The Let's Play Archive

Tales of Symphonia

by wdarkk

Part 62: Mini-Fanwank, err, I talk about what I would want from a prequel if it was ever released.

Mini-Update 10: Fanwank I talk about what I would want from a prequel if it was ever released.

Ziggy Tsardust posted:

The scene with Kratos, Zelos and Mithos is probably one of the best scenes in the entire Tales series. In fact, I wish this was made into an actual game as I'd love to be able to play during the Kharlan War. Seeing Mithos in his earlier days just really solidifies him as one of my favourite game villains ever.

Honestly, I have to agree. I think with some good development they could turn the Kharlan War into a hell of a game. I've actually thought about it a fair bit in my spare time, and here's what I'd do if it was up to me. This should probably be in the Tales Megathread but Ziggy asked me here.

Note that this is not a full or formal design document - if it was, it'd be four-ish pages of content and 20 pages of "like the other 3D Tales Games" or "like Tales of Vesperia".

Tales of the Kharlan War

1. Theme
First off, the characteristic genre name* for ToKW would be "RPG to strive against tragedy."
* In case you're wondering, "characteristic genre name" is a sentence that probably makes way more sense in Japanese that describes the game. Symphonia's was "To Resonate With You RPG".

To put it in a more comprehensible form, this is a game about how characters react to suffering. Martel and Mithos are more or less innocents, and live in an incredibly brutal world. The world is so bad that the player might think Mithos is justified. The world's been at war for as far as any human can remember, and Half-Elves have legal status somewhere between a Native American under Andrew Jackson and a Jew in Nazi Germany. They're the ones who get ranched for Exspheres and Cruxis Crystals (this could be used to explain how Martel and Mithos get theirs). The Elves probably aren't much nicer - Martel and Mithos left Heimdall for a reason, and it's probably a horribly racist one. Yuan is pretty much the only Half-Elf who's achieved success within the human power structure -but after he starts losing (possibly against us) he gets kicked out and has to go on the run. Since I wouldn't want to wimp out on the "suffering" as compared to real-world suffering, this might or might not bump the rating on the game. Soul Nomad indicated you can get away with a ton of stuff if you don't show it though.

2. Characters
Martel really has to be the main character. I get the feeling that as video game players get older, they identify less with child protagonists. The fear of something happening to one's child is pretty powerful, and as Martel is Mithos's surrogate mother I'd probably go all-out on leveraging it.

This also explains why the hell they were dragging a child around the battlefield. The reason is that the world sucks so much there's nowhere safer. Mithos is safer fighting alongside his friends than he would be on his own where he'd be at constant risk from death squads. Death squads are a bit cliche but extreme danger is rather necessary to make Martel not look like a dumbass for taking Mithos into combat. The Eternal Sword is probably Kratos's fault - he thought his apprentice would respond well to responsibility. Whoops.

Martel's character arc is essentially her going from being primarily concerned about Mithos to being concerned about the world in general. She wants the world to be a place Mithos can be safe and happy in, and gradually this expands to a more general vision of a world that everyone can be safe and happy in.

Martel is the only Seraphim we never see fight, but we know she wields a staff and is the primary support character. I'd give her a good selection of buffs, heals, light spells, and melee skills. Possibly also some darkness spells, which would be acquired when Martel threatens to give into temptation, and/or if someone manages to push Martel into real fury territory to represent how rage could change her. The real reason is that I don't like the idea of a single-element elemental caster. I suppose I could give her lightning (of judgement) too/instead but that seems even more tenuous. I'd also give her time stop, since I heard that the cleric-girl in Phantasia gets it and the idea of putting the "stop time" power on a healer rather than a damager is pretty interesting. Martel would be the only character to learn Resurrection.

As for Mithos himself, he seems like a really nice kid before he became the arch-jackass. Generally he's shy and dependent on his sister. Martel and Mithos have been each the only people the other could rely on for a long time. I picture Mithos reacting to strangers by hiding behind his sister and generally having poor self confidence up until he becomes Kratos's apprentice. Kratos is Mithos's first male role model, and as a result Mithos looks up to him far more than Kratos feels he should. In any case, Mithos as a convincing and non-annoying kid would be hard to write.

Mithos would mostly use shortswords/daggers (until he gets the Eternal Sword of course) and deal most of his damage via spells. He'd get high-tier spells from all elements and some powerful non-elemental spells. He'd also make pacts with Summon Spirits and summon them in combat. Since he already has powerful elemental attacks, I'd make the summons act as a "fifth party member" for a brief period of time.

Kratos seems pretty easy to write for - he's a guy who works well in a structured environment and goes to hell when he's out of one. It's part of why he follows Mithos - doing what he's told is comfortable and familiar. The part where he switches his primary allegiance from Tethe'alla to the party is mostly already done in Tales of Fandom - Martel and Mithos tried to warn the government about the impending Sylvaranti attack but got dismissed because they were half-elves, and got an extra helping of persecution for their troubles. At some point he realized he was working for people who didn't give a shit about anything but themselves and his duty to them was empty.

Kratos's moveset is pretty well known but could probably take a couple additions seeing as we only have four characters. I'd guess a few more physical attacks and hold his magic selection to four elements.

Yuan is the one guy who would be hardest to write. Why the hell are he and Martel in love? Having it be that they're the only romantically-compatable pairing in the party thus they must be in love would be a huge cop-out, but from what we know of their personalities they're total opposites and oh yeah Martel might be responsible for the loss of Yuan's status. We tried to warn Tethe'alla about the attack from Sylvarant that Yuan is part of. It's therefore required in video game logic that we fight him as a boss. Presumably as a half-elf he'd be on thin ice regarding any losses. In theory we could not fight him and have someone else be responsible for the loss, but that means someone else did what we were trying to do and players might not like that.

My guess is initially the attraction is based more on respect than anything else. Yuan thinks of Martel as an excellent combatant and joins our party primarily to survive, at least at first. He then becomes attracted to her strength of character - she's determined to make things right no matter how bad the world is, and it's bad. In turn, she's attracted to his flexibility on life - he's willing to turn his life around and she admires the strength it takes to admit you're wrong.

Yuan's moveset would be similar to Kratos's in overall balance, but he'd get the moves Kratos didn't. I'd also give him a ranged set of laser/beam attacks rather than heals, since he likes blasting people with his ring. He'd get spells for the four elements Kratos doesn't get.

As a final note, I'd try to include brief solo sections for each character to provide players a chance to get to know how to handle them.

3. Since every member of our party can cast spells in addition to physical attacks, we'd need to make spellcasting fun. I've been told that Graces accomplishes this with the Chain Capacity system. Additionaly, everyone would need decent melee capacity. I'd probably include free run and FLIGHT once the party became Angels. Dungeons would also be designed around the fact that the entire party could fly. It would limit bullshit puzzles a fair bit, which is another plus. Overlimit, Summons and Unison Attacks would probably feed off one bar with segments.

4. Martel's death is a bit of a tricky area to write. Obviously it has to be impactful, otherwise the player isn't going to connect with Mithos's desire for revenge. The first element would be that it's a betrayal that's shocking. The thing is, betrayal has been used so much that it's just lost its edge. I'd have to find a new angle. If you've played FFX, you're familiar with O'aka XXIII. If not, he's a merchant the player characters help out until he eventually sells really awesome items. That's probably the only NPC demographic you'd never see the betrayal coming from. Especially if you'd recently unlocked the ultra-quality weapons he sells.

I'd also want to avoid an Aerith-esqe death. Martel being stabbed in the back and that's it feels a bit cheap, especially since she's been the main character. Instead, I'd have Evil'o'aka suddenly attack her while they're alone. It'd use an "enemy advantage" mechanic that later Tales games used when the party was attacked from behind by a random encounter - Martel would start the battle stunned long enough for him to get one free hit in. During the battle itself, Evil'o'aka will use some sort of horribly evil demon sword that deals damage to your maximum HP rather than your current HP. Additionally, that first free hit inflicts a debuff that also drains your maximum HP. Evil'o'aka has enough HP that it's not possible for Martel to kill him before the debuff runs her out of max HP even if she's never hit, but the battle has a different objective. His sword is individually attackable, and after a brief period of time a short in-battle cutscene will play where Martel realizes both that she is definitely going to die and that she has to get rid of the sword or he'll be able to kill the rest of her party too. When the sword is destroyed, there's an explosion, everyone comes running, and then we see the scene Mithos shows Lloyd and Lloyd's bud in Derris-Kharlan.

The transition to Mithos as main character would probably not be too noticeable at first, since all three would be pretty vengeance-seeking. I'd most certainly drop him into the player 1 slot following Martel's death as a sort of signifier. Kratos is a bit of a follower and Mithos is the only bit of Martel Yuan has left, so his newly more-aggressive personality enables him to dominate group decision making. I'd have Spiritua join as Martel's replacement for the last bits (Spiritua would probably get a character arc prior to that where she starts as our enemy but grows to respect Martel & friends). She'd go along with Mithos because Kratos and Yuan were.

5. How to make the ending satisfying would be really tricky. I can't imagine people would react well to "your main character dies, then her little brother screws the world" as an ending - Fallout 3 had an ending that wasn't nearly that bad but people still bitched about it massively. I'd probably kill off Martel really late in the game. The actual ending would still have to be satisfying though, since as above people hate forced bad ends. I started thinking about certain events at the end of ToS and an idea clicked.

Despite Mithos saying he's going to be a dick to the end, he's not. If you notice the mana flowing out of Lloyd's exsphere into the seed, it's pretty much the exact same animation as the mana flowing into after he finished Mithos, only in reverse. In ToS2,  Lloyd tells Emil he felt Mithos assist him with germinating the seed.  All this explains why Lloyd thought Mithos deserved to have a tree named after him. Since we don't know what's going on with Yuan or Kratos at the time (Zelos ending is canonical) we could have them join spiritually after Martel calls them. As to what you actually fight, I started with "where do the souls that compose Neo-Martel come from?" The idea came that they're people who died in the course of the whole world regeneration business. Chosens, their companions, etc. What if bad people who died in the course of opposing world regeneration also got stuck there? Well, now you have to purge their influence from the forming spirit.

The battle I'm envisioning would consist of two phases, with a save prompt in between. In the first phase you fight a "tag team" match against bad guys from Kharlan War and Symphonia four at a time; when one is defeated a new one shows up until they run out. Phase two features them forming a sort of Anti-Neo-Martel entity that needs stabbification. After this Martel and the other good spirits merge with Tabatha as normal. It's a bit cheesy and happier than it might should be but it's well within Tales standards.