Without a doubt, Tales of Zestiria is one of the best JRPG’s I have played in a very long time! So please excuse me if I sound like a fan girl because honestly, this game had me hooked within the first 15 minutes of game play.
Tales of Zestiria is centered in a land called Glenwood divided into two warring countries where the lands struggle against malevolent forces battling to devour all that it touches. In this world there are the Seraphim (the heavenly race), humans, and beings called Hellions, who are humans, dead or alive, or even inanimate objects who have been corrupted by the forces of Malevolence. The Seraphim can only interact with humans who have a resonance with them, and during the Era of Chaos their numbers have dwindled and the humans that once reveled in their blessings now start to question their existence at all. Throughout history, there has always been one human appearing in times of chaos, who can interact freely with the Seraphim and call on their powers to aid them in battle against the Hellions, and he has been known throughout history as the Sheppard.
In the game, We follow a young man named Sorey and his best friend Mikleo, who both have a taste for adventure and a love of discovering and exploring old ruins. Sorey has lived in a secluded village his entire live, never seeing the world beyond his homeland. One day while exploring some old ruins, Sorey encounters something unexpected, leading him to leave the life he’s always known and descend into the unknown world below his mountain village.
My first thought as I started playing the game was “I am absolutely loving this, but I bet it will be fairly predictable like the majority of JRPGs out there.” Then the game threw me a very unexpected twist at me and I couldn’t help but exclaim out loud “ this is so COOL!”
Like many of the games of the same genre, tales of zestiria is heavily influenced on anime. The art style flicks between detailed anime cut scenes to smooth and fleshed out anime styled CGI. The thing that really sets Zestiria apart from all the others though is it’s execution and detail in the art and story line, it’s so well thought out and vibrant that you really feel like you are playing through an epic anime adventure, with you at the controls.
One thing I really love is detailed ruins and soaring landscapes and this game gets it straight off the bat. My initial reaction was that it felt very much like the game ICO in it’s landscape and ruins detail, and I’m sure those who have played the game will know what I’m talking about.
Now, on to the fighting! Zestiria is an open roam world with encounter based battles. It’s very easy to avoid a battle by running around the hellions spaced around the area, but they will chase you, and if they are faster, you have no choice but to battle them. Encountering one of these hellions will set it into battle mode, giving you a set space to battle in real time and multiple monsters to fight. The battles are done in a way where you are bought into a battle space, but at the same time are still within your surroundings, separate, yet one at the same time.
The battle style focuses heavily on strategy, and will give you constant tips on maneuvers and combat strategies throughout the game, really encouraging you to look for openings and spot their weaknesses. Though it does have a heavy strategy focus, if you are not into that kind of battle style or can’t wrap your head around it don’t worry, you can fight however you want to and still win battles and level up easily. The up sides of using battle strategy is that it becomes easier to defeat the harder targets thrown at you and it also increases your battle score which you get on completion of a battle, which with higher scores gets you many cool bonuses as the game progresses.
Something it also features which I have come across a lot in recent reviews I’ve done is that there is a “Chain Limit” during battle that uses Spirit Chain points. Essentially, as you use special moves and attacks in battle, the gauge depletes, affecting the amount of damage you can inflict to zero when you empty you gauge, this can be avoided by blocking to charge the gauge back up again. They have also included a fusion type battle option called “Armatization“ which fuses you and a seraph within your party into one super powered magical being, which can be very useful in hard to beat encounters.
The overall feel of this game is very magical and full of unexpected humor. The music is also great, and though I had my doubts about the intro song and how it didn’t really seem to fit in with the vibe of the game, I soon came to realize that it was a great choice and often had it stuck in my head for the entire day.
Nothing has seemed to miss their attention, especially with the characters and the story line. It’s very light-hearted and cheesy in a way, but the good kind of cheesy! It follows some of the anime tropes we see in the majority of anime out there, but it’s very lovable and adds to the over all experience. The characters personalities are also very unique and fleshed out, adding their individuality to the enjoyment of the game, making you laugh at their antics, feel for their pain and sometimes even wanting to reach into the screen and give them a good slapping!.
Something I also crave to see in games is good cape physics. Yes, CAPE PHYSICS! And Zestiria has it covered, which means most of my time in game is spent running around in zig zags and circles admiring the wonderful cape twirls. Yes, I know, I am easily pleased.
The only very small thing I could say that I didn’t like very much was the walking animation. To be honest, the first few minutes of the game involved me laughing uproariously at how ridiculously stiff he looked while walking, which for me I guess is actually a plus to the game because I love the small things that make me laugh and give me something to remember, but I know some people will find it grates on their nerves after a while. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it, and the game is thoroughly worth that initial cringe.
The Bottom Line
Tales of Zestiria had me hooked from the get go, and though I know not everyone enjoys these kind of game, those who love anime, JRPG’s and games with enjoyable fantasy story lines will adore this one. I could go on and on all day about how much I love this game and how fun it is, but instead I encourage you all to go grab a copy on either PS3, 4 or PC and give it a go. You won’t regret it!