Sony sold me on the PS5 as soon as it revealed that high-speed SSD, but the impact of the new console didn’t really hit me until recently, when I picked up Tales of Arise. And to be clear, I’ve played most of the big PS5 showcases – Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Returnal, the Demon’s Souls remake – and they’re all stunning. I’m not knocking them when I say that Tales of Arise is the standout for me. In fact, I’d agree that Rift Apart has set the bar for sheer graphical horsepower. Hell, it’s probably the best-looking… anything ever made.
What I’m saying is that when it comes to new consoles, it’s not about the result for me, it’s about the difference. Tales of Arise represents the biggest improvement of any PS5 or Xbox Series X game I’ve played. It’s a massive leap forward for a series that I watched slowly mature on PS3 and PS4. Ratchet and Clank looked incredible before Rift Apart, and now it just looks more incredible. Meanwhile, the Tales games – and I say this with love – have always looked a generation behind, until now.
It’s about the origin, not just the destination
The previous Tales game, Tales of Berseria, came out in the same year as Uncharted 4. Is it fair to compare a cross-gen, cult-hit JRPG with the fourth game in a super-funded, photorealistic, flagship franchise? Absolutely not. But the point is, if you put these two side by side, you’d never even guess they came out a few months apart. That’s always how the Tales games have been positioned: dated but lovable.
Not anymore, baby. Tales of Arise is a true-blue PS5 and Xbox Series X special. It’s on last-gen consoles, too, but damn does it clean up well on new-gen. The lighting! The textures! The particles! Tales of Arise is the glow-up the series deserves. Is this purely a function of the power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X? No, I’m sure Bandai Namco has done lots of work under the hood, and I suspect Tales of Berseria just barely missed the tinkering that’s benefited Tales of Arise. But there’s no doubt that Tales of Arise is a stunner in large part because it launched on new consoles, and that’s what I’ve been missing this console generation.
The first PS3 game I played was Darksiders, and after PS2 hack-and-slash classics like God of War 2, it blew my mind. I saw technology beyond the dreams of avarice in Darksiders. Then came the PS4, which I didn’t actually pick up until Destiny came out. The scale and spectacle of Bungie’s FPS space opera was on another level from anything I’d seen on PS3. But with the PS5? Well, I started with the Demon’s Souls remake assuming that a remaster of another one of my early PS3 games would blow my mind, but it honestly didn’t. Bluepoint’s remaster wowed me, sure, but it just kind of felt like home, you know? “Yeah, this is about how games look nowadays,” I thought casually as I appreciated every link of chain, spot of blood, and orbiting fleck of light on my character.
Maybe I’m just spoiled by modern games. Maybe I went into this generation with overly lofty expectations, but I’ve had a similar experience with other PS5 games. They were undeniably great and beautiful, but also about what I expected. Then came Tales of Arise. Now this right here, this is not how Tales games look and feel. But now it is! That’s amazing. Are all my favorite niche games gonna look and run like this now? Hell yeah, I love the new consoles. And don’t say I’m just biased toward JRPGs, because I didn’t write this article when I played Scarlet Nexus on PS5, thank you very much (though that game is also good, by the way). It was the gap between Tales of Berseria and Tales of Arise that finally gave me that new-console elation I’d been craving.
Can I put the scales back on my eyes?
Tales of Arise is more than just pretty, too. It’s a great example of how new-gen muscle can benefit all games, not just the AAA bigshots. It’s able to switch between gameplay, cutscenes, and stylized vignettes without pace-killing load times or quality dips, and this makes the full-fat anime scenes feel more special. Thanks to its greatly improved graphics, even reused, recolored enemies – a Tales, and indeed video game tradition – look more distinct and feel less same-y. The frame rate doesn’t tank when you stack flashy special attacks, menus are snappier, character swapping is instantaneous, loading and saving is lightning fast – I could go on. Tales of Arise packs the whole new-gen package into a series that’s frequently struggled to keep up with the times, and it just makes me happy to see it.
It’s exciting to see the stellar art direction and eccentric design that JRPGs are known for elevated by today’s hardware rather than limited by it. I can’t imagine Tales of Arise looking or playing this well in a world where we don’t have new consoles, and I can’t wait to see how other games, JRPGs and beyond, find ways to leverage the strengths of these systems. So if you’re looking for a game that can flex the new consoles in more subtle but equally important ways, or you just want a refreshingly modern JRPG with exhilarating combat, give Tales of Arise a try. If we’re still following traditional console cycles in a million years when the chip shortage is resolved, maybe I’ll turn to Tales of Whatever for my next generational acid test.