Life at 50%, it’s a tale of cruel destiny

Tales of Destiny (1998)

You think some of the worst things about getting old will be losing your sight and your hearing, but I have nothing to fear anymore because actually, I’m 50% deaf already. No, really, I haven’t had this measured or diagnosed officially, but think about it: I’ve spent an awful long time listening to the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks at alarming volumes through my noise-cancelling headphones, prissy health warnings be damned. I haven’t cursed myself with tinnitus just yet, but I’ve definitely picked up some selective hearing.

It starts off small, with botched introductions, where you’ll ask someone their name and they’ll respond, but it never gets past your ears. A wax build-up, or a mass of earhair brought on by elderhood? Perhaps, but you’ll never be able to get your hearing back. You can later pick up some hearing aids, which really does represent a pensioner’s point of no return. Mind you, you may get an unexpected friend out of it, like my dear old grandad who used to think a lady was speaking to him whenever the low battery automated message would play through his hearing aid.

Anyway, my hearing ain’t coming back, so I’ll be Mutt and Jeff before very long. Generally, when I’m out and about, if you see me and wave then you mustn’t be offended when I blank you completely – it’s not solely because I’m an ignorant swine, it’s also because I’m blind as a bat. But quite soon, even if you try and help me along by squealing “Burkey!” across the road, I’ll still blank you. Again, not because I’m a pig, but because I’m a borderline deafy.

But is it an inability to hear, or an unwillingness to listen? I think everyone, as they get older, realises that listening to absolutely everything that comes their way would wear anyone out, and so they begin to practice selective hearing. In my case though, it’s gotten way out of hand. My job primarily consists of me sitting on my bum, my old deaf-and-dumb, and attending online Teams meetings. It’s the bane of many officer workers’ lives, but this professional indolence is what I always craved.

Of course, once you get there, it quickly becomes tedious, so now I stop listening and put myself on mute as often as possible. The upshot of this is that I tend to miss about 50% of what’s been said, which is how I arrived at that figure of 50% deafness earlier.

It’s becoming a real problem for me, because if there’s anything to get done after that meeting and my name is beside them, then I’ll be left racking my brains, trying to see if it had absorbed anything, if anything has broken through my treacherous ears, so that I don’t embarrass myself when I’m next called upon. If nobody took any notes during the meeting, then I’d really be up the creek, because it’s like when you miss a day at school when a new concept is taught – you’ll just never get it if you weren’t there the first time.

So this is my life at 50%, then – at my very best, I absorb 50% of a book, 50% of a film, 50% per episode of an entire TV series, and indeed 50% of a video game. If I miss anything crucial, it’s never a big deal anyway because there’s always Wikipedia for cliff notes. Playing Tales of Destiny on PS1, though given that it’s a JRPG in a series I like, I tried to give it my full attention right from the off.

Actually, I find the beginning of the game boring and tedious beyond belief, meaning I’ve had to restart the game I don’t know how many times, like those ever-so-fun Lord of the Rings books. Once you get past the intro though and get into the swing, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing many things.

It’s a bit like that terrible feeling you get when you’re with your friends and they’re openly talking about something which you weren’t aware of, something they clearly planned and did without you. You feel betrayed of course, but also confused. Perhaps there was something you missed, or you weren’t paying enough attention?

It would be entirely unheard of for me, for important details to go unheard. But I kept getting this sinking feeling from Tales of Destiny, which I attempted to counter by talking to each and every NPC I could find, pure knowledge seeking, but still I felt a bit lost. Someone wasn’t tell me something, or I was being left to figure out just a little bit too much on my own.

But it turns out I wasn’t the numpty for once, because Tales of Destiny had a bit of a hasty localisation and a lot of text, voice acting, and unfortunately the famous Tales skits were completely excised when this game left Japan. It was strictly a business decision – the first Tales game, Phantasia was Japan-only. Probably the same would have happened to Destiny, if not for FF7 and games like it suddenly making RPGs mega-fashionable.

If the protag had spiky hair, a bit of an anime style, or even if the game merely featured some of those much-heralded RPG elements, gamers were going ga-ga for them. Not here in Europe of course, International Superstar Soccer was more our taste, and we didn’t know what a Hit Point was until Pokémon came out. Needless to say, we never got Tales of Destiny, nor did we get its sequel or remake. My, this game has certainly had its share of additional works.

Still, let’s forget about all that and go back to basics, because both of us only speak the Queen’s English, don’t we? One of these days I really must learn Japanese, but until then we’re stuck with the PS1 version of Tales of Destiny, such that it is. And in this we have what’s essentially a late SNES RPG with a bit more graphical power. It won’t have impressed many people when Final Fantasies VII and VII were knocking about the block. But I’ve always enjoyed the much more involved, hands-on combat of the Tales games. It’s a lot more fun than sifting through menus like it’s some website.

Still, I don’t think Tales of Destiny is an all-time great, even with its decent sales figures and derivative works. Again it seems like a real rush job, and that’s even before getting onto the 3-day-weekend localisation. You won’t have seen much of a marketing campaign for it. I couldn’t even find a good logo to use for this piece.

There are just a lot of worn patches on this game – some of the soundtrack can be humdrum, the encounter rate is often a bit much and you’re usually up against uninteresting monsters. The dialogue isn’t too clever, childish at times really, and the plot is middling. I do like the graphics – PS1 spritework is always great – but others may write the aesthetics off.

I’ve not make Tales of Destiny sound terribly appealing there, but it is a bit of fun and worth checking out. Probably the best thing about the game is that you can take almost complete leave of your senses, play through the game in a sheer daze, completely absentminded, not listening, looking or learning at any stage, and you’ll still get what’s going on. How’s that for catering towards the ignorami?

15 November 2022

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