The Tales series had humble beginnings on the SNES with Tales of Phantasia. Developed by Team Wolf and published by Namco, Tales was a late-bloomer in the world of long-running JRPG series, and like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest before it, had a rocky release schedule in the West.
Originally released on the SNES in December 1995, the first game, Tales of Phantasia, was yet another late-era SNES game that had an extremely small chance of being picked up for localization right out of the gate. The game was a hit in Japan, though, and launched a franchise. Since then, the series has ballooned into multiple entries, re-releases, and remasters.
The big departure this series takes that sets it apart from other JRPGs of the time is a focus on action instead of menu-driven battles. The encounters are closer to fighting games with their button combo-focused gameplay style. It was an instant draw for a lot of players. 16 games in and the series still continues to refine this system.
After the second game, Tales of Destiny on the PS1, was released in the West, it appeared that things were looking up for this JRPG series. Even though nowadays it enjoys a good deal of success, a number of Tales games have yet to make their way to audiences outside of Japan. Let’s take a look at these games.
Tales of Destiny 2 (PS2)
If you’re a fan of the series, you may be thinking, “Wait, we got Destiny 2!” Well, not quite. The Tales of Destiny 2 that was released on the PS1 overseas was actually titled Tales of Eternia in Japan. Since the Tales series wasn’t established yet, the Western branches of Namco probably feared that people wouldn’t recognize that it was part of the same series, thus that game was retitled. When the PS2 era rolled around, and an actual Tales of Destiny 2 came out in Japan, Namco probably face-palmed and gave up.
Tales of Destiny 2 moved the series into the next generation, but maintained 2D sprite work for characters and backgrounds. The game looks beautiful, and the overworld is rendered in full 3D much like the previous game in the series. Other than the graphical prowess, this game doesn’t shake up the series formula too much. It received a PSP port a few years after release. Sadly, that port also wasn’t released in the West.
Tales of Rebirth (PS2)
The series got no love as far as localization during the beginning of the PS2’s life cycle. Tales of Rebirth slowly moved the series forward by once again using 2D sprites for characters, but reworking the backgrounds into full 3D.
This game also introduced the “Lines” system into battles. Characters can jump between three different planes while attacking and dodging enemies. It was well-received upon release and, like Tales of Destiny 2, even got a remake on the PSP a few years later in 2008. This remake was also denied an overseas release.
Tales of Innocence (DS)
This fully 3D handheld entry into the Tales series seemed like an entry that would surely makes it way to Western audiences. The Nintendo DS was home to so many obscure Japanese-developed games that were localized and released. However, Tales fans had no such luck. Even with the relative good reception of the PS2 games by overseas critics, this handheld version was doomed to stay out of the hands of Western gamers.
This game also got a re-rlease later, this time on the PlayStation Vita. Third time’s a charm, right? Wrong. Tales of Innocence R was also left in Japan. And much like the rest of the Tales games, it enjoyed a good deal of success critically and commercially. Just not enough to secure a localization.
There’s plenty of other spin-offs, mobile games, and remakes that also ended up not making their way to Western audiences, but the main series is what we’re focusing on today. Nowadays, as long as it’s part of the main series, there’s hardly any doubt as to whether a game from the Tales series will get an overseas release. Tales fans can breathe a sigh of relief, but will they ever see the missing entries in the series? Only time will tell.