Review by holyknight14

Reviewed: 10/25/06

Sing a song and change the world at the same time

Tales of the Abyss (ToA from now on) is the latest installment in the long living "Tales of" series that began on the Super Famicon in 1995. Along the road of releases, there have been hills and valleys that mark the successes and failures of the previous titles and also the ones that fans never saw outside of Japan. After highly disliking Tales of Legendia, I was skeptical of future releases because I felt that perhaps the long lasting series had finely lost the great momentum it once had. To my surprise, ToA proved to be the exact opposite of what I expected. This game is amazing in just about every way, it keeps you hooked and asking for more.

Story: 9.6/10
Without a doubt, the finest aspect of this game is the amazing and unique story. The world of Auldrant is bound by a prophecy of the savior known as Yulia, called the Score. Believing and living life according to the Score is a daily and common ritual by all of the planet's inhabitants because this is believed to be the way to unlimited prosperity. The player takes on the role of a young noble named Luke fon Fabre, son of Duke Fabre who is one of the prime followers of King Ingobert, ruler of Kimlasca. Luke was kidnapped as a boy and since his rescue, he has been confined to his manor and has had very little interaction with the world around him. His encounter with a mysterious girl named Tear Grants changes his life eternally. A lot of the interesting plot points happen after this and are spoilers so I can't say much more.

ToA has a lot of terms and occurrences that are highly unique, much of the material in the game is fascinating, though it may be a bit dull at times to those who aren't fond of semi-scientific talk, but it is simple enough to comprehend without too much difficulty. The cast of characters is second to none, ToA sports an incredibly charming and engaging cast who grow and develop as the game progresses, especially Luke. Skits aid the character development greatly by adding details and facts that aren't revealed in the main game, always view them as they appear to learn more about the party and the world around them. The only glaring flaw of ToA's story is that it starts off very slow but picks up with a bang after a few hours.

Graphics: 9.3/10
ToA is a very attractive game, the entire world is vivid, crisp and sharp and the details of the characters and places are impressive. Battles are aesthetically pleasing as well, containing a wide variety of environments and effects. A good number of the character artes look impressive, especially some of the hidden ones. ToA also has anime scenes that are spectacular, but unfortunately, these are few and far in between. There's not much else to say, take a look at the game for yourself and come up with your own conclusion, but I highly enjoyed the artwork and scenery of ToA.

Gameplay: 9.4/10
ToA features the traditional gameplay of the series but with several changes and additions to make it more unique. Typically encounters are fought on several straight lines, however, the player has the ability to freely run around the battlefield with the press of a button. Each character can equip one type of weapon, a piece of body armor, bracers, an accessory and an object that raises statistics upon level up, called a capacity core. Characters improve in a few ways, they gain stat boosts, learn new artes and master AD skills as they level up and fight more battles. AD skills are general skills that are available to multiple characters and are used to give various enhancements in battle, such as free running or additional combo hits. In battle itself, fonons can be controlled to power up the existing attacks of a character, this is called a Field of Fonons change (FOF). By casting certain spells and using certain artes, an elemental circle of various strengths appears on the battlefield. If an arte or spell of the proper element is used on a fully strengthened FOF, the attack will change and become more powerful. ToA also features a large amount of strategy options for non controlled characters, the player is able to fine tune and precisely control the actions of the other characters by setting almost exactly what they want them to do.

The game also features extras, such as skits, collections and records of various things. Fans of the series will notice that the Grade system has made a return in ToA as well. After every battle is completed, depending on the actions and efficiency of the characters, the party will either be rewarded by additional grade or lose points all together. The grade points can be used to "purchase" various beneficial effects for a future playthrough.

Music/Sound Effects: 9/10
The composers of ToA delivered a great soundtrack for the game, utilizing a number of different styles and several types of music. There are a number of town and dungeon themes and also a couple of different random battle songs. All of the music in ToA is well done, while they aren't extremely memorable, they are fitting and highly enjoyable to listen to. Sound effects are also quite solid and only add to the overall feel of the game. The voice acting is pretty good in the game, none of the characters sound annoying to the point of insanity. This is a good thing because most of the story scenes in the game are voice acted, though, unfortunately the japanese voice acting from the skits was removed and replaced with nothing.

Challenge: 9/10
I grade challenge based on whether or not the game is too easy or too hard, extremes get low scores while games that have balance get the higher scores.
ToA is alright in this department, while the boss battles of the game are challenging and complex, forcing the player to do more then mash the "x" button, the random battles are a joke. While the battle system is interesting and fun to work with, the low challenge of random battles makes the encounters tedious. However, ToA sports a number of difficulty settings that can be played depending on what type of gamer you are.

Replayability: 8/10
While ToA is a pretty linear game, there are a number of different things that can be done on multiple playthroughs. The various difficulty settings and grade shop prizes can make future playthroughs interesting instead of the same old and ordinary experience. The game has an interesting story and battle system, so its pretty cool to play through the game at least one additional time.

Final Words
ToA proved that the Tales of series is here to compete and stay fresh for its gamers. I highly recommend picking this up asap if you are a fan of the series, even if you aren't, this game is beginner friendly as it explains a lot of the gameplay mechanisms in detail.

(I gave the game a 10 because GameFAQs doesn't take decimals in the score and the game is far better then just a 9).

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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