Tales of Zestiria (PS4 review)


The past couple of months has been filled with a few highly anticipated video game releases such as Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront, and Rise of the Tomb Raider (just to name a few). It makes it so hard to just sit back and enjoy one game at a time. Of course, while many of those games were released on multiple systems, the PlayStation 4 saw three exclusive titles: Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance from NIS America, Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below from Square Enix, and one game I really looked forward to (being the newest game in the Tales series), Tales of Zestiria.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Tales series since Tales of Destiny, and I’ve been playing every game since. It was how the game came together that drew me in with real-time gameplay, story and well-developed characters. While not all of them have lived up to the excitement, Tales of Zestiria does a great job of reminding me why I enjoy this series (even with its many, many flaws).

Tales of Zestiria feels like Bandai Namco Studios tried to take the series back to its roots. It created a much simpler (yet unique) game by taking bits and pieces from previous Tales games to create something that meshes together pretty well. The game’s story is more simple than previous Tales games (which had a habit of trying to become complex as the story progressed), whereas in Zestiria, it doesn’t try adding tons of tons of things to work. In the game, you play as Sorey, a young boy raised by beings known as Seraphim. Humans and Seraphim used to co-exist in harmony, but over time, that faded away with humans not being able to see or talk to the Seraphim anymore. Sorey (raised with his best friend/brother, Mikleo) loves exploration and, most of all, the mysteries of the ruins. One day, while exploring nearby ruins, they find a hurt girl and save her. When Sorey learns of the fate of the world below, his dream of being the Shepard (a legendary hero who stands up and fights against evil) comes true when he meets Lailah, who warns him of the pain of what’s to come if he chooses to remove the sword from the stone.

One of the biggest improvements Zestiria had over Graces F (and both Xillia games) is a vastly improved Linear Motion Battle System, which allows for free movement in battle, the ability to switch between your different partners anytime, and a combo system based on your Sprit Chain points (SC) to perform combos using both regular skills and special skills. While I never cared much for the partner system in the last few titles, I did enjoy the concept of being able to switch out characters freely. This let you focus on an enemy’s element or weapon-type weakness as well (which plays a big role in your strategy). Like many games in the series, you are limited to four party members in battle. Normally you are character locked until you reach a safe zone or outside of battle. However, in Zestiria, you can switch out your Seraphim partner instantly by using the control pad. If one of your Seraphim falls in battle, you can switch out instantly to another, giving your fallen partner a chance to heal (which is in the sidelines or you can use a life bottle to raise them if needed).

One issue I had with Tales of Xillia 2 was the ‘Over Limit’ transformation system, which was too powerful and made the game really easy since it could be used almost all the time. Zestiria fixes this problem with “Armatization,” a more balanced fusion system where Sorey and Rose can fuse with their partnered Seraphim. In Armatization mode, Sorey (or later in the game, Rose) gains your paired Seraphim’s attribute type and abilities to use in battle and is extremely useful in a pinch or against strong enemies who are weak to a certain attribute. (You also have access to healing abilities and powerful moves.) If you are about to fall in battle, you can automatically enter this mode (it still counts as a knockout).

I was happy to see Zestiria featuring the return of expansive areas to explore. In the Xillia series, you were pretty much told where you had to go next. There wasn’t really any reason to take your time and explore the area aside from a few random chests to find. Zestiria fixes this by adding extra caves to explore for extra loot and scenarios, powerful enemy battles, and arena challenges. The one downfall to all these large lands is your method of traveling to different locations (which is done by having to spend money to return to save points you visited). The further away, the more you spend. By the end of the game, it’s okay, but mid game it really hits your wallet. Customization also makes a return. By fusing weapons or accessory items together, you can increase their stats as well as add or improve certain properties. It’s not really necessary since I just kept switching to better equipment often and was only useful if I found or picked up some extra. It has some benefits, especially if you max it out.

Tales of Zestiria was developed for the PlayStation 3, but Bandai Namco also decided to port the game on Steam and the PlayStation 4. Sadly all three versions of the game look like a PS2 game. For the PlayStation 4 port, there are quite a few issues which cause a lot of the visuals to look lackluster, heavy drop in framerates and some poor animations, which is pretty bad for a game this far into the PS3 development. While it’s very noticeable at certain points, it’s not a deal breaker as you can still enjoy it. The camera movement seems to have a mind of its own, like in battle where you are suddenly looking at a spot on the ground or enter a weird first person mode.

Tales of Zestiria is a fun title to play. It does have its issues graphically and even some very odd translation issues over the course of the game (Bandai Namco Studios localized the game in Japan). The game could have a much closer release date in North America and Europe as it did in Japan since both Xillia and Xillia 2 took two years to bring to the West. It’s not a game you need to rush to play, but it’s something you should pick up if you enjoy JRPG games.

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