It is my belief that every new Tales game will be an astounding experience. From what I’ve seen in Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Legendia, I’ve had high hopes for Tales of the Abyss ever since I saw the character art so very long ago. Maybe I’m setting myself up, hoping for too much by just glancing at the main characters’ faces. But I trust Namco. History shows that they pretty much always know what they are doing. And luckily, ToA is proof that I didn’t have too high hopes.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Namco Tales Studio
Utgivare: Namco Bandai
Släppdatum: 10 oktober 2006 (US)
Köp här: eBay

Meet Luke, an upper class slacker, who’s taught to wield the sword by his Master Van. Luke is obnoxious to everyone except this man and his servant Guy. He’s even obnoxious to Princess Natalia who desperately wants Luke to remember his proposal to her when they were kids. (Apparently Luke was abducted as a child and suffers severe memory loss.) Early in the game Luke meets Tear, a feisty yet collected woman, in the middle of Master Van’s sword class. She has some unfinished business with him, and wants to settle things right there and then. But, not so fast, suddenly there is a bright light and Luke and Tear find themselves thrown miles away from Luke’s manor, deep into a forest. This is where the adventure begins, and my, what an adventure this turns out to be.

I believe that the Tales games, hands down, have the best dialogues. Sure, we can talk the stiff, old-school English of Final Fantasy XII, but I’m always so happy to find that Namco work extremely hard to find good voice actors. Along their way, Tear and Luke bump into a notorious magician – Jade, and a spunky and kinda annoying Guardian – Anise. They also make the acquaintance of one of the cutest pets/mascots I ever did see – Mieu. I’ve never felt so sorry for a little ball of fur before. All of these fantastic personalities, mixed in a bowl (add a little sugar) and you have some of the best and funniest cut scenes ever! Sure, Luke says “shut up!” for pretty much 1/3 of the game, but that’s how he is, at first, but he’s the one who goes through some mind-blowing character development. And, just like in some previous Tales games, you have skits – unfortunately still without sound, and without the ability to pause.

I also believe that Motoi Sakuraba, again – hands down, is the one who was destined to compose Tales-music. Go Shiina did Tales of Legendia, and I have yet to figure out why, because Sakuraba always catches the sense of Tales; big dungeons, bright colors, laughter, fun battles and characters with the biggest hearts that can be found. (If you don’t wanna buy the soundtrack, make sure you finish the game, as that will open up sound files for you to listen to.)

Graphically, this feels like a refined Tales of Symphonia. ToS was great, in every aspect, but I’m wondering if ToA is just a little sharper. The graphics may not be FF XII-great, but Tales games do not strive for realism. It’s anime look all the way, and I love it. The world is just so alive. The towns, the enemies, the people, the dungeons – I never got disappointed, not even once.

The battles work pretty much as your normal Tales game. Hack’n’slash, shortcuts to skills, good AI for your peers that you can change as you see fit etc. But there is one change that I like. After a while you learn a skill that enables you to run around the entire battle field, while pressing a button. Previously this had not really been necessary in the series, but I feel it comes to good use this time around.

This game is very long, as of late, RPGs I’ve played have lasted at the most up to 40 hours. ToA on the other hand, did not only trick me once, but twice, that I was near the end of the game. Touché… But after 57 hours played and almost at level 70, I kicked the final boss’ ass. Did I look around for all the secrets that always fill the Tales worlds? No, sadly I did not. But come on, 57 hours of good gaming is well worth the money.

At first, the game starts out a bit “happy-go-lucky” but the more you play the more serious it gets. But the last 10 hours are basically a lot of going back and forth. That didn’t feel entirely thought through, I got the feeling it was some sort of “filler”, which wasn’t necessary at all. Still, this is a great, fun and action-packed experience. If you are one of many who liked Tales of Symphonia, this Tales-game will not disappoint.

Skriven: 2007-03-25