In today's episode, we look at The Art of Tales of Legendia, the seventh entry in Namco's Tales series.
I have never played any of the Tales games - my only interactions with them have been through friends who play, and their art books. The Art of Tales of Legendia was published in 2006, and contains 76 pages of mostly production art related to the game. I have to start out by saying that, for an art book, it contains very little concept or design art. The actual concept art sections takes up just 4 of the 76 pages, so if you're looking for a lot of design or concept inspiration, you're looking at the wrong book.
What the book does have a lot of are in-game models and anime-style illustrations. Most of the characters have been rendered in a stylish, clean anime style, and some of the illustrations are stills from the game's animated story scenes. Most show relatively familiar archetypes: the young martial arts master, the older uncaring male, the vulnerable female, the cool dude with a soft spot, and the mysterious magic user. What they don't let on in the beginning, however, are the otters.
The Otters are so darn cute! Oresoren, as they're called in the game, dress similar to ewoks, but have a cute black nose and hilariously oversized packages on their back. If you're a fan of kawaii-style cuteness, they're a great example of an uncommon animal that has been turned into a cute mascot. Like Disagaea's Prinny, the Oresoren are pretty cute.
Still, even otters aren't enough to save this art book. After the illustrations come streams of unidentified game models. A dozen or so in-game models are placed on each page, without discussion, explanation, or identification. Most enemies are color variations on the same model, with FX and accessories placed to differentiate them from their cousins. A little variation can be interesting: in the excellent Valkyria Chronicles, little details cause each soldier to stick in your mind. But Valkyria Chronicles is a game where they're supposed to be uniform, they're soldiers; in Tales of Legendia, it just seems lazy.†
Ultimately, The Art of Tales of Legendia leaves me disappointed. What frustrates me the most is the utter lack of explanation or description throughout the book. Characters, monsters, items, and art are left without much more than a single paragraph of description, and aside from the main characters, the other models and art don't even get that. If you were a big fan of the game, then this game may be for you, but for someone looking for art and inspiration, there are other art books worth your time.