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Tales of the Abyss

Score: 99%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG


Graphics & Sound:

I love RPGs and the Tales series continually proves to be some of the best. Tales of the Abysswass originally a PS2 game released in the US back in '06 and has now been redone for the 3DS. I have not played the PS2 one, so I won't be able to compare frame for frame, but I can tell you how well it fits on the 3DS!

The first biggest difference that I can tell you without having played the PS2 version is that Tales of the Abyss is now in 3D. The 3D is very well done and it's not hard to keep it focused. The text pops onto the top layer of the 3D so that it really stands out, which is good on an RPG because a large portion of players play them for the storylines, so you don't want to miss the stories. You don't have to play in 3D if you don't want to. It is pretty, but I find that my eyes get tired of it after some time. I have not found as of yet that the 3D is necessary to the game.

The graphics and sounds are both beautifully done. The characters and scenery look like the latest Tales games. They are very crisp and colorful. The cute little Cheagles reminds me of the moogles in Final Fantasy, but look like the cousin Honey in the Katamari games. Things are so well done that when you change weapons, you will be able to see that it is a different weapon on the battle outcome screen, which is nice. It's the little things that really add up. The background music is very reminiscent of Tales of Vesperia a lot of the time. They really took care with the little details like footprints. You can tell what kind of terrain the character is walking on just by the sound of their footsteps. I love the voicework in the game. All of the characters sound just like you would think they would by looking at them and none of them are annoying.


Gameplay:

Tales of the Abyss has a very complex storyline that you will need to keep playing through to figure out what is really going on and who the bad guys really are. Your main character is Luke. Luke has been forbidden to leave his family's manor home in Kimlasca-Lanvaldear until he comes of age by his uncle, the king of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear. Luke was kidnapped by the Malkuth Empire when he was 10, so he has been told that he is forbidden to leave, to keep him safe. Ever since the kidnapping, he hears voices sometimes, but he has no memory of his childhood before then. Guy is a servant at the manor and Luke's friend. Van is Luke's training master. Fon Master Ion is missing, so Van has to go back home and search for him. Van is giving Luke one last lesson when Tear, a seventh fonist, enters the manor and sings a fonic hymn. Her plan is to kill Van. Luke sees this and steps in to try and protect his master. As soon as their blades cross, Luke and Tear disappear. Tear says that this is because they are both fonic masters and when their blades crossed, they caused a hyper resonance. Luke doesn't know anything about the fonic arts though. Really, Luke doesn't know anything about anything in the world outside of his manor. He's been completely sheltered there since his kidnapping and has no memories from before that, so he's never learned anything about the rest of the world or how things work. Luke wants to enjoy his time outside the manor, especially in the cities, at least for a while. He does grow weary of it though and misses his pampered life, like a nice, soft bed and elegant meals. Luke really does like to complain a lot. He's lived a very spoiled life! Since the hyper resonance flung them all the way to the next country, Tear has a long way to get Luke back home and Luke will have a lot of growing up to do along the way, but to his credit he does pretty well. I love that as the story goes, you get to watch Luke grow (albeit slowly) from a spoiled brat into a grownup.

Tear decides early on to let Luke get arrested for stealing, just to teach him a lesson. It's not that he meant to steal, but he doesn't even know how a store works. In that city, they run into Fon Master Ion (the same Ion who Van was sent to look for because he was kidnapped) and Anise, who is Ion's personal guard. Ion wasn't kidnapped; He left of his own accord to take care of something. While in this town, Luke receives his first major task. Your first major task is to solve the problem of the Cheagles stealing food from Embrel. After you solve the Cheagles' problems, one of them will come with Luke as his servant for a year. His name is Mieu and his fire attack can be very useful to burn things off of chests and open various passages. I love the Cheagle fire attack. When he shoots fire, he says either "Mieu!" or "Fire!" in the cutest little voice! Jade joins your party just before the first boss battle. Anise joins your party not too long into the game. Others will join before too long. Since you have such a range of characters to use, the game never gets boring. You will quickly get some enemies as well. Sync the Tempest, Dist the Reaper, Legretta the Quick, Largo the Black Lion, Arietta the Wild, and Asch the Bloody are the Guardian-God Generals. They are the six executive officers of the Oracle Knights. Their commander is Van, but the violent aggressive types like them have a tendency not to listen at times. These officers are going to provide a real challenge for Luke and his group. Just keep on battling though and you'll eventually find out what all is going on. Tales of the Abyss is about a journey for Luke to find himself and find out why he was kidnapped because Luke is apparently very special.


Difficulty:

Compared to some other RPGs I have played, I find Tales of the Abyss to be on the easier end of the spectrum, but that could be because I get lost and run around leveling up my characters just because I'm trying to find where to go. There are treasure chests in various places, so make sure to explore everywhere. These contain anything from items to money that can really make your lives easier. While you're talking to people and searching various places, you will find recipes. You can get the ingredients to make these from killing enemies or you buy them in the stores. Learning to cook can be quite helpful because when you get really good at it, you can really heal yourself or boost your powers quite well. While you're roaming around the world map, you'll also see blue rings. If you examine them, you will find trade goods that once again can be quite useful. None of this is necessary to the storyline, but it is all quite interesting and will make your game easier in the long run. I really like bonus things like that in a good RPG.

Obviously, you are going to lose health over the course of the game. The green save points will heal you and restore TP to full, so they're really quite nice to find and use. There are four save slots which means that you can save in one, test out something a bit and still have another backup copy on a different slot. You can choose to control other players in your party, so if you just don't like Luke or if you like a particular person better, then you can usually switch to them. Sometimes, you'll find that you just play better with a different character. This also means that if you prefer to be a spellcaster instead of a melee player, you can do that most of the time. Sometimes it can be hard to engage the flying enemies in dungeons. I would try to run into them, but I'm guessing that I ran under them and I have to wait on them to come back and hit me. It's not that big of a problem, but you will have to be careful that you don't run past them and then they attack your back and get a "Surprise Encounter." You won't have Surprise Encounters until you're just a bit into the game though. As far as I have found so far, I have not been able to surprise the enemy, they can only surprise you. When the enemies surprise you, things will be a lot more difficult. Your formation will be off, so those spellcasters that are normally in the back will be the first hit. You really want to avoid letting this happen unless you just like making things harder for yourself.


Game Mechanics:

If you've ever played any of the Tales games before, then you're probably already familiar with the controls. Even though Tales of the Abyss is now on the 3DS, it still feels like a typical Tales game. The controls handle quite well. (A) is your normal attack and (B) will perform an arte. You can change what arte, after you learn more. You can have 4 artes on shortcut at once and switch between them by pressing the control stick in different directions. (RT) will change your targets in battle. While you are wandering around, there are bonus stories events. You'll see on the bottom (START) and the event name beside it. These aren't necessary to watch, but they do add to your knowledge of the characters. The characters don't speak in the bonus Start button stories. It's a bit disturbing as they speak elsewhere, so I do wish they spoke there as well. In the shop, if you want to see how much an item will change a character's stats, you can press (X), which does a check status. I prefer it to the default view, so you can decide if it is enough of an improvement to be worth buying.

You will get a world map a few hours in, so don't worry about not starting with one. The cities will only show up on the map after you've visited them. The world map will show you just how much area you have to cover, which should give you an idea of just how much time you're going to put into the game to beat it, not that that is a problem as it is quite addictive. I love that the A.I. controlling Tear does a wonderful job of keeping the party healed. I found that I did not have to use healing items myself very often, which was nice. I could just fight and she'd keep me healed automatically.

I have loved all of the Tales games that I have played, but I think that Tales of the Abyss is now my favorite so far. The storyline is wonderfully addictive. I'm dying to completely finish it to find out what the ending holds. The gameplay has been perfected and since it's on the 3DS, you can take it everywhere with you now. If you like RPGs, I highly recommend you go pick up Tales of the Abyss today!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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