Tales of A Rerun
The Tales series has had many hits over the years, and has developed somewhat of a cult following in the U.S. Sure, it’s not as popular as RPG powerhouse Final Fantasy or the ultra-challenging Disgaea, but it does have its fans, and many of them were created during the PSOne/PS2 era, when JRPGs were coming out of Japan like waffles out of Belgium.
If you are a Tales fan already, Tales of the Abysss is undoubtedly a familiar title to you, as it was released six short years ago for the PlayStation 2. If you’ve already played that game and are thinking about picking it up again, know this: There are no differences. Though handheld ports generally include some new levels, cutscenes, or something to give back to the fans, Tales of the Abyss is presented almost exactly as it was on the PlayStation 2, with no extra anything, unless you count the 3D conversion. (And I wouldn’t, but more on that later).
But if you’ve been hankering to play the game again, or have never played Tales of the Abyss, then read on, because it is a pretty good game, and is definitely impressive on the 3DS. Though the DS was a great home for JRPGs for a while, we’ve only had a few come out on the 3DS, and thus far they’ve been underwhelming. However, Tales of the Abyss is a huge game, and the fact that no sacrifices were made in terms of scope or visual quality is mightily impressive. The world of the game features several different areas to explore, and feels like one of the biggest games to ever grace a handheld console. If you like to roam around a lot in your JRPGs, you’ll find plenty of that in Tales of the Abyss.
However, if you want a coherent story, I’m afraid you won’t find much of that here. The plot revolves around a brewing war between neighboring kingdoms which has been caused by a thousand-year-old prophecy that may or may not have something to do with the appearance of “Fol”—a magical power some are born with that lets them manipulate sound. The plot gets complex very quickly, and you might need a pen and pad just to keep up with all the complicated magic terminology and political shifts. Don’t get me wrong, a complex story isn’t always bad, but when you feel lost less than an hour into the game, that’s generally not a good thing. In fact, I could feel my interest waning exponentially as dialogue scene after dialogue scene drug on.
The good news is though that Tales of the Abyss makes up for its narrative flaws by having a stellar battle system. Though the game is six years old, the battle system still feels fresh and relevant, which is great for fans of more modern JRPGs who want to take a look back with this title. The battle system is completely active and relies on button-based commands on a linear playing field. You’ll have to be quick and resourceful to win, and the game rewards those with fast reflexes with highly graded battle results and items. The level-up system is fairly straightforward and highly customizable. Players can equip active and passive abilities that are unlocked after battle, and tinkering with your character’s attributes is definitely one of the best parts of the game, though you’ll have to dive into some lengthy menu systems if you want to get the most out of your character.
In addition to customizing your character, you can also customize some of your party members’ attributes as well. The NPC A.I. in the game is relatively good, and you won’t have to worry about characters attacking enemies that are already dead or healing you after you’ve only taken one hit. Even if you set a character to be a healer, they seem to have a little bit of common sense programmed in, which is definitely a relief for those of us that have been burned in the past with terrible RPG A.I.
About the only thing I can really find to complain about with Tales of the Abyss is the 3D conversion. It’s just not very good. The depth of field is often muddled at times, and character’s don’t really pop against the background. Converting an old PS2 game to include 3D visuals is probably a tricky thing to do, and it just doesn’t work here. If this game was truly intended to be a flagship JRPG on the 3DS, then the visuals should have been completely re-done (a la Ocarina of Time) to fully take advantage of the 3DS hardware. As it is, however, the 3D is superfluous at best, and I didn’t leave it on for very long.
Tales of the Abyss is a great game on the 3DS, and if you are a JRPG fan who hasn’t already played it, you will definitely enjoy it. There’s plenty of story content (though not all of it is 100% coherent), a fantastic battle system, and a generous open world to poke around in and explore. However, the game feels like a shrunken down PS2 game, and if you are expecting any cool 3DS features, you’ll be sadly disappointed. It still holds up surprisingly well after six years, but in this age of remakes, re-releases, and re-imaginings, Tales of the Abyss needs something to set it apart on the 3DS from its PS2 predecessor. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite get the treatment it deserved before getting shuffled off to release.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
Visuals look almost exactly as they did on the PS2, which is good in 2D mode, but terrible for 3D fans. 4.1 Control
Controls work well, both in the menu system and in battle. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Full English voiceover sounds great, and music is nicely varied. 3.0 Play Value
There’s tons of content to play though here if you’ve never experienced Tales of the Abyss. If you have, though, skip it, because there’s not so much as a single word of dialogue added to this release. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best