Video Game Review: Tales of Berseria

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

The Tales series of Japanese RPGs are released by Namco.  I’ve played Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Symphonia 2, Tales of Zestiria, Tales of Berseria (ta-da!) and will probably play tales of Vesperia sometime soon.

With zero doubt, Tales of Berseria is the BEST of the series.  I don’t have to play the others to know.  You can buy the PC port on Steam, and it goes on great sales every so often.

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Non-Spoiler Review

This fantastic game has an epic, long story that follows Velvet – a girl whose life is upended when her brother in law sacrifices her little brother in a strange ritual to purge the world of evil.  In vain effort to save her brother and stop the ritual, Velvet becomes a demon and is imprisoned on an island.

And that’s all just the introduction.

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This quest for vengeance doesn’t match the completely lighthearted, save the world BS that comes standard with the rest of the Tales games.  You’re out to fucking kill a guy who’s currently a hero of the planet, and you don’t care how that goes down.  The game definitely has its emotional moments, and there were times I put my hands to my face in surprise and out of empathy for the characters.  The least likable characters in this game were more likable than the best characters of Zestiria.

As far as gameplay goes, the Soul Gauge mechanic was fantastic.  You could button smash pretty effectively if things got out of hand, but you could also learn your characters and become adept if you wanted to.  The simplified item system in Berseria got rid of what made Zestiria unapologetically atrocious.  The only game whose play and stats mechanics I think was better may have been Tales of the Abyss with its fields of fonons.

Spoilerific Review

Berseria starts off as one of the best emotional whirlwinds of the Tales series, and it keeps going.  Pretty soon after Velvet escapes prison, she sees a little boy who looks JUST LIKE her dead brother.  Because she’s basically emotionally screwed, she steals him from the woman who owns him (yes, the kid’s a slave) and runs off on her stolen ship.  The kid doesn’t remember being her brother, and in fact doesn’t talk much for the first part of the story.

Velvet continues on her search for Artorius, her murderous brother in law, only to find out that he’s become basically the Pope and hero to the entire planet.  He’s allowed the demons to become visible, and now ordinary humans can fight off evil with the help of enslaved malakim.  What’s more, Artorius plans to rid the world of evil once and for all by changing the hearts of men to no longer produce malevolence.

Velvet, as a demon who feeds off anger and malevolence, doesn’t like that.

So she travels the world looking for ways to stop Artorius’s plan.  She meets other people whose goals at least temporarily align with hers to help out.  In one rather emotional section, a young girl named Kamoana has been purposefully turned into a demon by Artorius’s church – but why?  Velvet doesn’t care, so she abducts Kamoana, kills her mother, and vows further hatred of Artorius.

After rescuing other demons in similar situations, the crew discovers that the church has to create a specific kind of demon – therions – in order to feed a new, important malakim called Innominat.  They must fight to capture all the therions, but it is too late – Innominat has arisen, and it is the actual Laphicet, Velvet’s brother!

In a weird twist of fate that actually made me squeal with delight, the Laphicet Velvet had been traveling with turns out to be not her brother, but her unborn nephew who was killed when Artorius’s wife – Velvet’s older sister – was slain as an earlier part of the ritual.

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Anyway, it all turns out fine, but I won’t spoil the ending… it was pretty good.

Cheers!

Video Game Review: Doki Doki Literature Club

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC) is fantastic on so many levels and, I believe, relevant to this blog.  Also, it’s free on Steam.  Don’t download or play if you’re not in a psychologically sound state.

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Non-Spoiler Review

Just so you know, this game has such epic twists that it might blow your mind.  It’s actually really hard to talk about DDLC without spoiling pieces.  In fact, the freaking sell page on Steam has some spoilers if you’re looking even halfheartedly.

So, here we go, nonspoiler…

DDLC is a fantastic, anime-based dating sim that uses the player’s choices of words when creating a ‘poem’ to determine which potential mate he gets to spend more time with.  The characters are vivid, and their personalities more 3-dimensional than their adorable portraits.  This game is not for the faint of heart.  Just remember that it’s not over until the credits roll…

Spoilerific Review

Warning: Spoiler as hell.  If you MIGHT even try this game, turn around now.

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This psychological horror fest starts off slow, but after the first re-load (yes, the game requires multiple re-starts for it to give the full effect), it goes off the freaking rails.  What starts with Sayori’s on-screen suicide turns into a horrifying sequence that only gets worse.

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Slowly, your actions – no matter which choices you make – seem to take a toll on the characters’ psyches as well as the game’s functionality.  The world falls apart, deleting characters, sequences, pieces of the game, and drawing you into one mistake after another.

NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO QUIT IF YOU’RE INTERESTED AND DON’T WANT EVEN MORE SPOILERS.

You have to play through the game a few more times, waiting patiently as some functionalities are (purposefully) broken.  It gets more and more meta, requiring you as the player to take more actions in the file system and with reloading as it goes on. It simulates being broken very well.

Eventually, you learn that there is one character who has learned more than the others, and she’s never been an option for you to choose before.  Club President Monika has been lurking behind the shadows in attempts to get you all for yourself – and she doesn’t care who or what you are.  She always knew who you were, and she loved you for that.

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After Monika MURDERS everyone by deleting their character file, she takes over the game and refuses to leave.  You must do the right thing and kill Monika yourself by deleting her.

Anyway, that may sound confusing to someone who hasn’t played this game.  This psychological horror game is just so fantastically done, and I can’t recommend it enough.