Last Level Press

Review: Tales of the Abyss

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

“He shall be called the Light of the Sacred Flame. And he will lead Kimlasca-Lanvaldear to new prosperity.”

The people of Auldrant are ruled by the Score, an ancient but accurate prophecy that promises prosperity to the world if followed. As a child, Luke fon Fabre was kidnapped by the Malkuth Empire and lost all of his childhood memories as a result of the traumatic experience. Having been confined to his family’s manor until he comes of age, his pampered daily life was dull until a mysterious woman snuck into the manor, sang a hymn that put people to sleep, declared her intentions to kill his sword master, and a strange power sent them both to a distant part of the world as Luke’s sword met with the woman’s weapon. With his first experience on the outside, Luke intends to find his way home and discovers that the world is teetering on the brink of a war predicted long before his birth.

Tales of the Abyss, whether you’re playing the original PlayStation 2 version of the game or the recent Nintendo 3DS port, is quite a good looking game overall. The character models are somewhat improved over the models seen in Tales of Symphonia as they’re now more normal in appearance, or as normal as anime characters can appear, but the actual graphics can appear a bit rough around the edges. This is especially true on the 3DS port. The locales are varied in style and appearance, though the typical clichés and tropes of the genre are recycled. For the 3DS port, the unfortunate truth is that the 3D is not very well implemented and you’re missing nothing by having it turned off. One thing that should be praised is the animated cutscenes that are dispersed through the game, which are of impressive quality if only tarnished by one in particular which depicts a battle.

Motoi Sakuraba is, once more, the primary composer for the game but there are a good number of tracks done by co-composer Shinji Tamura. While he has done some work in Tales of Phantasia and Tales of Symphonia, Tamura can be distinguished from the more dynamic and bombastic Sakuraba with his music being softer and quieter. Sakuraba’s strength has always been making his music more dynamic and full of energy, especially heard in his battle themes, while Tamura is overshadowed by being more atmospheric and, effectively, sounding like background music. The soundtrack is not what I would call the strongest for either composer, but it serves its purpose. The voice work, on the other hand, is exceptional with a number of professionals lending their talent to bring the game alive. Except for a few moments of drama that come off as bad, the acting overall is solid.

The controls are the standard fair you should expect for the last two games and there isn’t much to add. But, if you haven’t read the previous two reviews, here’s the summary: your basic attack is the A button, the special attacks is the B button and a direction or lack thereof which leaves you with four special attacks, and your battle takes place in real time thanks to the Linear Battle Motion System which allows you to move away or towards your target. Unique to Tales of the Abyss is a battle area known as an FOF, or Field of Fonon. The elemental magic in Abyss, along with everything in the world, is comprised of particles called fonons and, for the purposes of battle, fall under one of six elements. When a special attack with an elemental attribute is used enough, an FOF is created to allow the player to make a new attack. Not only does this add an element of strategy that was missing from Tales of Symphonia but it keeps battles interesting as you’re invited to find attacks not normally available at your disposal. However, there are some moments where the battles can actually have a drop in frame-rate due to so much having occurring on screen, though these are relegated to later boss battles and not an issue throughout the game.

Of the four Tales games that will be reviewed, I can say that Tales of the Abyss is quite possibly the best in terms of gameplay experience if only for one reason: the main character, Luke. You play as a character that is completely ignorant of the world he lives in and is unaware of concepts that are common knowledge. With Luke as your proxy, you not only learn of the world in a manner that has him learning but you can also appreciate how he, at first, is annoyed by the typical clichés of being the hero. Best of all, Luke doesn’t start out as a hero nor has plans to save the world: he just wants to get home. While Cress Albane from Tales of Phantasia was the typical “I must avenge my parents!” sort of hero and Lloyd Irving, the hero from Tales of Symphonia, was all “I want to help save the world!” sort of hero, Luke is a pampered brat that you should hate yet you can understand him and relate to his goal. And, without going into spoilers, Luke is probably the one character who changes the most out of any game I’ve played in a long time and to see this transformation is worth playing.

It may go without saying, but this game is certainly fun but it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking or new. After several playthroughs, I’ve already clocked in over 120 hours and I still enjoyed each time; it was especially interesting to catch things I never would have caught the first time I played. If you have a 3DS, and want a game that will occupy your time with a good story and fun battles, this is not a bad choice. If you have a PS2 and want to play a little gem that was missed the first time around, it’s worth tracking down. And if you’re not a fan of JRPGs, this could be one to consider if only for the story, the main character, and the battle system.

Rating: 7.6

Visuals: 7
Audio: 7
Controls & Mechanics: 7
Atmosphere & Experience: 9
Entertainment Value: 8

  Consoles: PS2, (3DS)

  Developer: Namco Tales Studio

  Publisher: Namco

  Release Date (U.S.): Feb 14, 2012

  Release Date (U.K.): Nov 25, 2011

  Release Date (JP): Jun 30, 2011

Final Verdict:


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