Series title. And that's saying something.
One moment in particular stands out that really breaks the base on Luke and his character: the Wham Episode. To what extent Akzeriuth's destruction was Luke's fault is the subject of a lot of debate. On the one hand, some people think the disaster was caused by Luke's selfishness (wanting to save the people only so he could become a hero), arrogance (believing he could save the city by himself despite having no training), failure to tell the others about the plan, and blind faith in Van, since Van's justification for kidnapping Luke was pretty transparent and contained a contradiction. After all, if Van was saving Luke from painful and horrific experiments regarding his hyperresonance, why didn't these experiments resume once Luke returned? On the other hand, some people shift the blame elsewhere, since Luke was only seven years old when all this happened. Van was a father figure to Luke for his entire life — Luke comments that Van was the only one to praise him, scold him, and take him seriously. Van was also in a position of trust and authority, being the Commandant of the Order of Lorelei, which shows that he was well respected in the world at large (including by some of Luke's traveling companions). Plus, the fact that Luke was hypnotized into carrying out the final, fatal act means he's not entirely to blame; some of the fault must go to Van, regardless of Luke's actions. Still, the debate continues to rage among Tales fans as to how much of Akzeriuth's destruction was Luke's fault and how much others are to blame.
Creepy Awesome: Jade Curtiss can be this when he wants to be. In addition to his snark, he comes off with a rather large dose of Black Comedy, mentioning his age quite often and even joking about death and the end of the world. That said, he's still one of the most popular characters in the whole Tales fandom, regularly placing in the top 10 in character polls.
The entire party (minus Ion) post Akzeriuth as explained below. Their treatment of Luke falls flat when it turns out a good chunk of them knew something in regards to the entire incident (Guy knew about Van's plans, Tear had all the reason to see Van as the Big Bad, Jade had figured out key information, and Anise was working for Mohs plus Natalia heard enough of Luke's conversation with Van pre mission to be somewhat suspicious) and most of them also know at this point that Luke is truly seven.
Asch is even worse. Before the reveal that Luke is his replica, he spends most of his appearances hurling abuse at people, tries to kill Luke and would have done so if not for Van and tries to make Luke kill Tear once the channel between them is open. After the reveal, none of this is ever brought up again. To top if off he constantly hurls abuse at Luke and the party outside of Natalia, and they just accept it.
Designated Villain: Though Luke is an incredible ass about it, he's not exactly wrong when he says "It's not my fault!" in regards to Akzeriuth. One can blame him for being an arrogant ass about things but as Van tricked him and then forced him into destroying Akzeriuth, there's only so much a seven year old can do in regards to his Parental Substitute turning out to be the Big Bad. While plenty of the rest of the party (Tear, Guy, and Jade in particular) possessed information that would have had a good chance of adverting events if they had brought it up. Luke, on the other hand, was handicapped from the start and that's without bringing in the fact he was sent knowing he would, according to the Score, destroy Akzeriuth and himself so they could kick off a war. The Broken Aesop on the main page also points out no one gave Luke a good reason to distrust Van aside from saying he should think more critically.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Asch in the anime, which leaves out his Kick the Dog moments in the game, including his participation in the Tartarus slaughternote He arrived afterwards. and his attacking Tear, making him much more sympathetic.
His game incarnation is one for some too if not solely for his notorious Narm moment.
Nebilim and Noir. Subverted in Noir's case, since she and her posse turn out to be noble thieveswho steal in order to help fund Nam Cobanda Isle - a refuge they set up for Kimlascans and Malkuthians who were neglected by their countries in favor of the Score. They're also hired by Asch for most of the game, and thus on the side of the heroes.
Downplayed with Arietta. Her first outfit includes a pair of garters, but isn't overtly sexualized otherwise (and nor is she herself, for that matter). However, they completely disappear with her second outfit - which is noteworthy because her first outfit is an obvious case of Dark Is Evil, while the second is a definite example of Light Is Not Good.
Jade at one point rattles off Lorelei's fonon frequency, which sounds suspiciously similar to the first dozen or so digits of pi.
The Theme Naming doubles as this - Many locations that are held up by the sephiroth are actually named after the Hebrew Kabbalah.
Musical terms are everywhere in the game, from the shop names, to the C. Core names, to the assumed names of the God-Generals before Asch joined up (Cantabile being who he replaced), to the positions of power within Daath.
In the PS2 version, it was possible to remove the disk from the system while the game continued to run. This allowed you to go literally anywhere on the world map, and by replacing the disk, visit any location early to get powerful weapons that you weren't supposed to be able to access yet, most commonly the Keterburg Casino Lethal Joke Weapons and the Vorpal Sword.
Harsher in Hindsight: One of the lines of the Score reads is "ND2020, A mountain of corpses shall bury the fortress capital. Death and diseases shall envelope the city." While it's a fate averted in the game, the same can't be said for the real-world COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, making this prophecy hit a little too close to home.
Guy's gynophobia plus his close friendship with Luke.
Jade plus Dist or Peony, both of whom earn innuendo-laden comments from Guy.
Luke's worshipful relationship with his "Master" Van. Luke's even got a giant portrait of him hanging up in his roomnote Slightly lessened if you consider that he calls Van "sensei" in the Japanese version (translates literally to "teacher", although can still be translated to "master" since Van's specifically teaching Luke combat), but the portrait's still there and so is the rest of their relationship.
Good luck playing the game beforehand without realizing that Luke gets the haircut in the first place in direct response to accidentally destroying Akzeriuthwhile trying to save it in thanks, in part, to his jackassery whilst handling the situation.
"Luke" actually being a fon replica on the original Luke fon Fabre, aka Asch, is pretty common knowledge even among people who haven't played the game.
Anise. Her family was the victim of a con and wound up in debt. Mohs paid off the debt, but had her parents become indentured servants, leading Anise to want to earn the money to free them. Unfortunately, she does some morally dubious things to reach this goal, including wanting to marry into wealth, performing occasional scams and serving as a spy for Mohs, leading to Ion's death. How much you sympathize with her depends on how willing you are to forgive her for the latter, spoilered act.
Asch is the original Luke fon Fabre who was kidnapped by Van as a child and made his way home and discovered the replica Luke and is Secretly Dying because of how Luke was born. However, his many Kick the Dog moments throughout the game, aka attempting to murder Luke, controlling Luke to try and make him kill Tear For the Evulz and hurls endless emotional and verbal abuse at Luke throughout the entire game until they finally settle their differences in the final dungeon make it hard to like or pity him.
Sync is not only allied with the villains but does some exceptionally cruel things for no good reason, such as making fun of Akzeriuth's destruction and mimicking Ion's voice to guilt-trip Anise. However, it's difficult not to feel a drop of pity for him when you realize that he was cast away along with the other unused Ion replicas and only kept around as a tool by Van.
The replicas of Frings, Iemon and Mary, among others, openly say that they don't care whether the originals live or die, a sentiment Tear says will come back to haunt them someday. Of course, they also are thrust into the world without any ability to care for themselves or people willing to care for them, and end up being persecuted, exploited and used to destroy the miasma. Learning that the villains are not coming for them drives them over the Despair Event Horizon, and prompts them to sacrifice themselves to neutralize the miasma in the hopes of finding a place where the surviving replicas can live.
Dist is shown to be a lonely man emotionally stunted and lost from childhood trauma who desperately wants things to be back to when he was happy. Despite this, the way he goes about it is far from okay, making it understandable why Jade refuses to acknowledge him until he finally gets over it.
Luke pre Important Haircut. He's a spoiled Sheltered Aristocrat who can be a massive Jerkass. At the same time, he's woefully unequipped to deal with various things, has the life experiences of a seven year old and later turns out to actually be one, and is utterly horrified when he kills a person. He also has no experience with normal relationships (or friends for that matter) and is desperate to prove himself while also dealing with everyone basically wanting him to remember everything before his kidnapping ie they basically are all saying they hate this Luke and don't see him as the "real" one.
Magnificent Bastard: When Van Grants learned that the Score predicted that the world would end, he decided to avoid this fate by destroying the world, killing all of its inhabitants, and creating a replica world in its stead. To accomplish this, Van pretended to be a loyal adherent to the Score, fooling nearly everyone in the Order of Lorelei so he could advance in rank to command the Order's military. When one of Van's plans hinged on Luke surviving his death that was foretold in the Score, Van kidnapped Luke and replaced him with a replica, framing the deed on the rival empire of Malkuth. Van is incredibly charismatic, capable of making his enemies into his loyal followers and is always one step ahead of the heroes. In the end, all of the heroes can't help but respect him despite his crimes.
Memetic Mutation: In Japan, Luke's line, "It's not my fault!" has become memetic enough that anytime his Japanese seiyuu shows up in the Tales of Festivals, this line will always show up.
Memetic Troll: Jade Curtiss has had this reputation cemented by the fandom for his many contributions to the comedic parts of the game and the thing most will remember about him first is his constant tendency to screw with virtually everybody in the game.
Mohs kidnapping Anise's parents, forcing her to act as The Mole, and then personally murdering Ion and making Anise watch.
He also tries to stop you from preventing the war between Kimlasca and Malkuth Because Destiny Says So, even going so far as to try to have Luke and Natalia forced to commit suicide.
Van loses any right to call himself a Well-Intentioned Extremist when he causes half of the world to fall into poison mist, killing millions. He also could have crossed that even before in Akzeriuth as he basically recreates the incident that made him the Big Bad with, to all intents and purposes, his own child.
The massacre at Sheridan for Van and his minions. Especially for Major Legretta.
Narm: The scene just before the final showdown between Luke and Asch. It's fine for the most part, and then it gets to the very end...
Thanks to an unfortunate choice of dramatic arm movement, Tear's breasts briefly bounce during a cutscene that takes place in the middle of fighting the final boss. It lasts for less than a second and they only bounce a slight distance rather than going over the top, so it's perfectly possible not to notice it. But if you DO notice, it's incredibly out of place.
The whole game is riddled with this in general due to the technology limitations of the time. Dull Surprise and some Large Ham bits that don't mesh with the rest can make what are meant to be dramatic or heartrending situations rather jarring instead.
No Yay: In two parts of the game, during the Absorption Gate and night before the assault on Eldrant, the main group breaks up into pairs, with Ship Tease at least between the first two pairings. Luke and Tear are, of course, the Official Couple and get the most Ship Tease. Concerning Guy and Natalia, they are only three years apart, since she is eighteen and he is twenty-one. So far, so good. However, the final pairing is Jade/Anise, a thirty-four-year-old man and a thirteen-year-old girl.
Tear/Luke can be this in general depending on how you view Luke's age when put together with his Character Development. Since Luke is, in fact, seven and it's known well that by the whole party, Tear can come off unintentionally creepy and give the impression of someone who takes advantage of a child's Precocious Crush. This leads into any pairing with Luke in it being Squick to some extent.
Tear finding out she's dying (she doesn't, thanks to one of Ion's final acts).
Luke finding out he's dying (whether he does is debatable)... take your pick.
Seeing that little boy drown in miasma at Akzeriuth.
Later on, meeting a woman whose husband and son were in Akzeriuth, the latter having come to visit the former.
Asch's death. Not only an antagonist, but one we just had a final duel with five minutes ago... But it still hurts.
The death of General Frings...especially if you did his adorable romance sidequest...for nothing...
Rewatch Bonus: Luke's rude and dickish behavior as well as his somewhat childlike dialogue for much of the game becomes more understandable and more obvious once the player knows that Luke is actually only 7.
Ships That Pass in the Night: Arietta x Sync is pretty popular shipping, despite the fact that the two characters never interact in the game nor in the anime and Arietta is clearly in love with Ion. The fact that Sync is Ion's replica helps though.
Squick: Luke is the Mr. Fanservice of the game, what with his belly baring outfit that shows off his impressive abs and various other costumes that even do away with shirts all together. Why is this under squick? Because he's actually seven years old and yet he's being put into a more "adult" appearance. This also makes the Tear/Luke pairing cringeworthy as well.
Tastes Like Diabetes: Mieu is a cute and cuddly creature with a high pitched voice and constant cheer.
Mohs devolves into a mindless One-Winged Angel, and after the party finally fights and kills him, they "feel kind of bad", noting that he was obsessed with the Score to the very end, and there was a time when his actions would have been seen as justified. Considering what kind of person he was, holding Anise's parents hostage and forcing her to be The Mole and then killing Fon Master Ion (who was chronologically two) it's virtually impossible to feel that he didn't deserve it.
Anise. She betrays the party, almost gets them killed, flat-out DOES get Ion killed, and kills Arietta rather than talking things out with her when she has the chance. No wonder many player claimed her as a Designated Hero.
Asch can be this, considering that before the reveal that Luke is his replica, he spends most of his appearances hurling abuse at people, tries to kill Luke and would have done so if not for Van and tries to make Luke kill Tear once the channel between them is open. After the reveal, he constantly hurls abuse at Luke and the party outside of Natalia up until he and Luke finally accept one another at Eldrant and dies shortly after.
For that matter the entire party falls under this and/or Designated Hero in regards to how they treat Luke. Many players felt like the party members blaming Luke for the destruction of Akzeriuth is hypocritical as the major reason that Luke ended up trusting Van was because, despite being shown he's extremely sheltered and has no idea how the world works (including having to be taught the concept of shopping) while being functionally seven due to his amnesia and is eventually revealed to actually be seven, they regularly ignored him, berated him for understandably not knowing things, told him to shut up when he demanded to know things, and refused to explain why he shouldn't do the thing that lead to Akzeriuth or why not trust Van. With Van thus being the Reasonable Authority Figureand a Parental Substitute to Luke, why wouldn't Luke trust him over the so-called "friends" of his? And they don't get better even after Luke's Important Haircut! Though Guy genuinely means well and admits to his own part to play in the disaster, he's very wishy-washy about defending Luke against the others' comments and actions. Tear flat out says he's to blame and encourages Luke's Guilt Complex, while Jade and Anise continue to berate him and, in Anise's case, encourage him to die. By the time they actually start treating Luke better, he's a massive mess mentally speaking and it's way too late for him to be able to take their advice.
The Big Bad. His status as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds gets hard to swallow when you take into account his hypocrisy, the sheer amount of people he's killed, and his treatment of both Asch and Luke. It's hard to consider him well intentioned when he spends so much time doing incredibly wrong things for the sake of his goals.
Unwinnable by Insanity: If you start the Mushroom Road sidequest before entering The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, Luke leaves the party to give place to Asch. You can then go all the way to the other end of Mushroom Road to get out to the world map (in a cliff where the Greater Flightstone is) and then use the world map glitch to get out of there without getting Luke back. This lets you play as Asch for as long as you wantnote You can go back to Mushroom Road to get Luke back whenever you want, and Asch replaces Luke in every scene (except for one needed to get Tear's Infinity +1 Sword, which will not trigger). If you finish the game while using Asch, you will start the next cycle without Luke. Once you get to the tutorial battle, the game freezes because you don't have any characters in your party. If you saved your clear data over your only file, you are now stuck inside Duke Fabre's Manor forever.
The world map glitch by itself can be this. To use this glitch, you need to take the disc off the PS2 while being on the world map, which will make the scenario disappear, and allows you to walk over the water, mountains, etc. You can then put the disc back and wait for a while for the scenario to come back. However, if you are over a unwalkable path (over the water, for example) when you do this, you get stuck and cannot even use the world map glitch to leave, as you will be unable to move. It is possible to save the game whenever you want while being in the world map. If you save in this condition, you are stuck forever.
Luke (Well, Asch... It Makes Sense in Context) and Natalia's betrothal, as first cousins. Due to their status as nobles, no one even so much as bats an eye. This is because Auldrant seems to use a world-wide medieval-like setting. In Medieval times as well as other periods, nobles were anything but unknown for marrying within the close family. It later turns out that Natalia is not biologically related to Luke.
Near the end, Jade offers Luke his left hand in a handshake. In Japan, this is seen as respectful (as it's done with the shield arm, showing that one is willing to let their guard down in front of someone else). Westerners might find this odd, as it's not as respectful in western territories (since, in Medieval times, people apparently wiped their butts with their left hands).
The fallout of Akzeriuth runs on this trope as well. When the party all seem to call out Luke for how he isn't taking responsibility for the events that unfolded, it can come across as unfair from a Western perspective. This is because in Japan, personal responsibility is Serious Business; Luke not taking responsibility for his role in the event is considered a sign of immaturity and that he needs to grow up, which is why the party all are upset with him saying it was not his fault. Thus when Luke cuts his hair shortly after this, it is a sign of development on his part as he does take up responsibility for it. For the West however, this makes the party seem Unintentionally Unsympathetic because while Luke played a part in it, it was the Big Bad who manipulated him and made him do it, so Luke would be seen by many Westerns are being a victim of a manipulator who, while tragically made a mistake, shouldn't be as guilt tripped by the party the way they do. The fact Luke is actually seven doesn't help with how Western audiences see it.
Ion. He looks incredibly effeminate and has female voice actors.
Jade deserves an honorable mention: Gender-Blender Name, feminine pose, long hair. . . and if you can believe it, some of his concept art made him feel even more like a woman, even with short hair!
Then there's Din, who runs the trade shop in Chesedonia. Din has short blonde hair and wears thick, unisex clothing. Din also doesn't get any voiced dialogue, so you have to see a specific scene where Jade inspects Din's shop to actually know Din is, in fact, a girl. Generally it's assumed she's a he.
Vindicated by History: When it was released, it was considered... well, not bad, but just sort of a ho-hum entry. Likely not helped by it following on the heels of Tough Act to FollowTales of Symphonia. Give or take ten years and its status has grown to be one of the most respected titles by the fanbase for its intriguing and realized Constructed World, a complex plot and especially deep characterizations, its stellar soundtrack, and for improving on Symphonia's gameplay by introducing free-run, which set the standard for later 3D titles in the series. It's now regarded as having aged the best of all the 2000s-era Tales games. It also held the title as the darkestTales game for ten years until Tales of Berseria came along.
To a similar degree, Luke as the main character. Although Yuri Lowell is still the most beloved protagonist in the franchise, Luke is now widely considered as the best constructed one. Even though his Jerkass attitude at the beginning of the game can be off-putting (and the reason why he had a bum rap for some years), his massiveCharacter Development (by far, the biggest one in the entire franchise) makes it worth it.
Wangst: Luke goes through quite a bit of this during a big part of the third act. Also, if you defeat Asch in Yulia City, the resulting cutscene shows Asch doing a bit of wangsting of his own after being defeated by a mere replica.
What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: If you're familiar with Friedrich Nietzsche, then you may think that the title has something to do with Nietzsche's famous quote about The Abyss, but it never really has any bearing on the game itself. Except with Van, who started to oppose the Score after being used to destroy Hod as an innocent child, and then does the exact same thing to Luke in order to advance his plans.