Normally you would see a story in an RPG about some dude, his best bud, his childhood friend *cough*love interest*cough*, maybe your buddy’s older sibling, and the rest of a motley crew that’s best friends forever. And everything is all sunshine and rainbows… This is not a story about that dude. This is a tale about a spoiled brat and a lot of other unlikeable people he’s stuck with.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia kicking in, but I’d say that Tales of the Abyss was a favorite for the PS2 and one of the first Tales games I ever played. So when I heard about a 3DS port, I had to investigate.
Now bear in mind the following, most of the review will come from the game itself, analyzed from the perspective of someone who has never played ToA before, but I will touch on it from a perspective of someone who has been around the block before later on, so hold on for now.
You play as the aristocrat Luke fon Fabre. Seven years ago he lost his memories in a traumatic kidnapping incident, all of them, from his parents’ faces to knowing how to eat. Though rehabilitated into a functional member of society, ever since then he’s been forbidden to leave his mansion and see the outside world. He also began suffering from hallucinations. One day, his swordfighting teacher is assaulted by a mysterious woman, which starts a grand odyssey where Luke will find out just who he is.
The great (or not so great) thing about Tales of the Abyss is that the characters aren’t buddy-buddy from the get go. In fact, most of them are quite the royal pains in the rear. Luke and his cousin Natalia are spoiled to the nth degree, Tear is cold, Anise is the most money-grubbing little girl you’ve ever met, Guy is the disgruntled nanny of said spoiled brat, and Jade is the glorious bastard snarker that loves trolling the hell out of these kids. They’re all stuck with each other and they’re ready to go at each other’s throats. It makes sense to a degree; you won’t befriend some of these folks just right away. Moreover, the hilarious cast grows on you. The kids grow up and the adults grapple with whatever dark pasts they had. By the end of the game, you really do see some development and friendship really does come out.
Okay, on the planet of Auldrant, all matter is made up of fonons, they’re like atoms but magical and kinda like sound too. There are seven types of fonon, one for each of the four elements, light, shadow, and sound the seventh fonon. When enough seventh fonons gather, they generate a hyperresonance, which is an awesome power. There’s this old dude named Lorelei and two warring nations and a neutral church and the predestination-esque Score and these Sephiroth trees that channel fonons and… Yeah. It’s not particularly complicated but there’s a lot to explain about this game’s world. You’ll get it, no problem, but the complexity grab can be seen as a bit convoluted and off-putting to some. The idea is to put players in Luke’s shoes and give them no clue as to how the world works, just like him. Nobody ever told Luke how the world worked since the incident, and you will see characters berate him claiming “it’s common sense”. It’s a novel effect, and I’m a sucker for rich world building, but the execution is sometimes a tad off.
Outside of that, the style is usual Tales but less fantasy feel and more of a pseudo-semi-steampunk feel with fontech machines and other mechanical wonders. Characters are memorable in design and the world is a sight to behold, despite the aforementioned convoluted nature. Music fans will definitely get all the themes and references to various concepts, especially in the Order of Lorelei.
The battle system is one of the more game-changing entries. Back then this game introduced the Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System. Before in previous games you could only move toward or away from the enemy you were currently targeting, like a 2D fighter. The FR-LMBS gave us “Free Run”; now we have a dimension of depth and you can run all over the battlefield. Unique to ToA are the fonon mechanics. Fon-Slot Chambers let you equip special items to your Artes and give them extra properties such as more knockback, add healing, and more. Field of Fonons is even more exciting. Whenever you use an element charged Arte, it’ll leave a residue of elemental fonons. Build up enough residue in that spot and then use an ordinary Arte and presto-change-o! Your Arte is now super-charged with that element and transforms into something new! Field of Fonons would later provide the inspiration for Altered Artes in Tales of Vesperia.
Sound-wise, there’s nothing to complain about. The battle themes are great, as Tales series par excellence, and the town themes are varied and capture the wide world around. Gets a good pass from me. I’ll say that the voice acting is all-star. We’ve got Yuri Lowenthal, the poster child of emo kids and whiners behind Luke. This is really one of his breakout roles. Stephanie Sheh, Johnny Yong Bosch, Kirk Thornton, Liam O’Brien, and so many more are in this cast. Sadly, even in the 3DS edition, the skits do not have voice work like the Japanese. Maybe BamCo couldn’t (or wouldn’t) get the gang back together.
Graphically, there’s no real dip from PS2 to 3DS. There’s not much use of 3D, especially with a game series that takes cues from 2D fighters. The graphics take a minimal hit when you go 3D, but if it gets you down, you’re not missing much if you turn it off. Sometimes the game experiences slowdown on the world map in congested forest areas. It more or less looks the same.
So for you all that played the original, here’ the lowdown. Firstly, there’s no multiplayer, which makes me sad a bit. Fond memories were had playing Tales games with my brothers and I wish to continue them. I doubt it would be too difficult, but alas. Secondly, there is little to no loading time. The boon of being on a cartridge still remains ever since the N64 was duking it out with the Saturn and the PS1, discs are slow hulking beasts. It’s also a straight port, there’s nothing new. If you couldn’t get the original, this is your chance for arguably cheaper than the PS2 disc. Nifty tidbits also include a world map on the bottom screen and touch controls for additional shortcut Artes. So yes, while the second time a Tales game is released, it has director’s cut extra goodies, it’s just a port and nothing more in this case. No extra Mystic Artes, new dungeons, new playable characters, or anything.
But in spite of pros and cons, here’s the big reason if you’re thinking about buying this game: it’s a Tales game in North America and Europe. Yep, between this and Tales of Graces f on the PS3, we’ve got a point to prove to Namco-Bandai to bring more of the series over. So 3DS owners snag a copy and tell your friends to snag one, the future of the series is at stake. Moreover, do it while you can. Sadly, this game is on a limited print run, just like the original PS2 version. Wait too long and it’ll be gone! Sad to say, but the company does nil for advertising anyway. Because really, what would you rather have coming stateside? Games like Tales of Xillia? Or only restricting to games like the umpteenth Dragon Ball or Naruto game? Anyway, join me next time when I face off with my evil twin.
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Publisher: Namco (JP), Namco Bandai (NA)
Available on: 3DS
Release date: June 30, 2011 (JP), February 14, 2012 (NA)
Latest posts by Inverseman (see all)
- Review: Final Fantasy XV Kingsglaive - August 30, 2016
- Hands-on with Pokémon GO - July 12, 2016
- First Impressions on “Mighty No. 9” and a Cautionary Tale - June 22, 2016
- Almost! Appealing to the “Anime Demographic” (Now with K-pop!) - June 7, 2016
- RPGs, Nintendo, and Censorship – A Complicated Relationship - May 24, 2016