"Another Port for the 3DS Collection"
All I see are ports, ports, ports. No, I am not looking at a sailor's map; I'm looking at the 3DS catalogue. While Nintendo has given players a healthy amount of portable remakes, Namco decided to jump onto the port train and give 3DS owners Tales of the Abyss.
Despite being a remake, I'm certain many gamers have missed the first run of this Tales game (myself included). The jump onto the 3DS helps the game. The portability of a JRPG is like a godsend. RPGs on the go provide quality entertainment in the busy-body world of today. Also, load times are minimal. Unlike the DVD format of the PS2, this little cartridge can pump out content almost seamlessly.
But even with the improvements due to the change of format, the key feature of the 3DS does not aid Tales of the Abyss. The 3D effect does not add too much to the game. The text boxes stand out far too much for the player to enjoy the visuals. Even when players are able to traverse the world without any cutscenes, the environments in 3D do not "wow" the player.
The game is like any other standard JRPG. Players will run around, fight enemies, level up, and watch cutscenes every now and then. However, do not expect Tales of the Abyss to be just plain vanilla. There are bits of goodness that add flavor to the RPG formula.
The biggest thing Tales of the Abyss brings to the table is the battle system. Unlike the static fighting of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, players are able to control their character in real time. Running around is limited, but players are able to dodge enemy attacks and move in for attacks of their own. Fans of the Tales series will be right at home, and new players will find the battle system to be a breath of fresh air.
Aside from the battle system, Tales of the Abyss brings in some character customization to the table. While it's not robust like Skyrim or other Western RPGs, it does add some variety to the gameplay. Capacity cores add certain stats and enable characters to learn different kinds of knick-knacks to help them in battle. For instance, characters can learn how to perform a magic guard skill or dash-back ability. These skills can be turned on and off at the player's leisure. Another component in customization is the "title". Players are able to earn and receive titles for their characters. These titles can grant abilities or be used for vanity purposes.
There are other touches of flavor, but these do not add anything profound to the game. One such addition is the "skit". Players are able to enter little skits between characters. These consist of extra dialogue and animated face portraits that try to add some depth to these characters. While it may seem like a good idea, Namco does not execute it well. The lack of voice acting really hinders this feature. Going from a well-acted scene to a bunch of text seems out of place.
All of the aforementioned features make for interesting gameplay, but they do not make up for the vanilla portions of game. The story is like a coming of age tale for a young man. Sprinkle in key-religious figures, the threat of war, saving the world, and you have the story of Tales of the Abyss. While this is a gross simplification of the story, the bottom line is that you may have seen this before.
Just like the story, the characters do not stand out. They range from standard caricatures to annoying. For example, Luke, the main character, is a text book spoiled brat. On the outside, he exerts a "better than you" attitude, while deep down he has a heart of gold.
In the end, Tales of the Abyss does not try to be the next classic RPG. The game does just enough to differentiate itself from pack. Despite all its flaws, it can fulfill a void in the 3DS library. A good JRPG is hard to find, and Namco is eager to supply the demand. It is a solid title full of ups and downs, but the game still maintains a mark of quality. I recommend Tales of the Abyss to the RPG-loving fans with a 3DS.
GameDynamo's Score for Tales of the Abyss (3DS)
Chris started playing games at the tender age of 5. Since then, he sees mushrooms, hearts, aliens, and spikey-haired blondes in his sleep.
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