Celebrating 20 years of the Tales of series, as well as tying in with the recent release of Tales of Zestiria, MCM London Comic Con had a special anniversary panel for the Japanese RPG franchise.
Hosted by Bandai Namco community executive, Edwin Chuah, he put together a presentation that made for a nice recap of each game in the series that was released in the west, as well as some fun facts and how the games have managed to spin-off into other areas, such as manga, anime and even appearances in other media.
Before getting underway, Edwin complimented the turnout of amazing Tales cosplayers that were in attendance. “Major big respect to all cosplayers, especially since so much hard work goes into it,” he said.
To kick things off, a 20th anniversary trailer was played, showing footage from each of the games, from Tales of Phantasia right up to Tales of Zestiria. There were cheers (and even applause) from the fans when their favourites from the franchise appeared on screen. “That’s quite a response,” said Edwin.
Starting at the beginning, he mentioned how it all began with Tales of Phantasia, released on the Super Famicom in December 1995. “It’s had numerous ports,” he said. “The most notable one being on the Game Boy Advance, as it came out in Europe in 2006.” The fun fact he revealed about the game was that, “it’s the only Super Famicom game to feature an entirely original and vocalised theme song directly in the game.”
Tales of Destiny was released on the Sony PlayStation in 1997 and was the first game in the series to be localised in English. “Unfortunately only in the US,” said Edwin, which drew boos from the crowd! “I imagine not many of you would have played it.” He revealed that the character Leon Magnus is one of only two characters to be a multiple first place winner in the Japanese Tales character poll. “Because he’s so popular he’s been moved into what’s called the hall of fame,” said Edwin. “He can’t be voted anymore, but we all know that everyone loves him.”
Tales of Eternia followed in 2000 for the Sony PlayStation, but arrived in Europe for the PSP in 2006. Edwin noted how in the US it was called Tales of Destiny 2, “even though it’s not proper related at all.”
“I expect a lot of cheers for this next one,” said Edwin, and there was, as Tales of Symphonia appeared on the screens. Released on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2003 it was the first European Tales title to follow the story of Lloyd Irving. Edwin described the game as “a massive milestone” as it was the first in the franchise to utilise 3D renders. The fun fact was that many believe Tales of Symphonia takes place in the same world as Tales of Phantasia, just on a different timeline. “Most people think it’s several years beforehand,” said Edwin. “This is due to the similar location names, as well as using spirits for the basis of the world. If you’re a very hardcore Tales fan, you’ve probably heard of the song Fighting of the Spirit, and it’s used in both games.” He then revealed that the game is being released on Steam next year, which resulted in more cheers from the crowd.
The next game was the sequel Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, which was released for the Nintendo Wii in 2008. “It’s the first Tales game to have both English and Japanese voices,” said Edwin. Both the Symphonia games were cleaned up, bundled together and re-released for the PS3 in 2013. “It’s in nice, minty, crisp HD,” he said.
Tales of the Abyss marked the 10th anniversary of the series when it was originally released on the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2005. “The 3DS version came out in 2011 for you guys,” said Edwin. “It’s pretty hard to find now these days, but if you’re able to find a copy of it I highly recommend picking it up.” The fun fact for this title was that it featured a hidden location known as Nam Cobanda Isle. “This is the first Tales game to come out after Namco and Bandai had come together to merge as one company. This island is filled with lots of iconic cameos and references of classic IP’s from both companies. It’s quite a fun place.”
Next up was Tales of Vesperia, which was released on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 in 2008. Edwin noted that there’s a Blu-ray movie that happens to be a prequel to the game, which resulted in a few attendees shouting out “SEEN IT.”
“Even if you’ve not played the game, it’s still a good standalone movie,” said Edwin. “We have to give a shout out to Manga Entertainment for bringing it to Europe. If you’re able to find a copy, definitely pick this one up.”
Tales of Graces was originally released for the Nintendo Wii in 2009, but was later ported to the Sony PlayStation 3 as Tales of Graces f, with Europe getting its hands on the game in 2012. “If you’ve played Tales of Graces, you’ll probably hear that word protect quite a lot,” said Edwin. Before it was officially announced that it would be coming to the west, Bandai Namco’s US team released a puzzling coded image across their social media pages. When solved it would take people to a website which revealed that Tales of Graces f would be released in the US.
2011 saw Tales of Xillia released for the Sony PlayStation 3. Edwin explained that it was a new milestone for the series. “It went for more realistic proportions with its presentation, it brought two main series character artists together for the first time [Kosuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata], it’s the first Tales game where you can start with two protagonists to see from the different perspectives and also has the first female lead protagonist.” The fun fact wasn’t really related to the game, but a mention of the series producer, Hideo Baba. “He’s had quite a few appearances here at Comic Con,” said Edwin. “Hopefully you’ve had the chance to meet him. He’s an absolutely amazing guy. His English is pretty good.”
The sequel Tales of Xilla 2 arrived on the Sony PlayStation 3 in 2013. Taking place a year after the events of the first game, the lead character is Ludger Will Kresnik, who ends up meeting the original cast during his journey. Ludger also happens to be the only character in the entire Tales series that can switch between different weapons in battle. “He’s defiantly the most diverse character on the battlefield,” said Edwin, who added that he has a choice of twin swords, twin pistols and a hammer. In his Chromatus form you can also use a fourth weapon, a duel bladed spear. “Cosplayers, I’ve already said I’ve given you a lot of respect,” said Edwin. “But I’ll give you extra brownie points if you are able to secretly store all these weapons.”
Tales of Hearts R was the first English PlayStation Vita game. Initially released solely in Japan for the Nintendo DS in 2008, the remake (hence the R) found its way on the Vita in 2013. Before the game was even announced on the Vita, Sony Computer Entertainment’s senior business development manager, Shahid Kamal Ahmad, called for a poll on Twitter to drum up interest for JRPG’s on the Vita, using the hastag #jrpgvita. “Tales of Hearts R got the highest response,” said Edwin. “I’m pretty sure that quite a few of you in this room helped take part, so a massive thank you to you guys.”
“In celebration of the 20th anniversary comes Tales of Zestiria,” said Edwin. “It’s the first PS4 and PC ownership Tales game.” He also revealed that the PS4 and PC versions of Tales of Zestiria are exclusive to Europe and the US, for when it was originally released in Japan it was solely on the Sony PlayStation 3.
Edwin then covered the evolution of the Tales series. He mentioned the character artists Kosuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata. With a background as a manga artist, Fujishima was the first character artist to join the Tales series. “He started designing characters for Tales of Phantasia, but didn’t return till Tales of Symphonia was in development,” said Edwin. Inomata was an animator for Toei Animation. “She started her debut with Tales of Destiny,” he said. “On the 15th anniversary with Tales of Xillia, they are both working on the character designs for all the games. It marks a very grand moment that they’ve come together.”
Of the anime cutscenes that feature in the games, they were first introduced in Tales of Destiny and were all animated by Production I.G. “It’s always been done by them, up until Tales of Graces f,” said Edwin. To show off the quality of their animation for the games he then played the intro song to Tales of Vesperia – Ring the Bell. The lyrics were on the screen with Edwin inviting the audience to sing along.
After the song, it turned out that Edwin had spotted someone singing along. “I want to give a special mention to that guy, who was singing his heart out,” he said, pointing to a fan sat near the front. Edwin then asked him to stand up so everyone could give him a round of applause.
Edwin then mentioned that Ufotable took over from animating the cutscenes from Tales of Xillia onwards. To show off the strength of their work, he then played the intro song to Tales of Xillia 2 – Song 4 U.
The battle systems in the games were then touched upon, with Edwin giving a brief mention about Tales of Zestiria’s Fusionic Chain Linear Motion Battle System. “You can fuse with another character, I’m not saying which ones specifically, to be a much more powerful entity of a specific element,” he said. “You can dish out a lot more damage in this form.”
Edwin then mentioned the Tales Festival, an event that takes place in Japan (as soon as the image for this appeared on the screens one fan shouted out, “Bring it over here.”)
“It’s designed for Tales fans to gather and share their experiences with each other,” said Edwin of the event. “It features a live show with some of the iconic voice actors. There’s music and even announcements of merchandise and games.”
“Also in Japan is a place called the Kotobukiya store,” said Edwin. “Have a fat wallet when you go in; when you come out it might be a bit slimmer as this place is just filled with tons of Tales merchandise.”
He then talked about the Tales of Magazine that’s published every two months in Japan. “There’s original artwork, it showcases fan work, some behind the scenes to get you excited about the Tales series and a short manga strip.”
“Something we’re quite proud of is the Tales Ambassador,” said Edwin, “Every year we look for an ambassador to represent the Tales brand. We see the finest cosplayers take part in various challenges to prove why they should be the ambassador to represent the series.”
He then gave a shout out to MyM Magazine and Neo Magazine for their coverage of the Tales games. “They usually have covers of the Tales series on them and in those issues are interviews, features and I highly recommend checking it out.”
“The Tales series has appeared in other media and games,” he said, as he mentioned how Lloyd Irving from Tales of Symphonia has appeared in Soulcalibur Legends and that his and Colette Brunel’s costumes also made an appearance in Ragnarok Odyssey Ace. “You know, Lloyd’s a pretty popular guy,” said Edwin, at which point he then showed off this image…
“His costume is available in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS,” he said. “You can beat your friends using Lloyd.” Yuri Lowell, Estellise Sidos Heurassein and Flynn Scifo from Tales of Vesperia also make an appearance in Project X Zone for the 3DS, at which point Edwin mentioned that the sequel Project X Zone 2 would be available in Europe in February 2016 and will include Zagi from Tales of Vesperia. He also revealed how Tales of Zestiria even made a sneaky appearance in Sword Art Online II.
The last few minutes of the panel had Edwin giving a quiz, with correct answers resulting in some Tales goodies, such as badges and limited edition brooches. The grand prize was a Tales of Zestiria figure of Sorey, with two fans duking it out with a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors (paper beat rock).
“Thank you very much for coming along,” concluded Edwin as the anniversary panel finally came to a close.