The Tales series is a long-running JRPG series by Namco Bandai, famous for its action-combat battle system, copious amounts of Character Development and continued Deconstruction of the very genre it inhabits.
Earlier games in the series were developed by Wolf Team, once a subsidiary of Telenet Japan, which was reorganized as Namco Tales Studio in 2003. Namco Tales Studio was shut down in 2011 but absorbed into Namco Bandai, which intends to continue the series despite the closure of the studio.
The series is divided into two sections:
- "Mothership" Titles are considered the main entries in the franchise, comparable to the numbered Final Fantasy titles.
- "Escort" Titles are secondary entries, composed of Spinoffs, Massive Multiplayer Crossover games, Mobile Phone Games and Gaiden Games to the Mothership Titles. And Tales of the Tempest.
Mothership Titles (in chronological release order):
This game follows a pair of twins named Mel and Dio as they explore the aftermath of the events of Tales of Phantasia with the help of Arche the witch. Narikiri Dungeon X is a Video Game Remake that includes an Updated Rerelease of Tales of Phantasia, adding a new character (Rondoline E. Effenberg) into both games.
- Tales of Phantasia: Summoner's Lineage
A tactics game that followed Fulein K. Lester, a descendent of Claus F. Lester from Phantasia, and his robot ally Macaron.
- Tales Of Fandom
Compilation games with the Tales characters in various scenarios. The first features the cast of Phantasia, Destiny, and Eternia, while the second stars Phantasia, Symphonia, and Abyss.
- Tales of the Heroes: Twin Brave
- Tales of Link: Teiruzu obu Rinku
A mobile game which consists of over 100 "Tales of" characters in a new adventure/ story.
Anime adaptations of the Tales series include:
A 4-episode OVA covering the events of the game
A 13-episode anime about a subplot unrelated to the actual game.
- Tales of Symphonia: The Animation
Three 4-episode OVAs, each one covering a third of the game.
- Tales of the Abyss: The Animation
A 26-episode television anime covering the events of the game.
- Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike
A prequel movie adaptation.
- Tales Of Fandom Gaiden
A humorous DVD extra released with Tales Of Fandom 2, featuring the heroes of the games arguing over who's the best.
- Viva - Tales Of!
- Tales of Theatre
- Keroro RPG: The Warrior, the Thief, and the Legendary Pirate
An RPG based on the Sgt Frog anime. Here because it's made by Namco Tales Studio itself, using the Tales Of series' Linear Motion Battle System and even having the Tales-styled skits. It is known among Tales fans as "Tales of Keroro" (NDS, released in March '10)
Information and tropes pertaining to the individual titles are on their respective pages.
Common and recurring plot elements:
- Plots that start as Cliche Storms but later go on to subvert and deconstruct the very tropes they employ, often by drastically highlighting the nasty downsides of them. This is one of the main reasons why the games have a fanbase.
- Implied Love Interest is usually (but not always) the approach of the romance aspect of the plots.
- Heavy use of Magitek in the plot, powered by some world specific Applied Phlebotinum (lenspunk, craymelpunk, fonpunk, blastiapunk, psipunk...)
- Life Energy, which often takes the form of Mana.
- Religion as a major part of the world. If there's a religion, or even an organisation with vaguely-religious imagery, chances are it's a Corrupt Church.
- A Big Bad with a personal reason for wanting to do whatever he's doing. He often wants to save something precious to him, or sincerely wants to Save the World. The problem is that his method involves killing an awful lot of people.
- Plots that involve at least two isolated worlds. These worlds will be antagonistic towards each other, though neither will be painted as outright evil. Fighting over a common resource is a popular trope. At least one world will be significantly more technologically-advanced than the other, and the most technologically-advanced world will also be the most antagonistic. More often than not, the plot will involve the heroes finding a way to Save Both Worlds.
- Fantastic Racism as a whole. Several of the games have used it as their central focus and aesop.
- People in your party having the dire need of pulling off a Heroic Sacrifice to make the world a better place, with their group always trying to find an alternative to keep their member alive.
- A duel between two friendly characters for a reason other than malice. The fight will be used as a plot device for the two duellists to resolve the differences between them, and/or as a trial for the less experienced fighter to overcome. The importance of the fight will further be highlighted with unique battle music.
- Party members will usually include:
- A sword-wielding main character.
- One Idiot Hero.
- One kid who is much younger or shorter than everyone else. Most of the time they turn out to be the most powerful physical attacker of the party.
- One party member who pulls a Face Heel Turn at some point and/or turns out to be The Mole.
- One Combat Medic. Pure White Magician Girl characters are rare; the main female will always have some degree of combat training to go with her spellcasting and healing abilities.
- At least one Lethal Chef.
- One Wham! Episode in the perfect center of normal gameplay (it is really that horrifyingly accurate). Said Face Heel Turn will also happen somewhere immediately before or after this time. Deconstruction will play a major part of the segment, but it will most likely not compare to the horror initiated. Due to this change in perspective, the Big Bad will end up becoming the Well-Intentioned Extremist he will be properly known for.
- A Space Whale Aesop that brings together all the events of any given game in order to take a stand against some relatively minor (compared to world domination and/or destruction) social or moral issue.
- The Dark Wings, a trio of quirky thieves whose role is usually as comic relief.
- A Very Definitely Final Dungeon that is floating in the sky or actually out in space.
- Lots of shouting.
- Evil military leaders, somewhere close to The Empire. The position of Commandant is a particularly common warning sign for nefarious schemes.
- A snowy town and a desert town; the former usually has a "romantic" atmosphere which may be explored or just touched upon.
- Fancy outfits worn even in the most heated battles.
Common and recurring gameplay elements:
- A real-time combat system called some variation on the Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS). The player controls one character, while the other battle characters are controlled by the AI and follow general commands. The battle system is reminiscent of a 2D fighting game, and focuses on chaining moves together.
- Combat techniques known as "Artes". Advanced techniques are known as "Arcane Artes". The combo system is often based upon chaining Artes into Arcane Artes.
- Evolving Attacks.
- A Mana Meter that usually takes one of two forms:
- The Team Symphonia style uses Technical Points (TP), a traditional Mana Meter.
- The Team Destiny style uses Chain Capacity (CC), where characters possess a constantly-regenerating pool of CC, and can chain special moves for as long as they have CC remaining.
- A form of Super Mode called "Overlimit", in which characters gain increased defensive power and become immune to stagger. At higher levels, Overlimit can even allow characters to use Artes without consuming CC or TP.
- A Limit Break called a "Mystic Arte". The requirement for activating a Mystic Arte varies from game to game, but the most common requirements are:
- The character must be in Overlimit.
- The character must have learned and equipped a skill called "Special".
- The character must successfully hit an enemy with an Arcane Arte.
- Less common requirements include having a very small amount of HP, expending a large amount of TP/CC and/or building a long-enough combo.
- A list of commonly-recurring items, such as:
- "Gald" as a unit of currency.
- "Gels" as healing items. In a change from normal RPG convention, Gels heal by percentage (e.g. 30% of a total) rather than a fixed amount.
- "Bottles" as items used to heal status effects.
- The "All-Divide", a rare item that cuts all damage taken by friend and foe by half.
- Herbs that can increase base statistics.
- The Sorcerer's Ring, an item that shoots small energy bolts and is used to solve puzzles. Its functions are usually upgraded as the story proceeds.
- "Grade" as an extra unit of currency that can (for all intents and purposes) be treated as the player's "score". Grade is awarded after battle according to how well the player did, with Grade awarded for achieving long combos or blocking attacks, and Grade deducted for taking damage, using ineffective artes (such as a Fire-elemental arte on a Fire-resistant monster) or relying on recovery items. Grade awards bonus EXP in battle, but can also be used to purchase New Game+ bonuses and occasionally in-game bonuses too.
- A broadly-shared list of artes and spells. It's possible to tell how nostalgic a game is attempting to be by how closely it sticks to that list. Games such as Destiny 2, Rebirth, and Hearts tried to break out completely.
- The swordplay style used by the main character of Phantasia (and its accompanying moveset) would become synonymous with Tales (series) main characters.
- There are also a few games where one character doesn't use the "Traditional" artes used by most Tales (series) main characters...but another character does. Examples include Chloe in Tales of Legendia (And even then, some of their artes overlap with each other or the classic Tales (series) heroes), Guy in Tales of the Abyss, or Spada in Tales of Innocence.
- Summon Magic, called "Summon Spirits". The core four are Sylph (wind), Ifrit (fire), Undine (water) and Gnome (earth). The most popular second-tier Summon Spirits include Maxwell (all four core elements), Volt (lightning) and Shadow (darkness). As with the Arte/Spell list noted above, you can usually tell how nostalgic a game is trying to be by how closely it sticks to this list.
- Titles, which can be attached to a character just like a piece of equipment. New titles are usually earned at key storyline moments, or for special achievements (such as building a long-enough combo). The actual effect of a Title varies from game to game: in some it is merely cosmetic while in others it affects stat growth or contains hidden effects.
- Costume Titles, which completely change the appearance of a character while equipped.
- Cooking as a means to recover HP/TP after every battle. Cooking can bestow multiple effects and vary in potency, depending on which character you choose to be the cook. It is also trained as a skill, with characters improving their skills the more they practice a recipe.
- Skits, which are little conversations between the party members that can be triggered while travelling. They are one of the main sources of Character Development in the game. Depending on the game, skits can also affect Relationship Values.
- Crowning Music of Awesome, often done by Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura. Some of the more recent ones have had other composers assisting Sakuraba, most notably his protege Hibiki Aoyama.
- Go Shiina has also gained a lot of plaudits for his composition of Legendia's epic soundtrack (in place of Sakuraba) and for his contributions to some of the Escort games.
- A previous Tales (series) character as a Bonus Boss. More often than not, he gives you his weapon as a reward, which proceeds to be one of the Infinity Plus One Swords or close to it.
- An optional arena where you can take on a number of challenges, such as Solo Character Runs and Boss Rushes. You can even end up fighting your own party members.
- A Chest Monster called the Fake which sometimes drops the All Divide.
- Shoutouts to previous Tales games, as well as to other Namco characters. Especially popular are Pac-Man, The Tower of Druaga, and Xenosaga.
- Names to Know in Anime: An all-star Japanese Seiyuu cast, sometimes even doing minor characters, including Norio Wakamoto, Hikaru Midorikawa, Kikuko Inoue, Takehito Koyasu, Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomokazu Seki, Nana Mizuki, Mamoru Miyano, Nobuyuki Hiyama, and so on...
- Cute monsters. Especially noticable once FMVs entered the fray; the intro to Tales of the Abyss looks like Jade, Anise and Guy are slaughtering a horde of plush toys. One of them with a plush toy.
- A weapon claimed to be the Infinity+1 Sword that is actually the Infinity-1 Sword.
- At least ONE party member who uses a rather unconventional to downright silly weapon. Sometimes the mage, but other times, it's actually a melee fighter using the silly weapon. Such weapons include brooms, books, scrolls, urns, gigantic plush dolls, and shooting bubbles out of a straw.