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Played in 2023
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This is probably around my 3rd or 4th favorite tales, which probably sounds crazy considering I've played almost all of them, even the untranslated ones.
I wouldn't be able to say Innocence is my favorite in terms of gameplay- not as a finished package at least. However, the one thing Innocence wins over literally any other game in the franchise? It feels fucking good to control. It's fast, it's snappy, no dumb turn speed and no need to rely on semi-manual toggle or doing a goddamn C analog maneouver to pivot.
In terms of the overall plot ts alright. Hits that tales standard, but not much higher than that. What it does win in however, is world building. In totality, this is probably the most fleshed out tales game so far. Every area has a culture, an economy, relationship between countries, faiths, etc. It just feels very lived in for such a small game.
In terms of the overall cast, this is where I'd probably put it above the tales average. The dynamic among the party is unreasonably good, and there are no combination of two characters that can't play off of or interact with each other. For that reason, Innocence includes skits for every combination of 2 and 3 characters, which is absolutely bonkers.
This is my absolute favorite castlevania game, bar none. Its hard to describe, because what they essentially did was just take a "solid" igavania as a base, and then just added a bunch of stuff from there. Its funny because the additions and changes all feel so unintegrated and kinda all over the place. But I can't complain at all since I like all of them.
I loved the inclusion of Wind's quests, lots of people thought it made the game too "jrpg-like" but I personally felt like it made the world more lived in. There was a little more to push the player to find all the secrets you always find in igavanias, while also giving more background to the backstory of the game. At the same time, this is also probably why I like most of the secrets and niche interactions of PoR, way more than all the previous games. In a weird way, the smaller map somehow makes them feel a little more memorable. Gaps between every niche interaction/mini-event feels pretty short compared to previous games. Also, I dont care how much everyone else whines, Sanctuary was the peak of the whole series.
It goes pretty hard against the aesthetic and concept of Castlevania, but I loved the talk function and the dynamic between Jonathan and Charlotte. PoR feels decidedly so un-lonely. Between that and the anime artstyle, I get why lots of people aren't a big fan or this installment, but I like it a lot. I wouldn't want the whole series to be like this, but I do want them in general to be a little more personalized.
Too little too late I know, but I would have loved if the game's aesthetics were split between Portrait of Ruin and Rondo of Blood.
This game was a turning point for the series in terms of time limits. This was the first point where the time limit was so lenient that it actually got in the way. You end every period with so much time on your hand that you're just not really doing anything for at least a month after every assignment.
In terms of progression, there's this really weird inexplicable gap between mid game and end game where getting any increase to your multipliers is excruciating. I don't understand why the fused traits suddenly end at this weird point in mid-late game and you just have to replace them with the super special traits.
Probably a part people normally don't really think about, but I found it really unfortunate that setpieces in the dungeons just disappear at a certain point. The first ~25% of dungeons were quite nice to look at, but the rest seemed like they were cobbled together in a rush.
The one really good thing I can say about the game is that the two protagonists are really charming. Probably among my favorite atelier MCs, falling only behind Vayne and Ryza. However, the game suffers from a pretty bad case of "the middle of the trilogy" syndrome. There's way too many referencing of Ayesha and way too many plot points are introduced in preparation for Shallie. It would have been nice if the game felt more like a standalone.