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  • Writer's pictureBill Barber

Tales of the Abyss: A Cliche Masterpiece

Join Bill as he shares a review on his favorite entry in the Tales of series!

For over 28 years the Tales series has acted as Bandai Namco’s flagship Role Playing Game franchise, although the question of best in the series has always been a somewhat subjective debate. Depending on where a player starts the series usually has a significant impact on overall opinions, combined with the franchise’s overall love it or hate it nature. Although over the years one game has stuck out as the perfect example of the latter opinion. For me personally though it’s been a combination of my love for anime and PS2 era JRPGs that would draw me towards Abyss in particular.

To start off with a little back story, the Tales series made its debut in 1995 with the Super Famicom title Tales of Phantasia developed by Wolf Team which would gain attention for its unique action based combat system. While the game would be successful the title would not see a release outside of Japan with the series not properly making the jump overseas until 1997’s Tales of Destiny. While not a runaway success, it would do well enough for further titles to periodically see localizations, with publisher Namco obtaining developer Wolf Team changing their name to the iconic Namco Tales Studio.

Now as stated above, most fans of the Tales Series usually have one particular title that stands out to them above the rest, which for me is the series 8th title Tales of the Abyss. Released in 2005 (2006 overseas) for the PlayStation 2 (later seeing a port for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011), I first came across the game after seeing some friends playing the GameCube title Tales of Symphonia and was curious to see if there was a similar title for the PS2. To my surprise there were actually two entries in the series available for the console, Tales of Legendia and Tales of the Abyss and after a moment of contemplation I decided to go with Abyss based on my preference of the games box art. One year later and hours of game time accrued, I can safely say I made the right decision and here’s why.

The best description of the Tales series is to imagine a traditional turn based role playing game crossed with a combat system very reminiscent of action RPGs with a battle system dubbed the “Flex Range Linear Motion Battle System". A system that features real time combat in 3D arenas, as players strategically move around the arena either on a linear path or in full free roaming (which was a new addition to the series). With each playable character featuring their own unique play style with different combo based moves, and customizable strategies the player can use to direct their computer controlled party members. With the game's other notable inclusion being its multiplayer aspect which allows up to four players to join in during combat, easily helping it shine as one of the strongest elements of the overall experience.

Now as for the story and progression, this is where Tales of the Abyss becomes a bit more decisive. As one of the Tales series biggest recurring elements in its stories is the reliance on anime and JRPG tropes and cliches which is either love it or hate it depending on the person. I personally believe that Tales of the Abyss manages to use this reliance to its advantage at times with a storyline that manages to be both predictable at times while also managing to subvert your expectations. With everything being tied well together by an amazing world to explore and a fun group of characters that grow on you the more you progress through the story. The game also includes the series staple of skits which appear routinely and can be viewed optionally for additional world building, character development, or just to be plain comedic.

So overall Tales of the Abyss is a game that may not appeal to every gamer out there, or even every fan of JRPGs. To those who enjoy a great story and fun action based combat, the game may be right up your alley and can be easily obtained for both the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo 3DS for fairly reasonable prices. Although I would recommend to anyone interested in trying the game out to also track down a guide as this game can be a bit unforgiving in terms of missable content. All in all Tales of the Abyss is one of the definitive entries in Bandai Namco’s Tales series, and I would highly recommend it to any fan of highly anime inspired Role Playing Games.


About the author:

Bill Barber is a long-time video game collector and enthusiast of all things gaming and anime, aside from collecting Bill cohosts the Gaming And Collecting Podcast with his sister Alex and runs the Instagram blog @thebarberwhogames.

Click the link below to enjoy more of the Gaming and Collecting Podcast:

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