Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Tales of Series's Naming Oddity

Is it just me, or is the Tales of series very weird in how they name their games? No, I don’t just mean how some of the titles lately are just nonsense words with no meaning (what the fuck is a ‘zestiria’?). Others have poked fun at that far more effectively, not to mention succinctly, than I could. I mean in the sense that every game in the series I’ve come across to date* seems like it’s been mis-titled with the name meant for another installment of the series.

Like, take Tales of Symphonia. Now, given the name, you’d think the game would have a major theme of music, right? Like, the symphony. Symphony --> Symphonia, right? And the game isn’t totally unrelated to music,’s not really a huge part of it, as far as I can glean. Which isn’t by itself odd or a bad thing or anything; it’s not like, say, Vandal Hearts or Legena: Union Tides have titles that really make much specific sense, nor do several dozen other RPGs. It’s kinda the genre’s thing. Still...well, wouldn’t Tales of Symphonia have been a better title for Tales of the Abyss? I mean, Tales of the Abyss makes some decent sense as a title, since the abyss is an actual plot point to the game, but after a while, said abyss is sort of not really that big a deal to the plot. Just becomes a part of the world that you take in stride. But think about it--music is a huge, thematic component to the plot of Tales of the Abyss, because the game’s central, thematic conflict revolves around the question of whether destiny can be (or even should be) resisted and broken, and in TotA, destiny takes the form of a score, as in a song, laid out by some god thing trapped in the center of the earth or some such fanciful RPG gobbledegook. Point is, wouldn’t you think that for a game whose major plot point is a song of destiny, a name like Symphonia would have been a better choice, rather than for a game whose connections to music, tangible and abstract alike, are slight, even tenuous?

And the examples just keep piling up the more I look at the series’s history. Tales of Destiny, for example. Nothing especially strong, fate-wise, in ToD’s plot. But again, Tales of the Abyss would have been a great choice for the name Destiny, since, again, its primary concern is a question of mankind’s reaction to and conflict with inevitability. For that matter, Destiny would have been a fine name for Tales of Legendia, too, since the main point of its second half is that the heroes are opposing a recurring cycle of destiny that will destroy their world. Hell, it’d still work better for ToL’s first half than for ToD’s entirety, since the first half is about whether or not different peoples can come together to work and live in peace, in spite of the conflict and suffering that seems, historically, to be their ‘destiny.’

And heck, while the Abyss might be an alright name for the game it’s given to, and relate to something real and basic in the game, it might be, from a narrative standpoint, a better name for Tales of Zestiria, since that game’s ostensibly about purifying the human heart and pulling people and society up from the malevolence of their darker instincts, which is sort of like the abyss of their hearts. A bit of a stretch, sure, but I personally would like the thematic appropriateness over the simple fact that there’s an actual abyss in Tales of the Abyss. Or Tales of Zestiria could have been more appropriately named Legendia. Legendia is an okay title for the game that actually has it, in the sense that it’s a throwaway RPG title that wouldn’t conflict with like 95% of all fantasy RPGs in existence...but Tales of Zestiria’s got a lot of emphasis on the fabled history of the Shepards, and the events of the past having led to the game’s current conflict. Which would make Legendia fit quite well to it, while the actual Tales of Legendia doesn’t really have much in the way of fact, it’s unusual for how little it has to do with legends. Most RPGs have at least a couple! And for that matter, Tales of Symphonia also has a lot of its plot focus on events of the past and various legends, so that would have been much more aptly named Legendia, too.

And it even seems weird for the games of the series that I don’t know about. Like, maybe Tales of Eternia is, in fact, appropriately named. I wouldn’t know; it’s on my To Play list. But in case it’s not, then Eternia would have been a fine title for Tales of Phantasia, since ToP involves a fair amount of time travel in its plot, and the name Eternia sort of implies a focus on time. Tales of Hearts probably is well enough named, since hearts are a vague enough thing that most RPGs that involve any sort of dynamic characters could apply, but on the off-chance that Hearts doesn’t really have much to do with that title, it sure as hell would have been a great one for Tales of Zestiria, what with ToZ’s focus being on this poorly-explained ethereal miasma that’s born of and/or infects human hearts to make people into secret invisible monsters and so on.

It’s not like it matters or anything, of course. But this unique trait that the Tales of series seems to have of giving its games titles that would have worked better for other installments in the series did seem odd enough to be worth making note of.

* In fairness, that’s less than half the series, but still.


  1. Regarding the games I have played

    Tales of Eternia: the game's world (more specifically, the combination of worlds) is named Eternia. It's not a creative name, but it means no other game in the series fits the name more I guess. The world's name is also mentioned from time to time by the characters.

    Tales of the Tempest: one of the two strongest spells in the game is named Tempest, aside from that I don't remember seeing anything to do with tempests in the game.

    Tales of Innocence: the game's world is called Innocence. However, unlike Tales of Eternia, I don't remember that being mentioned in-game and I only got to know that when I read a wiki after finishing the game. Which means that it was pretty irrelevant, if it was even mentioned in-game at all. Dunno if Tales of Innocence R changes that a bit.

    Tales of Phantasia, Destiny, Symphonia, Legendia and Abyss: agreed with you.

    Tales of Hearts: I haven't played this one, but I know that the female lead's full name is Kohaku Hearts and that a good part of the plot involves "fixing her heart". So I would say this too is the game that fits the title the most.

    By the way, Eternia is my favorite game in the series so far. Although that's mostly due to gameplay and nostagia reasons.

    1. Thanks for informing me--I'm happy to know that my observations have some application beyond the scope of the games I've played, too.

  2. The abundance of musical and resonance concepts in Abyss has always made me wonder if Namco themselves had a laugh about it.

    Just to clear the Lorelei issue up, the "god at the core" is actually a particle resonance that has been resonating long enough to have developed a mind. The frequency of this resonance is pi because reasons. It would be one of at least seven so-called gods provided people attuned closely enough to interact with them were present in the story. For all Lorelei's prestige, it is utterly powerless.

    The Score is a possible future foreseen by some prophet named Yulia. That it's a possible future of many with a bad ending is not the first sentence of this prophecy, and said prophecy is so tl;dr reading it all will literally fucking kill you. A legendary fail for which Yulia is kind of a bitch.

    1. Right, right...I knew I had it covered with "fanciful RPG gobbledgook", but it IS good to have a refresher on the specifics of it. Thanks, sir. And good point about how a little bit of a warning for the human race's fate being a downer would have been decent.

      Man, RPGs make up some weird shit for their lore.

  3. Found this Tales of- inspired game recently with an uncommon setting if you want to check it out.

    1. Oooh, that does look fairly interesting...I wish I'd known about that one while it was being kickstarted. I'd have loved to be a patron for it.

    2. Thanks for putting it on my radar, by the way! Much appreciated.