February 2012 is going to be a big month for me. Honestly, I'm excited. No, it's not because there's a major life event coming my way, nor is it because I'll be in my final semester of college. Remember when I said that gaming was a big part of what I did? That it was my "thing?" February is going to be a big month because my all-time favorite game series is releasing two new US titles that month: Namco-Bandai's Tales series will be releasing Tales of Graces F on the PS3 and a remake of 2005's Tales of the Abyss for the 3DS.
I'm so excited that I can hardly contain it.
In the US, the Tales series is overshadowed by the Final Fantasy series, and we hardly ever get to see Tales titles here in the US. The last one that came out here was 2008's Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360. (True facts: I bought a 360 just so I could play Vesperia. I'm not kidding.) In Japan, four Tales games have come out since Vesperia. Those are Tales of Vesperia (remade for PS3 with new playable characters and a deeper storyline to coinside with the movie), Tales of Hearts (DS), Tales of Graces (originally on the Wii, and remade for PS3), and Tales of Xillia (also on PS3). US fans will never see Hearts, and there's a decent chance that we won't see Xillia, either, which is a damn shame.
Namco-Bandai has been hinting that, if Graces and Abyss 3D sell well enough, we might see a localized version of Tales of Xillia. "Might" is the key word there. I said it once up there, and I'll say it again: that's a damn shame, because the Tales games are some of the finest JRPGs I have ever played, and I've played a lot of them.
For starters, every mothership title to date has had an extremely strong storyline behind it, with a cast of extremely strong (and well-voiced) main characters to drive it. 2004's Tales of Symphonia had Lloyd Irving as its leading man - kindhearted, strong-willed, a bit slow, and a strong sense of justice - and Colette Brunel as its leading lady - polite, quiet, and overwhelmingly kind. The rest of the main cast was just as strong and believable as its two main characters were, and even when the story hit a cliche that would otherwise make you groan, it somehow worked within the game's universe and kept you pulled in. It's been seven years since that game has come out, and I still sit down to play through its story. That alone should tell you something. 2006's Tales of the Abyss on PS2 was just as strong. Main characters: Luke fon Fabre, selfish, bratty prince, and Tear Grants, a disciplined, tough soldier. Storyline: gave me a mindfuck the first time I played it. Did it again the second and third time, and I knew that it was going to happen.
I could run through all the Tales games that I've played and tell you why it's a strong game while trying not to give away the plot, but we'd both be here all day. The best way to see for yourself is to go down to GameStop, or go over to Amazon, and get yourself a used copy of Tales of Vesperia on the 360. Play it, give it at least until you get to Capua Nor to make up your mind. If you like role playing games, the Tales series will never disappoint.
If you're too lazy to go out there and play a game, or you don't have the necessary time, go watch an anime. Phantasia, Eternia, Symphonia, Abyss, and Vesperia all have anime adaptations. Phantasia and Abyss are out in the US.
Don't just brush the Tales series off as another run-of-the-mill JRPG. It's so much more than that, I promise.
Do you maybe already know all about what I said about the Tales series up there? Do you want to help out - as a fan - to try to get more of these games over here in English?
Then hop on over to Facebook - I know you have one - and go "like" the Aselian Movement. It's the headlining page in a fan-created movement to get Bamco to acknowledge that yes, Tales fans exist outside of Japan, and YES WE WANT GAMES DAMMIT. And then go like the other pages involved in the movement. You can read about what the Aselian Movement is all about, as well as find about the other games involved in the movement by reading about them here.