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Tales Of The Seven Seas: The Victorian Legacy is the third game in Naughty Dog's acclaimed Tales Of The Seven Seas series, and, like the title implies, it focuses most heavily on the character Victoria, who has matured greatly in the five years since she first ran away from home as a young debutante to start a life of adventure on the high seas. She started out as a somewhat haughty and selfish girl, but now she is an intelligent and strong young woman (though still retaining a somewhat posh attitude at times, and a love of creature comforts). All seven of the main characters are still around and still playable, though for some missions, an eighth playable character jumps into the fray: James, son of Emperor Frederick, who seeks Victoria's hand in marriage.
The first two games on the Super Nintendo CD had relatively similar playstyles: a branching mission structure consisting of a hub world from which missions could be chosen, and then a top-down action-adventure style mode similar to the Saturn game Legend of Oasis where your chosen character would collect treasures, fight enemies, and achieve mission goals. Tales Of The Seven Seas 2 featured a greatly expanded hub world and slightly better graphics, but on the whole was very similar in style to the first game. In contrast, The Victorian Legacy makes a full leap to 3D. Combat and exploration have evolved: they now take place in a fully 3-D environment, with Zelda-style combat involving melee weapons and attacks, ranged weapons, and the occasional magic spell or special technique. When compared to the combat in a game such as Ocarina Of Time/Temple Of Time, it's a bit more fast paced, not quite on the level of a Squad Four: Rebellion or full hack-and-slash, but in some way comparable to a slower-paced Dynasty Warriors when multiple enemies show up. The combat is mostly well-received, though some critics believe it to be a bit clunky, and the camera doesn't always cooperate, making for a bit of frustration. The "hub world" is now a fully 3-D environment as well, and there are numerous hubs to explore, ranging from the inside of a castle, to a large city, to an open field, to the characters' familiar ship. Missions are selected in a somewhat similar fashion to the 3-D Grand Theft Auto games: multiple missions (in some cases only one mission, but in most cases you can choose from at least two) appear on a minimap, and the player has the character move to the location that has the mission they wish to select. On the way, players can battle enemies, find treasures, or talk to NPCs (which may open up more missions or treasures).
The game is narrative-focused, with cutscenes (some of them a bit lengthy and all of them unskippable) bookending missions. Whereas previous Tales Of The Seven Seas games offered many different mission options, The Victorian Legacy pares things back a bit, offering 56 different missions to the player. The average player will complete between 14-18 main story missions to complete the game, though if they make an effort to do all the side missions they possibly can, they can potentially do around 40 or so in a single playthrough. Missions are somewhat longer and more involved than in previous games, with most offering more than one goal, so the main quest takes about the same time to beat (or even a bit longer) than it did in previous games. As in previous games, some missions can be played by more than one character, though others must be played by a certain character (most of these involve Victoria). The game ultimately has two main endings, which draws more criticism due to the fact that previous games in the series offered at least seven, though depending on the player's actions throughout the game, small aspects of each main ending can change.
The eight playable characters are as follows:
- Victoria: The game's main character, Victoria has grown and matured into a fine young woman, but despite her love for her friends and adventure, she still misses her home and family, and when given a chance to return at the start of the game, she finds that she missed home more than she thought. Eventually, she will come to make a decision that will change the course of her life, her family's lives, the fate of her nation, and the fate of the world. Her voice actress remains Olivia D'Abo across all three games.
- Erick: The series' primary protagonist, Erick is now a seasoned pirate captain, leading his band of friends into adventure. Brave and heroic, Erick always strives to do the right thing and help others. He and Dona have been in a committed relationship for the past four years (ever since the events of Tales Of The Seven Seas 2), but he hasn't yet gotten up the courage to ask her to marry him. Erick is still voiced by Jason Marsden.
- Dona: Bold and adventurous, Dona is still as bold and witty as ever. After making peace with her family (whom she still writes often and occasionally visits), Dona can still be a bit mischievous, but has a heart of gold and is essentially the "mom" of her crew, despite being only 24 years old. She is Erick's girlfriend and wants him to make an honest woman out of her, and her patience about him not proposing to her is starting to wear thin, especially after her best friend Victoria's engagement. She is still voiced by Maria Canals.
- Creel: Though Creel has settled down from his early days of drinking and partying, he still loves a good fight and making trouble. He's taught Erick most of what he knows about piracy, and now he simply looks out for his friends while also looking out for an opportunity to pillage treasure. He's still voiced by Will Friedle.
- Albert: Albert is still the ship's navigator, and now he has a reputation for leading slave uprisings with the help of his crew, making him a fugitive throughout the seas. Albert has made his peace with Victoria, though he disagrees strongly with her decision to marry into the Emperor's family. He is now voiced by Phil Lamarr, after being voiced by Giancarlo Esposito for the first two games.
- McKenna: Now a teenager (and still with a rebellious streak), McKenna, though the youngest member of the crew, no longer wants to be treated like a baby, causing her to get herself (and her best friend/love interest Jack) into trouble from time to time. She also somewhat resents Dona's overprotectiveness of her, though she ultimately does respect her. Still voiced by Tara Strong (who was credited as Tara Charendoff for the first two games, before her marriage).
Jack: Also a teenager, Jack has fully accepted the deaths of his family and has grown fully accustomed to the life of a pirate. He's fallen in love with McKenna, but has a fairly careful nature and hates being dragged into her misadventures. He's also trying to train hard so he can protect her, or at least just keep up with her. Now voiced by Rider Strong, after being voiced by Toran Caudell the previous two games. This causes fans to ask if there's any relation (due to the relationship between the two characters he and Tara voice). There is not. This does not stop them from asking.
James: Son of Emperor Frederick and heir to the throne, James is a complex character who loves his father dearly but has grown disillusioned with the Empire's deeds, which include conquest and oppression. James sees in Victoria a chance to change his father, but he is also keenly aware of the potential power he could be giving up if he goes against his father, and is torn between a life of power and a life of freedom. James is playable only during a few of Victoria's missions toward the middle of the game. He is voiced by Aaron Lohr.
The plot of the game is broken up into seven main chapters. Whichever of the two main paths you take, there will be seven chapters, though Chapters 5-7 have major differences depending on the main path you choose.
The game itself takes place four years after the events of Tales Of The Seven Seas 2. Erick, Dona, Victoria, and their crew have gone on countless adventures together and now have a reputation as heroic cavaliers who battle evil, protect the innocent, and discover treasure. The seven friends have bonded very closely and are now like family, with one couple (Erick and Dona), and two "sort of" couples (Jack and McKenna, and Creel and Victoria, at least implied for a short time) forming amongst them.
Chapter One: Called Home
Chapter One begins with the crew discovering the whereabouts of a pirate city (somewhat implied to be Libertalia, though much less bleak than it was in OTL Uncharted 4). As they make plans to explore it, Victoria catches wind of the advancing Grand Empire (a sort of parallel to the real life Holy Roman Empire, though in a "names are changed/this does not resemble any real person, place, or thing" sort of way). The Grand Empire is expanding its territory once again, and is on the verge of absorbing the kingdom where Victoria's family serves as noble lords. Worried for the fate of her family and homeland, Victoria asks her crew to take her back home. They agree, and Victoria returns to her family after running away from them five years before. She is expecting a cold welcome, but her family is relieved and happy to see her back, and wish to hear of her adventures. While Victoria reunites with her family, there are a few missions available to the other characters (various people in the kingdom have jobs they wish the famous pirates to perform for them, and McKenna wants to spy on the advancing Empire). Victoria is so overwhelmed with joy that she is seriously considering remaining with her family. Then, she learns that the Empire's officials are already in the kingdom, looking to make peace with its rulers and absorb it into the Empire as an independent nation. Eventually, the Emperor himself arrives, along with his son James, who sees Victoria and falls immediately in love with her.
Chapter Two: Intrigue And A Proposal
The Emperor proposes a deal: If Victoria agrees to wed James, the kingdom will be given favored status in the Grand Empire, and its citizens lavished with riches. James rejects this deal and wants Victoria to fall in love with him on her own terms. She is surprised by this, and her initial reluctance to have anything to do with him is replaced with curiosity. During this time, a group of rebels attempt to assassinate the Emperor, and abduct James. Victoria and her friends go on a mission to rescue him, and depending on which character you use to complete the mission, it affects Victoria's later status with James. After the rescue mission, the Emperor is ingratiated to Victoria, and tells her that she may do whatever she likes, it will not effect her kingdom's status in the Empire. Erick and Dona urge Victoria to leave with them and the rest of the crew, but she decides to stay...she and James have gotten much closer.
Chapter Three: James And Victoria
In this chapter, the action is split between two focuses: Victoria and James, and the rest of the crew. Players can choose between developing the relationship between Victoria and James, or undertaking spy missions with the other crew members to dig up dirt on the Grand Empire. Players who spend more time with the crew will see just how ruthless the Grand Empire can be, and as a result, the crew (especially Erick and Dona) grow deeply suspicious of James and his motives. They also learn that the Emperor has heard rumors of Libertalia, though they do not yet know just how much he knows. Players who spend more time in Victoria's missions will get to undertake a series of missions where Victoria and James go on numerous adventures together and discover that they have a lot in common, with James having a serious adventurous streak. The two grow very close and if the missions progress enough, Victoria and James will share a tender kiss after defeating a particularly dangerous monster. James reveals to Victoria that he's fallen in love with her, and Victoria discovers that she is falling in love with him.
Chapter Four: Where I Go
In this chapter, Victoria makes her decision whether or not to marry James. If the player has performed enough actions to further Victoria and James' relationship, she will choose to marry him. If the player has performed enough actions to increase Victoria's suspicions of the Grand Empire, she will choose to reject James at the altar. If Victoria marries James, she becomes a high-ranking official in the Grand Empire and will begin undertaking missions in furtherance of its goals. If Victoria rejects James, it's war. The Emperor goes back on his word and begins attempting to take the kingdom by force. Either way, the story of Victoria and James does not end: the two remain inextricably linked for the remainder of the game. The Victorian Legacy is a two disc game, and at the end of Chapter Four, disc one ends.
Chapter Five: Admiral Victoria
If Victoria chooses to marry James, the two of them will continue adventuring together as part of the Grand Empire. Initially, Victoria and James will start out on fairly benign missions, though these missions take strange turns and it soon becomes apparent that the Emperor intends to use Victoria and her reputation amongst the pirate community to gain access to Libertalia and the mysterious power that lies within. While Victoria is performing her imperial duties, the other crew members' missions initially have nothing to do with Victoria. They support her decision (having not discovered as much evidence against the Grand Empire as they do on the rejection path) and are preparing for life without her, when, at the end of the chapter, events come to a head and circumstances bring Victoria and her armada into conflict with Erick and his crew. It involves McKenna, who has gotten herself captured by imperial soldiers. Initially, it seems Victoria will fight against her own crew, but she and James devise a plan to save McKenna while keeping her crew unaware. Victoria now realizes that the Grand Empire is not truly her friend, and she may have to turn against it...but because of her marriage to the Emperor's son, it might be too late.
Chapter Six: Weight Of The World
Victoria and James work to undermine the Empire from within, while Erick and his crew continue to stymie the Empire in other ways. During this chapter, James is conflicted by his loyalties to Victoria, whom he truly loves, and his loyalties to his father. Ultimately, James reluctantly sides with his father. He is able to lure Victoria into a situation where she is forced to help the Emperor find Libertalia. At the same time, Erick and his crew are able to prevent the destruction of Victoria's kingdom, but now they must hurry to Libertalia to aid Victoria and save the world.
Chapter Five: Runaway Bride
If Victoria rejects James at the altar, it starts an immediate conflict between her kingdom and the Grand Empire. She assists Erick and the others in slowing the Empire's activities, but she knows it is now only a matter of time before her kingdom is destroyed, and she feels guilt over her actions, especially once she realizes how much she hurt James by rejecting him for his father's actions. Her friends help to snap her out of it, and she ultimately leads the rebellion that forces the Empire out of her kingdom. The Emperor puts James in charge of battling against Victoria and her friends, though he is reluctant to do so. In a climactic battle that ends up in a one-on-one swordfight between Victoria and James, the crew captures the Emperor's son, and ponders what to do next.
Chapter Six: Broken Hearts
Victoria convinces James to join the crew, but it's clear their relationship has been damaged by her rejection. In the meantime, the Emperor is plundering pirate hideouts in an attempt to discover the secret of Libertalia, and the crew must come to the aid of its allies, spending most of the chapter rallying bands of pirates against the Grand Empire. In the end, Victoria confides in James that she still loves him, and she asks him to marry her. He agrees, but then he betrays Victoria by returning to his father and telling him the secret of Libertalia. Victoria is heartbroken, but determined to set things right, as she and her friends sail to Libertalia to stop the Emperor's plans.
Chapter Seven: The World Follows
Depending on the path the player took to get here, the chapter starts out with either an escape mission for Victoria (the wedding path) or a major battle between multiple pirate crews and the Empire's armada (the rejection path). Either way, the chapter takes place at Libertalia, where the Emperor is trying to reach the Soul Of The Seven Seas, an ancient sword that will allow him to control an army of dead pirates (which the pirate founders of Libertalia intended to raise against any army that tried to stop piracy). Victoria leads the crew into battle to stop him, and though she is required for one of the final three missions, ultimately the player can use any of the seven main characters to battle the Emperor himself. In the wedding path, James helps the heroes battle his father, though in the rejection path, James must be defeated in order to reach the Emperor (the wedding path's Libertalia dungeon is a bit harder to make up for this). The game's two main endings ultimately concern the fate of James. In the wedding path, James sacrifices his life to save Victoria and prevent the Emperor from escaping with the Soul Of The Seven Seas. In the rejection path, James is unconscious during the final battle as the heroes defeat the Emperor, waking up just in time to see just how cruel and evil his father truly was. James lives, and Victoria forgives him and lets him go. In both endings, the Grand Empire is dissolved: in the wedding ending, the Empire crumbles with the deaths of the Emperor and his heir, while in the rejection ending, James abdicates the throne and sets out to make the world a better place to atone for his actions, hoping he can grow someday into the man that Victoria deserves. Either way, Victoria returns to her crew. After saying goodbye to her family one last time, Victoria once again says goodbye to her mansion and her riches and sets out on the high seas for another thrilling adventure with her friends.
Released in North America on July 17, 2000. It would be released in Japan on July 31, and in Europe on August 7. The game sells extremely well in the weeks following its release, though sales would slow more than expected later on. Ultimately, The Victorian Legacy would sell just under two million copies worldwide, making it a success, but not as successful as the series' previous two games. Though critics praise the game, applauding its storyline, its production values (its graphics are among the most advanced console video game graphics to date, and its voice acting receives very high praise), and its 3-D gameplay (not quite as polished as Squad Four: Rebellion or The Legend Of Zelda: Temple Of Time, but certainly good enough to be fun), fan reaction is a bit more mixed. Some fans love the game, calling it the best in the series and praising the new narrative-driven direction, while others criticize the game for "railroading" the player far more than the previous two titles. Still other fans criticize the game for its focus on Victoria. The Victorian Legacy is easily the most controversial game in the series thus far, and the sales, while strong, are continued a disappointment by Sony and Naughty Dog, after the game was expected to be one of the top selling titles of the year.