*Sigh* Alright, let me get the more annoying part of doing these kinds of articles out of the way. That’s right, it’s time for theeeee
YES I HAVE ACTUALLY PLAYED AND ENJOYED THIS FRANCHISE SO DON’T BE AN IRRATIONAL FAN AND FLIP OUT QUANTIFIER PART OF THE ARTICLE!!!!
My introduction to this franchise began as a starry eyed elementary school kid who found out how emulators and roms worked. I played Tales of Phantasia, never got farther than the volcano dungeon, but enjoyed it a great deal. When I got a bit older I played Tales of Destiny, never beat it (had it stolen from my house by a then friend).
I’ve beaten Tales of Eternia (or Tales of Destiny 2 on PS1 for American fans) more times than I can count. I went on to play each Tales entry, and beat Tales of Graces R.
Now, a really weird new trend started with the otherwise fairly samey narrative of the Tales games around Innocence for the Nintendo DS:
Tales of Innocence began the trend of the church being super super evil. Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t played the two Xillia titles yet (I was trying to beat them in order of release and I got bored before I finished the extra story in Graces) so I can’t vouch for those games. As you know, Xeawn doesn’t comment on anything Xeawn hasn’t experienced first hand. But, the church wasn’t exactly super great in Graces, and in Tales of Hearts the church functions as a primary antagonist.
In Innocence, the church is rounding up people with supernatural powers and putting them through some pretty hardcore Nazi style experimentation. And this all brings us to Berseria.
Now I can hear you already, “XEAWN STOP BEING ONE OF THOSE KINDS OF CHRISTIANS GEEZ THE GAME IS JUST A FANTASY MYTH IT DOESN’T EVEN SAY JESUS ANYWHERE IN THE STORY!!!”
Hush your ravings of fan outrage, and let us dive a bit deeper. As newcomers may not know, I take the following stances on interacting with media:
- Hope to be pleasantly surprised (i.e. a form of media is innocent of attacking my faith until proven guilty)
- Do not speak on a game/anime/movie/show unless I have experienced the fullness of what it has to offer.
- Reserve judgement until the end.
- What is the final core statement on sin and sin lifestyles by the end of the game?
To elaborate on the last point, I like the God of War series. The core value and final statement in commentary is that Kratos sold his soul to a polytheistic deity, got screwed (as tends to happen with soul selling), then went on to destroy the polytheistic pantheon that abused humanity in a rage fueled quest for atonement and redemption. The final statement is that Kratos’ sin lifestyle was wrong and led to his downfall, and he fought to tear apart the corrupt institution he had once served. So, I don’t mind.
Conversely Bayonetta is about being a witch, lying about the Bible, killing angels while fighting on a stripper pole and killing Christ and God at the end, so, no grey area there.
So now that we’ve wasted 542 words on my credentials, let’s sit at the table and discuss.
Tales of Berseria sets itself up as a piece of fantasy fiction, but we can immediately dismiss those trappings because Hideo Baba chose to use Judeo-Christian terminology for everything. This isn’t like other Tales Of games; Baba didn’t use a bevy of made up words for his fantasy world and their religions (I swear you needed an encyclopedia for Tales of Abyss). Instead, Baba decided to make the church the antagonist, and use myriad Christian terms along the way.
What’s more, any argument of “Other religions say things like angel” (most don’t) is taken away by the fact that he didn’t just use “common religious terms”; Baba chose to go back as far as traditional Hebrew terms to use the church as the villain of the story.
Now, let me be clear about something right now:
For the duration of this article, no one’s opinions matter. My opinions do not matter. Your opinions do not matter.
I say that to tell you I don’t choose to base or frame these discussions around opinion, rather around the doctrine in Scripture. If I am wrong, please do not hesitate to show me scripturally where I am. I’ll also say that what you will read about my dissection of this story will surprise you. Let’s go on. Oh, and there will be spoilers for the first hour of Berseria, small bits of the rest of the game, portions of the last battle, and bits of Zestiria as we proceed.
So there’s this event called the Scarlet Night in this game world, where a blood red eclipse merges the human world with the spirit world. During this event, Velvet’s sister loses her life. How and why as well as whodunit is obvious if you have ever in your life touched a Tales game post Eternia (I’m sorry, I love Tales of, but, they have been the same story since 2000). People turn into monsters called Daemon when infected with the blight.
These Daemon can only be killed by an exorcist. At this point you’re fine to still say “What’s so bad about this?” We’re still in the realm of Daemon standing in for demonic possession and exorcist for, well, exorcist.
Fast forward. We see some sad things happen to little kid Velvet, then we fast forward to sixteen year old Velvet. We deal with the boring butt humble beginnings section of our story, and then move on to Baba going “everything evil in this game is the church”.
*Spoilers* performs a ritual sacrifice he calls Advent wherein a young, innocent and pure individual is slaughtered so that humanity might be saved. In Christianity, the term Advent refers to the birth of Christ our savior who would go on to be slaughtered so that humanity might be saved. Now to a degree you could argue the case that *Spoilers* is supposed to almost be a Pontious Pilot stand in, except this game would argue that *Spoilers* is essentially another Jesus figure.
When *Spoilers* performs this ritual, he tears down the veil between humanity and the Malachim. When Christ was sacrificed, he tore down a literal and spiritual veil that was the barrier between humanity and divinity.
As a part of this veil tearing, *Spoilers* calls down what the game specifically calls “the Host of Malachim” that descend and slay the demons. The term “The Host” refers to Christ and the Divine Trinity in Christianity, as well as the representation of his body and blood sacrifice when we take communion.
Malachim itself is a Hebrew word for angels. One of its specific uses is when the two angels visit Lot to warn him of the coming destruction and cleansing of Sodom.
Well, digging further into spoiler heavy territory we learn that *Spoilers* is now worshipped as the savior of man. Of course anyone who has ever in their life played a game in this series knows he’s up to no good. *Spoilers* is using the Malachim to enact a plot where he will rob humanity of their emotions, call into being a many headed dragon, and wipe out and create a new world by his will.
Surprisingly enough, this is the part where I stopped being as bothered by all of the “The Church is evil” flair in this story.
Y’see, the many headed dragon is how Satan is depicted in Revelations shackled beneath the Earth waiting for his moment to be loosed and devour mankind (actually it’s a jackal, you’ll want to see the original Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic on that one). Here’s the thing, Velvet fights with what she understands is the power of a demon for the whole game to get revenge on *spoilers* for the death of *spoilers* and *spoilers*. Velvet will later learn that the blight in her arm is actually born from the malice and hatred in her heart, and that she too was meant to be used to help call into form this demonic being that will ravage the world.
We learn that the Malachim that *spoilers* summoned are actually another form of demon, and that the Therians (of which Velvet is one) are powerful above human warriors meant to help this dark plan come to fruition. In essence, the evidence laid out to us implies more strongly that Arthur is not meant to be a Jesus stand in, rather an Anti-Christ and False Prophet stand in (also mentioned in Revelations).
Velvet ultimately fights to slay the false prophet, and set up the events in Tales of Zestiria where our heroes team with angels to tear down the last vestiges of this false church.
After Velvet is traumatized, she becomes the darkest protagonist a Tales game has ever had. She’s just as much a villain as Arthur is for much of the story, until realizing with her own two hands she will fulfill Arthur’s demonic ambitions.
So, where does this leave the Christian fan? Pleasantly surprised. From what I have seen in my playthrough, Tales of Berseria is a “Trap Game” as I call them. Not unlike how Michiko to Hatchin had to trick fans of gravure into watching a serious story about motherhood and sacrifice, Tales of Berseria tricks our demonology obsessed culture into getting a Japanese take on the Book of Revelations.
Now, with that said, I am still bothered by the manner in which Baba went about it; I’m certainly not a fan of the misuse of terms, but if we remember that Arthur is in fact not the hero, but the Anti-Christ, that’s forgiveable. I actually would have given Baba mad props if he just went ahead and used the terms “angel”, “Jesus” and “Lucifer” in his story, but I also understand that not many people would buy a game about Christianity.
Now, I don’t know if Baba meant to tell an interesting commentary on faith and deception, but if he did I’m not opposed to the idea, just the execution. But, maybe that was the point? After all, in my review of 009: ReCyborg I point out how not unlike Berseria, Re: Cyborg makes you extremely uncomfortable until the very end with its almost bitter treatment of Christianity until you get to the end and see that it was a commentary on true faith and true despair.
Berseria will get nowhere near the same amount of points with me that 009 did however. 009 made it clear it was going to tackle these themes and why, while Berseria does still hide behind many other more palatable and marketable trappings. With that said, especially when coupled with the overall idea of Zestiria, Berseria thus far does not appear to be anywhere near as assaulting as it appears to initially be.