Though the PlayStation 4 has taken center stage, the Tales series is content to keep chugging along on the PlayStation 3. These games don’t often break the mold for RPGs, but great character interactions and the evolving action battle system keep fans entertained. With Tales of Zestiria, Bandai Namco is striving to use the PS3 hardware better than ever before.

Zestiria already looks to be the most polished Tales’ entry yet. The load times between battles are almost entirely absent, and the backdrops for battles are no longer static, but reflect where you are in the world. If you have an encounter in front of a tower, it appears during battle. The graphics are crisp, with more detailed character models and lighting and shadows, which makes the world feel more alive.


While plenty of enhancements are bringing the series forward, producer Hideo Baba also says he wants to get back to the series’ classical roots. For the first time since 2008’s Tales of Vesperia, the setting returns to swords and sorcery. Baba also indicated that the common theme of this entry is “passion;” the title is derived from the word “zest.”

The story follows childhood friends Sorey and Mikleo, a human and a seraph, respectively. Baba hinted that co-existence, a common Tales’ theme, would surface with their relationship. Their friendship extends to the battlefield: Sorey can use a seraph’s power to transform in battle, and Bandai Namco went all out with the animations for the battle transformations. They make you feel like you’ve upped the stakes.

When Sorey isn’t using a seraph’s power, the seraph fights alongside him like a regular party member. Only three members are on the battlefield when Sorey transforms with a seraph, otherwise it’s the typical four-member party. The dilemma is choosing between extra hands versus extra power. The seraph system already seems more complex than Ludger’s chromatus ability from Tales of Xillia 2, and I’m excited to see how deep it extends to battles.

In our hands-on time, we spotted four different seraph allies, each with a different elemental alignment that gave Sorey access to different artes. Because of seraphs’ ties to elemental weaknesses, it’s clear they play a huge part in your success. I especially noticed this in boss battles. If you’re not damaging an enemy’s weak point, combat can be a lengthy affair, so it’s important to test out different elemental attacks until you find a weakness.

The fields aren’t as cluttered as Tales of Xillia. Classic treasure chests can be found, as well as plants for harvesting. You can also talk to party members while exploring these fields. Sometimes you receive dialogue options, and other times they give you items they’ve tracked down for you.

The battle transformations along with visual and technical upgrades are steps in the right direction. Now I’m curious if the new characters will break the Tales mold and not fall into the typical anime archetypes we’ve seen repeatedly in the series. Here’s hoping that Zestiria takes the huge leap forward the franchise has been missing with its PS3 entries.