Review by Raidramon0
"Will keep your 3DS charger busy for a long time"
The poor Tales series has had a rough time in North America. While established Japanese RPG franchises like Pokémon, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest garner attention whenever a new title is announced, new Tales installments seem to slip past a lot of people's radar, which is why only a few games ever make it to North American shores. Thankfully, Tales of the Abyss has arrived on the 3DS to try and help turn that around. But don't expect this to be too different from the Playstation 2 version that was released six years ago; with the exception of the touchscreen functionality, it's basically a straight port. Whether that's a good thing or not depends entirely up to you.
The story begins with the player controlling a spoiled, rich noble by the name of Luke von Fabre, who has been a prisoner in his own home for the past seven years ever since he was kidnapped by enemy forces and had the first ten years of his memory wiped clean, which means he knows nothing of the world outside his cozy estate. Now seventeen, he has become more restless than ever. His relatives are content on keeping him inside the mansion until his twentieth birthday, but one day while training with his sword master Van, everything changes dramatically when a mysterious woman by the name of Tear Grants infiltrates the mansion and tries to kill Van, but Luke intervenes and the two create a hyperressonance which teleports them miles from the mansion. They don't realize it immediately, but they're now in enemy territory, where tensions between Kimlasca (Luke's country) and Malkiuth (the country they're in right now) are growing tighter, which could lead to war. As if the situation wasn't bad enough, Luke's seven years of isolation has left him naïve to the world around him, from the tensions between the nations to simple things like how to shop are completely new to him. What follows is a series of events that will involve others and turn what they've come to know about their world upside down.
The Tales series has set itself apart from traditional RPGs in many ways and Tales of the Abyss is no different. The main difference is with how battles play out. Instead of inputting commands and letting all the numbers dictate how the battle plays out, they function like an actual fighting game like Soul Calibur so anyone who has played these kinds of games know what I'm talking about. This is a nice change of pace for those who are getting tired of the slow slog of turn-based battles. But that means you also have to stay on your toes because things can play out really quickly and if you're not careful and don't watch your allies' backs, you're going to be in a lot of trouble really quickly. You have to pay attention to not only their life bars and magic bars, but what's actually happening on the battle field.
It's also got all the bells and whistles of Tales games like cooking, a wealth of mini-games and side-quests to indulge in, a coliseum and other things. If you're looking for a wealth of content, you'll definitely find it here and can consume close to 100 hours when you consider it's on top of the story mode, which can give even the legendary Elders Scroll V: Skyrim a run for its money. And once you blow through it all, you'll unlock the usual grade shop which lets you carry over your things to another game as well as other bonuses, which also adds to the replay value. Make sure you farm a good amount of grade because you'll need a lot to unlock all the good stuff.
But this awesome game isn't without its shortcomings. The graphics are of noticeably lesser quality than Tales of Symphonia and don't have that cartoonish cel-shading that made it so loveable, although the real-time facial expressions do try and compensate for this, but you can tell that it all looks flat in comparison, although it does look nice at times. And while Symphonia and other Tales games sported up to eight playable characters at a time, The Abyss gives you only six, which really cuts down on the variety, although their mostly vast differences in fighting styles makes up for this. For instance, Guy has responsive controls while Jade has powerful spells at his disposal and Tear's healing magic makes her an instant shoe in for any party formation. Another problem is with the trademark skits. They're fun for the first few hours of the game, but because they're so frequent and lack voice acting, they become a nuisance before long, although some of them are pretty funny.
Tales of the Abyss's main problem are all the expulsatory triggers that constantly pop up. You'll find a new area and try to explore it only to have the game kick you out of it constantly until you trigger the right cinematic sequence. One instance was when I discovered Choral Castle and tried to take a look around but the CPU would instantly and constantly boot me out until I triggered an event at Kaitzur Naval Port where I could finally explore it. These can also keep you tethered to a certain area until you grind enough levels to be able to defeat a powerful boss at the end of the dungeon. Sometimes you're tethered to an area that doesn't give you a restore point and a shop with a limited selection, which can make getting past certain areas unnecessarily difficult. There was this one part where I had to traverse Inista Marsh and the only place where I could probably do some shopping was a long hike away. These are persistent even when you get nautical and aerial transportation where the environs stop you from going to new areas until you find the appropriate items. The CPU constantly keeps you on this tight leash until near the end of the game where it finally gives you a break and lets you step off the beaten path to do some much desired exploring. Another problem is that a lot of the sub-events and side-quests become unavailable after certain story events and are gone for the rest of the game, meaning you'll need a lot of luck or a good strategy guide to find everything the game has to offer and considering the expulsatory triggers mentioned earlier means that you don't have as much freedom as you'd probably like to do them.
Like I said earlier, if you're looking for extras, there's not a whole lot different from the PS2 version. I've been using a strategy guide meant for the PS2 version and thus far it's been accurate to the letter. The 3D effects are a total disaster and really slow things down. Its best just to leave them off completely because trying to bring 2D ports into 3D rarely works. One of the better additions is the use of the touchscreen to manage spell and cooking shortcuts. You'll see who will do what beforehand and is one example of where touchscreens are better than buttons and sticks.
Even with these shortcomings, Tales of the Abyss is an awesome game that deserves your attention. It's got lots of content, a great story with memorable characters complete with unexpected twists and WTF moments that'll keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. It's the perfect cure for those I've clocked Skyrim and have nothing to play' blues.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 03/23/12
Game Release: Tales of the Abyss (US, 02/14/12)
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