As I mentioned a little while ago, Tales of Zestiria is the first JRPG I’ve played in a very long time. The last one I played was Final Fantasy back in January 2017. I picked it and it’s prequel-sequel Tales of Berseria up during the Steam sale because I had wanted to play them for a while and nothing else was catching my eye.
I had some doubts that this game was for me at the beginning. I didn’t know what to expect going in, this being my first “Tales of” game. If you don’t like your game filled to the brim with cut scenes this is not the game for you. Especially in the at the start it felt like there was a cut scene every five minutes. Then there was the weird battle system which the game throws a lot of information about at you for a while. I also couldn’t get past the fact that even when I had my character set on manual he’d only move in a straight line.
But I had heard it was good and I pushed on through the first few hours. Gradually it became much more enjoyable. I got used to the pacing of the game and I was really enjoying the story. It’s nota ground breaking narrative just your average hero’s journey. The main character Sorey is a human who grew up with Seraphim, kind of like spirits, and sets out on a quest with his best friend to see the world. Turns out most humans can’t see Seraphim, so Sorey spends a good portion of the first act talking to himself in public. Along the way he becomes the Shepard, aka the chosen one, who has the responsibility to defeat the Lord of Calamity. Cue the game play equivalent of a montage as you collect your various party members for the second act. The third act is running around the world learning how to use your new found powers and helping out in the various cities. The Act 4, it’s time to take down the Big Bad Lord of Calamity.
It’s pretty standard stuff but what I really enjoyed was that it never took itself too seriously. It’s very light-hearted and is full of bright happy colors. Even the darker aspects of the story overly dramatic. Which is kind of weird because at one point you come across a group of dead children. This is probably one of the only games I’ve played where I’ve seen that.
JRPG’s live and die by their battle system because there usually isn’t too much else to do outside of it. Tales of Zestiria almost died for me. Even after reading the walls of text the game through at me I still wasn’t getting it. Plus it was really frustrating that I could only move in a straight line. I never thought I’d be so happy to unlock the ability to move left and right. About 10 hours in it finally clicked with me and I started to enjoy the battles a lot more. Essentially you have a set of moves and that have elemental properties and enemies are weak to certain elements. I have no idea why this took me so long to grasp but it might be because it was coupled with a stamina bar that I didn’t understand only replenished when you guarded. Once I figured that out things ran a bit more smoothly. The game also never stops with the tutorials for combat it adds on a few more things but then you can find these stones out in the world with different tool tips for combat. I think it’s a great system because it can be as deep or shallow as you want it to be and still enjoy the game.
The last time I wrote about this game I was about halfway through and I was questioning whether it was a good game or I just thought it was good because it was different than what I had been playing. I can confidently say that after 45 hours it was a good game. And what made it a good game for me was the characters. As generic as the story is it works because of the cast of characters. Sure they all fall into your stereotypical tropes but I really liked all of them. Those cut scenes that pop up so often help build up the characters and their relationships. There are these visual novel-esque cut scenes that pop up when you rest at an in or find a point of interest that further develop the characters. A lot of them may be one or two dimensional personalities but you spend so much time listening to them interact that they become a fuller character.
I think I’ll hold off on playing Tales of Berseria for now. I was getting antsy towards the end of Zestiria. For as good as it was it overstayed it’s welcome just a tad to long. I wouldn’t have minded it but 5 or so hours before the end of the game the story seems to be saying “This way to the end boss” and then decides that it wants to take you down one more side story arc before the end. I also forgot that final bosses in JRPS’s usually have multiple forms. I ended up using a lot of items on the first fight because he was 20 levels higher than me. Then the second form came and my heart sank. I didn’t want to spend a few more hours grinding to beat it so I had to turn the difficulty down form moderate e to simple. I wanted to see how the story would end.
*Side note: I don’t usually care much about video game music but the music in this is freaking awesome!