Tales (series)

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Tales series
Tales Logos.png
General Logo for the Tales series, each title has its own styling of the text.
Genres Role-playing video game
Developers Namco Bandai Games
(2012 – Present)
Namco Tales Studio
(1995–2011)
Publishers Namco Bandai (formerly Namco)
Creators Wolf Team
Platforms Super Nintendo, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, GameCube, Wii, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Mobile phone, Xbox 360, iOS, Android, Web browser, Microsoft Windows
First release Tales of Phantasia
15 December 1995
Latest release Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
10 October 2013
Official website Namco Tales Channel

The Tales series, known in Japan as the Tales Of series (「テイルズ オブ」シリーズ "Teiruzu Obu" Shirīzu?), is a franchise of fantasy Japanese role-playing video games published by Namco Bandai Games (formerly Namco), and primarily developed by its subsidiary, Namco Tales Studio. First started in 1995 with the development of Tales of Phantasia, the series now spans fourteen games in the main series. Additionally, while primarily role-playing games, the series features an extensive line up of spin-off games that often span other genres, and four stand-alone animated productions based on the video games. While many of the spinoffs contain crossover appearances of characters within the main series, the main series games are largely unrelated to one another unless denoted with their names. (For example, Tales of Xillia and its sequel Tales of Xillia 2.)

Nine out of the fourteen entries in the main series have been localized for North America and Europe, although almost all of the spinoff titles have not been released abroad. While seen as a niche series in English speaking regions, the series is considered very high profile in Japan, just behind other series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. By December 2007, the series had sold over ten million copies,[1] and by May 2011, it had sold 13 million units worldwide.[2]


Titles[edit]

Main article: List of Tales media

Games[edit]

Main series[edit]

Timeline of release years
1995 – Tales of Phantasia
1996 –
1997 – Tales of Destiny
1998 –
1999 –
2000 – Tales of Eternia
2001 –
2002 – Tales of Destiny 2
2003 – Tales of Symphonia
2004 – Tales of Rebirth
2005 – Tales of Legendia
Tales of the Abyss
2006 –
2007 – Tales of Innocence
2008 – Tales of Vesperia
Tales of Hearts
2009 – Tales of Graces
2010 –
2011 – Tales of Xillia
2012 – Tales of Xillia 2
2013 –
2014 –
2015 – Tales of Zestiria

The series debuted on the Super Famicom with Tales of Phantasia in 1995, and introduced multiple elements that would become staples of the Tales series.[3] It was released in the west on the Game Boy Advance in 2006. It was also ported to the PlayStation, PlayStation Portable and iOS.[4][5][6] The PlayStation received two original Tales games: Tales of Destiny in 1997, which was the first title to be released in North America,[7] and Tales of Eternia in 2000, which was released in 2001 as Tales of Destiny 2 in North America.[8]

Five titles have been released on the PlayStation 2. The true sequel to Destiny, Tales of Destiny 2, was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001 across Asian territories, and ported to the PlayStation Portable in Japan in 2007; both versions have yet to receive a western release.[9][10] Tales of Symphonia was released in Japan on the PS2 and Nintendo GameCube, with only the GameCube version being localized for North America and Europe, marking the Tales series' first released in European territories.[11][12] Tales of Rebirth was released in 2004,[13] ported to the PlayStation Portable in 2008, and has yet to receive a localization.[14][15] Tales of Legendia and Tales of the Abyss were both released in Japan in 2005, with both being released in North America the following year.[16][17] Abyss was later ported to the Nintendo DS, and released in Japan, North America and Europe.[18][19]

Tales of Innocence was released in Japan on the Nintendo DS in 2007.[20] A remake of the game, Innocence R was released on the PlayStation Vita in 2012.[21] Neither version has been released in the west.[22] The first release on seventh-generation consoles, Tales of Vesperia for Xbox 360, was released in Japan and North America in 2008 and in Europe in 2009.[23][24][25] A Japan-exclusive PlayStation 3 port was released in the same year as the European release.[26] Tales of Hearts was released on the Nintendo DS in 2008.[27] A remake, Hearts R, was released in 2013 in Japan and 2014 in North America and Europe.[28][29]

The twelfth entry, Tales of Graces, released on the Wii in Japan in 2009.[30] A PlayStation 3 port, Graces f, was released in 2009 in Japan, and in 2012 in North America and Europe.[30][31][32] Tales of Xillia, the series' 15th anniversary title,[33] was released in Japan for PlayStation 3 in 2011,[34] and in North America and Europe in 2013.[35][36] Its direct sequel sequel and the fourteenth main title, Xillia 2, was released in 2012 in Japan and 2014 in North America and Europe.[37][38][39] The fifteenth entry in the series, Tales of Zestiria, is in production and scheduled for a worldwide 2015 release to commemorate the series' 20th anniversary.[29][40]

Sequels and spin-offs[edit]

The series has received a small number of sequels and a large amount of spin-off titles and subseries. With the exception of Tales of the Tempest, released in 2006 for the Nintendo DS and worked on by multiple staff from the main series, they have all been derivative rather than original works.[41] Three direct sequels have been produced: Destiny 2, Xillia 2 and the spin-off title Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World.[29] Eternia received an MMORPG spin-off for PC platforms titled Tales of Eternia Online.[42] Multiple crossover games have been made for mobile platforms, including Tales of Link, the Tales of Mobile series, Tales of Card Evolve, Tales of Kizna and Tales of Asteria.[43][44][45][46] Two titles for the PlayStation Portable have been released in Japan: Tales of VS. in 2009,[47] and Tales of the Heroes: Twin Brave in 2012.[48] The main spin-off subseries is Tales of the World, which has grown to include ten games beginning with Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon, released in Japan on the Game Boy Color in 2000.[49] Only Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology has been released in the west.[50] A second subseries, Tales of Fandom, includes two games released respectively for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 in 2002 and 2007.[51][52]

Related media[edit]

The Tales series has expanded into other forms of media, including CD dramas, manga and anime. Multiple Tales games have been adapted into traditional animes, being both OAVs and TV series. The Symphonia OAV was released in three parts between 2007 and 2011, and released as a single collection in 2013.[53] Abyss was adapted into a 26-episode TV series between October 2008 and March 2009.[54] Phantasia and Eternia have also received anime adaptations.[55] The first theatrical anime film of the series, Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, was released on 3 October 2009 and was a prequel to Tales of Vesperia.[56] It was released in 2009 in Japan and 2012 in North America.[56] A made-for-television anime based on the opening of Zestiria is also being produced for release alongside the game.[57]

Books and audio dramas have also been made. Phantasia received multiple CD dramas, including four collected into anthologies in January and March 2000.[58][59] and a stand-alone drama in December 2001.[60] Symphonia received seven audio dramas following the game's plot.[61] Two CD dramas for Legendia were respectively released in August and September 2005.[62][63] A manga of Phantasia was written and serialized in 2008 and 2009,[64] while Abyss received three manga adaptations in the years after the game's release.[65] Symphonia was adapted in both novelizations and a manga serial.[66][67][68] Others to receive adaptations of these kinds are Destiny, Graces and Xillia.

Common elements[edit]

Gameplay[edit]

The Linier Motion Battle System as seen in Tales of Symphonia.

The Tales series has multiple gameplay elements that carry over from entry to entry. The main unifying element is the combat system, the Linier Motion Battle System (LMBS for short). According to Baba, it is one of the mainstays and building blocks for every main entry in the series.[69] Introduced in Phantasia, it is a real-time fighting system similer to a brawler, as opposed to the majority of RPGs at the time which primarily used turn-based battle systems.[3] Some features introduced in certain games have proven popular enough to remain in future installments: an example is "Free Running" (the ability for a character to freely roam the battlefield).[70] Elements of turn-based combat are also present, though to a lesser degree: an example of this is Destiny's "Chain Capacity" feature (the number of skills a character can perform), which appears in later games in the series.[33][70] The battle system for Legendia was deliberately designed to be similar to a brawler: the stated reason was that the team wished to combine brawler combat with the story and levelling mechanics of a Tales game.[71] Characters generally use Artes, which are special attacks characters can perform in battle.[72] Players can usually only control one character,[73] thought a multiplayer option was implemented for Vesperia.[74]

The battle system's name for each installment is augmented with descriptive titles representative of features of that game's battle system: examples are the "Style Shift" system from Graces (characters shifting between two types of Artes) and the "Fusionic-Chain" system from Zestiria (a human character merging with a magical character for a brief period to deal greater damage).[75][76] Characters are awarded with "Titles", nicknames which sometimes grant boons to them in battle when assigned to them.[77] Until Zestiria, when navigating the overworld or environment and encountering an enemy, the resultant battle took place on a separate battle screen: for Zestiria, combat took place in the same space as exploration.[78] Most Tales games have skits, which shows side conversations between different characters, as they progress through the game. They are commonly portrayed as manga/anime-styled character portraits or profiles, with text on the bottom. They were first introduced in Tales of Destiny, though the majority were cut out for the English release.[79][80] In the original English GameCube release of Symphonia, the voice track for the skits was removed, but for its HD re-release, the Japanese voice track, and consequently the skit voice tracks, were included.[81] The first English release to include fully-voiced skits was Vesperia: they had been planned for Abyss, but were cut due to space issues.[74] Another recurring feature is the Cooking system, where character learn and prepare dishes that restore both health and forms of experience points.[82]

Themes[edit]

The prominent narrative theme of the Tales series, according to Baba, is the issue of coexistence between different races - the cited example was between humans and animal races.[29] A particular example of this is Tales of Rebirth, which extensively explores themes of racism. Scenario writer Hiramatsu Masaki was inspired by the ethnic conflicts seen in Yugoslavia.[83] Another recurring feature is the plot and characters, which are often rooted in and revolve around themes such as justice or faith: in contrast, the theme for Zestiria was described as "passion".[84] The stories and the way the characters interact with each other forms one of the core aspects of designing each game.[69]

Art design[edit]

The series has become distinguished by its art style, which emulates manga and anime.[3] Manga artist Kōsuke Fujishima was brought in to design the characters for Phantasia, and became a fixture for the series.[85] Another designer, Mutsumi Inomata, first designed for the series with Destiny and has contributed to multiple other entries including Eternia, Legendia and Xillia.[3][86][87] A third regular artist is Daigo Okumura, who design characters for Vesperia and Xillia 2 as well as Dawn of the New World.[88] Other designers to work on the series include Kazuto Nakazawa (Legendia),[87] Kouichi Kimura (Xillia 2),[89] and Minoru Iwamoto (Zestiria).[90] The art design for each game's world and characters has ranged between cel-shaded cartoon styling to realism.[74][89]

Anime cutscenes are included in each game, and are a primary focus for the production team as they help make the first impression on players. They also try to avoid standard anime tropes or showing the same kinds of things each time.[91] The first game to feature such cutscenes was Destiny: the cutscenes were animated by Production I.G.[92] The company provided cutscenes for the series until Xillia: wanting to demonstrate a new artistic direction of the series, production of the anime cutscenes was given to Ufotable.[93] Different versions of Hearts used anime and computer-generated cutscenes.[94]

Development[edit]

History[edit]

The Tales series originated when Phantasia began production, based on an unpublished novel titled Tale Phantasia (テイルファンタジア Teiru Fantajia?), written by the game's scenario writer and lead programmer Yoshiharu Gotanda. During the story development process, several elements of the original novel were dropped or changed.[95][96] Phantasia had a development cycle for the original Super Nintendo version, with many creative disagreements between developer Wolf Team and publisher Namco.[97] It led to most of the Wolf Team staff leaving after the game in order to start a new company, tri-Ace, which would go on to make the similar Star Ocean series of video games.[97][98] Remaining members would continue to develop games in the Tales series, eventually helping to form Namco Tales Studio.[97] By 2008, the studio was divided into two teams: Team Destiny, who worked on 2D Tales titles such as Tales of Destiny, and Team Symphonia, which developed Symphonia, Abyss and Vesperia.[99] Prior to its absorption into Bandai Namco (then Namco Bandai) in 2011 due to financial troubles, Namco Tales produced the majority of the mainline Tales games.[100] The notable exceptions are Legendia, which was developed by an internal staff group made up of both former Tales developers and staff from the Tekken and Soulcalibur series,[101][102] and Innocence, which was developed by Alfa System.[4]

Terminology[edit]

Namco and Namco Tales Studio often use unique terminology when referring to the games of the Tales series. In 2007, series producer Makoto Yoshizumi announced two classes of Tales games, "Mothership Titles" and "Escort Titles".[103] "Mothership" essentially means "Main series", where as "Escort" essentially means "Spinoff". One of the recurring differences between the two game types internally is that "Escort" titles don't supply inspiration for main entries in the series, but rather draw the most popular elements from them.[29] The games are also frequently given what is called a "Characteristic Genre Name", which is essentially a short subtitle or phrase that outlines the game's overall theme. The main reason for this, as stated by Makoto Yoshizumi, was that the series was not seen as a role-playing series by the development team, but rather "Character Playing Game", with the player learning about the game's characters and watching them grow rather than using them as avatars: the genre names are meant to distinguish them from other role-playing games.[104] The terms, however, are largely removed from the English localized versions.

Localization[edit]

Multiple Tales titles, the majority of which are spin-offs, have not been localized for the west or have only been released in North America: two examples of the former case for entries in the main series are Rebirth and Innocence.[14][22] Speaking in 2013, Hideo Baba explained that the main priority for localizations was for the main series rather than spin-offs. In addition to this, he stated that their localization team was limited and they needed to "pick and choose" which game to bring to the west.[46] For its western release, Eternia's name was changed to "Destiny 2": this was due to a possible trademark conflict and the wish to exploit the popularity of Destiny.[8] With Zestiria, Bandai Namco planned to attempt releasing the game in the west in the same year it was released in Japan.[40] The deciding factor in this resolution was the delayed release of Xillia and its sequel and the reaction of western fans to this.[76] One recurring aspect of many earlier localizations was the removal of the theme song used in the Japanese version, such as with Symphonia, which had its theme song replaced with an orchestral version.[105][106] The first western release of a Tales title to feature the theme song used in Japan was Vesperia.[107] Fan localizations have also been created, such as for the original versions of Phantasia and Innocence.[4][22]

Reception[edit]

While keeping a lower profile in English-speaking regions, in Japan, it is regarded as one of the biggest role-playing video game series. 1UP.com refers to it as the third biggest RPG series in Japan behind Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.[108] Gamasutra echoed these sentiments, stating that "While the series doesn't have quite the cultural cache of Final Fantasy in the West or Dragon Quest in Japan, it's still a very popular brand worldwide".[109] IGN additionally referred to it as the third biggest Japanese role-playing series in regards to sales.[110]

As of the end of 2012, the series has collectively sold over 15 million copies worldwide.[111]

References[edit]

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