Tales of Zestiria: First Impressions

I’ve put in a few more hours into Tales of Zestiria, and have some thoughts about it. To put it short: mixed reaction, though mostly positive.

I’ll start with the negatives:

  • The combat system is different from other Tales Of games. Much simpler, at least with the normal attacks. It might just be that I’m playing on semi-auto, though; perhaps manual would make things more like normal? But I’m pretty sure I’ve played semi-auto in all games before this, and it wasn’t the same. (But maybe I was playing on manual this whole time, and just don’t remember.)
  • This isn’t really specific to this game, but I’m going to mention it anyways: I hate how the Select/Cancel buttons are reversed between Switch games and other games. I kept messing up when I was playing Switch games, and now that I’m coming back to the standard controller config, it’s messing me up again. I know I could remap the controls (in either case), but I’m not going to give up that easily, dammit!
  • Again, not specific to this game, but not having a screenshot button on the controller is annoying. I have no shots from the first three hours of the game. More specific to this game, the cutscene text auto-advances, so I have to have good timing with screenshots, which is harder when both of my hands are on the controller by default, and under a blanket at that, while my keyboard isn’t.
  • This is a typical jrpg pc port. Or, in other words, poorly done. It’s pretty badly optimized, and I have noticeable framerate drops, despite my good rig. Also, the ingame Vsync just plain doesn’t work – had to use the graphics card settings to get rid of some of the worst screen tearing I’ve ever experienced.
  • The localization is questionable. I really hate it when translators make the dialog more snappy. I know there are times when a straight translation doesn’t work, but you don’t need to completely rewrite 3/4 of the lines. When even a babby-tier Japanese-knower like me can tell so much is wrong, there are problems.
  • The mentor character Lailah mentions that just how everything will turn out depends entirely on the actions and choices of the hero. This implies that the player will have choice in how things proceed. However, this is a Tales Of game, which don’t exactly have a history of player agency in the story, to put it mildly. I seriously doubt that will change with this game. Not that linearity is a problem in itself, but the implication that player story agency might be present is.
  • Sorey looks really weird. I initially thought that was going to be the artsytle, but no, it’s just him. He’s got this tiny head with weird facial proportions. He looks kinda like an alien, to be honest.

And now for the good:

  • The scene where Sorey becomes the Shepherd is probably one of the most epic (in the true sense of the word) “taking the mantle of the hero” scenes in vidya that I’ve seen. It’s properly hyped up, for one – usually that scene just happens with little fanfare (see: Link pulls out the Master Sword in most Zelda games). But here there is a lot of buildup right from the opening narration. Not only that, but there’s a whole crisis surrounding it, with a lot of witnesses – usually this stuff happens when the hero is alone, or with his party only. The music is great for the scene. The stakes are explained (albiet in a melodramatic dialog during the middle of the crisis), and the character is properly heroic. And then resolves the crisis, everyone looking at him carrying the saved person on his shoulder (holy messianic imagery batman!). I know my explanation makes it sound rather overwrought, but trust me, it’s great (in fact, it’s the reason I wanted to make this post). I think the only similar scene that comes close (that I can recall) is Link pulling out the Master Sword in Breath of the Wild, and it’s not particularly close.
  • I actually like all the characters so far, especially the MC. Sorey is without guile, but not naive. He’s perceptive and smart, despite coming off like the foolish protagonist; but he’s not some secret genius either. He’s optimistic without being idealistic. He’s so far making the typical new hero mistakes, alongside the typical youthful male mistakes, but he’s not prideful, and is willing to own up to it. A real breath of fresh air, compared to similar jrpg protagonists (especially in the Tales Of series). Mikleo is a truly good brother character, despite the Elf/Human dynamic.
  • I really, really like the music. Even walking along a path has bombastic orchestral music. Reminds me a lot of FFXII, to be honest. Not quite that good, but with that mindset.
  • The girls are really cute. Shame they aren’t the main characters.

The world they’re building is already pretty not-good – the government is corrupt, the church is corrupt, everything is going to hell. I wonder what the big dramatic Tales Of twist is going to be. I don’t see how they’re going to pull the “angels are really the bad guys!” thing here. And they’re already hinting that the Shepherd business isn’t all it’s made out to be, so I doubt it’s going to be something along those lines (though maybe that’s how it’s going to tie into the sequel). I guess I’ll see.

It’s still technically Blapril until the 9th.