Tales of Zestiria Preview

Tales of Lunesta.

Along with their legacy as the home of Pac-Man, Bandai Namco Entertainment has been making their marks in the realms of manga- and anime-based material and racing games. But they also hold the rights to the Tales of series, a popular line of Japanese RPGs, with many having seen North American localizations. Tales of Zestiria is the fifteenth core title in this series, intended to return to the roots of the series for the Tales 20th anniversary, which could be marketing-speak for “nothing new to see here.”

During the keynote presentation of Bandai Namco's Global Gamers Day for the Americas, held last week in Las Vegas, Tales of Zestiria took some focus, revealing a western release window of Summer 2015. For the remainder of the event, however, the game took a very noticeable back seat, with no developers meetings and only a small demo area, and unmanned at that. So I helped myself to a PS3 controller and gave it a go.

What I found felt very similar to any other Tales game, be it Tales of Symphonia, Xillia or its sequel Xillia 2, or Hearts or Hearts R. In fact, I missed the choice-making factor found in Xillia 2, which I found to be a unique improvement. The game surrounds Sorey, a human who is destined to become a Shepherd, defeat the Hellion, and save humanity as well as the magical race known as the Seraphim. It's all decidedly JRPGish, so expect a lot of high-fantasy, magic-wielding, and dramatic moments.

Of particular note, one of the only new things I really enjoyed from the game is that battles in Tales of Zestiria take place in the walk-around environment as opposed to a separate battle screen, providing seamless transitions between the two. The tradition of ridiculously-lengthy names for the battle system continues, this time being called the Fusionic Chain Linear Motion Battle System, where two characters can fuse their powers to make a damaging super-attack.

The fact of the matter is Tales of Zestiria is nothing new, and won't win over any new fans. I totally get that. I've been with Nintendo consoles since 1985; you know how many Mario platformers I've enjoyed? It's the high-fantasy JRPG themes fans of the Tales series have come to expect. The game was released in Japan in January and sold over 400,000 units in its first week, so maybe it doesn't need new fans or high-end marketing. But I just can't help but feel with Tales of Zestiria that I've heard this tale told before.