This is far from the first Tales title to make it to mobile, but it does seem to be the most original. While previous titles were content to emulate a small-scale version of mainline Tales' action combat, this one goes with a turn-based battle system which will be familiar to gacha fans, but new to the Tales series.
And the Tales series has, frankly, needed a bit of a kick. The series contains legendary games that receive acclaim to this day, and then a few which are seen as pretty strictly mediocre. But just as the main series is getting a well-deserved fresh direction with the upcoming Tales of Arise, the mobile games are getting new life too with Tales of Crestoria.
Tales of Crestoria is a brand new mobile gacha game from Bandai Namco, and one that celebrates the history of the franchise, all while offering an interesting original story of its own. This has been done with many other RPG franchises, such as Fire Emblem Heroes, but Tales of Crestoria manages to stand out even when faced with such stiff competition.
What Tales of Crestoria is and does is hardly the most original concept in the mobile gaming sphere, but it is not only competent but offers a level of polish and charm that many games just never acquire, which is why this will probably go on to be very successful.
Zero Motion Battle System
Tales of Crestoria celebrates the Tales franchise by bringing together many of the recognisable characters that fans will love, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't fall for this. Seeing the smiling faces of characters I grew up with is very charming by default, as is the nature of collecting the most powerful ones to battle with.
This is a gacha game of course, so you'll be saving up gleamstones (premium currency) to summon powerful Tales heroes to fight for your cause in multiple battle scenarios, including the main story, training missions, the Arena, and even multiplayer raids you can undertake with your guild.
Having said that, it can't be anything but a disappointment to have the linear motion battle system that the series is known for completely absent. Past games attempted it, and I'm certain making things turn-based ends up in an easier gacha game to balance, but it's still very disheartening.
When collecting characters I'm a fan of like Luke fon Fabre and Yuri Lowell and fighting with them, I do so with a smile on my face. Seeing Radiant Howl and other classic Mystic Artes come to life on my phone is great. I just wish I was more in control of things.
And, of course, being a mobile gacha game, there's an option to speed up combat, and even automate the battles. For best results in tough fights you shouldn't auto-battle, but the option being there makes the intentions of the developers clear: you should skip to the late-game stuff, so you can be barraged with incredibly tough challenges that'll make you want to invest money in summons and power-ups.
The gacha game has a cruel system in place, and that's true for all of them. The question is which gacha games offer a compelling enough reason to ignore that cycle and keep playing them. And Tales of Crestoria makes a decent argument.
Tales of all of the above
Tales of Crestoria has a fairly lovely presentation, whether it's in menus, chatting with your party in story scenes, or watching your 3D character models unleash their attacks in battle. It's undeniably pleasing to the eye and pretty to watch.
What will initially keep you engaged is the original Tales story, which most certainly goes over the story beats and includes the character archetypes that you would expect from any Tales game. Kanata is an innocent enough young boy who ends up murdering his father and burning down a church after he discovers the abuses his father was guilty of.
He ends up running from home with a friend and makes some others on the way. But not only is Kanata a sinner, a Transgressor, but he also stalked but demonic spirits, being born purely of the hatred others feel for these sinners. It's a very literal story about cycles of hatred.
But it's told in a very charming way, and feels more fleshed out than most gacha titles. I like Kanata and friends, and I'd actually be willing to play a full Tales game starring this cast, with or without the visitors from other titles. Against all odds, I actually found the characters likable, when I absolutely expected them to be the most generic Tales archetypal characters possible. And while that's true to a degree, it didn't stop me from enjoying a slowly unraveling tale, or at least the early makings of one.
All in all, Tales of Crestoria is a surprisingly good gacha game, and a lovely celebration of the Tales franchise for fans. Without the love of the series, you won't find as much to care about here, but if you've played a few of the mainline titles in the past like me, then you'll find a lot to admire here.