The Tales and Final Fantasy franchises have been around for over a decade and are some of the leading series in the JRPG genre. The Final Fantasy games have always done better than the Tales games whether it be in review scores or in sales. Many considered Final Fantasy as the best JRPG series and regarded Tales as an inferior series, though still highly regarded. Even so, quality experiences were synonymous with both franchise and they have experienced a vast number of changes over the years and with each entry the series headed towards a new direction.
With the turn of the generation Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 moved towards an even more futuristic setting compared to its predecessors. Tales of Xillia and Xillia 2 also headed towards this direction abandoning the more fantastical and natural settings focusing more on technology. While the setting isn’t particularly important, they are an indicator of change. These four titles exemplify the new direction of the franchise but most importantly heralds a new message: Tales is better than Final Fantasy.
The Tales as they began...
The Tales franchise have been around for 16 years, and counting, in Japan with a title nearly every 2-3 years. Earlier games such as Tales of Phantasia and Destiny took place in more rural and nature-themed areas with a medieval or pre-technological eras for a more fantastical and mythical setting. While the plot wasn’t something grand it wasn’t something that was atrocious either. than the Tales franchise focused more on its characters and how its cast interacted with each other. Each plot point served to further develop them into a well-crafted and refined character by the game’s end. This focus is shared among the various entries in the franchise and hasn’t changed yet. Each cast in every game is enjoyable to some degree and bring something new, despite adhering to certain anime tropes.
Customization of individual characters was always important to the franchise as well. Titles such as Tales of the Abyss focused on using growth plates to focus on certain stats while Tales of Graces f implemented a large table of titles that offered various skills or stat boosts. These various executions of how to customize each character were a testament that the team cared about delivering a solid RPG experience. While it’s difficult to judge whether one game had a better customization system than the other it’s fair to say that they all contributed to a game that was worth playing through multiple times.
Combat was the focal point of the series standing next to narrative for the franchise. Although every Tales games use a linear plane for its combat the series has expanded upon it creating multiple variations. Abyss introduced a free roam feature allowing players to break away from the 2-D plane and Graces introduced a circular form of movement focusing on strafing to create new opportunities to attack. At its core characters attack enemies on a linear plane resembling a fighting game but rather than relying on frames or a combination of combos that one has to memorize combat in Tales relies much more on free-form series of attacks. These attacks known as Artes defined the series as each contained some special attribute and a level of flash that was satisfying when pulling them off in a flurry of attacks in the midst of battle. It was clear that Tales offered a new breed of action in JRPGs and even today there aren’t many games that rival the combat systems offered in each entry of the franchise.
Perhaps the most easily distinguishable attribute of the Tales franchise when compared to Final Fantasy is its visual style. The graphics and the art style undertook an anime style heavily influenced by shows that were airing at the time. Even the characters adhered to the anime tropes and stereotypes and if anything the art style is a testament of that. Rather than realistic models the franchise focused more on giving the games a colorful and vibrant world filled with characters that wore outlandish clothes. Even as the franchise progressed from Tales of Destiny to Tales of Xillia, many of the characters’ wears rarely consist of what people today wear. However, this doesn’t mean it’s terrible; rather Tales charm comes from that it’s different and traces its roots to Japanese anime culture for better or worse.