Archives for posts with tag: Tales of

drippyBy Dan Bushell
The long awaited jRPG Ni No Kuni, which was co-developed by Level-5 and anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli, has finally hit the gaming world, and it’s stormed the charts in style! Many genre fans will agree that jRPGs aren’t as popular as they once were, yet this stunning game has arrived and now sits astride the charts, occupying the top spot against such massive competition as FIFA 13, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Far Cry 3. These titles may have released in the tail-end of 2012, but they’re still selling in high enough numbers to take the following three spots behind our colourful adventure.

I am a huge fan of the genre, so I was always going to buy this (in fact, I pre-ordered the lavish Wizard’s Edition the day it appeared on the net), but Ni No Kuni‘s chart performance has me very excited about how popular it has been, and I’ve been wondering whether it’s been down to pent-up demand from genre fans, or perhaps new fans are being drawn to jRPGs? I hope for it’s latter, and if that’s the case perhaps it’s the presence of Ghibli – often cited as Japan’s answer to Disney – that is what’s drawing new fans in?.

If it’s the former, there’s certainly pent-up demand to be had; this gen has been a bit sparse as far as Japanese role-playing goes. Sure, we’ve had a handful of excellent genre examples this gen – Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey and The Last Story, Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles and Namco-Bandai’s own Tales of series has furnished us with Vesperia and Graces f, and before long we’ll have Xillia to be getting on with. But I don’t think any of these titles have had a massive impact on sales, certainly not doing as well as we would’ve seen last-gen. Final Fantasy XIII sold a lot, as Final Fantasy titles tend to do, but its sequel only managed half the numbers.

As well as lesser sales, we don’t seem to get as many releases as we would have in the past. During the PS1 era, jRPGs were a powerhouse genre, thanks in large part to the success of Final Fantasy VII. The PS2 was rammed with jRPGs, the Dreamcast had the likes of Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia, and the Tales of series graced the GameCube with Symphonia. But this gen there’s not been much. Some titles just don’t seem to leave Japan anymore (even a Final Fantasy spin-off, Type-0, is MIA here); it can be frustrating when titles don’t secure a release over here due to a presumed lack of interest, and it ends up being a vicious cycle; we don’t get the titles, and so demand drops, and then we don’t get the next title, because the demand is too low.

Tying into this thought, I think back to the Eurogamer Expo in London’s Earl’s Court in September. Ni No Kuni was demoed there, but it was plain to see where most attention at the Expo was going. There were a lot of titles on show at Earl’s Court; big, highly-anticipated titles like Assassin’s Creed III, Black Ops II, Halo 4, Far Cry 3 and others. People were going crazy for these games – they’d queue for over an hour to play a game for ten minutes! Many at the Black Ops II demo seemed to be queuing for that one game over and over, all day long! Contrast this with Ni No Kuni‘s demo area, where a fraction of the number of machines were set up, and you could also walk straight up to play the game at pretty much any time of the day. Namco-Bandai had one staffer on duty from what I could see, yet you never had to wait for her to finish helping someone else before she could talk to you. It just didn’t have anywhere near the interest of other games there; nevermind CoDBlOps, the Doom 3 BFG Edition demo area was busier! And yet here, this week, sits Ni No Kuni, at number one.

Perhaps game sales are down across the board so soon after Christmas, meaning it’s easier to gain the number one spot, but I still call this a significant achievement – Black Ops II was actually top last week, proof that it’s still selling well. That Ni No Kuni has managed such a feat while many places have been struggling for stock is both impressive and disappointing – if Namco-Bandai had issued more copies, they surely would have sold more, but that’s the nature of risk/reward for you, and the company seems to have a habit of downplaying demand for their jRPGs (the Tales of series says hi!). But with Ni No Kuni topping the charts, we can certainly hope it has both pulled in a lot of older fans and a newer generation of gamers to the genre who may never have experienced such games. And we can hope, when the time comes to release Tales of Xillia, that Namco-Bandai remembers this week’s chart.

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Namco-Bandai Games has today confirmed that the latest installment in the much-loved Tales of jRPG series will see release in Europe next year.

Tales of Xillia, a PS3 exclusive, was released last year in Japan to coincide with the series’ 15th anniversary, and a sequel has already been announced for Japan. Fans have been wondering for a while if the first game would make it’s way west, as the Tales of series has typically been a little spotty for releases outside of Japan.

However, Namco-Bandai seems to be increasingly interested in making sure their flagship RPG series reaches a wider audience. First we had the 3DS port of the wonderful Tales of the Abyss (which unfortunately released in rather limited numbers and can still be a little hard to find) and then the lavish, recently-announced Day One edition for Tales of Graces f. I said at the time that that announcement was a good sign that Xillia would make it over here.

Tales of Xillia will launch in Europe some time next year, and while that may seem far off, keep in mind that Tales of Graces f is mere weeks away now, as it will release at the end of August. I almost feel greedy in hoping we see the Vita game Tales of Innocence R, but hey, the more the merrier!

If you’ve never played a Tales of game and feel a bit let down with the jRPGs we’ve received this gen, I urge you to try out one of Namco-Bandai’s titles. You may well rediscover something you thought was lost.

As I wait for the August launch of Tales of Graces f, I’ve been thinking back to my time with Tales of the Abyss. Often, some of the in-town music will pop into my head and rattle around for a few days, reminding me of the wonderful time I spent in the game’s company, and it’s also made me consider the way music is used in games; specifically in Tales of the Abyss to create a separation between the towns and world map, and the feeling of entering a town to rest and gain some respite from the larger conflict.

Have a listen to this piece, which plays on the world map after a story milestone:

It’s dramatic, hinting at an epic confrontation to come, and it has a real driving feel that helps to communicate that you’re pushing on to your next objective in your goal of saving the world.

Now listen to this in-town piece that plays when you enter the snowy wonderland of Keterburg:

This piece of music is pretty representative of the rest of the game’s in-town music. It’s disarmingly cheerful, despite the conflict that is ravaging the world outside of the town. In an RPG, you enter a town to rest and recharge, stock up, and maybe seek out a handful of sidequests, and it’s this aspect that often feels a little incongruous; why am I helping someone find their missing sheep while outside the walls the world is burning? Of course, a large part of gaming is the suspension of disbelief, but for me, this separation in musical themes and moods often helps me to actually forget the main quest exists for a short while while I potter about doing random things in a new town.

I’ve often seen the Tales of series referred to as ‘jRPG comfort food’, and given their traditional nature, it’s hard to argue. And I think the music can often play a large part in this feeling of comfort, subconsciously allowing you time off from the pressing engagement of saving the world.

E3 is almost upon us, so today, in lieu of the usual ‘Sunday Soapbox’ piece, I’ve decided to list some of the things I’ll be looking forward to or blindly hoping for. Because everybody loves a good list, don’t they?

The 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo starts on Tuesday June 5th at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, though Microsoft will be jumping ahead of the competition by having their press conference the day before. Yup, that means tomorrow!

So what am I looking forward to? I’ll try and group my thoughts by publisher or developer, so read on to find out, and then leave a comment to let me know what you’re looking forward to.

Microsoft
Seeing as they’re first off the blocks, I’ll get straight onto the Xbox 360 manufacturer, and the obvious starting point is Halo 4.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a massive, massive Halo fanboy, so I’m predictably overexcited about the prospect of seeing some single-player footage, learning more about the setting and figuring out just what in the name of Sergeant Johnson is going on. I’ve read a few previews that have all described the beginning of the game (which unfortunately doesn’t answer any of the above questions), and I have a feeling that this is what we’ll be seeing as an on-stage demo. Not that this would disappoint me of course – I really want to see what 343i have achieved with their first entry into the franchise.

It’ll also be interesting to see what the devs have to say about multiplayer; fans have been worrying that Halo 4 seems to be going the Call of Duty route, with perks and other xp-based unlockables. Halo has always been an open playing field – if you win, it’s because you’re better than the opposition, not because you have better equipment. Hopefully 343 will be on-hand to allay fans’ fears.

The new Gears of War game, titled Judgment, will also be a big draw for Microsoft’s conference, and again, I’m looking forward to find out what’s going on. It appears to be a prequel, given the existence of Locust forces and the fact that Cole looks very young, and it’ll also be interesting to see how deep Bulletstorm creator People Can Fly’s involvement goes. Essentially nothing is known about this title yet, so hopefully a full reveal will help to ground it somewhere in the existing Gears canon.

I’m also wondering whether we’ll see more of Crytek’s Kinect action game Ryse this year. It’s been awfully quiet of late regarding the former Codename: Kingdoms, so perhaps E3 is the perfect time to show it off. Sticking with the Kinect theme, I’m hoping to get a good long look at Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon. As a big, big fan of Sega’s Panzer Dragoon (all four games still proudly grace my shelf), the spiritual successor to that series is one of my most highly anticipated games this year. An on-stage demo would be great, as would a release date.

Yukio Futatsugi’s Crimson Dragon.

Sony
What I really want to see from Sony at this year’s E3 is massive support for their new handheld. I absolutely love my Vita (I’m currently making my way through Resistance: Burning Skies), but most wouldn’t argue the point that it’s floundering in the marketplace at the moment. Some big new franchise announcements specifically for the Vita would certainly help alleviate the perception that it has no games. Seeing Ken Levine walk on-stage to demo BioShock Vita would certainly be a good start, and perhaps we’ll hear more about Killzone and Call of Duty. Aside from shooters, I’m hoping we’ll hear about some good RPGs coming to the handheld in the next year.

Besides the Vita, some gameplay footage of The Last of Us would be great to see. The trailers so far have got mouths watering, but we know nothing of how the game will play. Will it be a post-apocalyptic Uncharted, or will Naughty Dog pull out all the stops and head in a completely new direction? I can’t wait to find out.

Joel and Ellie, wondering what they’ll be doing for the next ten hours.

Square-Enix
The Tokyo-based company recently announced their list of games they will be showcasing at E3, and all I can say is I hope they’re planning to hit us with a load of surprises. On the list were Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Heroes of Ruin and Kingdom Hearts 3D for the 3DS. The rest are mostly mobile phone games.

Seriously Square-Enix? It’s Final Fantasy‘s 25th anniversary! Come on! They have to have something up their sleeves, don’t they? Final Fantasy Versus XIII is apparently not being shown at E3, although recent rumours have claimed it’ll be renamed Final Fantasy XV and will in fact be unveiled at the trade show… I’m taking that one with a barge-full of salt, but I am blindly hoping for some kind of big FF news at the Expo, considering the 25-year milestone. At the very least I want to see the PS3/PSV re-release of Final Fantasy X that we’ve heard absolutely nothing about in God knows how long. If Square-Enix’s conference holds no surprises, I’ll be very disappointed.

Nintendo
The house of Mario are expected to unveil their final Wii U hardware and, more than anything, I’m hoping to see a gorgeous HD Metroid adventure (hopefully from Retro Studios please!). Despite last year’s HD Zelda demonstration, I don’t expect to be seeing anything from Link and friends this year, though I imagine we’ll get a proper glimpse of a new Mario game. I think Nintendo will keep Wii U game reveals to a minimum and focus on the console and tablet and what they can do together, allowing third parties to take up the slack, as they did with their E3 2011 showreel.

Hopefully we’ll see some great new 3DS titles announced (perhaps a new handheld Zelda?) as well as get a good look at New Super Mario Bros 2, and I’d love to see more of Luigi’s Mansion 2.

Namco-Bandai
Having recently watched a Namco-Bandai presentation (at last week’s London Expo), I’m not foaming at the mouth (quite as much) to see Ni No Kuni and Tales of Graces f, though more on both would certainly be welcome. I’d love to get confirmation of a European release date for Tales of Xillia though, and I’d imagine we’ll be seeing more of the recently-announced Xillia 2. Tying into my earlier words about Vita games, I’m also hoping we’ll get a Western release announcement for the handheld’s version of Tales of Innocence R, too.

Others
Electronic Arts will no doubt have a strong presence at the show, and I’m looking forward to a full-on Dead Space 3 reveal, though I am worried about how far co-op will permeate the core experience of the game; let’s hope it’s entirely optional, though I’d prefer it if co-op was a separate side-story entirely. Crysis 3 will most likely also be a focus for EA, and I’ll be hoping it’s more like the first than the second, with large, open environments with flowing objectives and tactical options that allow you to feel like the Predator.

I’m hoping to get a good look at both Zone of the Enders HD Collection and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance from Konami, and it seems they’ll also be tearing the veil from two new Castlevania games – a direct sequel to 2010’s Lords of Shadow and a 3DS spin-off.

Ubisoft are expected to show off tropical shooter Far Cry 3 and colonial stab-’em-up Assassin’s Creed 3, and I’ll be looking to THQ to show us how Metro: Last Light is coming along. Last but by absolutely no means least, I’m hoping for a solid release date for Jet Set Radio HD. And while you’re at it Sega, how about some Shenmue news?

Yeah, I’ll keep dreaming…

The latest European release in Namco-Bandai’s Tales of series has finally received a release date.

Originally slated for a vague “summer” launch, Tales of Graces f has now been dated for release on August 31st. An enhanced PS3 port of the original Wii title, f includes an additional epilogue set six months after the main scenario. Titled “Lineage and Legacies”, this extra ten-hour mode is said to wrap up the remaining mysteries and unanswered questions.

That’s not the end of the good news, however, as Namco-Bandai have also announced that there will be a special, bonus-packed ‘Day One’ edition of the game.  I’m assuming it’ll be much the same situation as with the publisher’s 2011 release of Dark Souls, where every pre-order was upgraded to the ‘Day One’ edition at no extra charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the lovely presentation box you can see above will be the game (of course), along with a hardcover art book, an original soundtrack disc, a third disc containing making of videos and a code for some bonus DLC – exclusive Tales of themes for the XMB and some extra character costumes taken from PS2 title Tales of Destiny 2. You can see all the goodies below.

I have to say, it’s pretty refreshing to be getting a special edition of a Tales of game over here. The releases outside of Japan have been spotty to say the least, and even when we do get them, it’s in limited numbers. So it’s good to see the games even making it over here, let alone as a special edition for the price of a standard game. This also bodes well for a European release of the latest title in the series, Tales of Xillia. Hopefully we’ll hear something about that, and maybe Tales of Innocence R for the Vita, at E3.