Tales of the Abyss 3DS
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North American gamers don’t quite know Namco’s Tales series as much as they do, say, the Final Fantasy franchise, although their North American branch has lately given a little more love to the franchise than in the past, with the company localizing the Nintendo 3DS version of the PlayStation 2 title Tales of the Abyss, one of the 3-D portable system’s first role-playing game releases. Tales of the Abyss 3DS, like the original PS2 version, provides a gameplay experience largely on par with other titles in the series, which is definitely a good thing.

As has been the case with Tales titles starting with Symphonia, Abyss features visible enemies wandering dungeons and the overworld map, with the player able to stun them using one of Mieu’s abilities and safely run past them without fear of an encounter. Although it can sometimes be difficult to aim Mieu correctly, it is mostly possible to run past enemies without encountering them, and contact results in a trip to a separate battle screen. It is possible for enemies, however, to catch the player’s party off guard, indicated by a red glass shattering effect (instead of normal white glass), in which case characters not in the player’s active party of up to four characters replace one or two of the characters in the player’s party setup, depending upon how many extra characters the player has.

Fortunately, the battle system itself serves the game well, with real-time action much akin to other titles in the Tales franchise. As in other titles in the series, each character and enemy has linear movement, albeit on a three-dimensional plane akin to Symphonia. However, acquiring a certain AD Skill (which require characters to equip Capacity Cores to learn upon leveling) allows characters to freely roam the battlefield with the L button held. Holding the R button, as in other series installments, pauses the action of combat and allows the player to select enemies to target, putting characters on another line of movement after they’ve selected a target.

As in other Tales games, the player controls one character, preferably one skilled in melee combat such as Luke or Guy, while the A.I. controls their allies. Melee characters can string three (or in some cases, particularly late in the game, four) slashes with TP-consuming skills not to mention other skills and magic their allies use. Battles generally have a quick pace, and completing a battle nets all participating characters experience for occasional level-ups and money. Capacity Cores also play some part in stat gains characters receive when leveling, not to mention the aforementioned AD Skills.

Elemental Fields of Fonons randomly appear on the battlefield during combat, and if the controlled character uses certain skills, they’ll receive empowerment in the form of a more powerful incarnation of the consumed ability. Mastering the use of Fields of Fonons, mercifully, is hardly necessary to complete the game, and the player can make it through most of Abyss without fighting every single enemy they see, although some late-game bosses can definitely tax the player’s items, and if the leader of the active party dies, there doesn’t seem to be any way to switch the controlled character in the middle of battle. Otherwise, the battle system helps the game far more than hurts.

Abyss generally interfaces well with the player, with easy menus and navigation, not to mention a good direction at most times, thanks in particular to Luke’s journal in the menus, with maybe one or two exceptions late in the game, on how to advance the main storyline. As with other games in the series, however, there are no maps for towns or dungeons, and the text in skits is unskippable, despite being skippable during standard cutscenes. In the end, interaction is above average, although there are some aspects that could have easily been better.

The plot is perhaps one of the best to appear in a Tales games, with a number of things playing part such as a prophecy that drives world events known as the Score, a protagonist who has amnesia after a kidnapping from an enemy nation, the threat of the world falling into an abyss known as the Qliphoth, and so forth. While other RPGs have dealt with amnesia in the past, Abyss more accurately depicts the condition, with protagonist Luke fon Fabre, for instance, having to relearn how to walk after his encounter with the ailment. The story itself has many nice twists and turns, along with a likeable cast, with the only real inconsistency in the narrative being the spherical depiction of the game’s world in a few anime cutscenes despite its toroid shape during gameplay on the overworld, which seems to be a problem that plagues most RPGs old and new.

Partners in crime Motoi Sakuraba and Shinji Tamura provide Abyss’s soundtrack, which has many excellent tracks such as the battle themes, the first of which is “The Arrow Was Shot,” alongside some diverse town themes and a few remixes of the game’s central theme, “Karma” by Bump of Chicken. The original PlayStation 2 version of the game was the first to keep the original Japanese music during the opening anime cutscene, although much like Wild Arms 2, the localization theme replaced the vocals with an instrumental (a change for the better in this reviewer’s opinion). The voice acting is also largely decent in spite of some annoying voices for characters such as Anise and Mieu, and like the original English version of the game, the skits are still voiceless. Nonetheless, a great-sounding game.

The graphics look much the same as they did in the PlayStation 2 version, although the 3DS port makes nice use of the system’s three-dimensional capabilities, with nice depth perception and excellent character and monster models, although some of the scenery still contains pixelated texturing. There are also some occasional anime cutscenes that as usual look nice, and in the end, Abyss’s visual presentation is top-notch.

Finally, the game is somewhat longer than average for a game in its respective series, with the player possibly able to finish in a little over thirty hours if they make a straightforward playthrough, doing things such as avoiding the skits and evading enemies, although sidequests and fighting frequently can easily push playing time somewhere to around sixty hours.

In conclusion, Tales of the Abyss, having been an excellent swan song for PlayStation 2 RPGs, makes for a nice beginning to Nintendo 3DS role-playing games, what with its man positive aspects such as its solid Tales gameplay, enjoyable narrative, nice soundtrack and voicework, and decent use of the system’s 3-D capabilities. It does, however, suffer from some of the flaws that plagued its original release such as a lack of maps for towns and dungeons, not to mention the voicework for skits being cut out and the unskippable nature of text in said skits, although owners of the 3DS would definitely do more good than bad by giving Abyss a shot.

The Good:
+Solid Tales gameplay and control.
+Excellent story and characters.
+Great soundtrack and voicework.
+Looks good in 3-D.

The Bad:
-Skit text is unskippable.
-No maps for towns or dungeons.
-Skits are still voiceless.

The Bottom Line:
One of the best Tales games.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 30-60 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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