I'm under the impression that the games are completely unrelated to each other like the Final Fantasy series, am I right? Do they even take place in the same universe?
I want to get into a Tales of game soon. I want to play them all eventually. I've only ever played a little bit of the fan translation of the SNES version of Phantasia and Symphonia. I really liked Phantasia, and I'm considering playing that one, but I don't know if I should play the SNES, PSX (if there's a fan translation), or GBA version. I remember enjoying Symphonia, but that was back when it first came out. I tried it again a few years ago and I think character models are what really put me off, they just seem so.. short and disproportioned I guess.
Anyway, I'm open to suggestions. I have a PS2, PS3, GameCube, Wii, Xbox 360, GBA, and DS.
Symphonia and the Abyss are my favorite games. Ever.
also, each game is completely unrelated to the others. Well, not entirely true. Symphonia is supposed to be a prequel to Phantasia (by about 4000 years), but it's essentially it's own game.
also, the Japanese only Tales of Destiny 2 is a sequel to Tales of Destiny 1, and the mediocre Symphonia 2 is a sequel to Symphonia 1... One is Japan only, and one is pretty much it's own story after ignoring most plotpoints and characters from the original :/
I'd say that Vesperia is the most well-rounded of them all, but my favorite has got to be Destiny Remake/Director's Cut. That one is in Japanese though, but it's easy enough to play through with simple trial and error.
But yeah, if you're looking to get into the series, I'd start with Vesperia, Abyss, Symphonia or Graces F. Vesperia has a likable main character, the plot is alright (although most of the fanbase hates the third chapter), the battle system is one of the best in the series, the graphics are really pretty... I could go on and on, but you get the point.
I really like Abyss as well, but the ps2 version has a lot of glitches, and the story is kind of hit-or-miss. The main character is like a breath of fresh air though.