|Dev: NAMCO Bandai|
|Pub: NAMCO Bandai|
|Release: February 14, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Language, Simulated Gambling, Suggestive Themes|
by Becky Cunningham
The Tales series is known for memorable characters, great action-RPG combat systems, and highly variable quality from title to title. Many fans missed playing Tales of the Abyss when it originally came out during the late years of the PlayStation 2, but it's considered among the best entries in the series to make it to North America. Now, NAMCO Bandai is giving gamers another chance to experience Tales of the Abyss on the Nintendo 3DS, complete with the requisite 3D graphics.
Tales of the Abyss is the story of Luke Fon Fabre, a spoiled and sheltered noble who embarks on a world-spanning adventure after he encounters a mysterious assassin on his estate. Luke's world has long been guided by a set of prophecies called the Score, which sets forth the path for its nations and citizens. With war brewing between two nations and calamities wiping out entire towns, it appears that somebody is manipulating the Score. Luke and his newfound companions find themselves manipulated by evil forces and eventually freeing themselves from their destinies in order to save the world.
Character development is one of the major draws of Tales of the Abyss. Luke begins the game as a distinctly unpleasant person, having been catered to for his entire life and failing to understand the very basics of social niceties. His journey of self-discovery allows players to experience his transformation into a hero, although he retains some of his character flaws throughout the game. Fortunately his companions are quite likeable, especially the sarcastic Jade Curtiss, who is a big fan favorite. Most of the characters have a ton of personality and experience growth over the course of the game, making them a cut above the usual JRPG character offerings.
The battle system is a star feature of the Tales series, and Tales of the Abyss is no exception. NAMCO Bandai describes the battle system as "Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System," a term far fancier than it requires. Battles begin with a side view of the three-character party facing off against its enemies within a circular battlefield. Characters can move back and forth towards their foes, but a button press will also allow them to break out of the linear space in order to position the controlled character behind the monsters, or to run to the side in order to gain space for spellcasting or healing. Combination attacks are the bread and butter of the system, and players are able to assign special moves to various button press combinations. It's a fast and satisfying system that includes a number of ways for the party members to interact in order to build up combinations and lay down special attacks.
There's a lot of travel and exploration included in the game's story—like in most Tales games, characters will literally travel to the far corners of the game's world. Towns and dungeons are attractively designed, but there's also a lot of travel on the rather bland overworld map. Fortunately, monsters are visible on the map, making battles easy to enter or avoid depending on the player's preference. There are plenty of interesting mysteries about the world in Tales of the Abyss, but there's also a bit too much back-tracking later on in the game. Players will need to have a bit of patience to see the story through to its conclusion, but the portable nature of this version may help to keep players picking it back up.
The original PlayStation 2 version of Tales of the Abyss was weighed down by technical issues, with long load times and in-game slowdowns chief amongst complaints. As Tales of the Abyss 3DS has been out in Europe for a while, we can report that those technical issues aren't present in this new version. In terms of other changes, the graphics have been converted to display in 3D but haven't been otherwise updated from their PlayStation 2 quality. Sadly for Abyss veterans, there hasn't been anything new added to the game in terms of story or design. It's great to see the technical issues solved, but design weaknesses like the aforementioned back-tracking and an incomplete voice acting track (major story events are voiced, but less-important conversations and character skits are not) remain.
Action RPG fans who haven't yet experienced Tales of the Abyss should absolutely give this 3DS version a look. It's a fun game with a strong cast and an engaging battle system. There isn't much new here for anybody who has already played the game, but it's a good choice for someone who wants to have a replay without experiencing the technical problems from the PlayStation 2 version. If nothing else, it's always refreshing to play a game that allows its protagonist to repeatedly insult its cute animal mascot character.
Date: January 11, 2012