In the balmy days of our summer vacation I figured it would be as good a time as any to clear out my mobage (mobile game) catalog on my emulator. Yet, as is the result of most of my cleaning ventures, I made space only to fill it up once again. Whoops!
Among my newest set of free to play mobile adventures is Tales of the Rays, a Namco Bandai exploration into how to adapt a console Tales game into a more portable format. Though I started only recently, Rays’s troubling trends only seem to get worse and worse the further I get. Not in terms of the gameplay (which is pretty fun, honestly), but in the development of the two protagonists, especially in concerns to the lady on the squad, Mileena.
I think by this point, most of us are pretty familiar with the concept of magic as a nebulous fantastical element.Whether coaxed into purpose by an incantation of old or readily available if one only knows where to look, magic often has this sort of metaphysical existence that tends to boil down to “it’s just there, and has always been there”. Rarely is there reason for magic’s existence or how people have come to be able to wield it, and that’s fine; sometimes leaving parts of the unknown as an unknown is a benefit to the narrative. Yet during my playthrough of Tales of Xillia, I was surprised at how much I was intrigued by their physical explanation as to why magic-using was so omnipresent, and how this practical understanding both helped and hindered the people in their world.
After a year-long hiatus, my brother and I finally finished Tales of Xillia (with the same sentiment that we’re glad there’s a sequel to it). While we both love the Tales series, leading an adult life sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of time for an intensive JRPG, which leads us to having a backlog on the other Tales games. Knowing we have at least 200+ hours of game waiting for us when we get around to it can be somewhat daunting, especially when there’s been conflicting news concerning the quality of them. Yet, despite the feeling that the series has taken a few steps back during the recent years, I can’t help but be excited for the newest one: Tales of Berseria.
At the beginning of this month, Tales of Symphonia was re-released on the PC via Steam. While Symphonia might not be my favorite one of the series, it’ll always be the closest to my heart since it’s the game that got me into Tales in the first place. There was just something so satisfying about pouring tens of hundreds of hours into the story about Colette, the Chosen of Mana’s journey to bring mana back to her declining land, and all the twists and turns that come along with that. (And then realizing you have to do yet another playthrough because you wanted to have the Flanoir date with Sheena and didn’t realize that Zelos gave you a special item if you did it with him, so you couldn’t finish filling out your item collection book. Ugh!)
While its PC port is… reportedly janky as hell, I’m thrilled that fans have another chance to play through the game, and that others who weren’t able to get it for the Gamecube or PS3 now have another medium to experience it on. Honestly, there was a lot to love about Symphonia, but one of my favorite parts was the character Raine. I can’t say that I really related to her on a big level, but I wanted to be her. She was strong in her convictions, yet willing to hear other sides to conflicts; she cared deeply for her brother and her students even if she showed this best by giving more homework; and she had a nerdy hobby that she was unapologetic about, even if others were put off by it. While the game didn’t have much time to go into it, one thing that always intrigued me was her relationship with her brother Genis and how they ended up in the small village of Iselia. If the anime went into it more in detail, I’m uncertain, but today’s fic gives a closer look at a possible chain of events that led both of them to where players find them at the beginning of the game.
As seasons go through their rotation and years pass, things undoubtedly change. However, I know that one thing never will: my hatred for stereotypical white mage characters. I’ve bemoaned the stagnancy of the white mage trope in JRPGs before. However, I do believe that, in some respects, the paradigm is shifting toward a less sexist portrayal and a more nuanced expression of healing magic. That’s not what I’m talking about today, though. Not explicitly.
Looking through the JRPGs I’ve played, I’ve come to terms with having a lot of favorites. And picking between them feels like picking between children: I love them all, how can I choose? But there’s one character who has stuck out in my mind as particularly memorable; partially because I hated her at first, but then because her arc was one of the most compelling in the entire game. Today, I must pay homage to one of the many queens of my heart: Princess Natalia Luzu Kimlasca-Lanvaldear.
Spoilers below the cut—if you haven’t played the game, I really urge you to do so before reading this. It’s an experience I wouldn’t want to ruin for you.
Recently I’ve been watching my brother run through another round of Final Fantasy X. Personally, I’ve never been very into the series (except for X-2, but I think I’m in the minority there). However, seeing as it’s hailed as one of the masterpieces of the franchise, I’m more than willing to watch my brother go from temple to temple gaining summon spirits (or “aeons”, I guess) until the final summoning. It’s all very interesting and Tidus isn’t nearly as annoying as I imagined him being, but as he continues fighting through Sin spawn and other various baddies one thought has been ringing through my mind: being a white mage sucks. Not only in Spira—in many Final Fantasy games it seems as though if you’re a practitioner of the healing white magic you’re stuck healing and only healing—unless you’re also a summoner (which only aids this trope, but I’m getting ahead of myself).
Of course, this isn’t anything new; these limitations of the white mage far extend outside of the world of Final Fantasy into other JRPGs. A white mage, in addition to replacing combat expertise with that sweet healing magic, is almost always a woman. A “pure”-seeming woman (aka virginal). Ace spoke about one of the outliers (who just so happens to be in another Final Fantasy game) in a previous article, but the trend at large still stands. Yet, in more recent titles, it seems as though developers have taken it upon themselves to finally twist this trope for the better.
It is not generosity, because he is not a soft enough man for something such at that, but there is not a touch of reservation when he presses the hefty bag of gald into her hand. It feels right, in a world where nothing he does ever is. He smiles at her with a shark’s tooth grin and says that it is nothing, and that he will be back next month with more. He leaves quickly so that he will not have to watch how her face buckles under with grateful tears and her knees hit the floor under the weight of her joy.
He remains true to his word, which is something of a rarity in his current line of work. He returns at the first of each month on the minute with his palms heaping with gald, and the matron never grows any less thunderstruck to see him.
—from And Thundering Hearts
Given my current obsession with the Tales of games, I thought it would be fitting to look for a fic to coincide with said obsession. And while I tried to keep my search for femslash in mind, when running across this fic I knew I had to make an exception.
There’s nothing I love more than seeing how people interact with their canon of choice. Art, writing, cosplay: every piece of output from fandom I find incredible as well as inspiring—if anyone is touched by something so much that it drives them to create, well, there’s something beautiful about that. And while I have an appreciation for most of these things, I will admit that I have my biases. By some stroke of luck, I managed to find my main bias combined with one of my fandoms in this week’s web crush.
As evident by my post from a couple weeks ago and (less evidently) by the fact my brother and I have been marathoning the re-release of Tales of Symphonia, the Tales games and fandom are both things that I hold close to my heart. Beyond the excruciating satisfaction of one hundred percenting the games, one of my favorite aspects of these games is the cooking system. I got cheated out of it in Tales of Xillia—buying pre-made foods isn’t as fun no matter what bonuses you give them!—but there’s something really fun in the simplicity of buying ingredients and watching your party members get better at cooking as you go through the game.
Even finding recipes in their hidden locations scattered across the game’s world can be a journey in and of itself, adding more to an already expansive universe. Given such a mechanic, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to document their attempts at making these recipes in real life. I’ve already featured one site like this, but given my return to the fandom, I found it only appropriate to feature Tales of Cooking. Continue reading →
I talk about Western games and game developers a lot on this blog, the most common one being Bioware. Despite my unwavering adoration for these companies, I admit it took a while to develop. My first love will always be the JRPG. Admittedly, from a Western American-centric mindset—which is the mindset I’m typically in—these sorts of games rarely ever come off as progressive or anything more than a fun romp through a fantasy world (with strangely religious undertones, as with my experience). Thought-provoking, sure, but not progressive. However, sometimes I’m lucky enough to find moments that give me pause and make me rethink my position of enjoying these games on a purely detached level.
Recently my brother and I started playing Tales of Xillia, the thirteenth game in the Tales series. For the most part, the game is standard fare: big bad is trying to destroy the world and our party of heroes have to stop them. One particularly interesting thing about this game, though, is that the player has the choice to decide between two protagonists, Jude and Milla. I love that NamcoBandai finally gave the option to play through the eyes of a female-presenting character while not punishing the player for choosing either of the two (everything is still accessible, some scenes are merely different due to their different perspectives). But this post isn’t about gameplay mechanics: it’s about characters!
As I’ve only just finished the first act in what looks like a five act game—I’m avoiding spoilers at all costs—I can’t speak with the wisdom of someone who’s completed the game. This won’t stop me from speaking on something that Xillia handles better than a lot of other JRPGs I’ve seen: the love triangle.