Review by Master LL

"JPN 10th Anniversary Tales game... for the new Tales generation. ENG with improvements and bugs."

-Tales of the Abyss (JPN & ENG)-
This review is based on both the Japanese and English version. To help distinguish the difference between the two versions, italics paragraphs will be used for the English-specific opinionated portion of the review AND "ENG"/"JPN" will be used to help differentiate between the two versions in ratings. If neither "ENG" or "JPN" is stated, the Grade/Breakdown is related to both versions.

-PLOT- [08]
{Breakdown: Main Plot- B, Character Plot- B, NPCs- C}
The story starts with Luke. Having no memory of his past due to an unfortunate event, he encounters a woman named Tear, who tried to assassinate his sensei (teacher), Van. For some reason, when Tear touched Luke, a mysterious light enveloped them and they were teleported far away. Why did Tear want to assassinate Van? What is this mysterious power that transported both of them far away? In the midst of war, Luke begins a journey to uncover the truth: his past, his present, and furthermore, his future.

Honestly, for the 1/4 of the game, the plot wasn't as involving or interesting. But playing further into the game, the story picks up and it gotten really interesting. I liked the ideals that both protagonist and antagonist are fighting for. Tales of the Abyss definitely have one of the better stories in the Tales series IMHO.

While both sides have badass characters, I hate to say that I didn't seem to be fond with most of them. It doesn't mean I hate them, I just don't feel the reason to like them as much as I would like to. This maybe the sense that the development of the characters is more into the dialogs scripts rather than creating a more detailed background of their profile (past, present, future). Regardless, all of the cast is enjoyable, even if their motive never clearly understood completely.

One thing that was disappointing was the lack of a wonder cook, as now you find recipes by just.. searching. For an 10th Anniversary game, it's a shame a wonder cook didn't join (would be nice if Mimmy Bread was in it).

{Breakdown: Difficulty- A, Battle System- A, Puzzles- A, Control- A}
The difficulty of this game is excellent. The enemies gets stronger, takes longer to kill and even may have new attacks in the higher difficulties. This brings much replay for Abyss. Unfortunately, the AI isn't that smart all the time. It seems that they only target the character(s) nearest to them. This alone can be exploited since you can get them to chase you all over the battlefield while your allies kill them off. Also, the enemies with Hi-Ougi (Mystic Arte in ENG) may use it even if you or anyone is NOT in range. This is just a waste of intelligence and while it will help getting you and your allies not killed, it just makes them stupid for wasting such an important attack.

The battle system is an enhanced version of Tales of Symphonia, battles are fought on a 3d field and required to touch an enemy "icon model" in the outworld/dungeon to start the battle. Now, the enemies aren't generic icons anymore (unlike Symphonia) thus you can tell what type of enemies you'll face if you decide to touch and begin the battle. With the new features added into this game, it takes advantage of the 3D battlefield, making this battle system nearly flawless: AD Skills, CCore, FoF, FSC, and Manual Targeting.

AD Skills, Additional Skills, is a list of passive, active and extensions for your character. This contains such basic skills as Critical Up (passive), Air Recovery (active), Backstep (active) and use of Hi-Ougis (extension). One of the most important skills (and as a new feature in ToA) is the Free-Run. This allows the character to freely run anywhere on the battlefield without being restricted to the "One Line" as in ToS or the previous Tales installments. Free-Run is godly and makes the game so much easier. It allows you to run all over the battlefield, dodge spells like you can never dodge before.. and finally, outrun enemies that are chasing you. This skill, is the beginning of what will make Tales battle system near-perfect. AD skills have requirements to be unlocked, which is based on the attributes amount and or level. Thus, leveling and equipping CCore is the key to help unlock those AD Skills. For example, getting to level 05 will allow you to unlock and use Free-Run AD Skill.

CCore (Capacity Core) is similar to Tales of Destiny 2's attribute leveling. Each "Core" has a status boost(s) which will give a boost bonus(es) for that particular attribute(s) (Physical Attack, Physical Defense, Magical Attack, Magical Defense, Dex, Growth) at every level. Not only does it help boost the character's status, it also helps unlocks AD Skills to further improve the character's battle abilities. Examples would be getting a bonus of Physical Attack +70 will allow you to learn "Combo Plus" (allowing an additional extra normal attack), or getting a bonus of Physical Defense +60 and Magical Defense +60 allows you to learn "AutoMedicine" (allowing chance of healing when hurt). Attribute Bonus are kept regardless if you change CCore to help improve or boost the other or current attributes.

FoF, Field of Fonim, is a new feature which creates new skills and magic attacks. This can create new opportunity of dealing more damage, heal more and even survive "death" skills/spells (you will survive with 1hp if timed right). When using a high level skill or spell, it will create an empty color circle on the field of that particular element. Using the same type of element again will fill up the circle, which create a full color circle. Activate a skill or spell that is compatible with that element inside the circle will create powerful effects. Using the spell "Thunder Blade" on an "Earth FoF" will create the almighty "Gravity" spell as an example. Don't forget, FoF can be used by ANYONE in battle. Whoever takes advantage and use the FoF has a major edge in battle.

FSC, FonSlot Chambers, allows you to assign special enhancements to your skills and spells. Red gives more damage or heal more, Blue lowers casting recovery or cause knockback. Green allows stealing or lower TP usage. Finally, Yellow allows creation of FoF circles (full color). There are additional effects for some colors, which are exclusive to certain skills.

Last, Manual Targeting is another new and valuable feature in Abyss. This feature allows you to manually decide where you place the spell on the battlefield. No more do you have to directly target where the enemy is, but rather you can decide if you want to cast the spell in front of you or whatever suits your need. This is extremely helpful when you can setup spells especially against fast moving enemies. Knowing where they will move will give you the edge as you can place the spell at that location which, in return, may have the enemy end up running into the spell at the location where you placed it.

With all these new features, the battle system is that much more complex (setting up FoFs & spell locations, deciding how and what to equip CCore and FSC) and helps create extremely fun battles. And yes.. this game supports four players (it's multiplayer) and the camera system is much improved during multiplayer playing unlike in Symphonia.

Also note, unlike the previous Tales series, high end spells DO NOT get the camera zoom anymore (where it zooms to the caster that chanted the spell when the spell is activated). The camera only zooms during FoF, Overlimit and Hi-Ougis. This means you must be even more aware of the chanting during the battles (and where the spell will be targeted on) since you can't differentiate the difference between a low tier and high tier spell anymore (aside from the chanting).

The puzzles in this game are well thought out. While the difficulty factor isn't nerve-wrecking (like Symphonia was), it is pretty much simple to figure out. The puzzles aren't secluded like in Legendia, thus it's part of the dungeon. This can be trouble-some if you get into a battle while trying to solve a puzzle.

With a crazy and fun battle system, it is required to have excellent controls. Namco pulled that off perfectly as the buttonmap layout and controls are flawless and responsive. This makes controlling the characters so easy especially in the heat of battle.

{Breakdown: Graphics- B, Animation/Cutscenes- A, Full Motion Videos- A}
The graphics in this game is beautiful. The architecture of most of the areas is amazing, from the detailed structures and looks of the castle, the oil refinery and towers. While the looks and attention to the detail is wonderful, the coloring is another matter. Sometimes, it feels like a drag and the dull colors in some areas just hurts the architect of the areas.

The outworld, is another thing though. The looks and design is just awful. To make it worse, the loading and frame rate is horrible. This, itself, contributes to having 7-10 seconds to load into battle, then another 7-10 seconds after battle (or leaving an area) to return to the outworld. Plainly put, it is a rushed job in my opinion, which eventually leads to many battles being avoided due to the loading and slow frame rate in the outworld.

Luckily, the areas and zones (dungeons, towns, etc) has no frame rate or long loading battle transitions problems at all.

Spell and fighting effects are gorgeous. From casting spells like Prism Sword (so beautiful and different from it's previous series) to FoF skills, it is just amazing at the thoughts, details and originality of how the spells/skills looks, acts and attacks in battle.

-Composition- [07]
{Breakdown JPN: Background Music- C, SFX- A, Voice- A, Memorable- 15%}
{Breakdown ENG: Background Music- C, SFX- A, Voice- B, Memorable- 15%}
The music was a mixed bag for me. Most of the themes just doesn't have any "mood" or "feel" for the environments. There seem to be only a few that I liked and was worth listening too. Aside from themes such as Awkward Justice (Rokujinshou/GodGeneral boss theme), The Last Chapter (final outworld theme) and Tower of Rem, there isn't really anything else I liked.

The sound effects used in this game is great. With singing, ice "particle" sounds and more.. it helps create the illusion of reality for those effects (especially for the spells in battle).

Voice... need I say it? It is excellent. From Jade's mysterious-playful to Anise's happy-go-lucky and to Arietta's timid dialogues, it brings out their characteristic in them even if they have a lack of background info.

The American dubbing of the voices are great but some do lack the emotions of the characters, while others seems unstable (in keeping the personality). Some personalities of the characters were slightly changed from the original Jpn version but it is nothing that would be a major change (like Arietta talking in 3rd Person).

{Breakdown: Extra Difficulties- A, Secret Moves- A, Bonus Dungeons- B, Collectors- B, NewGamePlus- A}
There is a lot of replayability for this game. After beating the game once, Mania and the almighty Unknown difficulties are unlocked. This obviously brings the challenge Tales fans die for. But it's not only that! The 2nd gameplay also unlocks most of the character's 2nd Hi-ougis, unlocks a new bonus dungeon and costumes too! Collector items unfortunately had a huge setback. There is no "Monster Collection" in this game.

With all these new incentives to replay the game, it's pretty obvious that the Grade Shop is back. Following the disappointment of replayability for Tales of Legendia.. Abyss comes back in full force with lots of replayabilities.

What makes the American version so interesting is the new features added into the game. This is pretty much a shock since generally games will just be translated but not have any new added stuff. The key new add-ins are the Mystic Artes which Guy and Natalia gets (they have two Mystic Artes now yay!) as well as some of the optional bosses in the game. This gives more reason to why the American version would be superior if it was not for some major problems in the game.

Problems? Read ahead

-THE FINAL GRADE- 09 / 10 JPN (9.3)
-THE FINAL GRADE- 06 / 10 ENG (6.7)
In the end, Tales of the Abyss, is definitely THE Tales for a new generations (especially the battle system and it's awesome features). It is a deserving 10th Anniversary Game with interesting characters, interesting plot, probably the best battle system of console rpgs to date, and lots of reasons to replay this game over and over. The ONLY downside in this game is the rushed outworld. The slow frame rate and horrible loading hurts the enjoyment of traveling in the outworld. But luckily, time spent in the outworld isn't as much as being spent like in a dungeon or town.

The ENG version have a lot of new Mystic Artes (Hi-Ougis) as well as minor changes in many situations (Search Points, NPCs, etc). While this may sound great and all, there comes a price when there is a lack of development time. That price are the huge problems that gamers had with this game.

Some have experienced crashes (using Mystic Artes or skills), while others found events messed up and not working the way it should be. Loading is much more also frequent especially DURING dialogues (which I don't recall happening in the JPN version). There's a music glitch that causes no outworld music but rather the music of the town you just left. Last, the infamous MA-SL glitch I've discovered. This glitch MA-SL (Mystic Arte - Spell Lock) prevents the bosses and your spellcasters from using their Mystic Arte, hurting and breaking the gameplay in terms of difficulty which you may exploit.

Granted not all gamers have these problems, as I have never experienced the "Event bugs" where the wrong person is at the wrong place or suddenly characters disappear when they are not suppose to. Regardless, this is poor debugging on Namco's behalf and can ruin the fun-factor for gamers if they've experience any of these problems, hence keeping them from playing further into the game.

After all, what fun is there when you are playing and suddenly the game crashes on you? Pathetic.

Is this game worth buying? Definitely as I would consider this one of the best RPG on the Playstation 2 to date. As a Tales game, it is the best in the series yet, BUT the risk is hoping you will never encounter the "Event" and "Crashes" bugs though (for the ENG version).

Overall, Tales of the Abyss is worth buying and playing with no doubt.. and I only pray that the future installments will use and enhance Abyss's battle system further (for better balancing and fun).

Summary (JPN):
+ FreeRun, FoF, ADskills, Manual Targeting, Hi-Ougis, Replayability, Jade, Arietta
- Horrible Outworld Framerate, sometime slow plot, not too memorable music.

Summary (ENG):
+ New Hi-Ougis (Mystic Artes), + from JPN version.
- Chance of crash/freeze, lots of bugs/glitches (chanced based too), - from JPN version.

There really is no excuse for these bugs and glitches especially for the console. Having experiencing some freezing as well as some other bugs really hurt my enjoyment of this game. One may question it could be the disc or the PlayStation 2 itself that is in fault here... BUT, when I tested this on both my old Playstation 2 and new Slim-Playstation 2, borrowing a friend's copy of the game, and seeing gamer friends who experienced the same problem... it can't be the fault of the disc or Playstation 2 but the programmers and debuggers themselves.

This is the sole reason of my final grade as a 6 for the ENG version regardless of how highly I praise the JPN version. Buggy games can ruin the mood and fun when it happens regardless if new additional stuff are added in (especially if the gamer can not use/get/activate/reach those new features at all).

Regardless of mentioning the "horror" of these bugs... it is still worth the price to buy and experience this wonderful game.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/06/06, Updated 11/06/06

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