By Devin Kotani / May 29th, 2012
Fortunately, back in February of this year (November, 2011 for Europe and Australia), Western gamers were given a second (or first, for the PAL regions) chance to give it a try, when Namco Bandai Games released Tales of the Abyss 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.
It takes place on a planet known as Auldrant, where daily life is ruled by a series of prophecies known as ‘The Score,’ which tells of everything from major wars, to next week’s weather. Like other games in the series, a standard medieval fantasy setting is eschewed for a mix of fantasy and sci-fi elements. In the case of Tales of the Abyss, the sci-fi elements take the form of fon machines, which run on elemental particles known as fonons. This in-universe science is expanded upon in great detail over the course of the game, which some may appreciate for the amount of fleshing out it does. However, others may find scenes filled with fantasy technobabble tiring.
The story follows Luke fon Fabre, a sheltered young aristocrat with questionable fashion-sense, as he’s thrown into an unforgiving world, and into the midst of earth-shattering events far beyond his control. Poor Luke lost his childhood memories in a kidnapping seven years prior to the start of the story, and, as a result, was forbidden by his family from leaving his manor for his own protection. With such a traumatic childhood, it’s no surprise that Luke would grow up to selfish and ignorant of the outside world, nevertheless, his whining can get annoying.
Now, it wouldn’t be a “Tales” game without a cast of playable characters. There are six playable characters (including Luke), who all play quite differently, and who each have their own separate motivations, storylines, and side-quests. All of the characters have sympathetic attributes, and are portrayed competently by the English voice cast. A sticking point in the cast for some is Mieu. Mieu is a creature with a squeaky voice who fills the role of the game’s ‘Sorcerer’s Ring’ (An item used to solve puzzles in dungeons). Some people seem to hate him (Not me!) for being annoying, but those people are also likely to get a kick out of Luke’s treatment of the poor little guy. Personally, I like all of them, but, this is obviously very subjective. Someone out there might very well hate them all with a burning passion.
The game generally follows the standard JRPG formula; players navigate a large world map, moving between towns and dungeons, fighting monsters in between. Like previous games in the series, “Abyss” foregoes the hated random-encounter mechanic that used to be so common in JRPGs, opting instead to make enemies visible in the environment. When the player touches an enemy, the game transitions to the battle screen. Battles take place in a circular arena; the player’s four-character party facing off against groups of enemies in varying numbers. The battles take place in real-time; the player controls their chosen character, moving and jumping with the circle-pad, chain standard attacks with the “A” button, and use “Artes;” special attacks that can be set to different combinations of the “B” button and circle pad. Meanwhile, the game controls the other three characters (Their behavior can be modified through the party menu).
Supplementing the battle system are ways to increase the characters’ effectiveness during battle. Weapons and armour can be purchased in shops, and foodstuffs can be found or purchased, and used for cooking. Cooking can recover HP, TP (Consumed by artes), and provide temporary stat boosts. C.Cores, which can be found in treasure chests, can be equipped by the characters, providing boosts to different stats upon level up. These stat boosts have the added benefit of unlocking AD Skills when they get high enough. AD Skills provide a wide variety of benefits, including, but not limited to; increasing attack power, randomly healing after taking damage, and randomly dropping a “Pow Hammer” on an attacking enemy’s head.
All in all, the battle system is quite deep, but unfortunately, in many instances it’s possible to win by mashing buttons.
In terms of presentation, I’ve already touched a bit on the voice acting, which is competently done by quite a few mainstream anime dub actors. The one complaint I have is, just like in the original, the ‘Skits’ (Little side conversations between the characters that are told through animated portraits) remain unvoiced. With hundreds of skits, it can get very boring watching them, despite the fact that the skits can be very amusing, and provide additional backstory for the characters.
The music for Tales of the Abyss was composed by Motoi Sakuraba, the composer for most “Mothership” titles. Sadly, Sakuraba’s compositions tend to sound very samey, so the music is not particularly memorable, outside of the opening song and its in game remixes. The story is supplemented by a handful of animated cut-scenes, produced by prolific animation house, Production I.G.. These scenes are generally well done, outside of one particularly infamous scene, which you’ll probably notice when you see it. They do, however, seem very quiet, an issue I don’t recall the PS2 version suffering from.
The graphics are a step down from Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube, foregoing cel-shading for a “pseudo-cel-shaded” style, which looks somewhat washed out and muddy in comparison to Symphonia’s vibrant colours. The 3D effect is also very disappointing. The text boxes seem to sit right up against the screen, with everything else sitting inside. Because the 3DS’s 3D effect is just an illusion, the eyes can’t focus properly when looking behind the text boxes, which can be uncomfortable, if not painful. This is the only 3DS game that I’ve felt the need to play for extended periods without the 3D effect turned on.
Tales of the Abyss 3D is a straight port of the PS2 original, with the addition of a poorly implemented 3D effect. In some ways, being a direct port is a good thing; few sacrifices were made in porting the game, and all of the content remains intact. There’s a lot of content, too. The game takes 50+ hours to complete. Of course, being a direct port means that there are no extra additions (Outside of the previously mentioned 3D effect), which is disappointing. However, the PS2 version’s frame-rate drops are for the most part fixed in this version, which is a definite plus.
Abyss 3D is a great game. If you’ve never played it, and you’re a fan of JRPGs I highly recommend buying it right away. If you have played it, and you’re not a diehard “Tales” fan, or you’re not itching to play it again, then there’s no extra incentive to pick it up outside of the poorly implemented 3D, the fact that it’s a full sized PS2 JRPG on a handheld (that’s why I bought it), and the improved frame-rate.
- · An extremely lengthy RPG for the 3DS.
- · Fully portable console JRPG (albeit from the last generation).
- · Strong story.
- · Deep battle system.
- · Improved frame-rate
- · Lots of character development.
- · Straight port with no additional content.
- · Forgettable music.
- · Main character can be annoying.
- · Skits remain unvoiced.
- · The 3D effect can be painful.
3D3DSJRPGNamco BandaiNintendoportPS2ReviewsRPGTales ofTales of the AbyssTales of the Abyss 3D