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Perhaps it’s to do with my lack of experience with the Tales of series, but I couldn’t help feeling that Tales of Zestiria started somewhere in the middle. I’ve never been more confused within the first ten minutes of a video game as I have with Tales of Zestiria – no, I’ve never been more confused reading a box blurb.
Let me just quote that for you so you can get an idea of how many storylines are conflicting before you even put the disc in your console:
‘In a world torn by war between two powerful nations fighting for rule and supremacy, follow the journey of Sorey, a young man with a pure heart looking for answers on a lost civilization and seraphim, superior entities mentioned in all legends. Together with Alisha, a knight girl found unconscious in collapsing ruins, and his best friend Mikleo, the cast will discover soon enough a powerful force is rising in the shadow …’
And breathe. I know right? I’m getting that overly bloated story feel before I’ve even put the disc in the damn machine. I mean, at least Final Fantasy XIII, a JRPG that suffered with a similarly bloated story, tried with its controversial ‘Data Log’. Once you start Tales of Zestiria you’re on your own to memorise all of this detail. Good luck.
Next up, the visuals! Okay, I know it’s a Tales of staple, but I have to say I’m getting mighty sick of this 3D anime look in video games – it just doesn’t look nice. It gives developers an excuse to half-ass the animation, particularly the lip syncs, because that’s just anime tradition. The walk and run cycles aren’t much better either – Sorey runs like he has a stick rammed right up where the sun doesn’t shine. Just don’t even try to make him walk … It’s laughable.
These are minimalist animation techniques that work in 2D. When you throw in the depth and detail of 3D animation, particularly on Playstation 4 hardware, it just doesn’t look right at all! Having said that, Tales of Zestiria does make use of 2D animated cutscenes, which are also shoddily animated. Why split the animation budget down the middle if it means you’re going to have to half-ass both sides?!
Gameplay! This was almost a redeeming factor for me until I realised that for the most part I was just able to mash the attack button and never really struggle through battles. If that’s too hard for you, there’s even an auto-battle option! But wait … Didn’t a certain Final Fantasy game get ripped to shreds for having that option? So no, Tales of Zestiria, you aren’t getting away with that! I suppose the battles sometimes look nice, especially when Sorey is able to begin fusing with his other teammates to power up.
Yet, despite all its simplicity and button mashery, the combat hides behind pages upon pages of menus. If you want to go just a little more in depth with Tales of Zestiria‘s combat you’ll have to spend HOURS figuring out its battle mechanics … through menus.
I can’t even go into the characters. I think they’re likely just renamed roles from previous Tales of games. As for the design work … Boob armour. No. That is all I have to say.
Okay, I’ll give Tales of Zestiria the benefit of the doubt – it’s just not a game for me. It represents some of the most generic elements of the Japanese storytelling industry (something I grew out of long before I left my teens), but I can appreciate its appeal. It’s a sprawling story with a huge open world, and it’ll certainly keep you going for a good few weeks – you’re certainly getting your money’s worth.
But it’s by no means an ‘entry level’ title for those looking to dabble in the world of the JRPG – that’s what Final Fantasy is for. The bloated and convoluted story is prohibitive to those unfamiliar with this style of storytelling and the overly simple battle system masks itself behind a complex stream of menus and tweaking.
This is a game targeted strictly at the JRPG lover, and even then probably best left to those familiar with the Tales of series.
Tales of Zestiria is now available on Playstation 3, Playstation 4 and digitally via Steam.