Review by SuigintouEV
Six years later, TotA remains... the most flawed... best game ever.
I love Tales of the Abyss. How can you not? Okay, so one's first thoughts when they think of this game might be "disgusting load times". Hey look, this port of that game fixes that one fatal error that plagued the original Playstation 2 version.
But even with 30 second load times after every minute or two of gameplay, this game has been firmly planted in my heart as the best game I have ever played. It's interesting, because I have probably played "better" games. Games with more exciting gameplay. Games with more amusing character interactions (including Abyss' older sibling, Tales of Symphonia). Games with more modern graphics. Games with a more involving soundtrack. You name it, I can probably tell you a game that does something better than Abyss.
So what gives me the gall to declare this game as my favorite... what puts it so high up on my list? I think it's a matter of poignancy. It's safe to say that Tales of the Abyss has some scenes, that will never be forgotten. Yes, it's corny at times, and the writing can even make you blush in embarrassment. Yes, Vesperia polished the fighting system off, in retrospect. It's funny though, that despite, or perhaps because of all this, the moments when Abyss attempts to play to your emotions, it gets you. That strong point is something I can't recall ever experiencing in a single game in my entire life as a gamer. I've played dozens of RPGs, Adventure, and Action games. I've even played a few visual novels. Tales of the Abyss stands alone in its poignancy, and in doing so, catapults its story and gameplay into a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts.
Sound - 5/10
The dub is decent and the soundtrack is classic. So why the low score? A few reasons: First of all, there are some sequences where the recording quality is sub-par. You probably won't notice it on the tinny and harsh 3DS speakers, but if you hook the headphone-out jack to high end speakers or headphones, there will be details revealed that will disappoint. The other issue, and this is an issue with the PS2 version as well, is that Namco-Bandai of America again failed to dub skits. It's really annoying because Vesperia showed just how exciting skits can be when VOICED. There's a certain tedium to the skits that really shouldn't be there. Silence is not acceptable. And to top it off, we are not given the option to even hear the original Japanese seiyuus. If they're not going to bother dubbing the full game, it's a valid criticism that they don't leave in the completely voiced original.
Graphics - 8/10
Nintendo's latest handheld truly shows its prowess here. The lush overworld map, gorgeous backdrops, and hi res characters look as good as they ever have. You'd have a hard time telling the 3DS version apart from the PS2 version, and that in itself is an accomplishment as this was one of the nicer-looking PS2 games. Two issues did drop the score however. First of all, there are times (mostly on the overworld map) where the frame rate slows down and things get choppy. Second, you won't want to play Tales of the Abyss 3D. Consider this Tales of the Abyss Portable, but do not let yourself be enticed by the idea of playing this in 3D. The issues with 3D include very obvious jaggies, head-in-a-vice sweet spot, and very distracting speech bubbles. These three things made me struggle on-and-off with 3D. I'll admit, it was cool to see locales like Grand Chokmah and Yulia City reproduced with actual depth. It's a nice novelty, but wears thin very quickly on a whole.
Gameplay/Controls - 9/10
I love the battle system in Tales of the Abyss. Stick to playing on Hard Mode, aside from the occasional dungeon where Hard Mode is hard. The strategy is meaningful, the AD Skills and Field of Fonon abilities are countless, and the characters are all fun to play as. This was the first Tales game to introduce Free Run, and yes it's somewhat broken here as you can exploit enemies' tendancy to leave themselves wide open. Still, there's a certain "sports" feel to it all. If Jade, Tear, and Anise are my 3 point shooters, then Guy is my point guard. Mastering defensive tactics is very important (unless you play on normal difficulty, where you can just button mash your way through the game). In between combat, the story is just plain engaging... there's always something going on, and the amount of side-stories is virtually endless. The dungeon design ain't no Zelda, but it's fun enough to traverse through most of the dungeons. I did dock a single point, however, for the braindead AI that never seems to be able to do basic things like follow instructions.
All-in-all, I can't believe I played it AGAIN. I'm in my 20s now, whereas I was in my teens when I first played Tales of the Abyss. I played through it three times, in order to do every last thing, with a complete Grade Shop at my disposal. That I would come back to it, only a few years later, and somehow bring myself to play the whole game without my Grade Shop reward, must speak to my love of this game. I can see through all its flaws somehow and love it for what it is; Epic and Engrossing, This is just a Replica of an game, but there's nothing wrong with that. Buy this game, because it truly was, is, and will be, "that good". I would say that between the PS3 version and the 3DS version, this is the superior option; if for no other reason than that DVD load times are gone.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Tales of the Abyss (US, 02/14/12)
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