"There's a distinct lack of fun in the portrayal of the party in this DLC that was present in Zestiria and made your main adventure joyful."
Editor's note: this review contains minor spoilers for the main plot of Tales of Zestiria. If you haven't finished the main scenario and don't want to be spoiled, read at your own risk.
It's difficult to ignore the controversy that surrounded Alisha back when Tales of Zestiria released in Japan. Her quick and sudden departure from the party was poorly handled in-game, and given Bandai Namco's heavy marketing campaign for her character, fan backlash was huge. To compensate for their disappointment, Bandai Namco released Alisha's Story for free for a limited time, an additional chapter that would explain what happened to Alisha after the end of the game. As Alisha was robbed of a satisfying arc, I hoped that at the minimum Alisha's Story would build upon her character and flesh her out beyond the naive and duty-bound princess, but the Tales series' first story-driven downloadable content falls short of expectation.
The story follows shortly after the end of the main game. Alisha is reunited with Rose after a sudden encounter with malevolence, notices that Sorey is not present, and embarks on a quest to discover the truth behind Sorey's absence and attempt to reunite with him. The extra story feels tacked on to the main plot, and although its main intention is to allow Alisha to shine, it doesn't fully achieve that goal either. Alisha gets much of the limelight in this episode and does mature over the course of the journey from a naive Princess to a focused and determined one through cutscenes, but her character is far less enticing than the rest of the cast, with her role often being reduced to the hapless heroine, especially at the end. It's not the pay-off fans wanted, and she pales in comparison to previous Tales Princesses like Estelle and Natalia. It's ultimately her lack of airtime in the bulk of Zestiria that causes this problem, as it leaves Alisha's Story very little to work with.
The rest of the characters suffer slightly, too. Because Alisha and Rose dominate, the Seraphim are sidelined, and their relationship isn't as endearing as Sorey and Mikleo's is. Rose's shift in personality is jarring compared to the main game — she was upbeat and had matured much through her journey with Sorey, but in Alisha's Story, her secretive behavior leads to an antagonistic and cold attitude toward Alisha, with whom she originally shared a mutual respect. Even if it is to protect Alisha from the truth behind Sorey's disappearance, it's very out-of-character. There's a distinct lack of fun in the portrayal of the party in this DLC that was present in Zestiria and made your main adventure joyful.
Other than the extra slice of new story, Alisha's Story offers very little in the way of new content. The biggest comes in the form of the dungeons; two back-to-back areas that resemble and reflect the style of the in-game dungeons Zestiria already offered, which is a shame. The corridor and ruins formula that Zestiria provided bored me, and the two dungeons that Alisha's Story offers are no different. The latter of these consists of 11 floors of grey walls and dead ends, each floor essentially a reconfiguration of the previous. It pads out the extra content unnecessarily and dominates around half the playtime, which makes getting to the end of this chapter a struggle.
There's no chance to go exploring in Greenwood's colorful landscape, either. Alisha's Story confines you to just a few areas, so you don't get the chance to see how some towns and citizens have changed after Sorey defeated the Lord of Calamity, or even how NPCs react to Alisha. It keeps you contained in the small window of exploration it provides, which isn't enough for a game full of open landscapes like Zestiria.
Fortunately, the battle system is still glorious. Fights require good preparation and more than mere button mashing, and they test you on everything you've picked up throughout the game. Armatization is still incredibly fun and useful, but there's one major drawback in the DLC that isn't present in Zestiria — two human characters are always locked in the party, Alisha is forced to take part in the fights, and she lacks the ability to armatize. This puts her at a huge disadvantage in battle, and where status ailments and high-damage enemies lay in wait for you, you'll more than likely be babysitting Alisha unless you control her. She gets an additional Mystic Arte as compensation, but it hardly matches up to Rose's Armatization.
For completing the DLC, you're rewarded with a new title for Alisha, but it hardly seems worth it for the little amount of time she's around. All in all, Alisha's Story feels like a missed opportunity for Bandai Namco — they were given the opportunity to redeem Alisha and give her the attention and development she deserved, but instead, the extra content feels like an afterthought. Rather than costing $9.99, the content should have remained free download or have been akin to Graces F arc, which was unlocked after the main game. The best parts of the game are readily available in the main portion and can be fully experienced there, and the little story there is in this new segment does not justify the price.