Tales Of Innocence
...AKA, "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Past Life."
Hey guys, Darth Numbers here. Innocence was the ninth main (though there might be some debate on how "main" it is) installment of the Tales Of series, developed by Namco. You may remember the Tales Of franchise from such hits as Tales of Vesperia, Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Xillia, Tales of the Abyss, you get the picture.
Innocence however, is something of a niche game, even within the Tales Of niche. Developed for the Nintendo DS in late 2007, this game went largely unplayed, and uncared about. In fact, it wasn't even localized! There is an English patch out for the DS version, which is the version I'm going to be playing. The translation was done by Absolute Zero (google em!) and is generally spot on! There are a few iffy things that I'll explain as we run into them, translation wise, and we're gonna be using the localized arte and character names option, which I think works the best.
Not only do I not own a Vita, the Vita version added some really dumb things (I'll get to that later) when it was remade, so I enjoy the DS version more.
Innocence is the story of Ruca Milda, our intrepid young hero. Ruca is a loser, but lucky for him, he was a giant scary demon lord in his past life, which is pretty neat! Innocence is all about past lives, we'll get to that later.
Innocence is a very nonstandard Tales Of game-- not only is it a DS game, so its functionality is obviously limited as compared to the console ones, it has a really neat battle system, a really cool "style" system, and a super neato plot. Innocence uses a modified version of the "Linear Motion Battle System", which basically means that you fight back in forth in a moving straight line. What comes new with Innocence though, is that you are encouraged to switch between characters rapidly in the heat of battle, and rack up some crazy combos, which you'll definitely (hopefully) see later.
While it might not be the prettiest game (those DS graphics), it's really freakin' cool, and I hope I can show you guys that.
So let's get into it, shall we?
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Update 25 - FINAL UPDATE
Styles and Mystic Artes Explained!
This video contains spoilers if you haven't read up to the point where we unlock all six characters (update 13), so watch at your own risk!
Here it is folks, the long awaited (maybe) video. The first couple minutes are a rundown of how styles work and how we're using them, and also going a little into the hidden styles that we've unlocked. After that we transition into showing off the main character's mystic artes, which are pretty nifty looking in my opinion. There's an annotation on the video to skip right to that, if you don't care about styles.
Pardon my mic, it's not perfect-- I know those hard 's's are killer. Anyway, please enjoy!
Styles and Mystic Artes Explained!
Explanation posts by RelentlessImp!
RelentlessImp has some really neat exposition and analysis of some themes that occur in Innocence-- he would like you guys to know that,
I'm not super knowledgeable about this stuff myself, and may get things wrong; I'm just outputting what I know and can reverify with a Wikipedia search as it's been a while since I studied any Hindi texts. That said, the Rigveda is about as fun a read as some Norse sagas with some really metal stuff happening, so I should probably reread one of the English translations around.
but with that disclaimer, here's a bunch of cool analysis by RelentlessImp! Keep in mind that these are for specific parts of the game that are going to be spoilers for later part of the LP! Be warned!
Vrtra is a reference to Vritra, romanized as Vrtra (" वृत्र "), a Vedic Asura, known also as Ahi, or Snake. Typically depicted as a dragon blocking the course of rivers, Vritra is the personification of drought and is the adversary of Indra, who, in the Rig Veda, destroyed all of Vritra's 99 fortresses and had their two jaws broken by Vritra before throwing the dragon down and crushing its own fortresses, thus liberating the rivers. Indra then went on to kill Vritra's mother with his thunderbolt. A lot of this story is influenced by Brahmanism (and by extension, Hinduism), even going so far as to appropriate a lot of terms and redefining them - Asuras, Devas, even taking names like Vrtra. It would have probably been more appropriate to translate it to Vritra, but I don't know Japanese and couldn't tell you, but Vrtra is at least semi-accurate in terms of references.
On "Naraka" and "Devaloka" as "Earth" and "Heaven":
As to why these things are named the way they are, it's basically because Brahmanism and Hinduism from which its major concepts are borrowed from. Naraka is the Hindu Underworld, which in some schools of Hinduism can be taken to be a place of torment, or a literal Hell, where the soul is sent to be scourged of sin. In Buddhism, it distinctly refers to worlds of greatest suffering. Unlike a Christian Hell, Naraka is not eternal, and is more akin to a purgatory and expiation period.
A deva loka is a plane of existence for Gods and Devas. To the Hindi, it's where mortals go to in between reincarnations if their lives have been dedicated to light and good. It's one of the steps towards learning all you can about human existence, and once your existence has exhausted all those possibilities you can ascend to higher planes towards Vishnu and Shiva, Vaikuntha and Sivaloka.
(To any Hindi, Buddhist, or similar practicioners, please correct me if I get anything wrong, I'm mostly going off memory and Wikipedia double-checking, as I haven't devoted any real study to the religions since college and my memory is pretty bad. Reading through a partial English translation of the Rig Veda, which itself was translated into Latin first, twice doesn't or barely qualifies me to talk about a lot of this, so take it for what it is.)
I suggest not researching a lot of these terms yourself, though - while the Tales team didn't stay very close to the source material, they did shamelessly adapt some of it to fit their game. For example, Indra's battle with Vritra began shortly after Indra's birth, while in this game Vrtra seems to have helped to raise Asura, who can be seen as an Indra stand-in. Just, friendly caution researching the terms if you haven't played this game through, a few things can be spoiled by inference.
On creation myths referenced by Innocence:
It's time for Adventures in Hinduism As Relates To Tales Of Innocence!
Lamenting his endless isolation, he formed the world from his body and birthed the gods. And so, all things came to be.
Simply stated, Devaloka came into being by the death of the Primeval Giant.
The god of creation. In the beginning, there was no world, just the Giant, alone. The Giant was so lonely, he created the land from his body and the gods from his head. And while the land prospered, the number of evil gods grew. So the gods created Naraka and imprisoned the evil gods there.
This is but one of the many Hindu creation myths, where Brahma formed the world from the body of the Supreme Lord, who gave his body willingly to become the world due to a lack of any other ingredients to make a world with. However, you may notice I said 'one of many'; Hindu belief is that the world is destroyed and remade repeatedly, cycling through existences in a manner similar to reincarnation. Additionally, or in place of, there are multiple universes and existences to live within.
Now, if you want a slightly more... interesting version of this story: in the beginning, there was only Prajapati, the first creator, was alone. He split himself into two halves, husband and wife. The wife part that was Prajapati saw their union as incest, and fled. Prajapati gave chase, and she tried to keep ahead of him by shifting her form to various animals. However, Prajapati turned himself into the male of each animal form she assumed, and from their unions came all the beasts. (As a side note, this is a very popular mythos story, known as a Transformation Chase. My favorite, personally, is the folk song Twa Magicians. A version of the Transformation Chase can be found in almost every culture.)
In the Rigveda itself, the story is a bit more complex. Purusha, the primeval cosmic being, is all that exists and will ever exist. Viraji, the mundane egg or twofold male-female energy, was born from Purusha, and Purusha was born again from Viraj. The Gods sacrificed Purusha, and formed the cosmos and beings from his body and mind, most notably leading to the birth of Indra and Agni.
I'm not really qualified to interpret, but they are using a more 'friendly' interpretation of these myths, notably the ones where someone's body was used to create the cosmos. However, I feel compelled to point out again that one of the beliefs here is that the universe is cyclical; the current universe is not the only one, and when this one dies another will be born in its place. The universe always is, always has been, and always will be, but is in constant flux. You could look on the fall of Devaloka and Naraka as being the previous universe, and when they were destroyed this one came into being and some souls from the previous cycle reincarnated into this one. Alternately, that the world here is multiversal, and Naraka and Devaloka were entirely different universes adjoining this one, and when their universes were destroyed they reincarnated into a different one.