Completing My First “Tales” Game! | Blogmas 2017 Day 7

Hey everyone, welcome to day 7 of Blogmas!

Another quickie today, but a celebration nonetheless! This past early spring, I completed my first Tales game. For those unfamiliar with the massive franchise, the title Tales refers to a sprawling series of games, most unrelated, created by the game company Bandai Namco in Japan. They’re known for their iconic and elaborate character designs, fantasy-inspired landscapes, Celtic-inspired soundtracks, and most of all, their deep, thought-provoking adventure stories that can take just as long as a Final Fantasy game to complete. We’re talking about clocking no less than 30 hours per game!

Anyway, the Tales franchise means a lot to me. Not because I am overly familiar with the gameplay (as you can see by the title of this post, I’ve actually played very little Tales in my life T__T), but because I get my roots as a fan of entertainment in general from the fantasy genre, the Tales franchise being rich in the source. I’m a kid born and raised on attending Renaissance Festivals and Madrigal Feasts, often loosing myself in the adventurous worlds of tabletop gaming like (our adapted version of) HeroQuest (anyone remember that), TCGs like Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, books like John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, or even iconic films of the genre, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to name a couple. I love fantasy—essentially, its themes of valor, honor, and justice compose my heart for entertainment.

Most importantly, Tales of Symphonia: The Animation is one of only a handful of shows to get me started on anime. If  didn’t come across the Japanese opening of the game, “Starry Heavens,” which I’ll link below, I would never have discovered the wondrous world of Japanese animation.

So here we go: to the best of my ablility, I will briefly discuss my experiences playing both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Zestiria on the PS3 from the weak non-gamer perspective that I have!

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Loose Discussions on My Experiences Playing a “Tales” Game

(These will DEFINITELY NOT be formal reviews.)

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Tales of Symphonia

Looking back on it, Symphonia‘s anime does a really, really good job at sticking to its source material. It’s got all the major locations, major backstory elements pertaining to the main characters, and even some of the minor characters. Heck, even most of the theme songs for specific characters and towns were brought back for the anime! But this isn’t about the anime, I suppose. Back to the game.

One of the biggest problems I had with the game was the use of annoying side mazes that involved using a “magic ring” to properly traverse. It’s gimmicks like these that tend to ward me off of games—I JUST WANT TO SEE THE STORY. Some of those were really hard, too; as a beginner, I found myself referring to YouTube walkthroughs more and more as the game’s climax neared just to get passed these stupid little travel puzzles.

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OH MY GOD WELGAIA’S FREAKIN FLOORS SCREW THIS

Another beef I had with it was the English audio. As a who’s fan loyal to what I hear first, that being the anime in fansubs, I couldn’t stand the English voices for Lloyd or Zelos. This was easily fixed by changing the game’s audio back to the original Japanese, however, so it’s not so much of a problem as it was just a preference. Raine’s VA for both  was good though, so way to go Kari Wahlgren!

Where it has its minor issues, I found myself immensely enjoying all of the sidequests or story elements that were dropped in the anime adaptation; piecing together the events and locations, however major or minor, that were missing from the anime was tons of fun, as I learned many new things about Symphonia‘s two worlds and their peoples. And while I did think that the final confrontation with Mithos, the ultimate antagonist, was a bit lousy in game format (or at least it had way less of an emotional appeal to it, though movies do tend to resonate with me more), I much rather preferred the game’s handling of tying up all the loose ends—specifically, resolving the pact with Origin and the birth of the new World Tree. It had more time to fully explain itself, and now after all these years I FINALLY understand who Origin is! Woohoo!

All-in-all, finally getting around to playing (and actually finishing, holy shit) Tales of Symphonia (PS3) after six LONG years of putting it off, I can’t help but feeling so complete—the story has finally come full-circle, the adaption introducing me to anime as a media and the PS3 game engrossing me in JRPGs. Do I now despise the anime for excluding so many “crucial” plot points? Absolutely not. I still hold Tales of Symphonia: The Animation in the highest regard, as it’s still a beautiful, moving tale of the harsh realities of racism and revenge, and the hope that comes with uniting two fundamentally broken worlds—I love both iterations of the story, and I probably always will. I DO recommend both the anime and the game, so pick your poison and head out on your own adventure ASAP! (Or be like me and experience both! More Symphonia is a very good thing.)

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Ultimately, I was just so happy I could say I completed my first Tales game, but I immediately knew that It wouldn’t be the last. In fact, my second Tales adventure was awaiting me just around the corner—the end of a good school year, and the start of a brilliant summer!

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Tales of Zestiria

I remember seeing a promotional poster for the anime Tales of Zestiria the X circulating years back, and I do recall being excited for it despite not knowing anything other than that it was another Tales adaptation by the GOD STUDIO, Ufotable. After getting to see the English voice actor for Zestiria‘s MC, Robbie Daymond, in person at this year’s Naka-Kon, I knew the first thing to do as soon as I got home: purchase the PS3 game (I actually ended up doing it in the hotel room, tho >.<).

My recent success with Symphonia set my passions ablaze for tackling the next big JRPG. Once you’ve played one JRPG, you’ve played them all, right? Or perhaps, you want to play them all. From the reviews alone, I already knew that this one was going to be the easiest-to-understand in the entire franchise so far, and that it was arguably the “not-very-smart one” in the series. The character designs charmed me too much, however, and the sparkling armitization sequences just blew me away! The real draw-in for this series, voice actor meeting aside, was the anime’s OP theme, “Kaze no Uta” by FLOW. It was just the smooth, crisp 60 fps display plus the ridiculously catchy tune that made this show a MUST for me. Anyone see a trend here?

That’s right, both Tales games that I have played drew me in through their gorgeous, catchy openings. I suppose that should speak volumes about their music choice and soundtracks, no? Easily some of the best stuff I’ve ever listened to. And I still jam to this song every time I’m working out (which is rare) or whenever I need something to lift my spirits (which is often).

Unlike Symphonia, however, Zestiria had yet another thing winning for it: the fandom. Oh the ships, all the ships, I tells ya!! I’m such a sucker for anything Sorey and Mikleo, Alisha and Lailah. They’re all just so pretty, AHH!!

EHERM. Tales of Zestiria, despite all my senseless fanboying, is a beloved game that, honestly, treads many of the same lines that Symphonia did: two races trying to coexist, one “chosen” person designated to heal the land, a loudmouth (yet adorable) MC and his reserved, intelligent best friend. “Best friend ;)” All of the parallels and similarities just make me glad that Zestiria, though argued as the “dumb one,” was my second Tales game.

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As a PS3 game itself, the reviews ARE true in that the game is likely one of the easier ones in the franchise. I had very few problems in it . . . as in literally none at all. Sure, the story isn’t as deep or intricate (or emotional) as I would have wanted it to be (AKA more like Symphonia’s darkness), but that in itself makes Zestiria‘s almost overwhelming optimism contagious, and fun to play regardless of whatever mood you’re in. The visuals are, holy god almighty, some of the finest I’ve ever seen in gaming (THOSE SKIES THO F*CK ME), and the orchestral soundtrack should be on EVERY tabletop gamer’s background music playlist. Like, shit, need something that sounds absolutely LEGENDARY for a whole freakin’ hour, here you go:

To recap the Zestiria (PS3) experience, it was easy, simple, fantasy fun at its finest. You don’t need to collect many bonus items (if any at all, I skipped most of them), and the fights themselves are, WOAH, WHAT’S THIS, the most FUN part of the gameplay! I’m no gamer, and I found swingin’ around Sorey’s massive armitized swords, bow, giant fists—what have you—to be greatly pleasurable. If you’re not looking for the deepest Tales game, but one that’s great for a first-timer, Zestiria is the one for you. I recommend it.

FUN FACT: After meeting Robbie Daymond, I played through all of the game in English and loved it—proof that once again, whatever you hear first is likely your favorite. I was also incredibly hyped for the anime adaption, as it looks like the best thing to come from Ufotable besides Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, and that’s one of the most top-tier anime you could ask for! I’m currently watching the anime, and while the inclusion of the Berseria *promotional episodes* were pointless and time-draining, it’s a pretty good show. I won’t make any judgement calls now, but I’d love to review it whenever I finish! Also, for all I know, Berseria could very well end up being my next Tales game to experience, as it, too . . . well, I bet you can already guess.

It had a rockin’ OP. 🙂

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What did you think of Symphonia or Zestiria? Any opinions on their anime adaptations, either? For the record, I have seen the Tales of the Abyss anime, but that was also very long ago, so want to rewatch that some day. Lastly, are there any particular favorites or recommendations from the Tales franchise out there? Let me know! I’ve heard that Symphonia is actually one of the bests, and though I haven’t played the others, I’m gonna probably call it as my favorite. Sorry, it’s just first-timer’s bias. This wrap up Blogmas Day Seven of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

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Halfway into the Summer Simulcast Season | End of July Update 8/8/17

That’s right, we’re halfway through the summer of anime! Even though school kicks up in a couple of weeks for many (myself unfortunately included), at least we’ll still have the exciting finales of many great titles to look forward to. Speaking of, what have I been following this summer? Let’s take a look!

But before we dive into what’s new, despite the lack of reviews I’ve actually watched a lot of anime this summer. For the recently finished titles, I’ll be looking as far back as the end of May until now. Crazy behind, I know! Also, I’ve got pictures in my updates now, so that’s cool!

Recently Finished:

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Bungo Stray Dogs Season I – Bungo Stray Dogs fans already form this occult following; either you love it and are willing to buy everything Bungo, or you’re just biting your nails until it’s over. I found myself on the latter side, but hear me out!! Animation: awesome. Characters: great amusement. Story: entertaining enough. So where did it go wrong for me? It lies in the identities of the characters, or rather, who they are pingbacks to in history. From what I grasped, each boy identified as an allusion to a famous author in history. Half the fun of the show was, like with Fate or Touken Ranbu, probably in seeing how these historical figures interacted with one another, and sadly, my literary history is quite lacking! Maybe I’ll give the second season a try, but I’m in no hurry at the moment.

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Buddy Complex – This was actually a title I was intending on reviewing once I finished, but I got caught up in other things before that could happen. Anyway, Buddy Complex is a title that went unnoticed as it aired—it even got a release by Funimation, sub only, though. That’s sad, cause I would’ve bought the heck out of a dub! I LOVED this anime. While it felt so cheesy and cliche at first, it kept on making all of these nonsensical calls that only made me curious as to how badly it would crash and burn in the end. Surprisingly, I found myself enthralled with how everything came together. It only goes to show how much a little OVA or two can make the world of difference. Definitely glad I didn’t give up on Buddy Complex, and hey, maybe I’ll revisit it when I pick up the Blu-ray.

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Hanasaku Iroha – If there’s one title I’ll remember for my 2017 summer, it’ll be this one. So soft and sweet but knows when to throw down the hammer, Hanasaku Iroha stands as another WIN for P.A. Works, and a huge victory for slice-of-life/drama shows. I could go on, but I actually tied my review for it into this month’s OWLS post, a two for one you could say! Here it is in case you missed it!

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Corpse Party – Ugh, I knew what I was getting myself into before I even started. Watched it with a couple of friends, one who said that we had to watch it. It wasn’t fun. At least I didn’t waste too much time on this shit show.

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Eureka Seven – Do you know of that one title that EVERYONE loved but you didn’t? For me, it’s Eureka Seven, and this is particularly tragic considering as I was really hoping to walk out of it claiming it to be perfect. I mean, it’s got all of the elements of a mecha anime that I love, but it was the characters that dropped the ball for me. All of the Gekkostate crew were dicks to Renton, and rather than taking the time to work him into the team, showing the audience some of their personalities in the process, they all either picked on him or ignored the poor guy! I guess they were certainly a realistic bunch, but not a crew that I would ever want—and these are supposed to be the good guys! The whole way I kept telling myself, “It’s gonna get better, it’s gonna get better,” and when it finally did in those last 12 episodes, it soon after ended. It’s the first time community hype has ever failed me. I’m still eager to watch the three new films within the coming years; maybe those will change my mind about the series.

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Fate/Grand Order: First Order – Anyone else utterly consumed by the Fate/Grand Order mobile game? If I ever have a spare hour, you know what I’ll be doing: plugging away, earning gold four-star EXP cards until the next story update. Anyway, this is just a 45-min adaptation of the game’s beginning, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I could have watched more for sure. Like the recent Fate trend, it wasn’t done by Ufotable, but whoever did make it did a pretty solid job with it. Nothing too fancy, but pretty cool for those playing the game. Otherwise it’s a pass.

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KADO: The Right Answer – Unlike what the popular opinion about the ending is, this was a show that intrigued me from beginning to end, making me ponder endless hours as to the possibilities, the what-ifs, and could-have-beens about our own universe. KADO may have been done up in 100% CG, but not only is it good CG, the impossibly smooth texture of the models gives the series that extra edge, making it feel all the more otherworldly and spatial. The series is about a cube measuring 1 kilometer on each side (I think) that suddenly lands on a Japanese airport runway. A mysterious man calling himself a being from outside the universe offers mankind gifts beyond comprehension, but they may only keep those gifts if they make the right answers to his actions. Awesome show, might have to review!

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The Vision of Escaflowne – I DID IT LITA, I FINISHED IT!!! About a year ago, Funimation created a Kickstarter for the show’s 20th anniversary and a new English dub to go along with it. I supported it, and when I received the first part in the limited edition box I remember being overjoyed! It was my first Kickstarter, after all, so it kinda felt like owning a piece of history that I contributed to. I finally picked up part 2 this summer, watched it all, and finished just a couple days ago. While I was simply swept of my feet with the first half, the second started off pretty rough. At least it pulled itself together for the ending, and I’m glad to have watched another 90s gem. Will review this one for sure, so please look forward to that!

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Divine Gate – Hahaha I can’t believe I’m using my free 2-week Funimation trial for this dumbass show. I finished this one earlier this morning, and while the English dub was quite satisfactory, everything else about it . . . wasn’t. Like Buddy Complex and KADO, it was the trailer that convinced me to watch it, even if the YT comments were screaming otherwise. Call me a badass. But yeah, it had an exciting premise with decent animation to back it up (granted that other than the characters it was all CG), but man, either it needed a longer run than 12 episodes or Studio Pierrot (Tokyo Ghoul) just reeeaaallly sucks at adaptations. It was a tolerable show, but it’s not anything to write home about.

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Tales of Zestiria (PS3) – Takuto played a game?! Yup, gotta do anything for the Tales franchise! This marks my second Tales game, first being Symphonia. While Symphonia offered a much, much better story (it’s actually one of my favorite stories in any media ever!), Zestiria‘s gameplay was a lot more fun—and easier, at that. For me, a person who does very little gaming, that’s incredibly important. I set out on this adventure after meeting Robbie Daymond at Naka-kon. He’s the Viz Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, Prompto from what is it Final Fantasy IV(?), and he’s Sorey from Zestiria. It inspired me to hear more of him, and seeing as how I’m already acquitted with the Tales franchise, and that I had been anticipating watching the anime for MONTHS now, I just put it all together! Fun game with great, playful characters. I’m very much excited to finally start the anime!

Currently Watching:

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My Hero Academia Season 2 – I mean, who’s NOT watching this show by now?? It’s the new hottest thing, all the kids love it, and I’m no exception. After the dazzling events of the sports festival AKA TOURNAMENT ARC (which I binge-watched), things had settled down in Izuku Midoriya’s world for just a second before rapidly picking back up again, reminding us that even in a world of tournaments and school games, the kids are being trained to be heroes, and heroes have to fight villains. As the second half of this sequel takes MHA back to its roots, I can’t help but miss the true fun and excitement of the tournament. My eyes are still yearning for more Todoroki being his half-n-half badass self, and the thrill of Bakugo’s explosive attitude (and powers), but season 2 is all about the original story, and I guess that’s A-OK too. It still has about 6 episodes to go, so hopefully it can peak the excitement that the first half boasted by the end!

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Re:CREATORS – This show was my EVERYTHING when I was marathoning the first 12 episodes that had already aired. Now, not so much. The show is still very good, still visually pleasing and entertaining as a story. I think it’s just the shift from watching the beginning straight through to now where I catch an episode each week. It feels very slow now, and I don’t want to blame the story on that if it’s just the way that I’m consuming the show. Re:CREATORS was a show that I myself hyped up on Twitter a couple seasons back, which has a stacked production cast including Ei Aoki (Fate/Zero) as director, Hiroyuki Sawano on music, and TROYCA as the studio, three components that made up the exciting guilty pleasure of mine: ALDNOAH.ZERO. It’s a show about popular manga and anime characters that are brought to our world by a woman in a strange military/priestess outfit, proclaiming to the creations to force their creators to change their worlds. It’s easily the most interesting simulcast I’ve watched in a while, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

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Fate/Apocryhpa – Did someone wish for a year of Fate? Well, with Fate/Grand Order, Fate/Extella, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel, and the newest adaptation to this perplexing arena, Fate?Apocrypha, it might feel this way. I’m a HUGE fan of this franchise, but I am a stranger to this tale about the Great Holy Grail War. Set in an alternate universe to Fate/stay night in where, during the Third War the Grail was stolen by the Yggdmillenia family (that name tho), the Mages Association must reclaim the relic before the family goes too crazy with it. Noticing the intended competition, the Grail conjures up 7 servants of Black to serve the Yggdmillenia family and 7 servants of Red for the Mages Association in addition to one Ruler class servant to oversee the war. It’s a clusterfudge of 14 vs. 14 and all I can say is that I’m glad this show was announced with 26 episodes cause MAN, I DO NOT KNOW ANYONE. JK, I’m slowly picking up names and goals, but if there isn’t some big fighting soon then I’m gonna be in a fit. Rather than Ufotable at the helm it’s A-1 Pictures, and while I’d like to complain, so far I can’t. I can feel the hard work that’s being put into the animation to compensate for Ufotable’s signature high quality style, and so long as the characters keep on interacting and learning about one another, I think the show will turn out just fine.

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DIVE!! – This is by far the quietest entry on my simulcast list. Very few people are tagging along with the MDC boys and their journey to the Olympics simply because, well, it’s unremarkable so far. Unfamiliar viewers have been labeling it as another Free!, but we all know it’s far inferior to that beloved title. Animation is pretty average, but the art of the characters does look quite nice. Also, I’ve been jamming to the nostalgic qualities of the ending song!! Something about it reminds me of good times I used to have, IDK. If DIVE!! is lucky, it’ll complete its run telling a full story all on its own, because I know very few would stick around for a sequel—if it even got one. Still, I like DIVE!!, and yes, I’ll keep on watching. 🙂

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Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU – If there’s one show I’ll drop this season, here it is. No, it’s not because the show is bad by any means, it’s just that I am a complete stranger to this generally otome-catered title. It’s sword boys the anime, what can I say? From what I’ve grasped (ha, grasped), it’s about famous Japanese swords that are reincarnated as bishi boys to stop an organization that threatens to alter the course of history throughout time. Did I get that right? I just wished Ufotable took up Apocrypha instead of this because so far, while it’s a very pretty show, I’m still wondering when the main course is supposed to be served.

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Welcome to the Ballroom – Annnnd I’ve saved my favorite for last, BALLROOM E YOUKOSOOOO!!! I love everything about this anime, from the sharp character designs and snappy, fluid dance movement to the soft color palette it has. This anime has reigned as most people’s No.1 title for this summer, My Hero Academia aside since it technically is a spring leftover. The show is about Tatara, a young boy who falls in love with professional ballroom dancing after being saved by Sengoku, a dance coach, from some bullies. He’s invited to the studio, where he becomes entranced by his secret idol at school, the beautiful Shizuku Hanaoka. Shortly after, Tatara finds himself taking up lessons in anticipation to one day earn the right to dance with Shizuku on the ballroom floor. The problem is that he’s not the only one that’s head-over-heels for Shizuku, so unless he practices hard he’ll lose the girl and possibly much more! It’s a sports anime that takes me back to when I simulcasted my first sports anime, Free!. While I was hoping for DIVE!! to bring me back to those days, Ballroom has outclassed it in all areas. As the exciting opening song invites us onto the floor and the waltz-like ending theme brings the day to a close, I look forward to this show each and every week! Bless Ballroom and its 24-episode run!!

*deep inhale* And that’s what I’ve been watching lately. Thanks to the NOT-SO-LOVELY services that are Netflix and *shudders* Amazon Prime, I’ve been left with little option but to find my anime elsewhere, as I am not supporting giants that I know can get their money from other resources. That said, it’s been kinda hard moving around the various sites, and it reminds me of days where I did nothing but pirate. I don’t like to do it, but I do help when I can by paying for a Crunchyroll membership, buying Blu-rays (frequently), and very soon, paying for a FunimationNow membership. Sometimes we’re left with very little choice, and I like to think I’m still helping out.

If you didn’t already know, my lack of content here stems from some house/room remodeling and simply not wanting to write. Part of that was also my job, where I work as a lifeguard. When we work, it’s not a shift, but open to close. That means that, on the days where I work, very little watching can get done, meaning less time to review, too. Summer is coming to an end, and so is life-guarding. Maybe now I’ll get more watching, gaming, reading, and blogging in. Sound like a good plan?

Summers are hot where I live. At its peak, it was +100 degrees F for weeks at a time, but now it’s dropped quite a bit to the 80s~90s, and on a day like today, 75 and cloudy, the best kind of days. As a whole, I’m still pretty excited with all of the simulcasts that I’m following, and hopefully my interest lasts until the end of the season where I can review the ones that came out on top! I want to know what you’re watching, too, or if I should be watching something else! Let me know in the comments and (after I catch up on all of the others I’ve left unanswered) we can talk about them! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host