Tales of the world radiant mythology 3 opening
Image via Bandai Namco

I Miss When the Tales Game Series Was Good

With Tales of the Rays’s closure this year, there is now no way aside from replaying past games to recapture the spark of what made the Tales game series so special. The decline of the Tales series, even if we look past Bandai Namco’s failings, has been a slow and steady death, and it desperately needs a hefty injection of new blood or something similar if the Tales series ever wants to restore its past glory.

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Tales of series games game Idolmaster costumes Bandai Namco
Image via Bandai Namco

Bandai Namco has a problem. Fans of its many classic series and franchises—Digimon, Tales, Gundam, The Idolmaster, .hack, Klonoa, Katamari, Tekken, and more—might have differing opinions on this. The sheer number of fantastic series Bandai Namco has the rights to means the company can be spread thin. But the Tales decline has been happening for years now, with Rays serving as the final death knell.

As a child, I much preferred Tales over Square and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest series. Perhaps it’s the heavier focus on characters (due to mechanics like skits), or perhaps it’s the linear battle system that felt more action-focused than the standard turn-based combat. Symphonia was my first Tales, but I didn’t really enjoy what was going on (I played it fresh after beating Final Fantasy X the first time so the story felt like a poor rehash). So I popped in Rebirth and holy macaroni, it blew my socks off. It felt so different from anything other game to little Stephanie that I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the characters or the battle system or the skits. I needed more.

tales of rebirth milhaust fight
Image via Bandai Namco

While things kind of took a turn from Xillia, you could always expect a few things from each Tales game. References to Bandai Namco’s other properties like Pac-Man, skits featuring 2D anime sprites, a linear co-op capable battle system that introduces a new element with each title, synth in the soundtrack, morally gray villains, tropes that the story introduces straight but deconstructs in its storyline, a two-parter story… There are more but these are what I quickly think of when I try to imagine a Tales.

Now, I mentioned Xillia earlier and while I don’t blame Xillia for everything that went wrong, it was the beginning of the Tales Dark Ages—an era I’m not sure we’ll ever escape if even the bright ray of hope known as Berseria couldn’t end it. Xillia’s usage of both Inomata’s and Fujishima’s character designs was supposed to be special for the anniversary title. Then every title kept doing that. The storyline felt like the writers didn’t get time to finish before they had to submit it. The Link System is fun in both theory and practice. But tying Mystic Artes to them takes away an important weapon in a character’s arsenal in the coliseum’s solo mode.

Tales of Xillia the beginning of when the game really became bad
Image via Bandai Namco

Even before Xillia though, fans were not happy with Baba-P. Granted, a lot of fans are even less happy with Tomizawa-P these days either. People complained about the vigilante storyline in Vesperia. I didn’t see a lot of people complaining about Graces (outside of people who never played a Tales game with a CC battle system before; sorry, but the complaint of Judith in Vesperia “unlocking” aerial combat and the lack of it in Graces is just not valid, especially when Destiny Remake—which uses CC—was the first to make aerial combat a thing). But that’s because no one really talked about Graces. These were small potatoes compared to the true final boss though: Zestiria. Coincidentally, just like how Xillia was an anniversary title, Zestiria was one too.

Disregarding from the horrible Alisha vs Rose discourse that plagued the fandom before launch, the game suffered from poor optimization. The camera was motion sickness galore thanks to fighting on the open world. The story felt like half the length of a normal Tales game. The shilling that might have ruined Yuri or Milla for some felt worse with Rose. I liked Rose. But even I was sick of how the narrative bends itself backwards to incorporate her and how special she is. It was the same issue with Milla. I kept waiting for backlash to her extremist ways beyond a few lines from Gilland and Alvin. But nope.

zestiria the x alisha
Screenshot via ufotable

It’s such a shame that Zestiria‘s and Arise‘s terrible reputations have prevented people from playing Berseria! Berseria was so good! Bandai Namco was sitting on treasure, but I don’t know if there’s enough goodwill among the core fans to pick up a new Tales game at launch anymore. Maybe if Bandai Namco takes a leaf out of Berseria‘s book and makes something close to that again. Unfortunately, the game industry (outside of indie markets, maybe) is in quite a pickle right now. The development cycle for games is so long these days that a single flop can tank a studio. And even disregarding the current oversaturation of the game market, the target sales to satisfy higher-ups or break even just aren’t feasible.

Perhaps in another world, if Tales of Crestoria had come out as a console game rather than a short-lived mobile game, the Tales studio would still be thriving. That Bandai Namco, infamous for its handling of mobile games, tried yet again with Luminaria is baffling. Unfortunately, it seems that in this timeline, there are no longer any tales that Bandai Namco wish to tell.

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Stephanie Liu
Stephanie is a senior writer who has been writing for games journalism and translating since 2020. After graduating with a BA in English and a Certificate in Creative Writing, she spent a few years teaching English and history before fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a writer. In terms of games, she loves RPGs, action-adventure, and visual novels. Aside from writing for Siliconera and Crunchyroll, she translates light novels, manga, and video games.