Freitag, 6. Februar 2015

Tales of Zestiria: Scenario arc

Well, not only. I will have to address the Japanese fandom problem here but I will go into deep spoiler territory for the game so read at your own risk below the cut.

First though, I forgot some things in the previous entry. I was so focused on stating my opinion regarding points others called weak or even awful, I forgot to leave a few words on the stuff that is good and no one can convince me otherwise.

Most importantly, the music. I've loved Shiina Go's soundtrack of Legendia A LOT and also his few tracks in the Radiant Mythology game so I was pretty hyped to hear he'd contribute to Zestiria (I still haven't played God Eater but someday I will. The music is too good to miss out). And I was not disappointed, his tracks are amazing, probably even more epic than Legendia's.
But it's not just him, I loved many Sakuraba tracks in the game as well. Lots of them gave me Eternal Sonata/Trusty Bell vibes which has always been my favorite soundtrack composed by him.
The normal battle themes are rather plain but I don't remember not liking any track (expect for a short passage of a bonus one maybe xD)
I think this might become my favorite Tales of soundtrack and I do not regret ordering it in any way.

As for the Opening, I'm personally not very fond of it. The parts I read of the lyrics were quite fitting for the game but it's not something I will listen to a lot. It's just my preference though, I know many love it.
The visuals were a bit underwhelming too. The animation quality is top-notch, as expected from Ufotable, but it feels like there is just random fighting in the OP instead of foreshadowing the game's plot :/ At least they included most side characters.

I mentioned this before but I think the ingame graphics are beautiful. I personally prefer half of the main cast in anime cutscene style but especially the scenery is quite pretty and doesn't lack diversity. Not only the fields but also cities/towns feel bigger than they did in most Tales before.

I don't really need to compliment the voice acting or complain about costume DLC as these are old news. Might want to add though that Tsuda-san (Zaveid) should speak louder XD
And a recommendation: From the standard setting increase the voices to max and lower the BGM by one. Not necessary early in the game but definitely as you're approaching the end.

Cut now. 

For the people who opened it from twitter and can't see the read more break:
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To be safe.
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Last chance.
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I warned you.
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Don't blame me.


This will probably be a big mess because I'm not doing it in the chronological order of the game but rather points people rage about or I feel could've been handled differently.

Considering the earlier posted Amazon reviews and this (I only read the opening post myself because I felt it was enough.) I should start off with the marketing.

At first Alisha was introduced as the heroine. She was on all kinds of promotional images and stuff. She got a pre-order hi-ougi, strap, mini figure in the limited edition and even scale figure. When Rose was revealed, information about Alisha basically stopped. But Namco never said Rose would be the heroine either.
If you looked closely at screenshots and trailers it was obvious Alisha would only be a temporary group member.
Actually, if you looked closely a lot of the plot information could be predicted, like the Dezel/Zaveid case too. The only plot point that seemed more important than it ultimately was, which was not easily to look through, would be the Dragons that played a role probably not major enough to many.
I mean the game doesn't have any major plot twists but I was hardly surprised at all while I played, neither from the gameplay nor the story. It was all “as I expected” (which didn't affect my enjoyment in any way).

Now, what is the problem?
Japanese fans feel betrayed by Namco for telling them Alisha was the heroine. For saying the game was about Dragons. Maybe even for killing off Dezel. But in the end it's all about Alisha (Or Kayano-san who voices her. I get the feeling extreme seiyuu fans might very well play a role in this although it's only an assumption. I mean they didn't even truly know Alisha, so I can only guess it's about Kayano-san in the end, who is a popular seiyuu. If you ever watched a Nico stream in which she appears, you will know).

Setting detailed personality aside, Alisha is to me like a crossover between Natalia and Flynn. She is a princess and knight with high sense of responsibility and duty. To protect her land and her people, she will take any necessary step, even if it means enduring humiliation from the government.
But she is also kind. Sorey got to know her closely, helped her out when she was in trouble so she feels indebted to him. She would never want to be burden to his health and selfishly tag along.
So from the point of view of the plot, it makes sense that she is not in the group all the time.
I personally have no issues with that fact, but I do feel like they could've handled some scenes and explanations better though. When she finally showed her true feelings after losing her supporting pillar, the conversation that followed stroke me as odd. It's like, she just cried but then pulls her act together too quickly. Of course she goes to stop the war but ?? it was a bit too sudden. Also, it would've made sense to get her back for the final dungeon. But no, instead Sorey wants to leave in the middle of the night and thus kills any opportunity to meet her again even in sidequests. That's a weird decision in my opinion as they could've made her optional or at least temporary for more sidequests. She was playable for a longer time than Flynn in the Box version, but around the same as Richard in the Wii version I think? People were joking why no one made a fuss about those two but in the end, it probably comes down to rabid male fans after all. Namco was right when they said the playing fanbase is mainly male (while the event fanbase is mainly female).

To make things worse, Namco announced an epilogue DLC only five days after release with Alisha as the main character. I personally couldn't even be upset about the fact they release a story DLC that costs money when they said they wouldn't before (they made it free for two weeks but probably out of necessity after the horrendous negative feedback) because I was too focused on the fact they showed indirect spoilers of the game's ending when the majority of the (Japanese, let alone overseas) players weren't even finished with the game.
I am anxious to see whether it will be only a few kb big or not because if it will, it means the data is in the game already. Unfortunately, this is highly likely because the release date is just too early (next week). Sony is pretty harsh with PSN release schedules.

It's a fact that Namco did give some wrong information (about the heroine and such) which Baba-san already apologized for. But I don't even know how it could go out of hand this much just because of it. They didn't even know Alisha before they played very well and then feel betrayed. As I stated before, most things could easily be concluded from the images shown. I'm sorry to be blunt about this, but are people blind? Or stupid? Or both?

I am not okay with story-DLC, I am not okay with this timing and I think they could've handled the information differently. But this is not a reason to threaten a company or persons.
I only heard about it but apparently people directed their hate not only towards Namco and Baba-san but also the character designer of Rose Fujishima-sensei who left twitter for the time being and Komatsu-san who voices Rose.

It's like the Alisha-fans are upset that Rose stole her place. Which is completely true gameplay-wise but only partly story-wise. Sorey offered her to join him after the Tenzoku suggest to do so. Her motivation to tag along is well, not very reasonable and it did feel a bit strange. I think they attracted each other because they are somewhat alike, yet opposites. To me they felt like siblings.
She is also hated because of her profession and (supposedly) contradicting personality though, which is, in my opinion, not entirely true. Some reviews I read stated that it doesn't make sense that she can kill people and still stay pure but she is not the only one to do so.
At the Temple of Wind Genevia there's a woman who wants to kill herself after she has been branded a murderer (which she did to protect her family). But she didn't turn into a Hyouma. Zaveid kills Hyouma. Symonne can't kill anyone, but leading others to kill each other would be more than enough reason to start being defiled, same goes for Dezel. The rest of the Bones of Wind kill too. I suspect Sergei must've killed people as a knight before as well. And then there is Sorey at the end of the game.

I like to compare it to Psycho-Pass. I believe that people who are criminally asymptomic are simply able to controll their hue/psyche if they strongly believe to be sane and do the right thing.

Just like Hyouma who believe so strongly in their deeds that they can't be purified, I feel like the same is possible for people who don't become Hyouma.
There is no clear black and white, the game wants to tell you exactly that, if I think back of some things Rose and Symonne said.
I think Sorey wouldn't have been defiled even if he had killed Photon instead of Rose. Or at that point, maybe he would. But he became mentally stronger, and I think Rose plays a big part in this. And in the end he is able to kill someone too.
As for the contradiction of her early appearances, she might very well have been controlled by Dezel, definitely when he was visible but maybe even outside that. I don't see a problem here.

I guess I strayed from the original topic a bit. In conclusion... Namco now states Zestiria doesn't have a set heroine and that it depends on the view of the player.
For me, the heroine of a game has to be a key character who proceeds the plot through her actions. If she does that, playability doesn't play a role. My favorite Tales heroine is Claire after all.
Looking at Zestiria like that though, I conclude it doesn't really have one. Neither Alisha nor Rose nor Mikleo truly fulfill that role. If I had to choose one, based on the amount of important scenes especially near the end, it would be Mikleo I suppose. But well, if I don't have to choose, I'd say there is none.

So... no. I don't see the problem. If Namco had never said Alisha were the heroine could this all have been avoided? Possibly, but no one knows for sure.
I get the feeling that if they port the game to PS4 and include Alisha more, it might backfire even further. I personally would like an enhanced version, but the game as is doesn't feel incomplete to me at all.
Just, no story DLC in the future please Namco. I will continue buying stupid costumes because I want to, but I want DLC to stay completely optional stuff that doesn't add to the plot.

I've also read a few statements of people who were disappointed that Dragons didn't seem to play a major role or that the case of Edna's brother Aizen was shoved off as a sidequest.
To me it was only natural that it would end up as a sidequest. I admit I initially thought Sorey would find a way to save him but as the story progressed I realized that he wouldn't. But that's fine, you can't magically save everyone and with Zaveid's promise it still made for a good scene. I just had hoped they'd do a scene similar to Dezel's and show what he looked like normally, too bad.

Apart from Aizen, I think Dragons were overall important enough, even if only for that one scene at the battlefield. I would have made some more optional bosses perhaps but I guess if you can't save them, better not make it unnecessarily tragic? XD

On to the next topic, I think the timing of Dezel's death was a bit misplaced. They should've swapped his air temple with one of the others. Now it's like “we finally feel like a team!” and then they go and kill him. Uh, yeah.
The scene itself was beautiful in my opinion. And I don't think the characters were not “sad enough”. I loved Lailah's farewell with the papercrane and I cried when Rose conveyed Dezel's message to Sorey. The others mostly didn't truly know him/cared that much so...
I question the decision to give Zaveid his hat though. While it is to some extent nice to see he honors him this way, I can't look at him without having a weird aftertaste. Same goes for the costume. I mean I did put it on him for a while but I still can't help but feel it would've been better if they had just given him the hat optionally (At least I know why they never showed his status image).
Looking at the pre-release info or the OP you'd guess a lot of people would feel trolled for Zaveid taking Dezel's place but so far I haven't read any complaints about this to be honest. Because he's a guy? HAHA.
Anyway, props to Namco for daring to kill a party member, even if some parts of it bother me personally (GODDAMNIT THE HAT).
Yes, I am sad. I think he would've been able to develop further if he had stayed alive. But it's also a bit unrealistic to have everyone magically survive when they get hit like this.
(I also found it interesting that he was blind, but that doesn't have anything to do with what I said before)

You know what Namco could've done to fix the problem of Dezel's and Alisha's playability at least partially? Add Narikiri Dolls. Like Destiny Remake and Graces f.
Doesn't change the fact people died, but that way people who enjoyed playing Lion or Richard could continue doing so.
I'm still convinced there will be an enhanced version sooner or later but let's not excuse the lack of it with that...

On the bright side, there were lots of scenes I felt were just made right. The fight between Sorey and Mikleo was executed nicely among many other scenes, gameplay elements were utilized for the story (like the need to go to sleep if you wanted to act at night, conversations while moving yourself, and at the end, delivering the final blow manually...), I also loved the half-animated scenes for the Memory of the Earth orbs a lot.

As I stated many times before, I think the characters don't grow a lot and the plot just doesn't have any major twists but the way the characters interact makes up for it. I love the dynamics in the group (basically the only reason I am truly sad for the lack of Dezel and Alisha. If you watch DLC skits you'll understand TAT).
I can excuse the lack of character development for the really old Tenzoku by the way (Lailah, Edna, Zaveid). I hardly change anymore either and I'm only 24, not several hundreds of years old.

What I truly didn't like were the antagonists though. Or the way they were written. The main boss Helldalf had backstory that was explained in enough detail but all the “less important” enemies felt random, some less, some more.

Maltran was never shown with Helldalf despite being loyal to him apparently? And what the heck happened to that sword she stole from Ashura? I might be missing a sidequest about it as I thought it might've been a weapon of darkness but uh... what. She didn't even use it I think?
I'm glad they had Alisha join the party back for fighting against her but it was all too sudden and strange... Also, what was Maltran anyway. Some NPC said he saw her getting eaten by Hyouma and how she could not possibly be alive, yet she retains her form when we fight her. Like ??
How does Helldalf know her when she is originally from Merlind (Hyland) while he was a former general in Pendrago (Rolands).

Symonne's backstory and all did make a bit more sense (Why she follows Helldalf, how she has been working under him for some time) but she had too little screentime still. We even leave her back crying...? XD” I never returned to that spot, dunno if you can talk to her again.

Worst was definitely Lunarre though. Okay, he tried to find and kill Alisha because of a (in the end wrong) request. He is with the Bones of Wind as we see early on but why does he never appear alongside them later on? Or is mentioned? I mean Sorey and Mikleo did want to avenge Maisen (On a side note, his death was a lot more acceptable in the game... No random firework parties), yet never ask Rose about him. Then they meet him again and still don't ask him?!
It's also strange that the guild doesn't confine him if they don't trust him. He later goes and betrays them, surprise!
Similar to Maltran, what is he, in the end. A Hyouma or not? Why did he EAT Maisen anyway? Why was he a member of the guild? He didn't even conceal his face. I just... don't understand at all.
He appeared and died randomly. Similar to Zagi I guess...? I just don't like people like that. At least Hasta had a past, even if it doesn't really explain his insanity either.

(Slightly related: Why are there rubber straps of Maltran and Lunarre? At least Symonne was more interesting. But I'd take Sergei and Jiiji over those two any time.)

Some things I might not have understood properly because of my lack of Japanese knowledge so correct me if I'm wrong, haha (valid for both the things I said and the things to come, especially for the latter though).

I'm still a bit confused about the Memory fragments. When you have gathered all of them you notice they show a not very distant past, not even 20 years.
There is a time when there are several Doushi (or some may be their Juushi, I dunno) who try to do something against the calamity. If it's only been, say 10 years (if we can trust Lailah's words in a skit), why did people believe the Doushi to be only a fairytale?
I can only assume that Doushis have always been there, but the people don't believe they have any true power as it's been 200 years since the last calamity. I don't think they truly said so, though.

I really want a timeline for the past 1000 years since the Asgard era, maybe it helps me understand. I think a World Guide has already been anounced, please release it soon D:
I doubt it will have info on the ages of the Tenzoku or their individual pledges but I hope it will.

I'm finally running out of things to write, gosh.
So, the ending. Need to write a bit more specific of my impressions of this.

I almost cried at the scene with Mikleo and his mother when he was a human. It wasn't even that emotional but it somehow hit me really hard. He honors her decision to give her life to purify the land and also refrains from telling her who he is. He just silently accepts her staff.
Of course, for him, Jiiji is his only family, but you can see that he did feel something. I'm sure in other circumstances he would've wanted to be with her for some longer.

Then, I almost cried again when Sorey and Mikleo decide to go against Jiiji who has been absorbed by Helldalf. This might have been the most emotional scene to me, maybe because I cared a lot for Jiiji. Or the game gave you chances to care for him.
The battle against Helldalf was executed nicely. I first died through his Indignation because I started blocking in a corner as soon as I recognized the chant XD (Only Tales of spell chant I will ALWAYS recognize, seriously). On second try fought desperately instead and it worked. Would've been to low/short in time if my brother hadn't been there to inflict proper damage with Rose though.

Then Sorey cuts of the platform he is on. At first I was panicking because I suck at duels XD”” But fortunately it was stopped as soon as I triggered my hi-ougi.
I loved how they set up the next scene. I mentioned it before but walking towards him, pulling the sword out and dealing the final blow manually... Just wow.

Then everything went by with a flash. Sorey mentioned what he intended to do in the last night before the decisive battle but it was still stylized a lot.
It felt a bit short to me. It was okay but just a bit too sudden. You have to interpret it, which is not bad though. Considering the straightforward and somewhat fairytale like plot (we always knew we had to defeat Saika no Kenshuu) it was quite fitting.

I might run into the danger of forgetting a bunch of things again but you know what, I don't care anymore. There's probably only a handful of people who will read this soon anyway.

All in all I summarize:
  • I think marketing went wrong mainly because of focusing too much on Alisha
  • And also because of wrong timing (to release information)
  • Fans do not want (paid) story DLC in their Tales
  • Alisha could have been much more (but as it stands she is not as interesting as people make her be)
  • Rose could have been introduced and implemented better (but I don't really see faults with her personality itself)
  • The game doesn't have a heroine (f you truly need one, ask Mikleo)
  • The story parts that focus on Dezel could have started earlier to make the story progress feel smoother
  • The game lacks Narikiri Dolls for temporary playable characters
  • Scenes, transitions and story flow were done nicely with a few exceptions (when you did not find what you needed to do, might depend on the player)
  • The plot is straightforward and the characters don't develop a lot (but their interaction in scenes or skits is highly enjoyable)
  • Most antagonists were written poorly or didn't get enough focus
  • The game might suffer from a few contradictions
  • The ending felt a bit sudden

From the part above:
  • The music is godly (Pun intended)
  • The graphics improved from Xillia (Also new engine)
  • Costume DLC if you want more than just color variations (Not new but well yeah)

My favorite character ended up being Edna as predicted, followed by Mikleo. I like the rest of the cast too but wouldn't dare to put them in order.

I don't really ship anyone.
I would've probably shipped Sorey and Alisha if they had more scenes together and if Sorey wouldn't become a (sleeping) Tenzoku in the end. The interaction they got at the beginning were really cute but I think it would be a one-sided crush of Alisha.
Sorey and Mikleo are totally bromance to me like Yuri and Flynn, no fujoshi thoughts involved in the slightest.
Dezel is probably more like Rose's father than lover, Sorey and Rose are siblings to me... I love Edna teasing Mikleo but I don't see them romantically either, just friends.
Thanks to the last night scene, Aizen subevent and fanarts I might have a thing for Zaveid/Edna now but not that much, I think.

What I thought of the game overall I already stated before so I will end this now. 

Thanks for reading.


EDIT: The only thing I need to update even if the whole text could need a revamp... (Plus Alisha Episode)
My fav is still undeniably Edna but second is now Zaveid.
And I ended up shipping them. I'm not sorry. But I will try to keep quiet about it XD

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