Review by MasterTurtle
Reviewed: 12/01/06 | Updated: 02/19/08
A great tale from the past
Tales of the Abyss is the newest Tales game for the PS2, coming after the ill-received Tales of Legendia. Thankfully, the new Tale is a good deal better than it's predecessor.
Gameplay in Tales of the Abyss is very, very similar to the popular Tales of Symphonia. When in towns or dungeons, you wander around, talking to people or fighting monsters. Fortunately, there aren't any random battles in Tales of the Abyss - You can see each enemy on the field or world map before you engage them. Combat, again, is very similar to Tales of Symphonia. Like in ToS, you can run back and forth in a line that leads to the enemy you have targeted. Thankfully, unlike in ToS you can also run around freely by holding down L2. When you reach the enemy, you can use regular attacks, block, or use special techniques, but there are a few unique aspects to TotA that set it apart. One of these is Fields of Fonons. When a character (ally or enemy) uses an elemental attack, it generates a rune on the ground colored to match that element. If you're standing in that ring, and use a certain technique that corresponds with that element, the technique will change into a different, more powerful technique. Unfortunately, each technique can only fuse with one element, and the game doesn't tell you which element to fuse with, so trying to figure out which element corresponds with which attack requires a bit of guesswork.
After the battle is over, you receive experience and money, but you also receive grade, which is basically a measure of your fighting skills. Using healing items, getting hit a lot, and letting your character get KO'd all lowers your grade, but using combos, FoF attacks, and blocking enemy attacks gives you higher grade. Outside of combat, you can equip something called Capacity cores. These give you passive boosts to certain stats when you level up, and there are quite a few different cores to use for different styles of play. Another feature allows you to power up individual skills by using gemstones. The powered up skills gain bonuses like decreased tp (the equivalent of mp) costs, higher power, or more knockback.
One nice feature that was in ToS that's also here is multiplayer. In battle, you can easily set up a friend playing as another character, and it's pretty fun to play together with a friend if you both like RPGs. On the downside, multiplayer is only in combat, and there are plenty of 20 minute + stretches with no combat whatsoever.
The music in TotA isn't particularly great, but isn't really bad either. No tracks really stand out. The voice acting is actually pretty good, with most of the characters sounding like you'd expect them to. Graphics are another story, though. The character models are only a marginal improvement from ToS, and just look bland compared to other new games. None of the locations stand out as looking unusually good, either. The world map is just plain generic, with nothing to make it stand out. The anime cutscenes, which there aren't a whole lot of (maybe one every 6 hours of gameplay), look nice, fortunately.
The plot is nothing really great, but it's decent, enough to keep you interested. The character designs are what stand out here - each character has an interesting personality, and they're fleshed out through skits like in ToS. The skits consist of the characters talking on-screen, discussing story events or just random goings-on between them. Unfortunately, the skits aren't voiced, and there's no way to fast-forward through them once you're finished reading, so watching them gets tiring quickly. Still, it's a nice way of learning more about the interesting characters.
The single biggest problem with Tales of the Abyss is the load times. Combat flows smoothly, but when it's finished, there's a 1-2 second pause before going back to the area map, as well as there being about a 2 second load time whenever you enter a new section of town/dungeon. Going on the world map (which doesn't even look very good) is horrible - if you finish a battle on the overworld, expect a good 5 second wait before it returns to the world map. Even while you're just running around, there'll be bits of lag as you change the camera. Saving takes an entire 12 seconds, completely inexcusable considering how late in the PS2's life it is.
+ 40$ price rather than $50
+ Fun battle system
+ Nice character designs
+/- Feels almost like a ToS fanservice sequel
- Meh graphics
- Horrible Load times
Overall, Tales of the Abyss gets a 7.5/10 (Rounded up to a 8)
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Tales of the Abyss (US, 10/10/06)
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