Not a lot of my friends know about the Tales series. Despite its apparent unknown status, I personally have been a fan since I watched a cousin of mine play Tales of Destiny for PSX.
I remember that mid-1999 night: I was proud to have Legend of Legaia then (which has since faded into obscurity) and was showing off the game’s battle system when he, my cousin, takes out a disc and asks if he can play it. Saying yes changed my life forever.
Since then, I have done my near-best to play every game … that was developed for the PlayStation series.
Along with the great games is a group of
faux semi-serious main protagonists whose backstories will surely make you think of their lives and play the darndest you can to let the game actually answer questions you may have. Here are six personal questions of the main protagonists’ lives answered by their respective games, games which I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
6. What is my heritage? (Cless Alvein – Tales of Phantasia)
He is the template of all future Tales swordsmen: the archetypal “knight” proficient with swords. Yet what separates him from most Tales swordsmen is that, besides being the first hero of the long-running series, and a time traveler at that, he actually inherited the destiny from his father, one of the original four heroes who sealed the great evil Dhaos 12 years prior to the start of the game. He, however, doesn’t know of this nor of the physical heritage he keeps around his neck—a necklace that can break the seal of Dhaos. When his village is attacked, it sets off a series of events that leads him from one point in time to another in pursuit of Dhaos, becoming quite possibly the only main protagonist in the series to travel to both the past and the future.
What’s great about Cress as a character is, mainly, his heritage—which would explain his skill with a sword, with his father, Miguel, being a swordsman himself. Although he begins the game not knowing about the heroics of Miguel, he does keep the memory of his parents alive by wearing a necklace entrusted to him by his mother, Maria, and actually treasuring it—until he loses it and a fuckton of shit screws him and his friends over.
By the end of the game, not only does he succeed in his inherited tasks, but he also semi-gets the girl AND finds a way to finally stop the antagonist. Sometimes, it’s great to be a video game hero.
5. What am I willing to sacrifice? (Asbel Lhant – Tales of Graces)
And we have the dreamer, Asbel Lhant, whose biggest
secret aspiration is to become a knight. Of the six protagonists in this list, he may be the most annoying from a logical standpoint. He sulks when things don’t go his way, and then he comes to the conclusion that he actually has to sacrifice his own self to get things back to the way they were (a shared characteristic with Sophie from the same game). While up to some point noble, it becomes a burden to anyone with a cool and calm head. What’s more annoying is his line—which he uses so often, I think it’s become his fucking catchphrase, haunting his mind and forcing him to say it even when he doesn’t actually want or mean to: “[name] is my friend.” This is true for the first half: when given the decision to kill the enemy prince he meets during the epilogue, he says he won’t because they’re friends.
Again, while noble and actually chivalrous, it sends him and the party into a lot of unwanted situations. Of course, as with any feel-good game, it actually pays off in the end.
As mentioned above, he has a knack of sacrificing his own self for the better situation, the biggest of which is when he assimilated the first protagonist, Lambda—who, by the way, used Richard as his pawn to actually make things hard for the first part of the game—inside his own consciousness to try to show him the goodness of mankind, a double-edged sword seeing as he is, basically, a ticking time bomb actually trained with a sword, so he is sure to kill as many people as he saved. Essentially, he is merely suppressing the bad guy-ness of Lambda with his own sheer will, which has seen its share of poundings throughout the game. All those change by the end of the second half of the game, when another entity joins Lambda inside Asbel’s mind, rendering Lambda unconscious and, apparently, making Asbel’s mind safe and stable.
This show of personal sacrifices constantly worries his party and his family but, through his own willpower, overcomes all odds and makes their world a better place to live in.
4. What can I do with my destiny? (Stahn Aileron – Tales of Destiny)
Stahn’s game may be the most apt title for any of the games from the Tales series—possibly a biased statement, seeing as this game is the first I played.
From a simple country boy to a celebrated hero who saves the world from a histo-religious conspiracy, Stahn lives out his life as a famous adventurer, just as he has always wanted—an adventure granted to him by his rather accidental finding of his Swordian, Dymlos. A stowaway is what he was introduced as, illegally aboard the Draconis, and as he tries to flee the doomed airship after an attack by monsters, he comes across a sword. And what a surprise he is greeted with when the sword spoke. From them on, Stahn’s adventure became more than just a dream—it became his life.
He stays on track with his adventure for the rest of the game: saving lives, meeting people—as well as other Swordian-users besides himself—and travelling to distant places. He comes across a history he probably never knew about and relives it: Swordians are historical artifacts from the Ae’ther Wars, thus he is thrust into the “extension” of that historical war. As such, he is unwittingly cast into the spotlight of preventing the reacquisition and abuse of the giant Lens, the Eye of Atamoni. In the end, he becomes the hero and actually gets the girl (not surprisingly) …
… setting the premise for the game’s sequel,
the real Tales of Destiny 2.
Honestly, Stahn could not have things better—fitting for a guy who lives out the tale of HIS destiny.
3. How do I protect my family? (Senel Coolidge – Tales of Legendia)
When players first encounter Senel, he strikes off as a bad
boyfriend/older brother guy: extremely possessive, extremely protective, and extremely pissed off, especially when his sister is kidnapped time and again (seriously, you only get her in your party for, like, the second half of the game).
Players then spend the game chasing around Shirley, all the while tolerating Senel being,well, irritable. Then players are shown his past: after witnessing Shirley’s sister, Stella, be kidnapped and supposedly die in his arms, Senel vows to protect Shirley, often to the point of risking his own life. And the sympathy kicks in, and the connection starts to build: “He’s not a hotheaded, overprotective brother; he’s a man who’s not afraid to not trust anyone. It’s because of his own secret.”
It is this past that keeps Senel grounded on the fact that he alone has to save Shirley: for atonement. He will stop at nothing to protect she who he swore to protect, and at any cost, just to beg for forgiveness both from the grave and the earth (ship?).
While he does soften up eventually, he only does so in the knowledge that Shirley is able to fight for herself and defend herself when necessary.
It is interesting to note from the picture above that Senel uses his fists when fighting—equipping bracers as his weapons. So I guess that’s how he can protect people: with his fist.
2. Where will my skills bring me? (Reid Hershel – Tales of Eternia)
In contrast with Stahn above, Reid Hershel prefers a laid-back life: occasional hunting, epic mealtimes, and peace and quiet. He expresses this at the start of the game (even before the player can control him!): “Life is meant to be simple. When things stay the way they are, THAT’S true happiness.” Unknown to him, however, he holds a rare power that puts him at the center of a massive, inter-planetary rescue mission. It is here that he laments having the skill, but eventually, he turns around. My personal take on that is like when I do something: do it to get it over with. Maybe it’s because he realizes his life is at stake anyway, so why not? Another theory is, almost similarly, he has to man up and protect the things that make up his philosophy. Whatever the reason is, he travels to another world, learns the Aurora Artes because he has strong Fibril, and defeats the god he was raised to be fearful of—not bad for a generally mellow guy.
One thing I found lacking in Reid’s story is the lack of a possible future with any woman in the game. It is lightly implied that Farah is the one he ends up with, but this is not exactly answered… up to now! Although if I was asked, I would say he’s spending his time with his head up in the clouds, feeling happiness because things are staying the way they are.
1. Who am I? (Luke fon Fabre – Tales of the Abyss)
How much personal can you get? This is quite possibly the most serious case of identity crisis ever.
Luke fon Fabre, arrogant rich kid who fucks up more than is tolerable.
When first introduced, Luke is shown to be the spoiled kid of Duke Fabre kept isolated from the outside world after a kidnapping when he was seven, an event so traumatic that it left him unable to even walk or talk. When an accident leads him outside the confines of his manor, he eventually comes face to face with the fact that he is not who he knows he is: not only is he not really Luke fon Fabre, but he also shouldn’t be living—his words, not mine.
It is revealed that the entity introduced to players as Luke fon Fabre is a replica (basically a perfect clone) of the real Luke fon Fabre, who—SPOILER—goes on to become the God-General Asch the Bloody. It is explained further that replicas only take on the physical attributes of the original at the time of the cloning (or fomicry), meaning that when Asch-formerly-Luke was kidnapped when he was seven years old, the replica created was of the seven-year-old Asch except with everything else removed: memories, skills, basic human abilities, etc., which explains better the likelihood of the former’s blank slate characteristic all those years ago.
With the replica returned to the manor, who was then treated and tutored like a baby, it seemed that everything was fine. Until that fateful day.
After numerous bouts of identity crisis, both metaphorically and literally physically (Luke versus Asch), Luke comes to terms that he is a different Luke than the Luke that Asch would have been, and they settle their differences after their last battle, after which Asch fully acknowledges the Luke that defeated him and the he-Luke that he shunned all those years ago. The Luke that players control most of the game then goes on to paradoxically fulfill and not fulfill the prophecy surrounding him by defeating The One Who Seizes Glory, the final boss of the game. Cue the ending credits and a final video which treats players with a lovey-dovey delight.
I take pride in the fact that I played these games, and played my fingers to the bone as I watched the plethora of stories within unfold. So what do you think? Any other life question from other characters from other series? Share them in the comments!
*Among the five swordsmen presented in this list, Reid Hershel and Stahn Aileron are the only ones who were apparently self-taught. Reid remarks this multiple times in the game. In contrast, Cless learned how to use a sword because of his father; Asbel was taught the way of the sword at Knight Training Academy; Senel does not use a sword in combat; and Luke has Van Grants as his teacher.
*Luke is the only left-handed swordsman in the list, emphasizing more the mirror images that are Luke and Asch (the latter wields his sword with his right hand).
*Asbel Lhant is the only swordsman among the five to actually have its roots on the Japanese sword-style battoujutsu. His A-Artes revolve around kicks and sheathed attacks, while transitioning from his A-Artes to B-Artes involves the sweeping slash that battoujutsu is renowned for, after which he keeps his sword by his side in a side stance or waki-gamae.
*Senel Coolidge is the only character among the six to be able to use grapple attacks on enemies who have been downed.
*Stahn is the only character in this list to have a
true sequel in which he appears: Tales of Destiny 2 follows the story of his son, Kyle Dunamis. While introduced as having been killed before the story takes place, he is eventually resurrected when Kyle changes the timeline.
*I am still waiting for Tales of Xillia.