Review by IAmTheWhelp
Do you like RPGs? Do you have access to a PS2? Get this. Now. NOW.
This is by far one of the most well done and complete games I've ever played. I was a huge fan of Tales of Symphonia (not so much for 2), and probably have 5 replays under my belt. A friend lent me this game and said I'd never want to even look at Symphonia again. I thought that would be impossible; I was wrong.
You start off as Luke, a spoiled little 17 year old douche with long red hair that keeps getting glowy headaches and hearing voices. He has no memory of his childhood since he was kidnapped 7 years ago, and is openly pissed about it. Right away you kind of want to put the game down to the dullness of the royalty and mansion, not to mention his personality. However, soon a woman comes in singing and putting people to sleep, then trying to attack your trainer, or "Master" Van. You block her with the sword you had been training with, and are suddenly thrust into a valley alone with her. Your journey starts by trying to make it back to your little comfort zone, and the story progresses from there. You find out the girl is named Tear, a seemingly cold, yet caring gal that feels guilty for making Luke go out in the real world. Later on you meet Jade, the major comic relief and total smartass, as well as Guy, your servant with a phobia of females, Anise, the little girl that fights with some giant doll and has a lust for money and marrying into money, and Natalia, the princess that claims you proposed to her years ago.
The story starts off slightly confusing, and in order to keep up you need to pay a lot of attention to understand what's going on, which group does what, etc., and doesn't pick up pace for the first 10 or so hours (until the first major plot twist, you'll know). Soon after, it keeps you right on in and doesn't stop till the end of the game. It's pretty much always interesting save one or two points in the game where it's a bunch of errand running, almost every character has their own story going on at one point or another, there is plenty of humor and development, overall it's everything you want out of an RPG.
The combat, ohhhh the combat. It's pretty fast paced even near the start, everyone has their unique style and abilities, there are so many ways of customizing abilities, "AD Skills", combos, and other such oddities. Everyone has the ability to equip a Capacity Core, which makes that character's stats grow in whatever way the core says. These stats affect how you do in combat as well as unlocking AD skills. AD skills are certain traits, for example there's one where your HP has a chance to increase at the end of battle, that are gained based on which stats you gain. There are more than I could list, but using a good CC is key. Later in the game you get "Chambers", in which you can customize certain abilities to be more effective, with growing effects as the ability is used more. On top of this, there are "Fields of Fonons", in which certain abilities can turn into more powerful abilities if used in a little field after a spell or ability with an elemental value is used in that space. Fang Blade, Luke's first ability, can turn into Lightning Tiger Blade if used in a Lightning field. This keeps even regular battles interesting, as so much can happen. Not too far in the game, everyone can use "specials", also known as Hi-Ougis, once they go into Overlimit (from hitting/getting hit) and use their own unique finishers.
Not much to say about the sound and music other than they're pretty damn good and fit very well. No complaints, catchy boss themes, music fits the cities well, etc.
Voice acting is pretty good, I don't recall ever thinking "man that was bad", and there is plenty of it as well.
Graphics: Not like your average Final Fantasy, it's a completely different style, but I doubt they'd make anyone go "wow thats bad". They're pretty easy on the eyes, and everything important is distinct.
There is a HUGE amount of content, there's easily 50 hours of the main game, not to mention dozens of sidequests and extra story, on top of a New Game Plus feature which gives you all of the regular goodies like 2x xp, but also a new dungeon and new hi-ougis.
My ONLY complaint about this game is the loading; fighting on the world map (which there is very little of, so this doesn't kill the game) takes a good 10 seconds to load per fight, and the amount of times it takes to load certain places can seem to get old, although it won't frustrate you too badly.
I'd recommend this game to anyone. It's easily on of the best gaming experiences of my life. Go out, rent/borrow it or buy it if you have to. It's worth it.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Tales of the Abyss (US, 10/10/06)
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