Greetings, mor-*HACK*-tals. As you can probably tell, even old EWE is *ACHOO* subject to a sinus infection now and again. It is decidedly unpleasant. Perhaps this is why, after I submitted my initial thoughts on this insipid holiday devoted a human emotion that causes nothing but pain and misery, Edi-*COUGH*-tor convinced me to allow him to speak on the subject, and let me focus on the later game review. (Editor’s Note: Your post was so heartrending and miserable it would have resulted in mass-extinction levels of suicides.) And what’s your point, exactly? Whatever…you people all seem to like Editor’s sad-sack, mushy take on life, so fine – enjoy the next bit because when we get to Tales of Berseria, you’re stuck with me again.
Hello, friends! Now, despite my chastisement of EWE for his…rather dark thoughts on Valentine’s Day, some of what he had to say has merit, I believe. (EWE’s Note: SOME?!?!) So, I don’t really want to talk to the traditional, happily-in-love Valentine’s Day couples out there – because quite frankly, if you need a day or an excuse to celebrate having that kind of love in your life, then you are missing the entire point of it. Every day, every moment that you get to spend with that person is a reason to celebrate. Every chance to show them you care, be it with flowers or candy or just a hug or a hand squeeze is something you should take at every opportunity, not just one day out of the year. So while we wish you the best (EWE’s Note: Uh, who the fuck is “we?”)…while I wish you the best, I think there are some others that are more in need of attention right now. This is for everyone who’s without a valentine, even if they know who it would be.
This day can feel harder than others, but the reality is that it isn’t – it just brings focus to something you think about in one way or another every day. But just remember – it isn’t about you or your value. The problem lies with the other person not recognizing it. Don’t let that hurt you, today or any other day. I know that it’s hard, and I know that it is going to hurt no matter what I say – I know because it hurts me too. But you are stronger, and better, than that. If the person you love is worth being patient for, then don’t let today be anything other than one more day. And if they are not, then let today be the first day of moving on.
And if you are someone out there reading this who may be overlooking or dismissing or discarding someone as “not good enough” or “not worth their time” – ask yourself, really ask yourself, if that person you so easily dismiss weren’t a part of your life, would you truly be better off? Would you be happy? Or maybe, is it easy to say that because you’ve come to take that person for granted? That’s a dangerous thing. Because depending on what you may believe, we all only get one shot at this life. One. And we never really know when our story, or their story, could come to an end. Yes, it’s nice to think about the perfect person just around the corner who is going to be everything we’ve ever dreamed of since we were children – except that we were children, and children have to grow up. Nobody is perfect. And while you are so busy looking past someone who loves you for the next best thing, you never know when you might turn around and that person you took for granted, that person who loved you and supported you and cherished you while you ignored them, will be gone. We only get a finite amount of time with one another. Spending it with someone that truly loves you, even if they aren’t perfect, or what you always dreamed of, is a worthwhile way to live in that time.
Ugh…and with that mindless, sappy drivel now over with, it’s time for something that actually matters – my review of Tales of Berseria. As I stated recently, there had been a horrible audio bug in the Steam version of the game that had made playing it enough to make me want to kill…even more than I normally want to. Thankfully, that bug appears to have been fixed with the most recent patch, and so I can bring you my full thoughts on this recently released entry in the long-running Tales franchise.
As I’ve said before, I am a latecomer to the Tales series, with my introduction being Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360. But oh, what an introduction it was! I’d of course heard of the Tales tried-and-true real-time battle system, and its heavily anime-inspired stories and settings, but what truly, truly hooked me about Vesperia was its CHARACTERS. And above all the rest stood the main protagonist, Yuri, and his foil, Flynn.
For the first time in what felt like forever, the world had a pure, noble, lawful-good knight as a hero to the people…and THAT WAS NOT YOU. Nope, that was your old frienemy, Flynn. Yuri, the main playable character, was everything I wanted out of an avatar in a game – a dark, driven anti-hero vigilante. And when I say vigilante, I don’t mean in the Batman, I-am-good-just-scary sense. If you were a bad guy and Yuri found out about it, he was PUTTING YOU IN THE FUCKING GROUND. Not because he was forced to, or because you’d backed him into a corner and there was no other way. Just because you fucking deserved it and he could. Case in point (SPOILERS if you care about them in an Xbox 360 game at this point), at one point Yuri and the crew save a town and it’s people from the machinations of a corrupt government official. The people laud them as heroes and the official is locked in prison to await trial for his crimes. In the dead of night, Yuri breaks him out of prison and sneaks him to the edge of town. The official gleefully believes that Yuri must have been hired as a mercenary by some of his wealthy contacts to help him escape judgment. NOPE. See, Yuri had figured all along that if the official were brought to trial, he’d just find a way to bribe or manipulate himself out of the consequences for his crimes. So Yuri broke him out of jail and got him out of town JUST TO FUCKING MURDER HIM AND TOSS THE BODY OFF A BRIDGE. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my kind of goddamn hero! (Editor’s Note: Yuri does go through some character development, folks.) Shut up – he was fine as he was!
Anyway, this little stroll down memory lane was just to set the stage for this revelation – the cast of Berseria is BETTER than the one I loved in Vesperia, up to and including Velvet Crowe replacing Yuri as my favorite Tales protagonist of all time.
Velvet started out pretty upbeat for a girl who had lost her parents, and then later her sister, to the recurring waves of demonic activity in her world. Left with only her younger brother and her brother-in-law as the centers of her universe, Velvet is understandably upset when those last two remaining pillars of her world are ripped away from her right before her eyes – and when she tries to stop it, she has her left arm lopped off and is chucked into a pit with some kind of Eldritch Abomination. Said horrific monster decides to chuck her back up to the surface with 1. a new, monstrous, demon-devouring arm, and 2. a burning desire for revenge to the exclusion of all other things. Oh, and an outfit that isn’t too shabby either.
Now, this wouldn’t be an RPG or a Tales game if Velvet and her ever-growing motley crew didn’t wind up facing off against a threat much bigger than they initially realized, but it’s Velvet’s constant desire for vengeance that drives the plot forward. Guy you want dead is now the head of a massive theocratic world government? Don’t care. Upsetting the balance of power could potentially endanger the world? DON’T CARE. Usually in this genre, even if a character has some type of ulterior motive or driving goal that they are initially following, it is quickly subsumed by the overriding goal of “saving the world” and largely forgotten. Velvet doesn’t forget a goddamn thing, and neither does the player. You will know every fucking second that Velvet wants to kill the man who took everything from her, and nobody had better get in her way.
It helps sell this point that Velvet’s English voice actor does a tremendous job of conveying this dark, driven, single-minded tone through her work. Overall, the voice acting is above average for a Tales game, and for most JRPGs in general, but it isn’t on the level of a Metal Gear Solid or Last of Us. Some voices, whether by design or not, are incredibly aggravating, and you will quickly come to dread whenever their character portrait appears on screen. But by and large, the voice acting overall is acceptable. The musical score is even better – one of the best I’ve heard in an RPG since Skyrim. The diversity between exploration themes, battle tracks, and menu background music all play well off of one another and had me nodding my head along with the rhythm more than once.
Speaking of menus, one quick note here – the menu artwork in this game is absolutely breathtaking. If the anime art style of the Tales series is your thing, then you’ll just stare at the menus in wonder. I did not include any screens here because quite frankly once the entire party is gathered, to show a menu screen of them would be to spoil a rather important plot point. But sufficed to say it is phenomenal.
On to the bread and butter of any Tales game – the combat. Berseria once again utilizes the classic Tales real-time combat, triggered upon coming into contact with an enemy while exploring. This transports the party to a separate battle arena, in which you can freely roam and move while attacking your enemies. You only control one character directly, but can switch that character freely. Once again, the mainstay of combat is Artes – a huge variety of physical and magical attacks that are learned throughout the course of the game and can be set in various combos to the four face buttons on the controller. Use of Artes are governed by the Soul Gauge – when you run out of Souls, you must defend and wait for them to replenish to continue attacking. Souls can also be stolen back and forth or spent on special attacks – giving combat a tense tug-of-war feel as you balance Soul spending and replenishment to drive your combos higher and unleash greater sustained damage.
The interplay between combat and the story is what is going to drive me to replay this game at least once upon completion. There is so much nuance and depth to the combat that it is possible to get lost in trying to master its intricacies, but at the same time the story is so good that you are driven to continue it. Thus, the temptation to simply button mash your way through the game on the initial run is very strong, and on the normal difficulty levels this is very achievable. Once the initial run through the story is complete, the game begs the player to return at a higher difficulty and become a true artists at its delicious combat system, and I for one will be heeding that siren call.
If anything, some aspects of the game are a bit overly complicated and thrown at the player very quickly in the beginning. After almost every battle for the first several hours, some new element will be addressed in a tutorial screen. It happens with such frequency in that time that it quickly can overwhelm the player and you may very well forget about the last thing you were told as you are bombarded with the next and the next. While it doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience, it just feels like they may have tried too hard to cram too many good ideas into one gameplay system.
Visuals are gorgeous, and the art style is the classic Tales anime-inspired fare. It is not exaggeration at all to say that playing this game is like playing through your favorite anime series or film, except that in many cases the level of animation and detail surpass even that. Magic and Artes effects in battle are stunning and did not contribute any slowdown whatsoever during my gameplay with them.
All in all, Tales of Berseria is just a fantastic anime-inspired RPG. If you are a fan of the genre, or of the series, or just of good games in general, you should definitely give it a try on PS4 or PC. The PC version seems to have addressed the nagging audio issue, and I experienced no other issues with it during my play sessions. As a newer Tales fan, I can say this is my favorite game in the series, and I’ve heard many veterans of the Tales franchise saying that this was the shot in the arm that the series needed after languishing a bit in the last few entries. A definite thumbs up here – the developer’s village gets spared for another day.
That’s all for tonight, kiddos. Tell someone special that you love them. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll love you too! – EWE