ISO Tales Recommendations

TV Tropes has recommended the Tales (of Phantasia, of Destiny, of Symphonia, of Vesperia…) JRPG series to me with the statement that the games start out with cliches and then brutally, horribly subvert them.

TV Tropes also tells me that the series has more than a dozen games on various systems, most of them without localization but several with fan translations in various states of completeness, and then region-specific issues of release, localization, and region-specific DRM… Maybe I should brush up on my Japanese. Does anyone have a recommendation for how someone new should try approaching the series (in English)? Do I want the history from having gone through the earliest games, does it make more sense to jump in at Tales of X, will I be unable to appreciate X without having played Tales of Y…?

Not that I have gotten through all the other games I already own

: Zubon

Zubon likes ellipses today…

8 thoughts on “ISO Tales Recommendations”

  1. I’ve played quite a few – on account of my brother liking them – but never found the series to be dazzling or at all subversive.

    You don’t need to worry about playing them in any order generally (the recent Dawn of the New World is a rare direct sequel however), and I REALLY wouldn’t advise starting with the most primitive editions as the Tales series HEAVILY recycles the same format & tropes – may as well enjoy good production values while it’s fresh to you.
    Capitalization well earned, as they quite literally recycle the stories, situations, personalities & even skillsets over & over…

    The only game I have especially fond memories of is Tales of the Abyss [PS2], while Tales of Symphonia [GCube] did grow on me after my brother dragged me through it for many, many hours.
    Conversely; Dawn of the New World [Wii] is a lazy abomination of a cash-in (on Symphonia’s popularity), while Tales of Vesperia [Xbox360] pushed all the wrong buttons for me – it might satisfy as someone’s first Tales game though, as I suspect jadedness was a factor.

  2. Yikes. TVTropes is more addictive than any video game/mmo. I’ve lost so many what-would-have-been-(not really)productive evenings (and work days!) to that infernal site.

  3. I had a soft spot for tales of destiny one and two for ps one, but haven’t tried the more recent ones.

    If you really want RPG tropes subverted and subverted hard, play Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter for the PS2 or any Shin Megami Tensei game. For a funny example, Shadow Hearts: In the New World for PS2.

    1. Ah, yes; Shadow Hearts was certainly at the forefront of weird subversive weird JRPGs… of weirdness.

      1. Nothing beats taking on Al Capone with a cub reporter, a 6 foot tall Movie star Cat, and Frank the Ninja.

        1. I’m going to have to third the recommendation for Shadow Hearts: From the New World. That game is so off the wall that it deserves a look if you want something subversive.

          1. I prefer Shadow Hearts: Covenant. I couldn’t get into New Order, but Covenant is one of my all-time favorite JRPGs.

  4. I’m not sure I’d say the Tales series’ plots subvert cliches. However, their characters are often subversive themselves, and possibly some of the most well written characters in any video game. Similar to the Final Fantasty series, each one is stand alone, so there’s no need to play them in order (though Phantasia and Symphonia are apparently in the same world, just thousands of years apart, but there’s nothing really linking the two in-game directly beyond).

    Tales of the Abyss (PS2) is probably the pinnacle for story and character development in my mind, with Tales of Symphonia (GCN) and Tales of Vesperia (360) both quite well done. The original Tales of Destiny (PSX) and Tales of Destiny 2 (PSX) (well, in North America, anyway) were actually a lot of fun, but they’re pretty dated by now. I’d suggest only going back that far if you’re a sucker for older RPGs.

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