Let’s Rate all of the Tales of series Opening Songs!

BANDAI NAMCO’s Tales of series, shrewdly identified as “the Final Fantasy of action RPGs”, isn’t quite as well known as the august franchise it’s oft compared to. However, Erin and I, along with our collaborator Eve, all have plenty of good memories playing through many of the series’ entries throughout the years. While the casts of characters are both engaging and appreciably anime-ified, and the plotlines can hold their own in terms of scope and wackiness against any other JRPG heavy hitters, since this is O!Susume, we thought it’d be fun to do a feature on the series’ music tracks. With seventeen games published as “flagship titles” as of the time of writing, the series has had some great opportunities to feature amazing musical talent in its opening animations. To have fun with it, the three of us decided to listen to every single one and then compare our scores on each, out of 10, and then put all that data together to present O!Susume’s very official and incontrovertible Tales of Opening Songs Ranking!

 

Tales of Phantasia 

(1995) – SNES, GBA, PlayStation, PSP, iOS

“Yume wa Owaranai: Kobore Ochiru Toki no Shizuku” by Yomi (Yumi Yoshida)     [Game Version]

Eve: 8/10 – – – Listening to this medley makes me want to go on a long journey with new and old friends.

Erin: 7/10 – – – I really could not stand this song the first few times I heard it, but with time it’s somehow grown on me—it has a cool 90’s vibe going on.

Nagi: 5/10 – – – Very much a product of its time, sounds like most anime OPs from the early 90’s. I’m not a huge fan of the general tone.

Overall Rating: 20/30

 

Tales of Destiny

(1997) – PlayStation, PS2

“Yume de Aru You ni” by Deen     [Game Version]

Eve: 6/10 – – – This song feels like it’s trying to bottle up nostalgia and sell it to me before I even open my door.

Erin: 5/10 – – – This song is really not for me, but it has some nice instrumentals along the way.

Nagi: 6/10 – – – when the chorus comes in my brain just autocompletes it as “I wanna change the world” from that one Inuyasha OP.

Overall Rating: 17/30

 

Tales of Eternia

(2000) – PlayStation, PSP

“Flying” by Garnet Crow                [Game Version]

Eve: 8.5/10 – – – It’s the chorus of this song that takes me Flying.

Erin: 8.5/10 – – – This is honestly a vibe that I would’ve loved in the early 2000s—they seem cool and I am interested to see what their other music is like.

Nagi: 8/10 – – – unironically love the offputting contrast in the MV between the flat character animation and early 3D objects, very late ‘90’s aesthetic. Also Garnet Crow is excellent

Overall Rating: 25/30

 

Tales of Destiny 2

(2001) – PlayStation, PS2, PSP

“Key to My Heart” by Mai Kuraki     [Game Version]

Eve: 5/10 – – – If we were ranking based on a song’s ability to transport you back in time several decades, I would give this one full marks.

Erin: 4/10 – – – This song is nice in its own way; I’d imagine it would be a great nostalgia song.

Nagi: 5/10 – – – the opening MVs for these games are already really impressive, but I’m not sure the song is a good fit for the video, aside from being a rather generic. I do like the weird hip-hop breakdown at the end tho

Overall Rating: 14/30

 

Tales of Symphonia

(2003) – GameCube, PS2, PS3, Windows

“Starry Heavens” by Day After Tomorrow     [Game Version]

Eve: 9/10 – – – A clean mix of exciting bops with emotional transitions; “Starry Heavens” could open for my anime any day of the week.

Erin: 8.5/10 – – – I like the strings and the sparkly feeling to this song, and the vocals are clear, smooth and just the right amount of “kawaii” to go with this J-pop vibe.

Nagi: 8/10 – – – there’s so much bias around Symphonia that I can’t say much more here. Day After Tomorrow is super nostalgic for me, and their song for the PS2 version is also great

Overall Rating: 25.5/30

 

Tales of Rebirth

(2004) – PS2, PSP

“Good Night” by Every Little Thing     [Game Version]

Eve: 3/10 – – – I wouldn’t mind listening to this when I’m trying to sleep or study, but I’m just not interested in this music style for active listening.

Erin: 3/10 – – – I really can’t stand how slow this song is, and I honestly wouldn’t want to listen to this song again unless I had to.

Nagi: 4/10 – – – same with Destiny 2, not sure slow ballad-style songs work well with the high-action anime visuals of the opening MVs. I’m a fan of Every Little Thing too, but again, kinda generic

Overall Rating: 10/30

 

Tales of Legendia

(2005) – PS2

“TAO” by Do As Infinity                    [Game Version]

Eve: 5/10 – – – Perfectly mediocre, this song does everything it needs to do, without doing any of the things I want it to do.

Erin: 7/10 – – – Do As Infinity is full of nostalgia and good feelings for me, but I wish there was a little something extra to this song, maybe somewhere in the melody.

Nagi: 9/10 – – – funny enough, TAO was a song I recommended in the very first O! post, I had no idea it was used for a Tales of game!

Overall Rating: 21/30

 

Tales of the Abyss 

(2005) – PS2, 3DS

“Karma” by Bump of Chicken     [Game Version]

Eve: 10/10 – – – This is one of the only songs in the world where I can rock out and chill out at the same time.

Erin: 10/10 – – – This song is super catchy with a beautiful emotional structure to it and the vocals are a perfect instrument pulling us along—I don’t get tired of hearing this song!

Nagi: 8/10 – – – another heavy bias because of my nostalgia for this game and Bump of Chicken’s sound. I think it’s a good fit for the game’s themes and characters.

Overall Rating: 28/30

 

Tales of Innocence

(2007) – DS, PSP

“Follow the Nightingale” by Kokia     [Game Version]

Eve: 9/10 – – –The best way to appreciate this song is in the liminal space between dreams and reality.

Erin: 9/10 – – – I love the cinematic instrumentals and powerful vocals on this, with most of the lyrics apparently being in coded Japanese—the whole song reminds me of Joanna Newsom in a really good way.

Nagi: 7/10 – – – I like the harmonic contrast they were going for. Kousuke Fujishima’s character designs shine through in this MV. 

Overall Rating: 25/30

 

Tales of Vesperia

(2008) – Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Switch

“Ring a Bell” by Bonnie Pink      [Game Version]

Eve: 7/10 – – – This chill song is a steady and enjoyable ride to an old friend’s place.

Rating: 6/10 – – – Enjoyable to listen to but not a standout song for me.

Nagi: 8/10 – – – this was the song that got me into Bonnie Pink, she has some other fantastic tracks. It’s weird she’s not more well-known, given her exposure in a Tales game.

Overall Rating: 21/30

 

Tales of Hearts

(2008) – DS, PSVita

“Eien no Ashita” by DEEN           [Game Version]*

Eve: 4/10 – – – Literally nothing stood out to me about this song.

Erin: 5/10 – – – This song is alright; I like the vocals and it’s a nice slower song, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it.

Nagi: 6/10 – – – This one feels like it’s trying to go a bit old-school, music-wise. I guess since it’s DEEN that’s not surprising.

*This is the English version opening, due to copyright issues the Japanese track MV can’t be found.

Overall Rating: 15/30

 

Tales of Graces

(2009) – Wii, PS3

“Mamoritai: White Wishes” by BoA     [Game Version]

Eve: 8.5/10 – – – An emotional bop that evokes strong feelings of desire and longing.

Erin: 9/10 – – – There’s just something sweet and gentle about early BoA vocals that I really love, and this song is so hopeful even though it’s a slower song, which I’m not always a fan of.

Rating: 7/10 – – – Not my favorite song of BoA’s, but still quite nice. Also what happened to the budget for this MV? I like most of the Graces cast, I wanna see more than like 2 keyframes plz

Overall Rating: 24.5/30

 

Tales of Xillia

(2011) – PS3

“Progress” by Ayumi Hamasaki     [Game Version]

Eve: 9.5/10 – – – I skipped the opening to Tales of Xillia once, and Erin yelled at me.

Erin: 10/10 – – – I especially love the style of Ayu’s vocals in this song—her voice can be both cute and dramatic, and her voice is so unique overall.

Nagi: 9/10 – – – Another certified banger from one of the J-pop Queens of the 00’s. Love watching Jude punch a fish every time I watch the OP.

Overall Rating: 28.5/30

 

Tales of Xillia 2

(2012) – PS3

“Song 4 u” by Ayumi Hamasaki     [Game Version]

Eve: 7/10 – – – I can rock out to this song with ease.

Erin: 10/10 – – – This song has some pretty string instrumentals, as well as a really catchy and sparkly “yeah-e-yeah” part I can’t help but love.

Nagi: 7/10 – – – Ayumi Hamasaki really has a distinct instrumental sound she’s honed throughout her career, an appealing blend of hard rock guitar riffs and softer electronica harmonies.

Overall Rating: 24/30

 

Tales of Zesteria

(2015) – PS3, PS4, Windows

“White Light” by Superfly           [Game Version]

Eve: 8.5/10 – – – I gotta bump off the lyrics for this one, but the instrumentals are poppin’ and my head is obligated to bob up and down.

Erin: 5.5/10 – – – The opening instrumental melody is super catchy and singable, and Superfly’s vocals are great, but this song gets a little cheesy for me—especially in the “I wanna be white white now” lyrics.

Nagi: 9/10 – – – Some weirdness in the lyrics aside, the movements in this song are just so good. Absolutely gets stuck in my head at random points, even after not hearing it for a while.

Overall Rating: 23/30

 

Tales of Berseria

(2016) – PS3, PS4, Windows

“Burn” by Flow     [Game Version]

Eve: 9.5/10 – – – I really enjoy dual vocalists, and these two send my to an emotional place whenever I listen to this tune.

Erin: 10/10 – – – I love that this band has dual vocalists which adds more depth to this song—their voices are beautifully different yet coordinating and they both employ my favorite J-rock vibrato as well.

Nagi: 8/10 – – – Another song that syncs up well with the MV’s intensity. I tend to think that Flow do their best work when collabing with other artists, but this track’s solid.

Overall Rating: 27.5/30

 

Tales of Arise 

(2021) – PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows

“Hibana” by Kankaku Piero     [Game Version]

Eve: 9/10 – – – This song has some fantastic contrasts which really help to bring out some of my tortured emotions.

Erin: 7.5/10 – – – There’s a lot of interesting things going on in the full version of this song, and I love how the short version handles the breakdown around 1:15—although this isn’t my favorite, I for sure would listen to the full version every now and again!

Nagi: 8/10 – – – Hibana has a couple of really good hooks that elevate the overall song that extra step and keep it in your head.

Overall Rating: 24.5/30

Bias Picks

Eve: Karma by Bump of Chicken Let’s be honest folks, I’m here as a courtesy. I don’t generally listen to Japanese music unless I’m actually booting up one of the previously mentioned games, or Erin has control of the car’s music system. But this song, dang, I actually go out of my way to listen to this song. They literally just remix this song and bust it out during some of the game’s most emotional moments. It’s a perfect combination of this singer’s voice to the melody, and I simultaneously feel excited and relaxed when I heard this tune.

Erin: Tales of Xillia was the first Tales game I played, and I can’t accurately describe my delight when it was Ayumi Hamasaki singing the theme song. After playing many other Tales games, Tales of Xillia is still my favorite game, and Progress by Ayumi Hamasaki still brings me back to that whole wonderful experience. I also love that Ayu does the theme song for the sequel game, Tales of Xillia 2 with Song 4 u. Both songs work perfectly for Tales intros, and the full songs have all of the elements I love about Ayu’s music—she writes all of her lyrics and she has an overall J-pop sound with a noticeable rock influence (with electronic guitar solos) incorporating dance and electronic textures as well. It’s interesting to note that I can also almost single-handedly thank Ayu for getting me into Japanese music in the first place somewhere close to 20 years ago now.

Nagi: “Starry Heavens” by Day After Tomorrow (Tales of Symphonia) Like TAO, this was a song I didn’t actually know was from a Tales game when I first heard it on an online anime radio station. I recorded the song with digital mic software, clipped it and listened it to it hundreds of times on my ipod nano. The US version of Tales of Symphonia had an instrumental track for the opening cinematic, so the game and the song existed as parallel media I loved for years during my adolescence.

Author: Nagi