*Psst! This’ll have spoilers for Tales of Berseria. Go play it if you haven’t. That is all.*
Ah, the Tales of series. One of the most underappreciated yet longest-lasted JRPGs on the market. These games have never reached the heights that its rivals have. But they are so consistently beloved by their smaller fanbases that it more than makes up for it. Tales fans aren’t many in number. But they are fierce in loyalty.
I had wanted to get into Tales for a while. I love RPGs and I love anime, so it seemed like a perfect fit. But I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Symphonia is one of the more popular. A friend recommended Vesperia. Zesteria constantly pestered me on my Steam page.
But in the end, I decided to put all of those on the shelf. Instead, I chose the one that was currently on sale for $10 bucks at my closest GameStop. That game was Tales of Berseria.
It’s safe to say I made the right choice. This game is great.
The writing in particular surprised me. I was expecting generic anime adventure stuff. What I didn’t expect was an exploration of right and wrong where the main character is the ‘villain’ and the villain is the world’s savior. Safe to say, I got hooked in pretty quickly.
Our hero, Velvet Crowe, is hardly an ordinary protagonist. She’s selfish, malicious, manipulative, even downright psychotic. However, we know from the game’s prologue that she hasn’t always been this way. We saw what kind of person she used to be. And we can see how that person still bleeds through in the woman she is now. She’s a remarkable character, easily one of the best in the game.
The Wound: The Brother’s Betrayal
Velvet’s childhood wasn’t exactly the easiest. She lost her older sister really early on during a monster attack, leaving her as the sole mother figure to her little brother Laphicet and her brother-in-law Arthur. Still, she made the best of it. While she mourned the loss, she accepted her new role and took it in stride. For a while, she was very happy.
Aaaaand then Arthur murdered Laphicet, turned her entire village into monsters, then transformed Velvet into a super demon. As if that weren’t enough, he proceeded to imprison Velvet in a pit for two years on an island. Then he fed her a corpse a day while her clothes rotted away and she lost her humanity.
The Want: Good Ol’ Fashioned Revenge
Naturally, Velvet was just a little bit upset with Artorias (Arthur’s full name). So, when luck finally took a turn on her and she managed to escape, she dedicated herself towards one goal: killing him. You know, typical revenge story things. Her little brother was her whole world and this wannabe savior murdered him!
This act alone made Velvet public enemy #1. After all, Artorias was the Shepherd! He saved humanity from an army of monsters! Anyone who wanted him dead must surely be a monster of the highest evil! If Artorias was the savior, then Velvet must be a Lord of Calamity! She must be in the wrong!
But that’s not how Velvet sees it.
The Lie: The Right Thing
Okay. I’m gonna make a long story short here. Brace yourselves, because this one is a doozy.
In murdering Laphicet and Velvet’s village, Artorias saved the world. Basically, he held off a massive wave of evil that would have turned humanity into monsters that would tear each other apart. In ruining Velvet’s life, he saved all of humanity.
But Velvet doesn’t see it that way. To her, he did it for purely selfish reasons. He made himself out to be the ‘hero’ by betraying and murdering his family. Therefore, the peace and prosperity everyone lives in now is a hoax. Her killing Artorias would be the morally correct thing to do.
It certainly seems that way. Turns out, Artorias’ master plan is to use god magic to subdue the populace. Incredibly long story short: he’s going to turn everyone into emotionless zombies to create eternal peace.
And as it turns out: Laphicet was in on the plan the entire time. Artorias didn’t betray and murder him. He sacrificed the boy by his own will. In doing so, he turned him into a god.
Naturally, upon being confronted by this, Velvet has a bit of a crisis. By crisis, of course, I mean ‘nearly goes completely fucking insane’. Suddenly, her quest for revenge and her entire reason for doing so were all wrong. She was the villain the entire time. Neither her brother or mentor betrayed her. Sure, what they did to her was fucked up. But in the end, it was what Laphicet wanted. All she was doing was getting in the way of her brother’s desire. Her brother’s happiness.
She started this quest because she thought Laphicet wanted to be avenged. But turns out, she had it backwards.
The Need: Why Do Birds Fly?
That is a question that Artorias asks many a time throughout the story. And all throughout it, no one has been able to answer it. At least not in a way that satisfies him. Not even Velvet could find the answer.
Luckily, someone helps her find it.
Okay, I’ve kind of neglected the role of the other party members in Velvet’s story. Because make no mistake: all five of them are important to her story. Going into why would take waaaaaay too long. But there is one character I cannot ignore.
Laphicet. No, not Velvet’s brother. A small boy who looks exactly like him (I could go into why, but then we’d be here all fucking day). A little slave boy that she liberated. She gave him her brother’s name, then pushed him to become his own person. She turned him from a number into a person.
And in her moment of need, there he was.
Laphicet (the good one who isn’t now a god) gives Velvet’s actions purpose. Yes, she’s the Lord of Calamity. Yes, she’s been fighting her brother the whole time. Yes, her actions have been monstrously evil. But she saved him. Gave him a life. Not because she needed to. But because she wanted to. Now, he wants to be there to save her.
It’s in him that Velvet finds new purpose. She accepts that her actions have been reprehensible. But she doesn’t care. The reason behind them suddenly changes. Better yet: it gives her purpose to keep going. Because it turns out, in order for Artorias’ plan to work, Laphicet (the good one) needs to die. So… that’s a bad.
Here, Velvet finds the answer to that damn question. Why do birds fly? Because they need to? Because they were born to? Because that is the right thing to do? The answer is incredibly simple: they fly because they want to.
Thus, the Lord of Calamity gives herself to save both her friends and the world. Not because it was the right thing do to. Because it was what she wanted to do.
Velvet is a perfect example of how to do an antihero protagonist. An outsider looking in would think she’s the villain. The edgy anime demon girl. But there’s so much more to her than that. Her story is truly phenomenal, one of the best in the game.
And she’s only our main character. If I wanted to go into the side characters, we’d be here all god damn day! Rokurou, Eizen, Magilou, Eleanor, Laphicet, there is so much depth to every member of the cast!
Play Tales of Berseria. It’s an incredible game with some truly incredible writing. If you haven’t given it a shot, trust me. You’re missing out.
If only to watch all the Skits. Trust me: those make the whole thing worth it.