Tales of Zestiria
|Tales of Zestiria|
|Publisher(s)||Bandai Namco Games|
Tales of Zestiria (Japanese: テイルズ オブ ゼスティリア Hepburn: Teiruzu Obu Zesutiria?) is a Japanese role-playing game for the PlayStation 3. It is the fifteenth main entry in the Tales series, developed by Bandai Namco Studios, and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. It was released on January 22, 2015 in Japan, with a western release planned during Q3 2015. As with previous entries in the Tales series, the game uses a variation of the action-based Linear Motion Battle System, with additional elements including a navigable open world, and the ability for certain characters to fuse into a single entity in battle to deliver powerful attacks.
The story follows Sorey, a man blessed with powers by a mystical spirit race known as the Seraphim who act as a stabilizing force in the land, as he travels to free the land of Glenwood from the threat of the Hellion, creatures spawned by negative emotions. The game's characteristic genre name is Jōnetsu ga sekai o terasu ārupījī (情熱が世界を照らすRPG?, lit. "RPG of Passion Lighting the World"), with its story focusing on the passion of the characters.
The game began development in 2011. Revealed during a special festival in December 2013, it was designed as the 20th anniversary title for the Tales series, returning to the series' themetic roots as established in Tales of Phantasia and featuring a revamped battle system and open-world design. It features multiple staff members from previous entries in the series: they include producer Hideo Baba, battle programmer Tatsuro Udo, designers Kōsuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata, and composers Motoi Sakuraba and Go Shiina. It has received positive reviews in Japanese gaming magazines, and sold over 400,000 units in its first week. Despite the praise, it has received criticism from fans for its handling of the game's characters.
Tales of Zestiria is a console action role-playing game set in a fantasy world with three-dimensional characters rendered to scale with the areas around them. The game's main world employs an open world layout in contrast to previous entries in the series. Skits, extra conversations between characters that can be either dramatic or comical, also return: their full-body representation of characters is carried over from Tales of Graces. As in Graces and Tales of Xillia, they are fully voiced. During exploration of the field area between locations and while a specific Seraph character is assigned, the player can execute special commands: they are slicing through minor obstacles (all characters), smashing large obstacles (Edna), temporarily shielding themselves from enemy view (Mikleo), igniting special lights in dungeons (Lailah), or teleporting to a distant location (Dezel/Zaveid). A changeable second character accompanies the lead character, and story-relevant or trivial conversations can be started with them. Characters all have unique Support Talents, which range from locating treasure chests to monitoring a characters health, which can be leveled up along with the characters.
New special abilities for characters are gained by performing side-quests for creatures called Normins scattered through the land. Equipment assigned to characters can be given special skills, with one piece of equipment having four skill slots. Certain combinations add additional effects produced by equipment. Some equipment types can only be obtained by fusing two different accessories. A local four-player multiplayer option is also available. Items such as outfits, weapons and armor and items can be bought and sold at shops across the land. Using a certain shop enough levels it up, unlocking higher-end items. During exploration, regions under the control of Land Chiefs, which require the protection of the Seraphim. Ensuring this protection gives the player access via the Land Chiefs to abilities such as warping between save points for a fee. Other abilities including various abilities and bonuses unlocked by completing certain objectives in battle and establish further Normin. The player can increase these boons by leveling up the strength of the protection through battles in the area. Players can rest characters at inns, restoring their health and magic meters.
As with previous titles in the series, the game uses the trademark action-based Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS). The variant used in Zestiria is called the Fusionic Chain LMBS. Unlike previous entries in the series, which featured a separate battle screen, battles in the open field and environments like towns and dungeons take place in the same space as exploration. These encounters are called "Real Map Battles". The player characters' fighting ability during this battle can be affected by the topography and features such as ponds and rocks. Preemptively attacking enemies also grants the player an advantage during the battle. Like previous entries in the series, the LMBS incorporates special skills called artes. There are two types of artes: human characters specialize in close-quarters melee-based artes, while Seraph characters employ mid-to-long range magical artes. These artes are further divided into multiple categories for each character. Artes can interrupt standard attacks. Alongside standard attacks and artes, characters can cast spells for actions such as healing or attacking enemies. The standard attacks, artes and spells are governed by a rock-paper-scissors system. Special attacks called Mystic Artes (秘奥義 Hi Ougi?) can be performed which deal high damage, with each character having a unique Mystic Arte.
While in battle, characters status is displayed in special windows on the battle screen: their window shows their current health, their Blast gauge (an energy bar linked to special abilities), and Spirit Chain (SC) gauge, the bar beneath the health display which fuels the ability to link characters and perform special attacks. A high level of SC points grants conditional boons to characters, such as dealing higher damage and faster recovery of SC. Characters have the option to side-step (dodge forward, backward or to the side), and precisely timed dodges can allow characters to stagger enemies and fill the SC gauge. The Blast gauge allows characters to trigger a blast of energy which knocks enemies back and heals injuries. The SC gauge allows for a maximum of four linked attacks, and any remaining points in the gauge can be used for later linked attacks. The order of activation for linked attacks cannot be changed. At the end of battles, if certain requirements are fulfilled, characters can learn skills called Battle Acts, abilities that grant the characters advantages in battle, such as being able to run around the field freely.
The characters Sorey and Rosé can also perform "Armitization", which fuses either of them with a chosen Seraph partner to produce a powerful hybrid form: this form can perform magical attacks indicative of the element the Seraph represents. While in this form, the human character's stats are boosted, and they gain special abilities unique to the fusion: the character can wield a large sword and fire-based magic (Lailah), shoot water arrows using a bow (Mikleo), use stone fists and summon stone pillars (Edna), and gain blade-like wings and summon whirlwinds (Dezel/Zaveid). A character can swap out their Seraph partners while not in this form. Both characters capable of Armitization can be in this form at the same time. If the human character is defeated on the field, activating Armitization will resurrect them if their current Seraph partner is still active. There is a maximum of four party members allowed in battle, with one human being linked to one Seraph.
Tales of Zestiria takes place on a fictional continent named Glenwood. Glenwood is divided between two warring countries: the Hyland Kingdom, which is ruled by a constitutional monarchy, and the Rolance Empire. Existing independently are multiple Guilds, who readily profit from the conflict and encompass multiple professions from transportation to goods manufacture to assassination. Throughout the land, an impurity generated by the negative emotions of humanity periodically creates monsters called the Hellion ("Hyōma" (憑魔?, lit. "Possessing Evil") in Japanese), who pose a threat to the people. Along with humans, one of the main races of the world is the Seraphim (Tenzoku (天族?, lit. "Heavenly Race") in Japanese; singular "Seraph"), supernatural humanoids who can only interact with humans with sufficient spirit energy. Though once an abundant people in Glenwood, the Seraphim have become scarce. The people of the world call those who interact with the Seraphim "Shepherds" ("Monks" (導師 Dōshi?) in Japanese), and they are both hailed as saviors and feared because of their power. The Shepherds have frequently appeared during times of crisis, and have entered into common folklore along with the Seraphim. Seraphim can also form contracts between themselves, with one dominant figure and a number of partners who act as supports for them. The game tells the story of the Shepherds during the "era of disasters", when the Hellion are running rampant across Glenwood, attacking both the countryside and cities. Dragons play an important role in the both the world lore and main story arc, but do not follow their traditional representation as beings of good and evil or symbolic creatures.
The game revolves around Sorey, who wishes to return peace to the land, setting out on a quest to become a Shepherd, gain the power to calm the Hellion and defeat their mysterious leader, and save both humanity and the Seraphim. He also wishes to bring about a new "legendary time" when humanity and the Seraphim lived in harmony.
- Sorey (スレイ Surei?) is a human raised by the Seraphim. Because of his upbringing, he possesses high levels of spirit energy, allowing him to interact with the Seraphim. Due to becoming a Shepherd after entering into a pact with Lailah, Sorey holds the power to calm the Hellion. In battle, he wields a sword and is capable of Armitization. Sorey is designed by Kousuke Fujishima and voiced by Ryōhei Kimura.
- Mikleo (ミクリオ Mikurio?) is a Seraph aligned with the element of Water, and Sorey's childhood friend. He acts as a contrast to Sorey, being cool and considerate, but because of this he has a strong bond of friendship with him. Mikleo fights with a long fighting staff and Water-based heavenly artes. He is designed by Mutsumi Inomata and voiced by Ryōta Ōsaka.
- Alisha (アリーシャ Arīsha?) is a princess to the Highland empire. Due to her mother's low status and the decreasing importance of the kingdom's monarchy, she is treated poorly by the royal family, and decides to become a knight. While initially unable to see and interact with the Seraphim as Sorey can, she enters a pact with him to become a "thane", a servant of the Shepherd with limited magic and the ability to see the Seraphim. Due to conflicting loyalties and patriotism, she leaves the party in the story. Alisha wields a long spear in battle. She is designed by Okumura and voiced by Ai Kayano.
- Lailah (ライラ Raira?) is a Seraph aligned with the element of Fire. She acts as a tutor to Sorey, and forms a pact with him when he wishes to become a Shepherd. Lailah also forms pacts with Mikleo, Edna and Dezel, being the senior member of the partnership. Though she is knowledgeable, she is prone to delusional outbursts. Lailah fights with book pages and Fire-based heavenly artes. She is designed by Inomata and voiced by Miyu Matsuki.
- Edna (エドナ Edona?): Edna is a Seraph aligned with the element of Earth. While she has a pretty and petite exterior, she has a cool personality and distrusts humans. However, when it comes to her brother, she is prone to outbursts of emotion. Edna uses her parasol in combat and utilizes Earth-based heavenly artes. She is designed by Minoru Iwamoto and voiced by Misato Fukuen.
- Rosé (ロゼ Roze?) ia a young human woman who joins Sorey's quest, originally seen as a member of the "Sparrowfeathers" (セキレイの羽 Sekirei no hane?) merchant's guild. Although possessing similar spiritual powers to Sorey, an incident in her youth removed her ability to see the Seraphim until she starts traveling with Sorey. During gameplay, she fights using twin daggers and is capable of Artimization. Officially, she is classified as a playable accompanying character, as opposed to accompanying NPCs such as Claire Bennett in Tales of Rebirth. Rosé is designed by Fujishima and voiced by Mikako Komatsu.
- Dezel (デゼル Dezeru?) is a Seraph aligned with the element of Wind. Working in secret among the human population, he seeks vengeance against the Hellion after they killed a close friend. He is also considered an outlaw by the humans and the Seraphim. Dezel uses whip-like pendulums and Wind-based artes in battle. He is designed by Daigo Okumura and voiced by Daisuke Ono.
- Zaveid (ザビーダ Zabīda?) is a Seraph aligned with the element of Wind. Though he also fights the Hellions, is generally a prankster and shares some form of connection with Dezel, he is also dangerous due to his uncertain allegiance and his willingness to fight Sorey. Zaveid fights with twin pistols and Wind-based heavenly artes. The character is designed by Iwamoto and voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda.
- Heldarf (ヘルダルフ Herudarufu?) is the main antagonist of Zestiria, being a former human holding a high concentration of Hellion energy. A calm and decisive character, his one goal is to destroy the current world. He is voiced by Takayuki Sugō.
- Sergei (セルゲイ Serugei?) is a knight of the Rolance Empire and leader of an elite group of knights whose combat ability is great enough to fight both humans and Seraphim. Both loyal to the Empire and concerned with the welfare of the people, an incident between him and Sorey causes the two to cross swords. Sergei is voiced by Hideyuki Hori.
- Maltran (マルトラン Marutoran?) is a character from the Hyland Kingdom who plays a large role in its story. A female knight known as the "Blue Valkyrie", she is Alisha's mentor, having taught her all her combat skills, and one of the few important figures in the kingdom who supports her. Maltran is voiced by Mami Koyama.
- Lunarre (ルナール Runāru?) is a member of the "Wind's Bone" (風の骨 Kaze no hone?) assassins' guild who persistently follows and attacks Sorey's group. Bloodthirsty and without mercy, his nature has transformed him into a Hellion, and it is through him that Sorey is forced to face the reality of the world's woes. Lunarre is voiced by Takehito Koyasu.
Tales of Zestiria began production at Bandai Namco Studios in 2011, roughly three years prior to its release. Japanese developer tri-Crescendo helped with the game's programming. The game was conceived as a 20th anniversary title for the series, incorporating classic elements with new gameplay ideas. The story focuses on the theme of passion, in contrast to other entries in the series where the theme was justice or faith: the title "Zestiria" refers to the "zest" of the main characters. It also focused on the series theme of coexistence between different peoples and races. The game also returned to a medieval European high fantasy setting involving dragons, as opposed to the previous recent entries such as Tales of Xillia and its sequel. Producer Hideo Baba wanted to return to the themetic roots of the Tales series first explored in Tales of Phantasia to celebrate the series' anniversary. The game's main director was Yuuta Hase, who had previously helped develop the gameplay systems for the Xillia games. In helping develop the gameplay systems, he was initially in a deadlock with the rest of team about developing the new functions while maintaining traditional elements. The main scenario writer was Naoki Yamamoto, who had previously written the scripts for Tales of Hearts and the Xillia games. He wrote the script keeping the concept of a long and fun journey in mind, and developed Sorey as a mature character representing the game's central theme. Yamamoto worked closely with the team to ensure the story and gameplay relations between human and Seraphim characters were consistent. The concept of the Seraphim being a race invisible to humans was established early in development. This created difficulties in fitting a normal quest structure around this. The story was constructed around Alisha's departure from the party, with the development team adjusting her DLC outfits so they could also be worn by Rosé. The final script covered six script books, including one for battle dialogue.
The characters were designed by Kosuke Fujishima, Mutsumi Inomata, Daigo Okumura, and Minoru Iwamoto, all of whom worked on previous Tales titles. Iwamoto also acted as the game's art director. As part of the character designs, the artists reversed the physical stereotypes associated with the classical elements used by the main Seraphim characters: Laliah, the Seraph of fire, was made petite and gentle in appearance, while Edna, the Seraph of earth, was both shorter than the other characters and wielded great power over a potent element. Extensive work was needed to make environments distinctive so players would not get lost during exploration. Anime studio Ufotable created the game's opening and anime cutscenes. Iwamoto worked with Ufotable to make sure the opening successfully conveyed the personalities of the main characters. Tatsuro Udo, battle programmer for Eternia, Rebirth and Graces, helped design the battle system. The battle system was intended to combine familiar elements from previous installments with new ideas intended to refresh the series. Creating the seamless transition between exploration and combat, as well as implementing Armitization, proved to be difficult for the team. The idea of encountering and fighting enemies in the same space as exploration was designed to help evoke a fresh sense of adventure for players, as the team felt the previous method of transferring to a separate battle arena was limiting the series' development. Until the battle system's completion, development other systems related to it was slow. As part of this development, a new engine had to be developed for the game rather than using the one used in the Xillia games. Because of a staff shortage, developing the game was harder than previous titles and took a longer time. The PlayStation 3 was chosen as the platform of release as the next generation of gaming hardware had yet to take off in Japan in terms of sales, and Bandai was unwilling to take the risk. Despite the high popularity of the PS4 in the west, no plans were made for a port to that console due to a shortage of manpower.
The music for Zestiria was composed by Motoi Sakuraba and Go Shiina. Due to the title's status as an anniversary title and the popularity of both composers with the Tales series fanbase, it was decided that they should co-compose the soundtrack. During his work on the project, Sakuraba was involved in the composition of over one hundred tracks. The standard and boss battle themes were intended to evoke the atmosphere of the series as a whole. Shiina encountered difficulties expressing his musical style in the soundtrack. He included choral work in some of the tracks related to the Seraphim. The game's official soundtrack was released on February 18, 2015. The game's theme song, "White Light", was composed and performed for the game by J-pop group Superfly. Superfly developed the song alongside the game, with the band being allowed to view the material for inspiration. The title was inspired by the idea of people starting out with a "white canvas" and coloring it through their lives. The single was released digitally on iTunes the day before Zestiria 's release. It will also be included as the lead single of Superfly's fifth album White, released on May 27, 2015.
Release and promotion
The Tales of Zestiria trademark was registered in Japan, Europe, and North America between August and September 2013. Bandai launched a website in November as a teaser campaign which counted down for December 12, 2013; A live stream date for Niconico went live after the countdown. The game was revealed through the live stream. Localizations for North America, South America, and Europe were announced afterwards. Shortly after the game's announcement, it was revealed that character designs and story writing were complete, while the battle system and graphics were still being finalized. In April, the game's characteristic genre name was unveiled as Jonetsu ga sekai o terasu RPG (情熱が世界を照らすRPG?, lit. "RPG of Passion Lighting the World"). The game was released in Japan on January 22, 2015, and is set for an international release in the Fall of 2015.
Starting in October 2014, Bandai Namco began a promotion campaign for the game, starting with offering Zestiria with a 30% price cut on PlayStation Network. PlayStation Plus members got a further 20% discount. A Zestiria-themed PS3 controller was released in Japan as part of a collaboration with video game accessory company Hori. It included a cleaning cloth featuring chibli renditions of the eight main characters. Lolita fashion brand Putumayo, who had previous collaborated on promotional clothing for Tales of Symphonia, designed clothing and jewellery based on the eight main characters. Figurines of Sorey and Alisha were also produced. After release, the game received two guides: a Complete Guide, published by Bandai Namco Entertainment in February 2015, and a Perfect Guide containing a full breakdown of the game and behind-the-scenes content, published by Enterbrain in April of the same year.
As part of the localization process for the game, Bandai Namco is working towards releasing the game across all regions within the same year, with the localization starting after the game had released in Japan. The motivation behind this was fan reaction to the delayed release of the Xillia games. The game's planned year of release in Japan was revealed at a Tales Of Festival in June 2014, while its exact release date and period of release in the west at that year's Tokyo Game Show. For the English release, the team actively considered including the Japanese vocal track as in Tales of Symphonia Chronicles. Dual audio was confirmed with the announcement of the game's western release window.
Multiple pre-order bonuses in the form of downloadable content (DLC) were created to promote the game. The standard bonuses were four new Mystic Artes for Lailah, Mikleo, and Alisha, plus limited rubber straps portraying the playable characters. A further offer for those who pre-ordered the game through 7-Eleven stores included special character costumes and a powerful healing ability for Sorey. Along with the pre-order DLC, Bandai Namco also created crossover character costumes based on the Rebuild of Evangelion film series for selected characters, and four playable characters from the raising simulation video game The Idolmaster One For All. They also created original Academy Costumes for the eight main characters. For the Idolmaster DLC costumes, the battle music changed to match the characters' appearances. There were further collaborative efforts with costumes based on characters from the manga Blue Exorcist, and attachments inspired by characters from Capcom's Sengoku Basara 4. In addition to these, there are also swimsuit costumes and outfits based on protagonists from previous Tales titles. Japanese players who kept save data from the Xillia games, and the PlayStation 3 ports of Vesperia and Graces, unlocked attachments themed after the main protagonists of those games. After release, further DLC in the form of further costumes, cosmetic accessories, and free skits. Delivery of these and other DLC ended in March 2015. A downloadable scenario titled Alisha After Episode: What is Reflected in the Eyes (アリーシャ アフターエピソード －瞳にうつるもの－ Arīsha Afutā Episōdo -Hitomi ni Utsuru Mono-?), featuring Alisha and Rosé in a post-endgame scenario, was released on February 12, 2015. The scenario can be played without needing to complete the main game, with the playable characters' stats carried over from the main game. To celebrate the series anniversary and the game's initial sales, the company made the scenario free until February 26.
A made-for-television anime film titled Tales of Zestiria ～Dawn of the Monk～ (テイルズ オブ ゼスティリア ～導師の夜明け～?, Teiruzu Obu Zesutiria: ～Dōshi no Yoake～) was produced to promote the game. It was animated by Ufotable, and distributed by Bandai Namco Games. The anime depicts the opening part of the game, where Sorey trains to become a Shepherd and first encounters Alisha and Lunarre. The anime was directed by Haruo Tonosaki, produced by Baba, and scored by Sakuraba and Shiina. Given the costs associated with including the anime with the game on a Blue-ray hybrid disc, the company was originally opposed to its creation. Despite this, Baba wanted to create the anime as part of the 20th anniversary series celebrations related to the game. It was first broadcast on December 30, 2014 on Tokyo MX and Kyoto Broadcasting System, and on December 31 on BS11. It was subsequently broadcast through January on Kochi TV, Okayama Broadcasting, Ehime Asahi Television and Bandai Channel. It was repeated again on January 20 to commemorate the release of the game. The anime is included on the game's disc.
A manga adaptation written and illustrated by Shiramine, titled Tales of Zestiria: The Time of Guidance (テイルズ オブ ゼスティリア: 導きの刻?, Teiruzu Obu Zesutiria: Michibiki no Koku), begins serialization in Japan on January 28, 2015 in Monthly Comic Zero Sum. An official novelization of the opening part of the game, written by Sawako Hirabayashi, was released on April 30, 2015.
According to Media Create, Zestiria topped the Japanese sales charts upon release, selling 340,891 units, beating The Legend of Legacy for the Nintendo 3DS and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse for Wii U. A week after release, Bandai Namco announced that the game had sold over 400,000 units. At the 2014 Japan Game Awards after that year's Tokyo Game Show, Zestiria was among the games that won the "Future Division" award. The game also received the Platinum award from Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu upon release.
The story and characters were praised by Famitsu and fellow gaming magazine Dengeki PlayStation: Famitsu called the former "epic" and the latter "charming". Dengeki generally referred to Zestiria as the Tales series' "finest masterpiece". Erren van Duine, writing for PlayStation Lifestyle, called the characters "likable" and praised the first half of the story, but felt that the narrative "fell flat" during the second half.
Famitsu positively noted a noticeable "evolution" in the interaction between battles and navigation, described the battles as exciting and found the Armitization feature worked smoothly. The main point of criticism was the environmental interaction, which grew tiresome once the player grew used to all the skills. Duine said that, while not perfect, the battle transition "[provided] a greater sense of environment rather than shifting to an instanced zone.", while Dengeki PlayStation positively noted smooth gameplay, "seamless" transition from navigation to battle, and the ability to retry battles after being defeated. A common issue raised by the reviewers was the camera behavior, which was generally described as wayward or distracting.
Some other issues were raised, with Famitsu citing obscure tutorials as one of the game's weak points. Duine, while praising the art style, noted multiple dips in frame rate and uneven graphics quality, showing that the hardware was having trouble coping with the game.
There was a large degree of negative player feedback after release concerning the handling of playable characters, in particular the fact that Alisha was not playable through most of the game despite her prominent presence in early promotional material. It was further inflamed by the announcement of Alisha After Episode, with many saying that Alisha's absence from the second half of the game was an excuse to monetize the character. During an appearance at the Taipei Game Show, Baba said that the appearance of characters in promotional material reflected their order of appearance in the game rather than their importance or prominence in the game. He also stated that the story did not have a specific heroine, leaving players the freedom to choose one for themselves. Later, Baba elaborated to Famitsu that the material sent to publications did not specifically refer to Alisha as the game's heroine, although the development team for mobile spin-off Tales of Asteria including information describing Alisha as Zestiria 's heroine, much to Baba's regret. He further stated that Alisha's story role is important despite her early departure, and that the ability for Rosé to wear Alisha's DLC costumes was kept quiet to avoid spoiling the story. Bandai Namco are keeping the situation in mind while considering whether to release Alisha After Episode with the main game or as a standalone product in the west.
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