Skits, referred to in Japan as Chats (チャット Chatto?), are short, optional, and fully voiced scenes that are animated in an anime cutout style, providing additional dialogue and interactions for the party outside of required story scenes.
First appearing in Japan with the original PlayStation version of Tales of Destiny, and in North America with Tales of Eternia, skits have become a staple of the Tales series, appearing in some form or variation in every game since, including all of the escort titles. In earlier localizations, voiceovers were cut from most skits to reduce costs for voice acting due to their optional nature, but the practice has been dropped in newer installments.
Skits give the players a sense of what happens in the group and how they feel during their travels. When a skit is triggered, the music volume is reduced considerably and portraits of the party appear on screen. As they chat with each other, the portraits change to reflect their emotion. These scenes feature party members engaging in idle banter about various subjects, often involving topics that do not directly relate to the story, which serve to flesh out the characters and their interactions with their companions. Some skits can provide titles and affect relationships with characters within the party.
Most skits are fully optional, often requiring a button input to activate any given skit, although some games have incorporated skit elements into story dialogue, such as Tales of Legendia and Tales of Hearts. After viewing skits in the game, they can be seen again by the Skit Library, and in some games it is possible to unlock unviewed skits through the Grade Shop.
Tales of Destiny (PlayStation)
The forerunner to the modern implementation of skits exists in the original Tales of Destiny, appearing as part of the Active Party Window (アクティブパーティウィンドウ Akutibupaatiuindou?) at the bottom-left corner of the screen, when the party is on the world map. This window features the magnified sprites of all of the characters in the active battle party, and after idling for a set amount of time, these characters start to chat with each other about various mundane topics. This process repeats itself until there are no more scenes, at which point the characters simply start dancing or performing other actions.
All of these scenes were removed from the North American release of Tales of Destiny, as no English voice actors were hired for the game. Furthermore, due to the limitations of the PlayStation console, there is no available space on the world map screen for subtitles, and as a result, no official translation was made for these scenes.
Tales of Phantasia (PlayStation)
The PlayStation remake version of Tales of Phantasia features the introduction of the most widely used face skit format, known in Japan as Kaodra (カオドラ kaodora?, "face drama"). Character portraits are displayed within framed squares with a plain background, featuring each character's face. The squares are arranged in the center of the screen, showing only the characters who are involved in a given scene. Each character's pose within the square changes based on the situation, showing that individual's emotions as he or she speaks and listens to others. The portraits are animated further through blinking eyes and moving mouthes, giving life to the characters as they converse with each other.
The activation of these skits relies on the press of a button when prompted while the party is on the world map and not involved in battle or story dialogue. This enables players to view these skits at their leisure, rather than having to idle and wait for them to appear automatically, as in the system's first incarnation.
Tales of Eternia
Tales of Eternia builds on the format that Tales of Phantasia introduced, but rather than altering the design of the skits themselves, it changes the way they are activated. Skits require the Tent, which must be used while the party is on the world map, and each Tent is consumed upon use. When activated, a skit occurs in which the characters interact with each other in face skit format, and as additional effects, the time of day changes between day and night while simultaneously healing the HP of all party members. A different skit occurs each time a Tent is used, and when all skits that are available at the present time have been viewed, only the time change and healing effects occur.
Some skits are also available without the use of the Tent item, but these are limited to navigational skits that simply remind the player about where the party's next destination should be. Similar to Tales of Phantasia, this is activated by pressing a button while the party is on the world map. When Tales of Eternia was localized, the skits that are activated by the Tent item were removed from the game, leaving the Tent item to be used only for its additional effects as an inefficient means of healing, compared to using other recovery options. The navigational skits did remain in the game, however, and they are fully voiced in English, providing the first instance of voiced skits of the localized games.
Tales of Destiny 2
The Tent-activated skit system is removed in Tales of Destiny 2 and most later releases, and this game opts for the more established means of pressing a button when prompted to activated these scenes. Additionally, this is the first game in which skits can be triggered inside dungeons and cities, instead of limiting them to the world map. However, the presentation of the skits have been altered significantly, now showing the full body portraits of the characters cut off to their waists. This is also the first time that subtitles are provided for skits in progress.
While participating in these skits, characters face directly forward, but the scenes are meant to show that they are facing each other as they speak. The range of motion for the participants of each skit is increased due to the use of their full bodies to represent their feelings and attitudes. Unfortunately, this leads to situations in which characters require more space to show their gestures, resulting in scenarios in which other skit participants are pushed to the side dynamically, squeezing their portraits to provide more room for the acting speaker.
Tales of Symphonia
Tales of Symphonia returns to the face skit format that is used in Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Eternia, referring to them within the localized game as Z-Skits. This marks the first time the term "skit" is used in a localized context. While maintaining the boxed frames that show the characters interacting with each other, the Nintendo GameCube version of the game introduces various moments where these are replaced with a full body portrait in the style of Tales of Destiny 2, during moments of extreme emotion to emphasize that character's reactions. However, this only happens for one character at a time, and rarely so, and the face skit format is the prevailing method of skit presentation throughout the game. The PlayStation 2 version of the game adds to the skit system by animating the boxed frames themselves, causing characters to sway from side to side or jump in surprise, adding a new element to skit animation and emotional emphasis.
The localized release of Tales of Symphonia represents the first time that all skits have been retained in the game, subtitled to allow players to understand the dialogue. Voices have been removed, but the timing of the skit text matches with the original Japanese voices to allow players to read the text by preventing the scenes to progress too quickly.
Tales of Rebirth
Skits in Tales of Rebirth return to the full body portrait displays that were established in Tales of Destiny 2. The implementation of the system is unchanged, resulting in the same portrait expansion of one character to show his or her movements and gestures while squeezing other characters to the side.
Tales of Legendia
Similar to Tales of Rebirth, Tales of Legendia retains the use of full body portraits, but characters are now angled inwards to show more clearly that characters are facing each other as they speak. While the skits themselves are activated by pressing the usual button when prompted, story scenes within the game also follow this display format, in addition to and supplementing the interaction of the character avatars during these scenes.
Because of this, all skits and story scenes are voiced during the Main Quest portion of the localized game, to avoid having scenarios within the story that are silent and unvoiced. However, due to this added effort by the localization team, voices were cut from the Character Quest phase of the game, as it was assumed by the staff that this was an optional part of the game that could have voices omitted to reduce voicing costs. As a result of this decision, all story dialogue of the Character Quest is silent until the end of the game, while the skits themselves remain fully voiced.
Tales of the Abyss
Once again, Tales of the Abyss reverts to the older face skit system that was perfected with Tales of Symphonia. This game's implementation of the system remains largely unchanged, maintaining the appearance of full body character portraits at rare moments of exceptional emotion. Much like with the case of Tales of Symphonia, these skits are not voiced in the localized versions.