The Tales (テイルズオブ Teiruzu obu?, "Tales of") series is a franchise of Japanese role-playing games developed by Namco, which is now Bandai Namco Games. Originally started by Wolf Team, a subsidiary of Telenet Japan that later split from Namco to found tri-Ace, the Tales series began with Tales of Phantasia on the Super Famicom in 1995. Since then, several other Mothership Titles, or main games, have been released, along with many remakes and ports; an original Escort Title, Tales of the Tempest; various spin-offs; and the Tales of Mobile subseries of mobile phone games. With the exception of Tales of Legendia and Tales of Innocence, all games in the series have been created by Namco's own internal development staff, now known as Namco Tales Studio.
The Tales series is most notable for its Linear Motion Battle System (LMBS), which each Mothership Title has had some variation of. It is an action-packed battle system, in which the player can only run back and forth on a single line, as the "Linear" suggests, to attack the enemies, in a similar fashion to 2D fighting games. However, not all games limit the player to a single line; in Tales of Rebirth, the character can switch between three lines, and Tales of the Abyss introduced Free Run, or the ability to run anywhere on the battlefield. Various kinds of attacks can be performed by using direction and button combinations, and skills are assigned similarly, though they consume TP, or technical points, in most games. There are also options to guard and even command allies. Most noted among the abilities a character has are their mystic artes. They are powerful attacks unleashed under special conditions, such as being in Over Limit. The gauge for Over Limit varies between games. Sometimes, these attacks have extra effects, such as reviving.
There are three settings in many Tales games for a player to control a character: Manual, Semi-Auto, and Automatic. Manual allows the player to completely control a character. For instance, if the attack button is pressed, the player will have to go up to an enemy to hit. Semi-Auto, however, automatically moves the character to the enemy when a skill or attack is used. Using these two settings, many of the more recent games, excluding Tales of Legendia, have allowed four players to fight at once in the place of the computer-controlled characters. The final setting, Automatic, allows the computer to control characters. However, these Automatic characters have additional settings, such as the distance from the enemy, how much TP they should use, and much more.
A staple feature that is present in most Tales games is the victory scene that plays after battles, most of which have a comedic touch as opposed to other Japanese role-playing games, where the victory scenes are more serious. This is somewhat "remedied" with newer installments, beginning with Tales of Xillia, where after event battles, characters will perform a serious victory scene.
Though not quite an established trend, some Tales games have a coliseum, wherein one can fight special enemies and in some cases, characters from other games in the series. They are entirely optional, and meant to be a challenge. Some titles and special weapons come from the coliseum.
Cooking is a gameplay element used in many Mothership Titles. Usually, a player must first find a recipe, or receive it from the mysterious Wonder Chef, and can then cook it to recover hit points, technical points, or gain temporary stat boosts. In some games, however, HP is recovered either through each step taken or based on certain recipe set ups. Tales of Hearts is the only Mothership Title to not include food in the recovery system, using the similar "Recovery Stones" instead.
Items and Equipment
The series usually has a large number of items that can be used to affect both you and/or your enemy during battle. In every Tales game the HP restorative items are called gels, or "gummies", medicinal snacks that are often given the flavor of various fruits. Instead of recovering a set amount, they often restore a certain percentage of HP or TP, or sometimes have other effects. There are also many status-curing items in the games, usually labeled as various types of "Bottles". There are many other types of common items in the series, including the Sorcerer's Ring, which makes an appearance in almost all Mothership Titles of the series, and usually plays a primary role in solving most puzzles of the games.
In many titles of the series there are various "recording" items to acquire, such the "Collector's Book", which records the various items the player collects. In every Mothership Title and several Escort Titles, there are several pieces of equipment to buy, sell, find, and equip to your party. Many pieces of equipment, from weapons, to armor, to accessories appear in several titles of the series. Swords are the most common weapon of the series, and to date at least one character in every Mothership Title uses a sword, though several characters of the series have also used weapons such as staffs, axes, bows, gloves, guns, and spears.
A common part of equipment in the series is the "oddball" or unorthodox weapon that a member of the party is able to equip, such as straws or paintbrushes. Sometimes in the series there may be a powerful weapon, usually a sword, gained through the plot, such as the Eternal Sword. Many weapons of the series make numerous appearances, like the "Last Fencer". Defensive equipment in the series often includes things like armor and robes. Though the number or types of equipment that can be used usually changes from game to game; for example, instead of equipping armor in Tales of Hearts, the player must increase a character's defense.
Recurring Characters and Namco Cameos
Spirits are often a common recurring element of the plot and gameplay of several games, and many of them have made reappearances in games of the series. Besides the Spirits, characters that have appeared in more than one game of the series include: Pac-Man, Namco's mascot; Aifread, a pirate, or pirate king; a person with an uncanny love for cats; and the Sword Dancer, a powerful hidden boss that usually fights with the party more than one time within the game. Cheagles, a creature that first appeared in Tales of the Abyss, also makes appearances outside of its original game. Namco characters such as the Valkyrie have made appearances as enemies in Tales games. The series often features extra costumes party members can wear that sometimes reference other Namco characters and games, such as Gilgamesh. Often, characters from other Tales games will make cameo appearances, or be referenced, both inside and outside of battle.
Since Tales of Destiny, nearly every Tales game has used skits, systems in which the player is able to hear conversations between the cast, and sometimes any NPCs that happen to be along with the party. Though they are often presented in various ways throughout the series, they usually use animated character artwork. The Japanese version of almost every Tales game has had at least most skits in the game voiced, while in the localized versions, only Tales of Eternia, Tales of Legendia, Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Tales of Graces ƒ, Tales of Xillia, Tales of Xillia 2, and Tales of Zestiria have had all of the skits voiced.
Many Tales games have included Spirits in some form or another. When introduced in Tales of Phantasia, they were nothing but another branch of spell casting, and in Tales of Destiny, they appeared as items to use. Spirits did not require special terms until Tales of Eternia, after that special terms such as being Over Limit in order to summon were required. Summon Spirits have appeared as ordinary characters in Tales games such as Tales of Legendia and Tales of Vesperia, while they also have been names of days as seen in Tales of the Abyss.
Many Tales games, beginning with Tales of Eternia, have titles for all of the playable characters. Though the effects are always different or have no effect at all, titles always have a sentence describing it. Though some are acquired by story or level, many come through battle, side quests, and more.
Ever since its initial vision as the original Tale Phantasia, the Tales series derives much of its literary presentation and core elements and inspirations from its founding eras of the mid 1990s, a time where the rise of JRPGs were making strong footholds within the video game world for their narratives that helped string along gameplay. Along with inspiration from real world history, mythologies, and folklore, the RPG game progenitor of Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy anime series such as Record of the Lodoss War, and even to neighboring video game series such as Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Lunar, Dragon Slayer and Valkyrie no Bōken, Tales goes to portray a fantastical universe with worlds brimming with magic as a natural foundation of their realms, and the lives of its inhabitants.
Though most stories of the series are unrelated, many of the games have plots that revolve around real themes or topics of philosophy, such as racism and loss or the meaning of life. The settings themselves provide heavy contrast to the lively and bright anime aesthetics the series provides, with histories of its worlds often telling of grim events of cataclysms and decline of eras long past, and the present day in a nearing verge of conflict and crisis that may come to bring about another period of disaster. It is from this that echoes the perseverance of men in the face of hardship and overwhelming odds, even by the cruel whims of fate, and the hope that peace may come again through championing virtue and fighting against evil.
It is often a group of fairly young heroes who start out with a simple task and are eventually brought into a struggle that determines the fate of the world; thus, they serve as the protagonists of the story. The antagonists are often considered "evil" even if their intentions are good, usually as as result of specific themes of the story. Throughout the course of its plot, there is emphasis on analyzing motives and convictions, not just to that of the villains, but also to that of the heroes themselves, as it is of serious insight that villains are also people themselves, and to not just that the heroes question what they are doing is truly right, but also to where if their fighting and motives to defeat their opposition will make the world right again.
Four artists have worked on the Mothership Titles: Mutsumi Inomata, Kousuke Fujishima, Kazuto Nakazawa, and Daigo Okumura. Fujishima is the manga artist that design the characters for the first game in the series Tales of Phantasia, but he did not return to do character designs until Tales of Symphonia; since then, he only does artwork for Team Symphonia games, excluding Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. Inomata is the character designer that started doing artwork for Tales of Destiny; since then, she has done artwork for most of the Tales games on the 2D platforms. Nakazawa has only worked on one Tales game, Tales of Legendia; he has not contributed any artwork for the series since then. Okumura is often the designer for many of the antagonists and major NPCs of the series and was the character designer for Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. He also designed the new protagonists in Tales of Xillia 2.
With the exception of Tales of Legendia, which was composed by Go Shiina, Tales of Innocence, which had a score composed by Nakamura Kazuhiro, and other Escort Titles, Motoi Sakuraba has been the primary composer for the series, along with Shinji Tamura. The series has made use of a vocal opening song since Tales of Phantasia SFC, though it has used various singers. To date, only Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Graces ƒ have used a vocal song in the localized version of their games, while the localized versions of Tales of the Abyss and Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology have at least used the instrumentals of their respective opening songs. The DLC scenario for Tales of Zestiria introduces a new composer to the series: Eriko Sakurai.
Beyond simple cameo roles or crossover scenarios, most games and other media in the Tales series have no connection, typically with each representing a unique continuity. However, a few materials are connected as sequels, prequels, or interquels, comprising several distinct continuities within the broader series, some composed of multiple timelines or alternate realities that span multiple worlds.
- Tales of Symphonia - The distant prequel to Tales of Phantasia, occurring at least 4,000 years prior.
- Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World - Takes place two years after Tales of Symphonia.
- Tales of Phantasia: Katararezaru Rekishi - A novel that details the events of the original past timeline of Tales of Phantasia.
- Tales of Phantasia - Takes place in three different time periods, the "present" being 4304 on the Aselian calendar.
- Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon - 104 years after the "present" time of Tales of Phantasia.
- Tales of the World: Summoner's Lineage - 461 years after the "present" time of Tales of Phantasia.
- Tales of Destiny - One of the main games in the series.
- Tales of Destiny 2 - Begins 18 years after the first game and spans four different eras and one alternate timeline.
- Tales of Eternia - One of the main games in the series.
- Tales of Eternia: The Animation - An animated series that greatly expands the journey of Reid Hershel's group within Inferia.
- Tales of Eternia Online - Takes place during the events of the original game, after Reid's party crosses the Bridge of Light into Celestia.
- Tales of the Abyss: Shiro no Ashita - A two-volume novel that depicts several events that take place before Tales of the Abyss.
- Tales of the Abyss: Asch Gaiden
- Tales of the Abyss: Ion Gaiden
- Tales of the Abyss - One of the main games in the series.
- Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike - An animated film.
- Tales of Vesperia - One of the main games in the series.
- Tales of Xillia - One of the main games in the series.
- Tales of Xillia 2 - Takes place one year after Tales of Xillia.
- Tales of Innocence R - The remake to Tales of Innocence.
- Tales of Hearts R - The remake to Tales of Hearts.
- Tales of Zestiria - One of the main games in the series.
- Tales of Berseria - Takes place in the distant past of Tales of Zestiria.
- Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 2 - Unrelated to the original Narikiri Dungeon.
- Tales of the World: Narikiri Dungeon 3 - Takes place in a different world, where Thanatos escapes after being defeated in the previous game.
- Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology - Takes place in a world called Terresia.
- Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 2 - Takes place in a world called Granide, one of the worlds born at the end of the first game.
- Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 3 - Takes place in another world called Luminasia.
Animated series have been produced and released in Japan based on games in the series. The first, Tales of Eternia: The Animation, is loosely based on Tales of Eternia, and was released in 2001. The next two anime series were released as original video animations, Tales of Phantasia: The Animation being released from 2004-2006, and Tales of Symphonia: The Animation being released in 2008. Tales of the Abyss was adapted into a full 26-episode television anime series that was originally broadcast from October 3, 2008 through March 20, 2009. The first theatrical anime film of the series is based on Tales of Vesperia. It was released on October 3, 2009 It is called Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike and serves as a prequel to the game. The fifth original video animation is Tales of Zestiria: Doushi no Yoake, which aired on television on December 30, 2014. A second animation for Tales of Zestiria, this time a full series, is titled Tales of Zestiria the X and aired in the summer of 2016.
When certain Tales games are reserves in Japan the games will come with a bonus DVD the first of these were called Tales of Fandom Gaiden. After with certain PlayStation Portable remakes the games will come with a special DVD called Viva - Tales Of! with skit type conversations and various games. The release of Tales of the Heroes: Twin Brave was heralded by Tales of Gekijou animated shorts.