I love the "Tales of" series by Namco Bandai, and Yesterday I came across a list (see below) of the total sales of the series (in Japan, no International numbers available) and while some may see only numbers, what I see is the story of my gaming life, and the story the series that got me into JRPG.
One thing that I've always loved is Anime. One day at was at my best friend house and he had a Nintendo Power Magazine lying around. I was rummaging through it and I stopped at an article featuring a game with a gorgeous Anime art style that was scheduled for release on the GameCube (Yep, I was very late in this gaming thing, don't ask). The game was called Tales of Symphonia and I instantly knew that I wanted to play that game, of course I didn't have a GC at the time, but the article mentioned that it was the spiritual successor of a game called Tales of Phantasia.
So I went into the internet to search for things related to those games and stumbled upon two vital pieces of information. One, the games was only released in Japan for the Super Famicom, and two, despite this, there was a fan-translation available courtesy of DeJap. This became the first JRPG I actually played from start to finish. I had played my share of SNES games in my friend's house, but this was different. An opening song with full vocals, the graphics were incredible, the characters were lovable, the story was catchy (some people say that is cliché but that was in 1995, so no I don't think it was). I fell in love with the game so I wanted more
Oh, I almost forgot, here's the list I was talking about, also here's one from two years ago
For starters we noticed something really funny, of the Top 5 selling games, 2 were never released outside of Japan, Tales of Destiny 2 (Thanks to He-Man the NA release of Tales of Eternia was called Tales of Destiny II, but the real Tales of Destiny 2 was never released outside of Japan) and Tales of Rebirth. So the top 2 games that were indeed released in English are Tales of Destiny and Tales of Eternia both for the PS1, and at the time that was the only console I owned, so let's continue with the story.
After finishing Tales of Phantasia I wanted more, and I found out that both ToD and ToE were available for the only console I had, so after much suffering and searching high and low I secured a copy of both games (securing a copy ToE was specially hard since the game is 3 discs long and any multi-disc game not called Final Fantasy was almost impossible to get by where I live), And so I had another 100+ hours of Tales games to play. Tales of Destiny is a great game, it probably has the best story of all the games in the series and a cast of characters that ranks very high but the gameplay is practically the same as in ToP, except that now, controlling a character different from the main one, made a lot more of sense). I loved the game but the gameplay felt a little dated. Tales of Eternia is the exact opposite, the story is regular, the cast of characters outside from the main 4 is pretty forgettable, but the combat system was more fluid since now you can move during the effects of a spell casting (the screen still freezes during the cast), even so I enjoyed the game quite a lot, so now I was a Fan.
Back to the Numbers: The list on the left show us the Total sales of the games but this time for every title not taking into account what console the game was for. So that means Tales of Phantasia includes the SFC, the PS1, the GBA and the PSP version and the same with all the games. As for the 3 ones in the right, the top one is a separation between Mothership and Escort titles, a distinction made in the series to separate the Main games from the spin-offs or sequels, and as you can see Mothership titles represent 80% of the total sales. The middle one is the sales of all the Mothership titles but making the distinction between the first release (the original one) and the remakes (example: ToP for the SFC is the original release and all the rest of the versions are remakes). The bottom one is the total sales of any game with the name Tales of the World, to show that making that distinction would make Tales of the World the top selling title.
This will alter the list a little and make Tales of Phantasia the 2nd place overall and Tales of Symphonia the 5th place overall as showed in the next image.
Speaking of ToS let's get back to the story.
As I mentioned before all those events happened at the dawn of the release of Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube. I got a part time job just for the sole purpose of saving money for a Gamecube and a copy of ToS and the day came when I had enough money to make the purchase. The PS1 was a birthday gift from my dad, so I didn't pay for it and for any of my PS1 games so Tales of Symphonia became the first game I bought with my own hard earned money, and indirectly the game that got the into the series so it has a very very special place in my heart. For starters the game was not in 2D anymore. Now it was rendered in a lovely cel-shaded style, the combat system was a huge improvement from past titles and was very addicting. The story and the characters are not the best in the series but they rank pretty high but this will definitely be the title that changed my gaming life.
Numbers time again!: The next couple of chart show us is a list of total sales by console, first by individual console, and the by manufacturer. As you can see the sales are dominated by Sony, then Nintendo and then Microsoft. To be fair the only title released for a Microsoft console is Tales of Vesperia for the XBOX360, a game that will later be ported to the PS3 with more and better content, but in Average it sold more games per title than Nintendo.
But why the talk about consoles you say?. Let's get back to the story. After Tales of Symphonia I had became a huge fan of the series, and so my gaming habits were hugely influenced by my love for the Tales franchise, that includes my spending habits. I bought the PS2 for the sole purpose of playing Tales of Legendia. To tell you the truth it is probably one of my least favorite games in the series. I can't say is bad per se, because it is not, and it probably has the second best soundtrack in the whole franchise, but after the huge improvement that was Tales of Symphonia the game was somewhat sluggish and the cast was somewhat lackluster save a couple of exceptions. But just 8 months after ToL release we got what would become my favorite game in the series. Tales of the Abyss. The game has a decent story at most but the cast of characters it's just superb, with one of the best developments for a character in the JRPG world, and the antagonist cast is probably the best one I have ever seen in a game and it's hard not to root a little for them at the end of the game.
My next purchase was a used PSP with a copy of Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology, the only spin-off game that has been released outside of Japan. A game full of fan-service but not the kind you're thinking. It was like a Tales games featuring an All-star cast including a couple of characters from Tales of Rebirth (a personal favorite) a game that was not released outside of Japan and a nice game if you like the series. I bought a DS for the sole purpose of playing Tales of Phantasia (yes the game is for the GBA, but at the time of release the DS was already available and with a GBA slot and the DS games this was a no brainer) I bought my Wii just for the sake of playing Soul Calibur Legends, a game that featured Lloyd Irving a character from Tales of Symphonia, but afther that we got ToS: Dawn of the New World so I got lucky with that.... My 3DS? I bought one when I found out that Tales of the Abyss was releasing for the console (and glad that I did). You get the gist of it...
Of course, there's also Anime!! We have 2 Television series, Tales of Eternia: The Animation and Tales of the Abyss, 2 OVA series, Tales of Phantasia The Animation and Tales of Symphonia The Animation and a Movie, Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, in particular the OVAs for ToP and ToS are really well done. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go and play some Tales of.
A "Tales of" fan too? New to it but interested in the series? Have suggestions? Leave your comments below!
Bonus: If you have never played Tales of Phantasia, the game is NOW available for free!! (with microtransactions, but it seems you can finish the game without spending a single cent) in its iOS version at the US Apple App Store. The game is a "port" of the Full voiced edition that was released for the PSP (#35 on the first list) I just my get an iPhone in order to play this. Also don't forget about Tales of Zestiria, the next game in the series which release has been confirmed for the NA region, also Tales of Vesperia is on sale for $5 for XBOX live gold members (I can't check if this is still available since I'm not at home but it was just yesterday). Also Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles and Tales of Xillia 2 are just around the corner.
In other related news: Namco Bandai, the Video Game company behind the "Tales of" series Named Most "Powerful" Japanese Video Game Company, Sony Drops Sharply, Nintendo Collapses.