E3 2016: Tales of Berseria Moves The Series Forward (And Backward)

The Tales series has been around for a few decades now, and every one that comes out brings with it a new sense of locale and personality. After some hands-on time with the latest, Tales of Berseria, I can say that while I did feel a bit like I was playing the same game as Tales of Zesteria, which we saw last year, it still comes off as a charming little number. Maybe it's time for a full overhaul, but for now, it feels consistently satisfying enough.

Little is known about the story, outside of the fact that it's set centuries in the past from Tales of Zesteria, and that it's a revenge story of sorts. We don't know whom the revenge is meant for, nor whom is ready to dish it out, but only that it's a thing. The demo wasn't geared toward fleshing out story—which is good, because I can't read a lick of Japanese—but instead to show off the battle system.

Players can control up to four different characters in battle at once, with the ability to swap in and out other players from the party, which I experienced with six total to choose from. While you can swap in and out, or switch to another fighter already on the field, the two not in battle already were above and below a single character, almost indicating a power-up or other support to someone who may need it.

Fighting is unique from character to character, and I mean that literally. Every character in the party can equip a different set of combos using skills they've learned, strung together however a player may choose. Sure, you can button-mash a single key, but when you're facing an enemy where that may not work, the ability to organize combos with unique abilities for each character is a godsend. Especially when you can swap in and out of any given party member. To paraphrase a great man, this is the RPG equivalent to laying the smacketh-down on all their candy asses.

There's also a spirit gauge that fills when certain criteria are met, and after it's reached at least three levels (out of a possible five, from the looks of things), a "Soul Blast" attack can be used, which is unique to every character. Only one was available in the demo, and my character powered way the hell up, tearing the hell out of everything that moved, but while that was happening I saw her life bar rapidly decreasing in the process. It's not known or clear if this will be the case for any or every other character—the idea of risk/reward for such a booming attack sequence—but it's happened at least once. Wouldn't be crazy to think this sort of situation isn't unique to that one character.

How fast the whole package runs is impressive, with the player's four-character party all attacking on-screen at once against a bunch of enemy figures. (In this case, the word "bunch" means something between "multiple" and "metric crap-ton".) The world is about as beautiful as 3D anime-inspired graphics can pull on the PS4, all without any noticeable slowdown, though the style is not very new. They poured some good time and effort into making that work, because as battles feel hectic, it's still clear as day that everybody's doing their own thing. And the full Japanese voice acting, with animated cutscenes instead of stationary cels of animation, is a welcome advance.

Currently, Tales of Berseria is set to release in Japan in mid-August, and the translated version to the US sometime in early 2017. If you're a fan, sound off of what you'd like to see in comments!