Tales Games Aren’t RPGs, Says Tales of the Abyss Producer

By Laura . June 23, 2011 . 7:35pm

In a recent Iwata Asks interview, the producer of Tales of the Abyss, Makoto Yoshizumi, states that the games in the Tales of series has always been in a precarious balance. Reflecting upon the series, he says that, on one hand, it was always important to know your fans.


Yoshizumi would be present at game stores on opening day, standing there anxiously and watching the games leave the shelves, case by case. He would observe the customers, and note what the people wanted, what they bought, what they would like, and what kind of people they were.


(Usually it would be teenagers, but sometimes it would be moms buying for their kids, and dads trying to peer at a name on a little piece of paper.)


But just going by what the fan requested was the safe route. To surprise them, the creators would have to take risks. The games needed to be special, to stand out. For example, during the era the first game in the series was released, it was enough to create a game that had voices and songs (which was impressive, given the specs of the systems available at the time) such that it sold relatively well despite being released at the same time as Dragon Quest. While the number wasn’t extremely high, the data showed that those who played were very interested in it, Yoshizumi noted.


To determine what to change, it was first necessary to determine what defined Tales. According to Yoshizumi, this was the characters. According to him, players should be able to empathize with everyone in the games — even the enemies. No, especially the enemies. The villains aren’t pure evil, Yoshizumi believes. They’re fighting for their own beliefs just like the heroes are. Everyone is multi-faceted and flawed, making them and the world believable. To make them more relatable, Yoshizumi made sure to make their ideas ones we, in the modern world, could relate to and understand.


Ironically, Yoshizumi doesn’t completely consider Tales to be an RPG. The series isn’t about role-playing, he says. The player isn’t playing with the protagonist as their “alter ego,” but rather he or she is playing to learn about the characters and to watch them change and grow (he termed this “Character Playing Game”).


This is actually the reason that each game in the series is assigned a “______ RPG” genre (for example, the genre of Tales of Symphonia is “an RPG that resonates with you” and Tales of Vesperia is “the RPG in which ‘Justice’ is enforced”). Yoshizumi doesn’t feel that the games were quite like the usual RPGs, and while he’d love to call them something else, using a term other than RPG would just induce confusion.


In his words, “Everyone calls it an RPG, but it’s really not, so I’m sorry [for tricking you].”


As for Tales of the Abyss, that’s “an RPG where one learns the reason for one’s existence” (or simply, “to learn the meaning of one’s birth” RPG). It’s a game about discovering yourself, Yoshizumi says. Back during its first release in 2005, the Tales series was celebrating its 10th anniversary, so Yoshizumi decided to take a little risk. He made the protagonist of Abyss someone who was very selfish and annoying in the beginning. Someone who most players would probably hate, and, over the course of the game, turned him into someone likeable, that the rest of the party would look at and come to say, “Huh, Luke’s not that bad.” The progression of the story followed the same pattern.


While they knew that this would drive away many a player, Yoshizumi hoped that those who continued through the game would love the game all the more because of this growth. He didn’t want a story where “the fated protagonist had a perfect life and a perfect upbringing, and he grew up to defeat the demon king.” He wanted a story with a party that consisted of flawed characters. Abyss, in particular, is filled to the brim with such characters — ones who act stupid, but are actually hiding something or
ones that look cute, but actually have a connection with the enemy.


Because this was the installment that everyone put the most effort into, Yoshizumi urges new and old players alike to try it on the Nintendo 3DS.

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  • Interesting :D!, well, all rpgs have their own way of doing things, this is what makes them wonderful.

    And damn, the day i can BUY THE GAME WITH ONE OF THE MAKERS OF THAT GAME WATCHING ME.I would have reached the perfect state of my life, the perfect balance…! I would need no more, and i would need no less…

  • I understand what the producer is saying. I loved Abyss a lot, and I could relate. I love the characters in many Tales games… that’s how many Tales games differ form other RPGs… (even though its ‘considered’ not to be one) Great series. Keep it up.

  • At last, a Japanese person acknowledges that (J)RPGs should not be called RPGs.

    If only the genre’s name could be changed so easily…! ;_;

    • SolidusSnake

      Stop drinking the damn Bioware kool-aid, plenty of “JRPGs” are definitely role-playing games, take any of the Shin Megami Tensei titles for example.

      • But is that the only example you got? Exemplifying just one series won’t prove a point. Those are defined as Role Playing Games, but what about the rest of the “RPGs” since the early 2000s? Nearly all of them are “Character Playing Games.” Creating such a genre is so easy, yet mysteriously avoided. It’s like Galileo knowing the ultimate truth that planets don’t revolve around the Earth.

        • SolidusSnake

          How about Atelier, Ar Tonelico, Star Ocean, or any game that gives you dialogue options, the chance to develop relationships with NPCs, and alternate endings? Since in the end, the choices you make in Bioware RPGs ultimately amount to alternate endings and which NPC your character bangs. Whether you want to consider these games “RPGs” or not depends on how many hairs you want to split over the term.

          If you want to get really technical I guess the elder scrolls series are the most “true” role-playing games on the market, since you can skip the main quest entirely and spend months of your life screwing around and living the life of your character. I knew a guy who spent several hundred hours in Morrowind and never even touched the main quest because he was too busy role-playing his wood-elf thief. Or was he really character playing?

          • Games that give you dialogue options vary on how ambitious the developers want the “Role-Playing” to be. Character endings in Atelier and Mana Khemia are the tiniest fraction of that RP. The main story never changes depending on the allies you befriend or have interest with.

            Ar Tonelico goes for a Visual Novel approach, but has few morale choices and more dialogue choices. They only affect how the girls feel about you. I probably should’ve done a playthrough with little involvement with the Reyvateils to make sure. In that, AT has some significance in RP. A friend of mine told me that depending on the choices I made, I could’ve gotten a bad end half-way, but I breezed through that climax without realizing it. I made some sarcastic dialogue too.

            Depends. If that guy was making morale choices or quests that hold significance to himself and the NPC’s, that would be role-playing. I don’t know Morrowind, but I guess there are elf-specific activities? A game that has “classes” already has nameless (mostly) alter-egos by which you can choose.

      • Exkaiser

        Bioware games aren’t RPGs, either. They’re character-playing games! You play characters such as Revan, Shepard, The Grey Warden, and Hawke!

        And Dungeons and Dragons isn’t an RPG, it’s a Player Character-Playing Game!!

        But no, the whole argument is really quite silly. In the end, it doesn’t matter what genre you label something as. All that matters is content. Shame a lot of people get bogged down in stupid details like trying to define a “role-playing game.”

        • There are only so many ways for people to describe RPG’s anyway. It’s so big a genre to tackle and it’s evolving steadily. Action games be action games, regardless of how different the content is. FPS’s are FPS’s, etc.

        • SolidusSnake

          lol, you said it. I’m more concerned with having fun playing the game then splitting hairs over the name of the genre, personally. But I guess we wouldn’t be true geeks without the occasional pointless argument over labels.

          • Exkaiser

            God, if I don’t know about that.

            I’m sick of the whole Super/Real robot argument and the backlash of “hurr super and real robots aren’t even a real thing.” Just enjoy the dang cartoon robots for what they are, not the label.

        • I AM RPG

      • You’ve taken far too many assumptions.

        1. I don’t like Bioware’s mudslinging on my favorite genre.
        1b. Furthermore, I own two games from Bioware. Those happen to be the only WRPGs I own. I’m not interested in buying more from Bioware.
        2. My issue is with the definition itself, not whether JRPGs are RPGs (because they are, and it’s quite unfortunate).

        To further clarify point two, here’s the the RPG genre’s only requirements:

        1. Stat based combat

        2. Stat progression

        But… Where is the RPing in this?

        I get that WRPGs may not be perfect in this regard, but their reputation is that they implement at least some weak form of RP. Your typical JRPG? None!

        It is simply because of the literal meaning most JRPGs should find another genre name.

        • SolidusSnake

          Like I said to Garyuu, there are plenty of JRPGs that incorporate dialogue choices, relationships with NPCs, and decisions that lead to alternate storylines / endings, which is as much “RP” as most WRPGs offer to the player. I’m not really sure how RP you expect from a game, but it is silly to make the blanket statement that all JRPGs totally neglect role-playing and should be given a separate label, when that is definitely not true. Besides, there are plenty of “WRPGs” such as Diablo or Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance that are just as lacking in role-playing as your average Final Fantasy or Tales game. So I wouldn’t be quick to jump on the “JRPGs aren’t RPGs!” bandwagon if I were you. The original JRPGs Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy were based off of and very similar to the original WRPG Ultima anyway, so the two genres have a common ancestor and aren’t as far apart as some would like to believe.

          If you’re interested in trying some other good WRPGs, check out Morrowind and Planescape: Torment, both amazing games that can hold up to the best experiences Japan has to offer.

          Edit: I will apologize for mislabeling you as a Bioware fanboy/girl though, that was bad and I should feel bad. :'(

          • I really don’t think having the occasional choice necessarily
            counts something as Role Playing. I guess what I’m saying is that RP in
            games should be both…

            1. A decent amount of control over the way the character acts (and not just because you made the decision to take the evil route earlier in the game)

            2. For events to change based on your decisions

            Which I think is very loose (and even kind) and accommodates for the limitations of video games.

            I’m not saying no JRPG exists that fulfills these requirements. However, they generally don’t.

            I’m also not saying that WRPGs are necessarily meeting this ideal (though if it’s a Bioware game, it better for as much as they run their mouths).

            As for Ultima, I really think the origins of the meaning of RPG are irrelevant in regards to what it SHOULD mean. So, in effect, they were wrong from the beginning. :P But that’s the definition we use when we talk about RPGs, like it or not, and I do understand that much.

            Planescape is a game I’ve wanted to check out, but I’m always afraid to try things on my laptop regardless of how old they are… XD

    • In hindsight, that’s like saying “CHRONO TRIGGER ISN’T AN RPG, BY THE VIRTUE OF BEING A JRPG!”

      And yes, @SolidusSnake:disqus, please confiscate that Bioware kool-aid.

  • Altritter

    It’s unfortunate to see that the Tales of the Abyss producer is out of his mind.

    • NipponjiRurouniJSRF

      Yea it happens under pressure lol. Nice Alteisen avatar btw and your name is quite clever

    • Sometimes, it’s always the crazy people inventing new ideas.

  • Phoenix_Apollo

    I’d like to see a game creator watch me buy his game. It’d be a little creepy at first, but if I managed to figure it out, I’d definitely toy with him, then pick the game up and run. >:D

    The only people I probably wouldn’t do that with are Tetsuya Takahashi and/or Soraya Saga. In that case, I’d probably hug them. Especially if it was Xenoblade, or the rumored Baten Kaitos III.

    • I would pick up the game, then turn, look the creator in the eye, and slowly run my tongue along the edge of the case.

      • And smell it? YOU WONT SMELL IT?! DISGUSTING!

  • Characters are vital in a game, and I think it shows for theres that I have played as the character designs and motives have all felt realistic to me and truly ones that I found compelling. 

  • Duh they’re Action RPGs

    • …by the virtue you technically control 1 char in battles.

      • Exkaiser

        I’m not sure what that has to do with whether or not it is an action RPG! It’s not as if it would stop being an action RPG if you could somehow control multiple characters simultaneously.

        • And how should that be possible in single player?!

          • Exkaiser

            Why would it be impossible to control two characters at once?

            Sure, you would have to sacrifice completely independent action, but it’s not as if no game has ever had you control the actions of two separate characters at once before. As a non-action game example, the Mario and Luigi series has you control both characters simultaneously on the map.

            I’m just saying that it’s a pretty arbitrary distinction.

  • Ugh, this argument again.  >_>

    Saying JRPGs, in general, aren’t RPGs, is like saying Chrono Trigger isn’t, by the virtue of being made in Japan!

    • Scrooge_McDuck

      “In general” is not the same as “without exception”, though.

  • Or, you could be the guy who just says that almost every game is an RPG. As there are very few where you aren’t taking on the role of someone else. :V

  • Yoshizumi may as well stamp this genre. After all, nearly every RPG in Japan, at least after the early-2000’s, never had us play as “alter egos” or a character that is supposed to be “you.” Square Enix stopped the whole “make your own character” thing since FFII (I think). Character Playing Games should have been official a long time ago and it should have been defined as a game where you are embarked in a story of existing characters rather than being one.

  • Jirin

    Wait, we’re supposed to sympathize with all these guys who are trying to wipe out the human race to ‘cleanse it of its sins’ or something?

    “They’re fighting for their own beliefs just like the heroes are.” Yeah, so is every genocidal dictator in history. Those guys like Mithos are even less sympathetic than the crazy villains who just like torturing people for fun. Having a thought out rationale for their crimes is not a mark in their favor.

    • puchinri

      Yeah, pretty much…

    • Caligula

      Yeah, I guess Mithos wasn’t the most sympathetic character, but at the same time, I’d much rather prefer a dislikable character with a reason for what he’s doing than a character who’s just being evil for the sake of being evil.  Those characters end up feeling really 2D, boring and unbelievable to me.

      I mean, even if you didn’t like Van, you still had to admit his reasoning for villainy made him an interesting guy.

    • I dunno, X-Men First Class makes Magneto look pretty damn sympathetic. Everyone likes to pretend they’d be Professor X, but…err, off-topic, I guess.

      I hypothesize that Tales doesn’t pull truly sympathetic villains off so well because most (if not all) of the games are written for a much younger audience than non-Japanese players seem to realize. (I’d love to see NB release statistics on the average age of Tales players over the years like Nintendo did with the average age of Pokémon players, but that probably won’t happen.) Sure, they’re aiming squarely at the otaku/fujoshi who grew up playing the series with all that expensive limited edition swag…but the stories ain’t exactly seinen material.

      …I will admit a soft spot for Mithos, though. I can’t stand it when the villain suddenly decides to repent and agree with the heroes on the verge of death. Mithos was like “Look, I’m screwed anyway so just kill me quick, but if I could do this exact same thing without messing up and losing I TOTALLY WOULD. F–K ALL YOU GUYS t(ò_ó)t” Hilarious.

      • I see your point, and yeah, “Tales of” are definitely targeted toward a young audience.

        They are not for children, mind you. They are not simple enough for that. But it’s definitely not for adults either. They are for teenagers and (at best) young adults.

        However, there is another missconception that can be REALLY annoying.

        That adults can’t like this kind of stuff. Or worse: that they SHOULDN’T like it.

        Normally when the usual troll or pretentious cynic douchebag says the usual “This s*** is for kids, a***ole!!!!”, what they really mean is “This is utter crap for idiotic brats that don’t know any better. And if you like it, you should be killing yourselve yesterday out of sheer shame.” (Ain’t the internet wonderful?)

        The thing is the “Tales of” games are for teenagers, but they are GOOD games for teenagers. Not as in they are above average in the quality games for teenagers usually have, but as in they are good games that just happen to be targeted toward teenagers.

        And since they are good games… what’s so wrong in adult people liking them?

        My first “Tales of” game was “Symphonia” and I played it when I was 20. Then I played “Eternia” when I was 22, “Abyss” when I was 24 (became my favorite), “Phantasia” at 25, “Vesperia” when I was 26 and some of “Graces” at 27. And loved everyone of them, despite I was out of the target audience and didn’t grew up with the series. Now I’m 28 and looking forward for “Xilia”.

        • I’m absolutely not saying that adults aren’t allowed to like material that’s written for someone younger than they are. Haha, I’ve been watching Dragon Ball with my fiancé every evening for the past week or so!

          My point is that when some form of media is written for a younger audience, that should be kept in mind when it is criticized for lacking this or that. Some concepts are just not considered appropriate for the younger crowd, especially by society at large, and some concepts that work for kids will be seen as trite, oversimplified and/or unnecessarily repetitive for adults. Personally, I thought Symphonia’s plot and characters were laughably bad when I finally saw the whole game via LP this year. (But I know that if I’d gotten to play it eight years ago, I would have found its melodrama quite compelling.)

          The bottom line is that it is perfectly fine for you to enjoy whatever game you want, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it. Will people disagree with you and trash what you like? Sure. But they’ve got the right to a negative opinion just like you have the right to a positive one. No point in taking it personally.

  • puchinri

    Even though he says that it’s about the characters, a majority of the cast tends to be very hit or miss with me, and the villains don’t garner much empathy either. 

    And ironically enough, I feel that a RPG can also be defined as playing as the character (you’re still role playing technically too). I can see how the title does affect it in that way, but I feel like Tales is still very much so a RPG because of the elements it’s known for me. But maybe I just think weirdly.

    Then again, why does RPG need to be defined so linearly… You either play a character or play as close to ‘you’ as you get? The character still counts as a role to me, especially when given choices that will influence the game. I always thought maybe it was about how immersed you were as the player in becoming the character or relating to them regardless. But again, maybe my broke is brain~.

  • Saraneth

    I guess that makes sense. I’ve never really liked games that make you the main character. It limits the main character’s involvement in the story in terms of character development, making the whole thing shallow and uncompelling.

    • Moriken

      Western RPG-developers think differently on the matter.

    • Hraesvelgr

      I disagree entirely, but to each their own.

    • FireCouch

      The Witcher?

      • Saraneth

        Haven’t played it. I was thinking of KOTOR, actually.

        • Exkaiser

          But Revan had plenty of character development despite being player-made.

          Perhaps you should have picked a different example?

          • Saraneth

            No, he didn’t. He had some, but not enough to make him a compelling character. All he had was a backstory. His essential personality was up to the player, so the game’s story couldn’t even give him his own dialogue. If you play a game like The World Ends With You, in which the main character’s personality and development drive the story, you’ll see that the main character is essential to telling a great story.

          • Exkaiser

            That’s not universally true at all, in fact.

            To pick a random example, Foundation completely lacks a central character, and still manages to be quite the ripping yarn.

          • Saraneth

            Yes, but that’s different from making a game in which the central character has no personality.

          • Exkaiser

            It’s not different at all, but okay.

            Here’s a different example, which still destroy your thesis: Persona 4 is a game with a good story, and the protagonist is a silent player-insert.

            It’s pretty nearsighted to assume that a story cannot be good without a strong central character. In the event that you would try to backpedal and say that you weren’t assuming this, let me quote you verbatim: “…you’ll see that the main character is essential to telling a great story.”

            A universal statement, and an incorrect one. There is a high correlation between a strong protagonist and a great story, because many great stories have focused and well-written protagonists. However, it’s a universal statement, and thus is a false statement.

            I think both approaches are just fine and the medium should not limit itself to one or the other or even to assume that it’s a binary choice between the two styles of protagonist. That would be mere folly. It would behoove players to not make this same assumption, too, but I suppose expecting every video gamer to keep an open mind is ludicrous at best.

          • Saraneth

            I never said that games can’t have good stories without a strong central characters. I said that I prefer games with strong central characters because they make the stories better. The persona games’ stories are very good, but strong central characters would have pushed them into the great category. There is a limit to how good a story can be without a strong central character.

          • Exkaiser

            See? Backpedaling even after I told you not to. Unbelievable.

            And the Persona games (well, not 3 so much. The writing there is… spotty) do have great stories, as I already mentioned.

            And, as I’ve said before, Foundation is a story without a central character and even with very few recurring characters, and yet it is a fantastic story. In fact, I would go so far as to say that focusing on a single character would merely bog it down- oh wait, that’s what happened in the later novels when Asimov stuck to a core character. The quality of the writing didn’t change, but focusing on character development took away from what was really important.

            Live-A-Live has no single main character and yet it is the best Square game of all time. Denam Pavel is about as set in stone as Commander Shepard, and yet Tactics Ogre is far and away one of the best-written games of all time. etc. etc. etc. I’m sure I could come up with a hundred titles that had no need to focus on the protagonist, but I’m sure no one cares.

            What I am saying is that your opinion is shortsighted and ultimately limiting. The only limit to how good a story can be is the talent of the people telling it. Well, I suppose the -budget- of the people telling it can play a part in it, but that’s a story for another day.

          • Saraneth

            I didn’t backpedal. You just made assumptions. Also, no one is ever going to agree with you if you speak with that tone. I have acknowledged that games without protagonist focus can be good. I’ve played and enjoyed quite a few of them, after all. All I said was that I prefer games that have protagonist focus because they have more potential. But there are games that try to have some focus on the protagonist even though the protagonist has no personality. That makes no sense. Seriously, did anyone even care that the main character died in Persona 3? I felt nothing. If you take two equally talented writers and limit one of them by forcing them to use a character with no personality in a central role, then of course that writer’s work is going to be of lesser quality. You’re not going to be able to write a perfect story with a main character who lacks a personality unless you severely reduce the focus on that character, which, of course, defeats the entire purpose of having a main character. It’s an inherent flaw. The flaw can be overlooked if the rest of the game is great, but in general the focus should be on creating a protagonist (or protagonists) with their own personalities. Player input can be fun for games, but they’re not good for stories. 

          • Exkaiser

            But you did backpedal. Like I was afraid you would, saying exactly what I was afraid you would say when I asked you to not backpedal. It’d be absolutely unbelievable if I didn’t already know that it was what would happen no matter what.

            Neverminding that, the reason I’m taking a harsh tone is because your own note is sour. I opened with a light post about KotOR and you gave me a sour spiel. Well, that, and I happen to hate narrow-mindedness in general. Pet peeve. Regardless, tone doesn’t matter when it comes to logical validity. And, well, there’s not much reason to play nice when debating with someone who isn’t giving you much consideration.

            Plenty of people cared that the MC in P3 died. I personally didn’t, but as I said before I felt the writing in that particular entry was quite sub-par, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the MC’s silent status.

            Here I am, asking you to keep an open mind, but I should have known from the start it was futile. It always is.

            Well, I’m going to drop out of this one, now. This is awfully silly and needs to end. I mean, come on, “Player input can be fun for games, but they’re not good for stories”? Is that why the player input made Tactics Ogre’s story fantastic, nay, perfect? Narrow-minded assumptions. I’d apologize for wasting your time, but I’m really more sorry about wasting my own time on this.

  • Well even if he doesn’t consider them so I still will since it will help avoid the confusion I received after reading this. Though in the end it doesn’t matter. A Tales game shall always be a Tales game no matter what genre it goes under and I will love it all the same :D

    • Darkrise

      Well said. Well said. (no sarcasm intended, I actually mean it.)

  • DisgaeaGuy11

    Hmm, I read this game had PS2 level graphics. From the screenshots I’ve seen they seem only half as good as PS2 level.

    • blah blah

      I think it had PS2 level graphics on PS2.

    • Exkaiser

      It’s PS2-level graphics with more jaggies.

  • Darkrise

    And thus a new genre was born; CPG.

  • leadintea

    How can you possibly care for the characters when most of them are just anime stereotypes and tend to be carbon copies of each other (Will and Raine come to mind especially)?

    • Will and raine are really different, the only thing alike they have is that they know about history and whatnot, and a lot, they are the ones that always talk about that in the party…

      But as for personalities… I would say Raine is closer to Jay.

      Still, i cant really say they are really alike… Ummm, really alike tales of characters…, they did made Stan’s son almost exactly the same as stan….

      • Caligula

        idk, I think the Will and Raine comparison works.  They’re both intellectual, rational, serious people who ground the rest of the party.  As for Jay, Raine doesn’t have his snarky quality.

        • Did we play the same game? xD. Yeah i said they are kinda the same in the what to do in party and interest.

          But not in personality. (Raine can really take a personality close to jay’s from time to time ><)

          • Exkaiser

            I don’t really think Raine and Jay are similar at all.

    • Guest

      Why the hell do people always complain about stereotypes? They exist with good reason and it’s almost impossible to find anime, games, movies etc. that don’t have any stereotypical characters. And the characters that try (too) hard not to be a stereotype (hey look at me I’m so alternative and original!) almost always end up as just another stereotype.

      Anything that we think about any character/person ever has to do with stereotypes because that’s just how our mind and language works. We think and communicate in categories and especially our language is basically useless when it comes to accurately describing our surroundings, other people and our feelings. So when we describe a person we do nothing but combine a lot of categories and the person with the least common categories seems less stereotypical but in the end they are all just stereotypes.

      The question is whether our language limits our mind or the other way around.

    • That’s only a gross generalization. Some writers like to build their characters up from a basic common archetype and build them the way they want from there. There’s no shame in using them; they’re just tropes, neither inherently “good” or “bad”. Common basic template and some similarities do not make the same character. No.

    • Ladius

      Every single character in licterature, movies, animes, manga, comics and videogames can be retraced to some archetypes (usually multiple ones), expecting originality when there are countless thousands stories told every year in different media is a bit of a long stretch. It’s more about the skills of the archetypes’ handler in building a coherent setting, great characters, believable dialogues and so on.

    • Because in the “Tales of” games, the characters are NOT anime STEREOTYPES.

      They are anime ARCHETYPES.

      It’s not the same.

      In a nutshell, a stereotype is an oversimplyfied archetype. And like they say, archetypes are found in every single character in fiction. Ever.

      They were sorted out in ancient Greece, and they haven’t practically changed since then. Every culture gives a different perspective of them, but that’s it.

      In the “Tales of” games, they take archetypes commonly used in anime, that’s true. But the thing is that they know how to handle them properly so the player cares for them. And “Abyss” is probably one of the best examples in the series, if not THE best.

  • PersonaBull

     I’m failing to see the difference between “character” and “role” in this sense, especially since it definitely wouldn’t stop the argument of “well ALL games involve playing as a character!” It really doesn’t matter what it’s called, so long as those types of games continue to exist. I love that full immersion in a story, regardless of whether or not I’m directly in the drivers seat of the main character personality-wise.

  • Souji Tendou

    Funny, because I like long haired Luke more than the short haired Luke, my logic still can’t accept how Luke changes 180 degrees after he cut his hairs. Namco, when it comes to Tales, you can’t write a good story, it’s ONLY about characters, that’s all.

    • Caligula

      Heh, if you think Luke changed 180 degrees in the game, you clearly didn’t watch the anime.  Luke is a jerkface, blows up Akzeriuth, feels bad about it for two episodes, magically becomes a nice, happy person, and then the show ends.  His in-game development is actually pretty nicely paced.

      • I think none of you understood Luke’s progression.

        A lot people make the mistake of believing that Luke’s change of personality is his attitude change with the haircut, but that’s not the end of it.

        Not by a long shot.

        You can say the progression is:

        Jerk -> Redeeming hero -> Wussy with an inferiority complex -> Tragic sacrifice lamb -> Reborn confident hero.

        Even if you simplify the story progression (in a picky kind of way), you still can’t deny the other twist his personality has after the Tower of Rem incident.

        Maybe there were some points in the game that could have been handled better, but still it was really good overall. I will always say that Luke fon Fabre is one of the best developed main characters in an RPG EVER (whether Japanese or Western… or RPG or “RPG that is not actually an RPG”).

        And as they say, the took a pretty big risk making the main character unlikeable at the beginning on purpose. But it payed off big time.

        The anime made things faster, yeah, but it was not only Luke’s personality. However, it was nicely done considering they had to make a 26 episode series.

        • Caligula

          I’m not disagreeing with you there; I think Luke changed numerous times throughout the game.  He definitely had realistic, separate stages, and to say it all changed after Akzeriuth in the game would be fallacious.  I guess my post was a bit misleading on what I think about Luke :’D

          • Missundestanding fixed, then. ^_^

            And let’s not forget another thing. Pretty important IMO: Luke’s reaction when he first kills a human being.

            It was refreshing as hell!

            Too often in JRPGs we see young lads KILLING people as if they were tearing petals from a daisy. I was glad to see a JRPG that took this matter in a more realistic way and showed how Luke has to deal with the psicological issues that ANY sane human being would face the first time they kill another one.

            That was, by far, long-haired Luke best moment.

  • I liked his insight.  I’ve been reading a lot of articles/blogs on JRPG vs WRPG differences/what one genre does better/etc (because I’ve been under a rock for five years and had no idea they were all that different. :) ) and I think he really captured what tends to be the stereotype that pops into people’s heads regarding JRPGs, at least from what I’ve been reading.  I like this “character-role playing” aspect – Luke was such a pain in the beginning but it was interesting to watch him try to change himself and grow (even if it did happen a little “too” quickly).  Keep up the Tales, Yoshizumi!

  • kupomogli

    Action RPG


    Ibrfar already said it.

  • Asura

    They ARE RPGs Yohsizumi, get over it. And sadly, they’re not even at a level where their story lines can be flaunted as literature. If you can do that, perhaps then it would at least be out of the realms of a typical RPG (though by definition it is still an RPG).

  • Covnam

    Well, that does make Tales of the Abyss sound interesting from a certain perspective. I’ll have to keep an eye on the 3DS version.

  • The Tales games are RPGs because 1.) theres character progression. and 2.) you are roleplaying as a character within the setting.

    Another person can roleplay as you, but you cannot roleplay as yourself.
    You can only be yourself. Hence, roleplaying as yourself is an oxymoron.

    With that said, none of those wRPG vs. jRPG articles ever wanted an RPG in the first place(because the basic premise of those articles are false as I pointed out in the above paragraph). What they want are “realistic”-looking games. Just look at the list of most promising retail titles at E3:


    The only games that doesn’t fit the aforementioned graphics are brands that hold a lot of respect. But given enough negative propaganda, even they would start to lose face amongst the general public.

    Look at DA2 and how often its criticized for its stylized graphics(people even have the gall to say its a jRPG, as if its some sort of insult). Theres even debate surrounding the non-“realistic” graphics of StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3.

    Anyways, Makoto Yoshizumi needs to grow a spine because there’s nothing to apologize for.

    • malek86

      There are so many kind of RPGs out there, trying to classify them would be difficult.

      WRPGs vs JRPGs? Sure. But where do we put Computer RPGs? And what about roguelikes, don’t they count as their own genre too? And then there are those old adventure games where you also have stats, like Beyond Zork. And we could even talk about those life-simulaton games as RPGs, can’t we? Nobody played Alter Ego here? That game was more abour role-playing than Morrowind and Final Fantasy put together… and didn’t really have any fighting.

      The whole WRPGs and JRPGs thing seems like a way to limit a genre that would otherwise be too large.

      In that case, I guess if we consider the commonly accepted definition of RPGs, then Tales is a RPG.

  • OverlordFuka

    Wow that’s actually a really deep insight. I like how much thought and attention they put into the games, and I agree, the Tales series has fantastic characters–it’s the reason why it’s one of my top three favorite game series.

    Now if only Namco Bandai would get it into their clever little heads to translate some of their other undoubtedly fine Tales games…

  • I think that’s the one thing that separated Tales games from most other games: great character development. They might not always have the best story, but you can always count on Tales games to give me interesting characters. Sure, they might fit into cliches sometimes, but a lot of individual knick knacks make them stand out as well. Skits really help.

    Most other J/WRPGs don’t really have this level of character development for everyone. Sometimes it’s just the lead character, other times it’s more focused on the antagonist. (Sometimes, it’s not necessary, because the game isn’t supposed to be character-heavy… but you get my drift.)

    So yeah. Congrats, Tales – er… Yoshizumi.

    (Also, I hated Luke all the way till the end, even if he did get more likable and his actions were somewhat justified.)

    • Exactly.

      Didn’t finish Abyss because of the long loading times, but I’ve finished Symphonia, Innocence, Vesperia so far; I especially like the latter two. By the time the story is over, you’re left with a group of characters developed well throughout the story’s run.

      In fact, an advantage I find the Tales series to have is that there are a lot of scenes and skits which makes the characters talk a lot, and this, in turn, reinforces their personalities further and further. The creators also try to show different facets of the characters in different skits. So even if a character started out as a generic archetype, by the end, they are distinct enough to be a unique character on their own.

      In other words, Tales games succeed in communicating with the player.

  •  ‘Tales of’ are actually fighting games in the vein of Tekken Tag Tournament. 

  • majorhavok

    I prefer the distinction of WRPG and JRPG as two table top D&D players where the WRPG complains about legal actions not fitting character alignment or trying to shoe in new house rules to fit their characters better and the JRPG would be the guy trying to backstab with a ballista because hey there’s nothing in the rules against it and it would do a ton of damage so why not?

  • Ladius

    If Tales isn’t an RPG series then almost no JRPG (and many WRPGs, too) don’t qualify for that title since the core game design elements are exactly the same, aside from differences related to battle system, characters’ customization and the way dialogues are handled.

    Really, the “what is an RPG” debate is stale and old even among WRPG fans, let’s avoid bringing it to the JRPG table please :

    • malek86

      “what is an RPG”

      A miserable pile of characters?

      • Tom_Phoenix

        But enough talk! Have at you!

  • Crimson_Cloud

    We have played tons of Japanese role-playing games from different era so this name still stands for that particular genre. True, you don’t get to create your character and you mostly play through linear story (there are exceptions) but it still is what it is, no use changing names now. WRPGs will always be games like Baldur’s Gate/Drakensang and JRPGs will be games like Wild Arms/Grandia etc. And you know what, I’m glad it’s like that.

    • malek86

      But the best RPGs are those that blur the lines between the two genres. Games like The Witcher or SMT3. They don’t necessarily have to be separated all the times… in fact, doing so will only hurt creativity in the long run.

  • Tarlol

    Totally makes sense. I wish we could call them something else. This is not at all a negative thing – its just a totally different playstyle.

  • ShinGundam

    I blame gaming journalism.

  • After reading the article and some comments, I’m surprised no
    one mentioned the battle system. Yeah the characters are a big part of Tales
    games, but so are the mechanics used in their game. If not for the
    game, Tales games would be movies. The Linear Motion Battle System was a
    really unique piece and when I first played Tales of Symphonia, I loved
    the actual play to death. I mean yeah in RPG you will find yourself
    grinding, and I did most of mine by fighting every battle I could in
    between towns in most rpgs I play, but in Symphonia, I grinded a lot
    more than usual. And once I import ToV PS3 I will enjoy it the battle system even more, and hopefully find a Script for Story and other text…And yeah I’m taking a Video Game mechanics class this term so mechanics have been a lot more emphasized to me.

  • malek86

    Man, I just noticed, those screenshots look terrible. Did the PS2 version really look like that? And why did they use that horrible font, which is not unlike the one in Tales of the Tempest? They should have gone for something cleaner.

    • Ladius

      It does look worse than the original, both in definition (that’s normal, thinking about the switch to handheld) and apparently in frame rate, at least during battles, and maybe that’s the reason why Famitsu’s reviews didn’t praise it too much (5 points lower than the PS2 original, if I remember correctly).

      They improved the fps in the world map and the loading, though.

      • Caligula

        I’d happily take worse graphics over the game’s awful world map loading rate…  Abyss is the only game I’ve ever played where I ran away from enemies not because I didn’t want to fight them, but because I feared the loading screen.

        • Ladius

          I can sympathize with that, even if I’m a total Abyss fanboy :)

          Mind it, I wasn’t bashing the 3DS port, aside from its (alleged?) problems the core game is still one I want as many people as possible to enjoy,

    • Exkaiser

      Looks clean enough to me.

    • ShinGundam

      3DS’ screen is quite low resolution and 2D games like BB suffer from this more than 3D games.

  • anbu

    I always associate Tales of… series as an anime rpg.  That’s the charm of the series.  I see them as a 2d or 2.5d version of FF series imo.

    Well if they go full 3d, like the ones in Final Fantasy, then it’s not Tales anymore.

    But reading this article shock me.  It made me realize that FF is not an rpg too.

    • Exkaiser

      If they go full 3D… you mean like Symphonia, Abyss, Innocence, Vesperia, and Graces all did?

      I understand what you’re saying, but the word choice is poor.

      • doomspeller10

        Yep, though some of those games are cell shaded to retain the anime look.
        I agree with anbu, a realistic, non-anime style for the tales series would be shocking at least.

  • SirRichard

    I think more game developers should try that. On the day of their new game launch, stake out a store or two and see who wanders in to buy your game, note who they are and why they’re buying it and so on.

    Then again, it’d probably be a bit depressing if you’re there all day and not even one person buys it…

    • Judo

      IIRC, Sakaguchi did that with the Last Story. I also recall Suda doing it too.

      • Sakaguchi even went a step further and played online multiplayer games with folks that bought TLS. That was pretty cool of him. He kept updating on Twitter as he did it, too.

  • Judo

    “The player isn’t playing with the protagonist as their “alter ego,” but
    rather he or she is playing to learn about the characters and
    to watch them change and grow (he termed this “Character Playing Game”).”

    Sorry to break it to you…but that’s what most “JRPGs” are like.

    • Bakuryukun

      I kinda think that’s what he was getting at.

    • Ravage27

      JRPGs have traditionally been closer to adventure games than true ‘role-playing games’. Then again, in an era where every genre converges, these crude classifications/definitions are no longer relevant.

      I have always regarded stats growth and customisation to be role-playing aspects, so Tales is still very much an Action-RPG to me. A few JRPGs like WKC allows you to create your ‘alter ego’ while others feature branching paths and multiple endings (mostly superficial, but the same could be said about all modern WRPGs)

  • theoriginaled

    CPG, I like it. Hope it catches on.

  •  I really hate the Final Fantasy XIII was totted as not being an RPG, and Bioware’s head went about calling console-style RPGs not real RPGs.

    It’s starting to rub off on devs, and making think that they should no longer advertise or call their RPGs RPGs. . .

    And to think; we just really started to get familiar with the genre here in the west. . .

  • Jirin

    I dunno, if we were going to stop calling that kind of game ‘RPGs’, don’t you think we should have thought of it sometime back in the early 90’s?  If somebody came out right when FFIV showed up and said “Hey, this isn’t
    a role playing game, you’re controlling an alter-ego!” that would have
    been fine. 

    Now we have 20 years of habit calling interactive novel games ‘RPGs’, and the debate over whether they are RPGs has been reduced to an annoying quibble over semantics to thinly veil WRPG fans’ JRPG bashing.

    It’s like all those annoying ‘Who would win between the Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon’ debates.  People who prefer Star Trek always say the Enterprise and people who prefer Star Wars always say the Falcon.

  • Roses4Aria

    Honestly, though, don’t most people put themselves in the place of the protagonist when playing games like these?  You’re viewing events along with the main character and mostly controlling that same character when in battle or making your way around the map, so isn’t it really all in the way that YOU as an individual player choose to play the game?  Whether you see yourself as part of the action or whether you feel like an uninvolved third party just watching how things evolve, it still seems like an RPG to me.

    Whatever you call it, they’re still great games. :)

  • indigozeal


    AM I RIGHT????


    (Seriously, this musty old argument has reached the _corporate_ level?)

  • I’m planning on purchasing it.  Get it to the US ASAP.

  • Sigh… This debate again?

    This debate has become the same thing as the “hardcore vs. casual” debate: an elitist abomination.

    People in this debate that say “XRPGs are not real RPGs because of this and that”, what they really mean is “I hate the guts of XRPGs, and because of this and that you should hate them too. If you don’t, you are a f****** retarded!”.

    I’m sooooooooooo tired of it. -_-

  • Abyss is one of my favorite GAMES of all time, not just within the Tales series, not just within RPGs, not just within PS2 games. Seriously, it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played in my 28 years of gaming. I put 75 hours into the PS2 version. I’ll likely be doing the same for the 3DS version since I missed a ton of missable quests the first time around.

  • Say wha?

  • keriaku

    I really like how this guy thinks, and wholeheartedly agree. I was never a big fan of the Tales games, but now I’m thinking I’m gonna need another look.

  • Tales of the Abyss isn’t an RPG? Then, I’ve been playing a REPLICAAAAAA!!!!

  • The thing I have always loved about the Tales series is the depth of the characters personalities and backgrounds in the games. The RPG category is pretty broad by itself so I guess it could be considered a “character role playing game” from my perspective.

  • A lot of JRPGs are about learning the characters and not having the main character as your alter ego. I’ve always had this idea in my head that JRPGs were like highly interactive fantasy books. You have this (in most cases) predetermined storyline, but you experience it through a different medium and with slightly more freedom. I don’t think it matters if a game is or isn’t completely defined as an RPG. Plenty of games are starting to cross genres or break through what their genre was originally about. People just need to learn to accept that. The world isn’t flat, you know. Broad scope attack! DUN DUN DUN!

  • YsyDoesIt

    Fueling the debate on the meaning of the RPG is moot. Most of these, regardless of their origin or approach try to evoke empathy, and a fair lot of them succeed.

    Gameplay-wise, I always thought of the Tales games as Brawler-RPGs; it was easier to relate to this description when trying to sell the series installments than relate them with standard “action-rpg” games.

    As for Tales of the Abyss, I sincerely wish that technically it is executed better on the 3DS, because for a game that had the most effort produced in it, it was rather buggy and fraught with slow-downs.  There shouldn’t have to be a technical trade-off in the name of character-development.

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