The other reason for not writing a comprehensive review at the time of the game's release in the U.S. (January 2017) is thus. I was starting the blog, and felt that readers might find this blog having a "f*minist (f*minist now appears to be a swear word these days) agenda" in pushing games with women lead characters, since I've just written reviews of Gravity Rush 2 and Horizon Zero Dawn. Indeed, it was ridiculously coincidental, that even I thought, "what's going on with all of these amazing games with women as the heroes?!?", such as Gravity Rush 2, Tales of Berseria, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Nier: Automata all within several months of each other, and all when I just started this blog.
Nevertheless, I feel compelled to put my 2 cents in. When I finished the game, I had the same sad and sinking feeling that I get whenever I'm so immersed in the video game, so this is a signal to me that I just played a masterpiece. Therefore, on my second playthrough, I noticed that I missed a lot of the foreshadowing the first time around, which demonstrates how the game developers thought through every single plot point. Nothing in the game, even the smallest detail, is frivolous to the plot or character development.
The character portrayal of Velvet is the first element that made the game so immersive and relatable. Her loving and caring relationship with her brother (and vice versa) also pulls you into the game immediately, shown touchingly in the tutorial section of the game. Secondly, each party member has a story line that's quite brilliant, and each of their quests uncover their personalities and motivations, that span the entire game. You're compelled to find out why they've decided to join Velvet's team. So, the party members' character developments are given just as much attention as Velvet's.
Because each of your team member comes from very different backgrounds so that they may not have much in common with each other, they're not "chummy" with each other like a lot of JRPGs, except for Laphicet's relationship with Velvet. This is psychodynamically realistic. One of your team member's strategies to beating an overpowered boss is "we can beat him if we work together as a team". So I laughed when one of the members (Magilou?) actually remarked that this isn't going to happen, and that they needed to plan out another strategy. However, it made sense as to why they banded together as a team as they each have goals of their own to achieve.
Another strong emotional point of the game is that your enemies are so very despicable that you look forward to killing them--the only other video game enemy that I hate so much so viscerally was Alex in one of Xenoblade Chronicle X's side quests. I actually killed these enemies with gleeful abandon.
Although the dungeon and puzzle elements aren't as comprehensive or complex as Tales of Symphonia, the combat is quite addictive and fun, unlike Tales of Vesperia, where I abused the Holy Bottle (an item that makes you invisible to enemies) to escape all battles.
There is a large diversity of enemies, but because the gameplay may be a bit "spammy", I tend to use the same techniques on all of them. However, the addictive element that led me to NOT escape battles is the challenge of building up these combos (filling the Break Soul gauge) so you can use Velvet's Consuming Claw. In that case, you do need to implement strategic dodging and attack placement, and combined with the overpowering feeling of the Consuming Claw, the gameplay is very satisfying and addictive.
I've only played three games of the Tales series, and Tales of Berseria is hands down my favorite.
At any rate, I will post a link to my friend's review for a more in-depth look at this absolutely brilliant game.