Tales of Graces f for the PS3 came out at just the right time for me. The main reason why I don’t finish RPGs that I start is because another game comes along that I get into, or I have a bunch of games to review (which takes top priority). And then I find myself not going back to the original RPG I was playing. I might’ve forgotten what I was supposed to do next in the story or I might not be as familiar with the controls. But Tales of Graces f came out at the end of March, and there has been NOTHING since then to distract me from it. Even when Kid Icarus: Uprising came out, I didn’t stop playing Graces since I didn’t like Uprising that much (see last blog). And there isn’t anything interesting coming out in May either, so I just might finish Graces. So since I’ve been on a bit of a Tales RPG kick lately, here’s another Tales blog. This one is about my top five favorite classic Namco references you can find in Tales RPGs.
The Tales games are made by Namco, who has a 50 plus year history as a company. Namco is my favorite video game company, not so much for what they do now, but for what they did in the 80’s. All my favorite arcade games were made by Namco: Pac-Man, Mappy, Dig Dug, etc. And sometimes, Namco will make reference to these games in their Tales RPG series. Some Tales games do this more than others, and lately they’ve been doing this less and less. Tales of Graces f hardly does this at all, aside from a couple of plush toy characters you can get (Taiko drum, Katamari Prince, and a square character from a Japanese puzzle game called Mojipittan), plus a secret enemy that looks like a Dig Dug Pooka. Graces also has a card game that features characters from previous Tales titles, but that’s it.
My favorite game in the Tales series, Tales of Legendia, has even less Namco references (just a couple of secret enemies that make reference to classic games like Dragon Buster and Xevious). It’s kind of strange that Legendia would be my favorite since it doesn’t have as many classic cues. And aside from a few alternate costume accessories and the Special Flag item, Vesperia didn’t have much of that stuff either. But there are other Tales games that have lots more classic Namco references, so I wanted to take a look at five of the most notable ones.
Oh, I guess I should put a spoiler warning up, even though I’m not spoiling anything about Tales game storylines. Just some secrets you can find near the end of these games. But I know how sensitive folks can be about their spoilers on the Internet, so I guess I’d better do a spoiler warning anyway, even though I don’t think I’m spoiling much at all.
5. Namco Quiz (Tales of Destiny 2)
Tales of Destiny 2 (PSOne) in the US is actually called Tales of Eternia in Japan. So the US title isn’t a direct sequel to the first Tales of Destiny game. To make things worse, in Japan there really was a direct sequel called Tales of Destiny 2. And you thought the Final Fantasy numbered sequels from Japan to the US were confusing!
I didn’t play much of Tales of Destiny 2 in the US at all, even though I own it. It didn’t have hardly any classic Namco references that I can remember, and nowhere near as many as Tales of Destiny had. But in one town you could play a classic Namco trivia quiz. Since I know a lot about classic Namco games, I would get all the questions right! Except if they asked anything about Tekken, that is!
Some of the questions were really tricky, too! One asked what color Ms. Pac-Man’s bow was. Most would probably say red, but Ms. Pac-Man’s bow is actually pink, because when Ms. Pac-Man: Maze Madness came out, they changed the color of the bow to promote breast cancer awareness (it’s true, I even have a press release to prove it). If I were on Jeopardy, I hope that all the categories would be about Namco games, I’d win for sure! If Namco wants to put a quiz in another Tales game, they should let me come up with the questions. I bet I could make some real doozies! Like this one: What is the name of the “Pal” character in Pac & Pal? If you can guess that one right in the comments section, you’ll earn my respect!
4. Anise’s Bear (Tales of the Abyss)
One of the characters in Abyss was a little girl named Anise. She would carry around a stuffed bear, but when it came time to fight, her bear would grow large and Anise would ride on it as the bear did all the fighting. Later on in the game, you could equip the bear with armor that resembled other Namco characters. Some accessories included Presea’s pink pigtails, Valkyrie’s helmet, or a head that resembled the Prince from Katamari Damacy.
The neat thing is that when Tales of the Abyss came out on PS2, Namco held a contest on the Tales Web site. I won one of the prizes in this contest, and it was a little plush toy of Anise’s bear. The head of the bear was Velcro, and you could pull it off and put another head on it! I wanted the Katamari head, but they sent me an extra head that had Presea’s pigtails. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers! I actually won another Tales contest once and got some Symphonia trading cards!
3. Namco Island and Dragon Buster mini-game (Tales of the Abyss)
Abyss actually had quite a few neat Namco cameos; it’s a wonder that I didn’t play the game much. Near the end of the game you could reach an area called Namco Island (or Namco Bandai Island). Parts of this area had stage backdrops that looked like classic games such as Pac-Land and Mappy. You could even play a mini-game that made reference to Dragon Buster, an old Namco arcade game that was kind of like an arcade-y version of Zelda 2. Later on I think you could even play as the original character, too (Clovis).
2. Tower of Druaga dungeon (Tales of Destiny)
Tales of Destiny on the PSOne had TONS of Namco cameos. Small things like pictures on the wall that had Pookas and Baraduke characters on them. Billboards advertised Japanese Namco owned arcades. One of the summon spells even had characters from Libble Rabble! You could run a race through town while the music played the tune from New Rally-X. And you could fight a secret battle with the main heroine from The Legend of Valkyrie, with the theme song and everything!
But the biggest cameo was a secret dungeon that was a near exact replica of the mazes found in the arcade game The Tower of Druaga. Same enemies and everything. Unfortunately the only way to see this dungeon is to collect some secret items during your quest, and they were really hard to get. The only way to get these items would be to use a strategy guide, be extremely lucky, or play the game a second time. None were options for me. I wonder if they did the Druaga dungeon because Tales of Destiny and Tower of Druaga had the same initials.
Tower of Druaga has always been strangely popular in Japan, and that has always intrigued me. It was never released in the US of course (except on museum collections), and the game is super hard and not very fun. But it got a sequel and a few spinoffs. There’s even a Mystery Dungeon game based on it called Nightmare of Druaga (that was released in the US on PS2, strangely enough). A few years ago in Japan they made an online arcade game called Battle of Druaga (Valkyrie is a playable character). And there’s even a Druaga anime! And to think that it all was VERY loosely based on The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest examples of human literature ever discovered!
1. Presea’s Klonoa outfit (Tales of Symphonia)
Most of the modern Tales games have secret alternate outfits for the characters. Some make tiny references to other Namco games or Tales characters. But my favorite was a secret outfit you could get for Presea. Near the end of Symphonia, you could visit an island that was a theme park. Klonoa, a character from another Namco game, was the mascot of the theme park, and they would give Presea a Klonoa outfit to help promote the park! It was funny because she would even try to talk like Klonoa, saying ‘wahoo’ and all that. This is my favorite Namco cameo in a Tales game because it wasn’t too hard to get, and Klonoa is one of my favorite 2-D platformers (and video game characters in general). If you haven’t played Klonoa yet, you really should. You can get it on Wii and download it on PSN, so it’s not too hard to find anymore. Klonoa even has a classic Namco cameo right on his hat (Pac-Man).
And that’s all for now. In the comments section, tell me your favorite video game cameos. Are there any classic Namco cameos in Tales games that you like that I forgot? Let me know, too, as I haven’t played ALL the Tales games (some were not released in the US), and even the ones I have played, some I haven’t gone all the way through with them. Later! –Cary