Tales of the Abyss Review
Tales of the Abyss on the 3DS is a well-executed port of a PlayStation 2 game that is just as much a Japanese RPG today as it was when the original released in 2006. It’s full of soliloquies and inner thoughts about the meaning of war, and it has a slow-starting story that eventually becomes interesting. Characters grow and change as the plot moves forward, but it’s really difficult to stick around. I literally fell asleep on multiple occasions while playing. It’s not a game without redeemable qualities, but it was never exceptional, and the years have only made the negatives stronger.
The story follows the partially amnesiac Luke as he learns how his fate is tied to saving the world. Establishing the setting and the secondary characters of your party takes up the first ten hours of the game. During that time, Luke reveals himself as a person who is very easy to hate, openly dismissing what other people say or simply refusing to agree with anyone. He grows up through the course of the game, accepting his fate and showing more sympathy toward his allies as the game progresses.
Luke’s lost memories serve as an excuse to explain everything to the player, but his lack of interest in anything but sword fighting leads to a lot of conversation threads where he just gives up on learning and loudly insults whoever he is conversing with. His dispassion is contagious; he doesn’t care, so I didn’t care. As a result, it takes a long time before you get a grasp on how the world functions.
Apart from the story, combat is the other major part of Tales of the Abyss’ formula. When battles begin, you fight on a linear 2-dimensional plane, performing combos and activating special attacks. It feels sluggish and slow compared to more recent entries in the Tales series, which makes sense considering the original version released five years ago. Improvement and innovations found in subsequent Tales entries weren’t integrated into this port. The system still functions, but it feels dated and lacks excitement.
Being on the 3DS, the game is playable in 3D, but it was never supposed to be a stereoscopic 3D game and no liberties were taken with the new hardware. Occasionally a long hallway might look interesting in 3D, but mostly, pushing the slider up does little to add depth.
There isn’t a huge selection of RPGs on the 3DS, and Tales of the Abyss will definitely appeal to the handheld gamer that wants to take this particular genre on the go. It hits all the beats of your typical JRPG, for better or worse.