Tales of the Abyss 3D Review

It’s lucky that we even get the opportunity to play a game from the “Tales of” series in the UK, with many titles not making it overseas due to a lack of localisation or poor sales. Tales of the Abyss was originally released on the PS2 way back in 2006 but was rid with bugs and a crippling frame rate issue that put me off playing my imported PS2 copy. Tales of the Abyss has finally seen a release in the UK as the PS2 version of the game never made it to Europe. However, European gamers are now able to experience Tales of the Abyss in 3D on Nintendo 3DS, without a horrifically bad frame rate!

JRPG’s are something of a cliche when it comes to characters and it saddens me to say that Tales of the Abyss is littered with them, from the stoic lone wolf all the way to the cutesy little girl. These conventions are exclusive to anime and the JRPG genre. A little bit of hunting over at TVtropes gives me exact character portraits and in many ways it’s extremely sad that not just Tales of the Abyss but many other JRPG’s, such as Star Ocean, have an extremely generic cast of characters. In Tales of the Abyss’ case however, there is one little exception, that being the main character – Luke Fon Fabre.

Luke undergoes a painfully obvious character arc that makes us feel sympathy for him as his own hubris guides him to destruction but ultimately he comes out on top (Like any good JRPG). You’re able to tell that Namco and the Tales studio were trying something risky and left of field to the generic RPG setup but ultimately failed, as the poor quality of writing and handling of themes such as death and existentialism came out as extremely forced. In the end it feels incredibly cheesy and almost self-parodical in nature.

The plot is the standard “Save the World” with some good twists and turns that are let down by an ensemble cast of the same, unlikeable characters we’ve all seen before. On top of this many of the story beats and objectives make you profusely backtrack through towns or finding NPC’s. On the back of all this, with the game failing on what is supposed to be one of the genre’s major positive points, it’s obvious that this game is no Persona 4.

I actually completed the game with a 50 hour save simply because of one fact. The “Tales of” combat mechanics are absolutely incredible. Since your primary action in these games is combat this makes me a happy bunny. On the surface, combat may come across as shallow and does take a while to come into its own but after a while you’re able to understand its specific beats and self contained mechanics such as the FoF system, where you’re able to power up an ability by stepping on the correct elemental field. On top of this is the artes system where your part members acquire more abilities for the upbeat and fast battle system that is one of the best that any traditional JRPG can offer. A single rate is able to combo into other hybrid, higher level rates that deal more damage and ultimately could end up enabling your character to do a mystic rate if you’re able to combine the right FoF with the correct arte just at the right time.

Other elements of the game include its semi regular dungeons with fairly decent mind bending puzzles that make you backtrack throughout the whole dungeon 50% of the time. This gets tired and boring incredibly quickly and I didn’t find myself enjoying those points. On the off chance that I was interested in the dungeon it was a terrible trawl through rooms and levels that look identical and are hard to tell apart from other sections of the game. There is also a pathetic attempt at a stealth sequence in the game that uses the plain dungeon system, making it incredibly clunky and out of place from the rest of the game. Namco really was not on the ball at all in terms of dungeon design in this game and it’s an unconvincing attempt to ape other titles that combine elements of different genres.

In many ways this is a problem of the genre and could be one of the factors that aided to its abysmal fall from grace this console generation. People are expecting quality products with more than one compelling element of this and in many ways Xenoblade Chronicles is the antithesis of these flaws and that’s what made it great. Tales of the Abyss is a brilliant example of how not to make a modern JRPG. It does nothing new aside from its deep and rewarding battle mechanics and this is where the genre goes wrong. There are too many unnecessary filler portions in the game that give it artificial longevity, though Tales of the Abyss is not the only culprit here, since there are other JRPGs that follow this structure. It’s something that’s fundamentally wrong in a genre that I adore and it’s sad to see them failing to adapt to a more demanding generation where the standards are higher than ever.

Although the 3DS version improves on the PS2 version’s bad frame rate, there are still some spots on the over world where the game drops below the recommended minimum of 30fps. In addition to this, the 3D version also brings along with it a more streamlined menu that’s made possible by the 3DS’ resistive bottom touchscreen. Although this is a welcome addition it’s hard to call this game a remake, when up against the amalgam of improvements that Ocarina of Time 3D underwent. This game is more or less a direct port of the PS2 version of the game. The music is composed by Motoi Sakuraba and the catchy jingles are not dissimilar at all from what you would hear of his work in other JRPGs such as Golden Sun, Baten Kaitos and Star Ocean.

Tales of the Abyss 3D is not great. The story is very “by the book” and is a chore to get through, however the game is redeemed by its combat mechanics which are unique to the series, but is overall hindered by its inability to provide fresh content that actually makes me want to play the game. The only way I would recommend this is if you’re a fan of the series. If you are looking to get the game then act fast, because there are not many copies floating around in retail any more and Ebay prices for it are quickly becoming astronomical.

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3 Comments

  1. Ice Climber says:

    This is a pretty poor review. You focus too much on how you hate the story and characters, ignoring the gameplay and everything else for whole thing. It also seem likes you are trying to be clever and failing. Do you know (and actually understand) what existentialism is?

  2. Sayem Ahmed says:

    I did say what took me through the game was the combat mechanics which I loved. Yes I do know what existentialism is, and it is one of the game’s main themes. It says on the back of the cover “Why was I born, why am I alive”- It’s clearly dealing with these themes which feel incredibly forced and not how a game should handle these things at all.

  3. I agree with you on the dungeons. However, I disagree with you on the story, its characters and its depth. The main characters are quite colourful but likeable. They all have some depth, whether that comes clear early or later in the game.
    Also, Luke isn’t really cliché, by default. I can barely think of any other JRPG hero that is very hesitated in killing others, even when it’s a badguy.
    I didn’t really think it was forced. Tales of the Abyss told the story of a immature but eventually kind-hearted young man who not only seeks redemption but also questions his value and worth as a person. Though the story had its ups-and-downs, the story was decently told and it made you laugh and cry till the end.
    Fortunately, I have nothing against clichés in general. It’s HOW you use them, and in my opinion, Namdai did it better in the character development and depth compared to how Xenoblade handled it.
    Xenoblade is in many things, even the epic plot, greater than Tales of the Abyss, but that doesn’t mean Tales of the Abyss is an insult to future Japanese RPGs. Compared to games such as Graces and Symphonia, Abyss is a much serious and darker game and it shows it, but it also holds some of its franchises’ optimism and light-heartedness which gives the game and its story a healthy balance of seriousness and light-heartedness.
    All in all, Tales of the Abyss is more than just a great game in the gameplay development.

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