Alright so I know I don’t usually use this forum to post anything of significance, but I was recently inspired to write down my feelings about the JRPG (not the Japanese ridiculously photogenic guy) market; specifically the Tales series.
For those of you unfamiliar, I’m referring to Namco Bandai’s long-running game series with hilarious and undefinable titles like “Tales of Symphonia” or “Tales of Legendia”. They typically feature multicolored haired youths who are on a mission to save the universe with the power of friendship.
Definitely not the emotional roller coaster of Final Fantasy’s early years, Tales games tend to be a bit more light hearted with cuter characters. Now at my age, I probably shouldn’t be getting so engrossed in these titles, but being a 25 year old white male has not stopped me from enjoying playing as a pink-haired Gothic Lolita with a cow-sized axe as a weapon.
I think that’s what has been the draw for me in all of these games, the fantastical. Namco/Bandai goes all out on it’s design, not skimping for realism. Tales of Symphonia was a perfect gateway drug for my middle school mind. I truly believed that with enough training montages, I could leave home with my half-elf best friend, double swords, and save the world with the power bestowed upon me by my angel father.
Craziness. I know. But that’s what’s going through a 14 year old’s mind. The world is too big and scary to comprehend, but if you view it through the lens of a super human child, you can conquer anything.
As my gaming library matured, so did my perspective. Around “of the Abyss” I started to realize the futility of this all. I knew exactly what was going to happen with every single character before I even met them. I would glance at the game cover and point to each one,
Cool looking strong guy? Dark past and funny older brother type.
Sexy vixen with an asymmetrical haircut? Extremely reserved until she learns to trust others.
Cool looking dogwolf with a pipe in it’s mouth? Awesome.
My childlike wonderment was lost. I saw through what I considered deep and complex characters and found a formulaic building block for a large company looking to exploit japanophiles for more cash. But that didn’t stop me from picking up the next game.
Standing in line at Gamestop, waiting to with Mass Effect 3 in my hand, I glance over at a display for Tales of Graces f. Yes, the f is in the title and it is lower case. Don’t try to figure it out. It was coming out in two days and I remember saying to myself, “Huh, I guess I’ll get it.” I just settled for it. I knew I was powerless to stop my addiction and just resigned myself to another predictable 50+ hours of game play and character arcs.
Just look at that cover. Just in time for Easter right? This ragtag group of pastel’d kids are yet again flung into an Apocalypse, despite with more than half the group being under the legal drinking age. I felt no emotional attachment to anything in this game. It felt like a 14 year old girl was writing a bad fanfic with her original characters.
Just look at the opening for the game and try and guess who the target demographic is.
The gameplay was stale, half the time I just put the battles on “auto” while I browsed Reddit. At no point was I surprised with what happened and when I casually beat the final boss, I just watched the final credits and imagined each character growing old and dying alone.
But looking back, this game would have been perfect for my middle school self. Why was I not getting the fulfillment from games that I once did? I felt empty and had zero sense of accomplishment.
While in this desperate search for meaning, I heard of the upcoming release of Tales of Xillia. Yes, Xillia. I checked out the opening, and I hate to say it but I’m hooked.
I know I’m probably falling back into that same hole, but something sparked my interest. These characters look vaguely normal, they have normal hair colors, the scenes look a bit darker and I can’t get this song out of my head. That’s when I realized it wasn’t the game I was looking forward to, it was the possibility of a sense of nostalgia.
Since I could start buying my own games, I think that I’ve been in search of a game that doesn’t appeal to my younger self, but makes me appreciate the games of the past. A game that takes everything I loved and turns it into something adult but without going too violent.
The Tales games will always be predictable and fun for me, like going home. But I cannot stay home my entire life. I need to figure out what it is I love about these titles and look for them in a more adult-friendly game.