Warning: This game was originally made for the Playstation 2 and was ported over to the 3DS. There was no attempt to modernize the game nor implement the 3d technology on the 3DS.
Tales of the Abyss receives very high praise among fans of the Tales series. The game’s lead protagonist, Luke fon Fabre, consistently rates as one of the most popular characters from the series. VGChartz.com shows this game as one of the best selling ever of the series, selling a total of 1.21 million units between the PS2 version and the 3DS version. The success of this game in Europe helped Namco Bandai reconsider releasing their strategies in Western markets (RPGs tend to not sell well in the West, so a game that would make a company reconsider their policies is really saying something positive).
Considering that this game has been around for quite awhile now, and was released on the 3DS a couple years ago, the main question that should be answered is this: Is this game worth buying?
Game Themes: A good video game story should tackle interesting, or thought provoking, themes. Tales of the Abyss manages to do that. This game looks at cloning, ideas of free will versus fate, and the oddity of self-sacrifice. The way they handled self-sacrifice was especially interesting. At one point in the story, Luke realized one way to solve a major issue is if he did something that would end up killing him. It would solve the problem, but he would die. Everyone was against it, claiming that Luke was trying to take the easy way out and calling him suicidal. It framed self-sacrifice, normally considered to be a good thing, as something that was potentially the wrong thing to do.
That’s not to say the free will versus fate or cloning weren’t done in neat ways. They were. Cloning played a central theme in the story, as Luke was a clone of the original. It called into question the worth of a clone. There were many times Luke kept on trying to figure out who he was. I mean, he wasn’t Luke, not really. Though everyone kept on calling him Luke, he knew that he wasn’t him. But that also he was at the same time. It created some very unique moments, let me tell you. And as for free will versus fate, that was a tricky one. When people are born, they get a reading from something called the Score. The Score lays out the person’s life, from when they were born to when they die. It’s sort of like a supernatural ritual. But it wasn’t very clear. The important part is this: people don’t really deviate from the Score and the Score is never, ever wrong. That is, until Luke doesn’t follow it by causing a fairly large disaster and invalidates it. It shows that for all intent and purpose, Luke and the rest of the people were always free to do what they want to do and the Score is just one of many possible futures they can decide on.
The themes really help make this game stand out.
The Story: The story is an average Tales story. It’s the usual formula. The hero is thrown into the world unintentionally and struggles to survive. They go from town to town, learning more about what the world is about. They pick up an older man who knows what is going on, a spunky kid who is overly excited about everything, a token sexpot who happens to be really useful in combat, an annoying animal who seems to be smarter than half the group, and so on. About half-way through the story, you get a twist that shows the first half was not what you thought it was and throws everything into a new light. The next part deals with the group coming to terms with what is really happening and now struggles to save the world from its destruction.
The only huge difference between this game and the other games, story-formula wise, is that the one who betrays the group isn’t the old man of the group. Unexpected, eh?
This game, like most others, is difficult to summarize. It’s fairly complex. It’s not quite one story, but six unique individuals who are attempting to work together to save the world. Each of them has their own backstories and plots which helps bring the entire game to life. One of my favorites is a character named Guy Cecil. You see, Guy has a very odd reaction to women… he tends to be a very suave individual. But if a woman touches him, he freaks out in an overly exaggerated way (falling over, flailing his arms, etc). You learn that he saw his mother and sister get horribly slaughtered right in front of him as they tried to save his life, scarring him dramatically. After they were killed, he was dragged off to serve Luke’s parents as sort of a houseboy. His father’s sword was left hanging on the wall of Luke’s parents as a grim reminder of his past. As you can imagine, Guy’s storyarc is fairly intense, yet his personal charm keeps on coming through all throughout it.
Everyone has a detailed backstory helping them become “real” people. And all of their stories are nicely intertwined with the main story so that you cannot discuss any part of the game without also understanding how each part fits in with the characters. It’s a thing of beauty, if you have a chance to see it.
The Music: I liked the music of the game. It was a touch dated, being that this game came from the sixth generation of video game consoles. So the music wasn’t as complex as a lot of the music we get in games in the eighth generation of games. Despite it, the music is easily one of the best of the Tales series!
Why Wasn’t the Game Updated? It was like Namco took the game from the PS2, threw it on a 3DS cartridge, and created a new package for it. Everything was the same. Everything. The graphics. The music. The dialogues. Everything. Keep in mind, this game is eight years old. More importantly, this game is from two video game console generations ago. A lot has changed with how video games are played. This game does not keep up at all. The graphics look a little better than Final Fantasy IX (for the PS-1!!!!), but not much better. The voice acting is okayish, but cold have used updating. They could have kept the same voice actors, but Namco could have spent some money training them just a touch more to bring the scenes to life.
In other words, this was a lazy effort from Namco trying to capitalize on one of their best selling JRPGs.
The Pacing of the Skits: The Tales series has small skits that pop up seemingly randomly during the game. They show the characters interacting with each other. It’s normally a charming way to bring depth to the game. Plus, you get to see the characters’ unique personalities come to life in a simplistic and effective way. They are charming and I like them very much. It’s what makes this game so frustrating.
In this game, every single skit is thrown out at the beginning of a scene in the game. There are times where there are five or six skits in a row. They don’t feel natural at all. It was as if the programmers, or director.. maybe the editor?… wasn’t told about what the skits was supposed to do so they threw them in at the most logical place, the beginning of a scene. What you get is a freakin’ disaster. It loses all the charm and anticipation. All that’s left is a feeling of annoyance that the game stops for five minutes.
The First Part of Luke’s Story: Luke grows into a likable character. I want to start off by emphasizing that. But at the beginning, he was not likable at all. I’m not talking about, “oh I hate that guy” unlikable. I’m talking about “I’m going to quit playing this game… I can’t believe anyone thought this asshole would make a good character” unlikable. At one point, he grabs the group animal, a Cheagle (a cat-like creature that can talk) named Mieu, and slams him into the ground. After that, he stomps on him and then grinds him under his foot for a good ten seconds. The rest of the group reacts casually, as if he didn’t just commit one of the most gruesome acts of animal cruelty you’ll ever see in a video game.
Hell, Luke was a jerk to his team as well. He frequently insulted everyone and even went as far as wondered why one of the party members were around at all. You see that picture up there? That’s Luke telling the most important person in the world, Ion, that he’s pretty much worthless.
I get that they wanted to have Luke change from a jerk to a nice guy. But they went way too far in the beginning. Luke was a horrible, horrible person.
The game is not really worth getting. It’s alright. It has a decent story, good characters, and deals with fairly complex topics. The main issue with this game is that it is dated. Other Tales games on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are far superior in every respect. There’s no reason for Namco to have released this game without doing something to update it. And they should have too. The story is good enough to have justified SOMETHING!!
While I would not say avoid the game, because it is not that bad. I would not ask anyone to go out of their way to get it. If you see a good sale, it might be worth taking a look. But that’s it.