Tales of the Abyss Review

by on December 6, 2011

Tales of the Abyss ReviewGame: Tales of the Abyss

Developer: Namco Tales Studio

Publisher: Namco Bandai

Available on: Nintendo 3DS Only

RPG’s are one of the styles of games that are well suited for handheld gaming, especially when it comes to the DS family of consoles which include the Nintendo 3DS. Tales of the Abyss is a Japanese RPG which makes full use of the power of the 3DS as well as the charm of the 3D nature of the device. Players that have been looking forward to this style of game to come out on the new Nintendo device will have been looking forward to Tales of the Abyss, and it’s easy to see why.

Tales of the Abyss is a Nintendo 3DS port of a PlayStation 2 game that was released 5 years ago as part of the popular ‘Tales’ series of games, a series which includes the hugely popular Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia, and marks the first time that Tales of the Abyss will be available in Europe.

STORY: The story in Tales of the Abyss revolves around Luke, the son of the king, who has been holed up in his room, unable to leave since he was kidnapped as a young child by an enemy nation. The kidnapping caused Luke to lose almost all of his childhood memories so a lot of the time he’s a little…unlearned. As with most of the RPG’s of this style that you would play, the day starts out normal enough and suddenly everything changes in an instant, Luke ends up within the borders of an enemy land, with people he doesn’t know and right in the middle of a national war waiting to happen. Not the best start to the day then.

Tales of the Abyss - Severing Wind

The story can get a little confusing as times with talk of Fons and Fon Masters, amongst other things, causing a lot of confusion within players that aren’t paying particularly close attention to everything that’s going on in the world around them. Despite its downsides however, the story in Tales of the Abyss is rather engaging and all of the characters within it are enjoyable enough to share the story with, with the exception of one or two. It’s a very stereotypical J-RPG story but, for people that really love that type of game, Tales of the Abyss is one of the best.

GRAPHICS: Tales of the Abyss is quite visually impressive, all of the animations are executed to a high standard and players could be forgiven for thinking that they’re playing a console title and not something intended for use on a handheld device at times. For the most part everything seems fairly average but there are small moments which show the true power of the Nintendo 3DS and what it’s truly capable of. These are the moments that the player will remember for the long term. As with other J-RPG’s the animations help to convey the emotions of the characters more than any words would, these are just as entertaining as the rest of the animations although sometimes they can be a little annoying, this is the fault of some of the characters themselves usually though, nothing to do with the animations.

One of the most impressive aspects of the visuals in Tales of the Abyss are the fully animated cutscenes, these aren’t seen very often, and most people will wish they could see more of them dotted throughout the story, but when they do make their appearances they look gorgeous. The anime style will be enjoyed by people that are familiar with the style, as well as newcomers like myself. There’s no doubt, however, that everyone can enjoy it.

SOUND: The sounds that are used throughout Tales of the Abyss aren’t anything particularly special, they’re serviceable but are by no means extraordinary. That being said the sound effects do their job in terms of letting the player know when things are occurring in the game world such as enemies appearing during the long sections of walking around on the world map.

Tales of the Abyss - Razing Phoenix

One of the most impressive aspects, when it came to the sounds used in Tales of the Abyss, was that all of the in-engine cutscenes throughout the game are fully voice acted. The game is by no means small, most players will barely scratch the surface after many, many hours of game time, but the amount of cutscenes that are voice acted, and acted surprisingly well, is truly staggering and something well worth commending. The only downside being that the characters themselves can get a little annoying, however, that’s a comment on the character design and script more than it is the voice acting and the delivery of the lines.

GAMEPLAY: The first thing people will notice when they start up Tales of the Abyss and starting fighting within the game world that’s placed before them will be the fact that the combat system isn’t something that you will be expecting given the genre of the game; unless you’ve played a Tales game before. The J-RPG genre usually lends itself to a turn-based combat system, something akin to Final Fantasy and games of that ilk, however, Tales of the Abyss leans towards a more real-time system. Luke and the enemies will all be attacking at the same time and it’s the players job to dodge, block and attack tactically and skilfully in order to come out on top when the battle has ended. All of the other aspects of a turn-based system are still here, characters can still perform special moves, or Artes, for example, but they are performed and activated much more like performing a special move in a fighting game, wherein the player has to use a combination of circle pad and button sequences in order to pull them off.

Walking around on the map screen, wandering between places, can get a little tiresome after a while, especially when there’s often no easy indication as to where you’re supposed to be heading. If you miss the cues in the speech, or you simply have come back to the game after a little time away, it can be difficult to find out where your characters are supposed to be going. This leaves the player to wander around aimlessly until the next part of the story is triggered, or they manage to find the one section in Luke’s diary that vaguely alludes to their destination.

The menu system is extremely in depth which can get a little confusing at first. Once the player is used to it though things can get a little easier but it does mean that players can often spend a lot of time within the menus when all they want to do is get back to the actual gameplay. Conversely to how deep the menu system is, the control system is very simplistic, which is a very good thing considering how much the player has to control at any one time. It does take some getting used to when it comes to the Artes, which are the special moves of the game, they have the player using a direction on the circle pad while pressing the B button, but once the player has mastered these Artes they’ll be able to perform some pretty magnificent feats.

Tales of the Abyss - Walking

One thing that people may be curious of, especially if they’ve played the original PlayStation 2 version of the game, will be how the game holds up when viewed in 3D. The 3D aspect of the game doesn’t, thankfully, take anything away from the gameplay as it can do in other games, it looks good but it can get a little bit annoying at times as the “sweet spot” is rather small meaning that even the slightest of moves can cause the 3D to go out of relative focus.

LONGEVITY: Tales of the Abyss isn’t a short game, not by a long shot, the main quest line alone will give players at least 20 hours of gameplay, add on top of that the other things that can be done in the game from exploring the vast lands to collecting items and doing some of the numerous side quests that are found all over the game and you’re looking at a truly massive game indeed. There are a few games on the Nintendo 3DS that are worthy of the pretty hefty price tag that they all seem to have; in terms of its longevity alone, Tales of the Abyss is one of those games.

VERDICT: Tales of the Abyss is a game that’s very easy to play for long periods of time without a problem. Players can wander around the world completing quests or just exploring and going back to the main storyline whenever they want to. If you’re a fan of J-RPG’s then Tales of the Abyss is one that you should be checking out for sure, the story can seem a little bit convoluted at times, and some of the character’s personalities can get a little grating, but if you manage to stick with it then you’re sure to find the experience quite rewarding.

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