Whoever said ports ain’t good?
First things, first: some jargon clarification. When you hear a gamer say ‘port’, it has nothing to do with ships or any body of water. Simply speaking, a game is a ‘port’ if it is re-released for a different platform. In this case, Tales of the Abyss was, originally, a PS2 game ported (ironically) into a Nintendo system. It’s a huge crossover not only in terms of companies but the gaming engine itself. From a full-blown console, ToTA makes its way to a handheld. This transformation is one of the reasons why console ports are usually looked down upon, giving the terms ‘port’ a kind of derogatory quality. Albeit it is not without reason (difference in processing capacities, graphics quality, etc.) ports do have their advantages.
For starters, I’m more of a handheld gamer (although I’ve been itching to get a PS3) who has never played a Tales Of game because, well, there’s none of it for the handheld. The Tales Of franchise–or the Tales series–are mostly console games. Sure, there’s Tales of Phantasia for the GBA. But that’s the point: it’s for the GBA. As such, porting ToTA into the 3DS was a very welcome change mainly because I’ve never played any game from the Tales franchise…
…and, oh my God, I almost completely dropped the game unfinished. Why, you ask? Because, three words: Luke von Fabre. A whiny, ego-centric nobleman who thinks he’s all that when he actually isn’t. He also happens to be the game’s protagonist. So just imagine my horror and the patience I’ve exhibited as I plowed through the first parts of the game. At some point, I really wanted to stop playing because I couldn’t handle his teenage angst sh*t anymore but I persevered.
Anyway, to the game. For a Tales virgin like me, it was a bit hard to follow at first what with all the jargon involved. Everyone’s talking about fonons and Yulia and Lorelei and I had completely zero understanding of what they were talking about. I’m basically Luke at this point: clueless minus the arrogance. I eventually grasped these concepts since they wouldn’t shut up about it.
As I led my motley crew into 50+ hours of adventuring, I fell in love with its classic JRPG elements. Heck, I didn’t even mind the Overworld. And I hate Overworlds with a passion–hence, the reason why I’ve never played Final Fantasy except Tactics and Crisis Core. Unlike the usual turn-based gameplay, however, ToTA allows you to execute attacks real-time and you’ll eventually unlock a free running feature which allows you to run around the battlefield during an encounter rather than just stupidly standing in place, waiting to get hit.
Another nifty (but a bit tricky to execute) feature during a fight is the “FOF Change”. I forgot what FOF means but I assume it’s Field of Fonons. Running inside an FOF circle and executing your special move gives it an additional ‘oomph’, making your move stronger and not to mention, cooler.
Story-wise, I thought it was great. Since I haven’t played any other Tales game, I have nothing to compare it to. ToTA tried to pose some existential questions and it tried to make people think about morals, ethics, free will, right and wrong–all those heavy stuff you won’t always find in a game. At some point, though, I found it absolutely ridiculous when Luke was going through his existential crisis. Like, seriously. This boy knows nothing about moderation. First, he was such a stuck-up rich kid and then he turned to such an existential mess. Apart from that, I think it was a good story overall, peppered with some nice anime cut scenes. I’d also like to hand it to Namco, their voice actors are top notch. Whoever voiced Tear, I love you.
The only negative thing I can say about this game is its lack of camera control. You can’t really shift views and there are times when its hard to see things especially when they’re so far off deep into the screen. I could be falling to my doom for all I know. I don’t know how the PS2 original looked like so I can’t say anything about the graphics but it was ever-so-slightly reminiscent of FFVII’s old-school graphics. Not to say that it was bad, but there are lot of things they could have improved on.
Overall, it was a great game. The New Game + lets you play in harder conditions if you’re up for a challenge and there’s plenty of things to do if you’re a completionist. I’d have to say this is one of the best RPGs I’ve played so far and I would love to experience another Tales game.