Was I too harsh? Maybe so, but boy am I growing sick of Tales.
There was a time when Tales was set to become one of my favorite series. Tales of Symphonia was something of a calling: I'd dismissed the game due to the awkward beginning and for what I perceived as button-mashing nonsense, yet one day I suddenly required its presence in my life. That was right before one of the worst summers of my life, and Tales of Symphonia was my sole refuge. The game is something of a flawed masterpiece, but everything from its beautiful, charming fusion of fantasy and sci-fi tropes to its tongue-in-cheek skit dialogues compels me to replay it again and again, and it is my favorite non-Nintendo developed game ever made. Tales of the Abyss similarly charmed me, and I couldn't wait to dive into the rest of Tales...
...but alas, I've yet to play any further entries matching their quality. Vesperia was the closest with a superb blend of gameplay, sound and a gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic, but the constant baiting of the plot irritated me far more than it should have. Graces was as bland as they come despite its advances via combat and the addictive title system, and the less said about Symphonia's garbage "spin-off" sequel in the Wii's Dawn of the New World, the happier I'll be.
The original Xillia's rushed development is something of a tragedy in my eyes: the beautiful character designs--imbued with fun base personalities--are squandered in the face of phoned-in laziness, be it a supremely dull overworld, endlessly reused assets, and a forgettable musical score (seriously, Motoi Sakuraba is capable of far more than this). As the review entails, Xillia 2 does not right its wrongs. There's more content, sure, but why exactly am I paying off a debt in a fantasy RPG? Why is the main character silent? Those two screw-ups were already major warning signs when looking up the game beforehand, but that it does absolutely nothing with its woefully stagnant cast and battle system is just beyond frustrating at this point.
At this point, Tales games are nothing more than JRPG junk food to me. Of course, like the Symphonia-addict I am, I'll keep plowing through them in search of that potential, but I'll likely end up dreaming of what they could be. Step up your game, Namco.