Tales of the Abyss (PS2)

Luke fon Fabre is a spoiled noble who is not allowed to leave his own mansion. Several years ago, he had been kidnapped, and the terrible state he was in when he was rescued has kept his family cautious ever since. But all that changes when he accidentally sparks off a reaction with a woman who arrives to assassinate his fencing instructor. Now the two of them are stranded clear in another kingdom, and getting home may be the least of his worries . . .

So, thoughts. The plot is excellent. I was continually amazed at the ways they found to tie in pretty much everything in the world into the story. There were no random villages or random quests. Even the side skits managed to deepen characters substantially. Although I had known about a certain event from the beginning (pity I said I didn’t mind spoilers back when it was all the rage with my friends; at least I refused to spoil the end for myself), the plot still continued to surprise me. The game designers put a lot of thought into the world, the politics, and the people, and it shows. Luke’s moral dilemma about killing people versus being a burden on the others played out well.

I think my favorite part was that it was not a typical RPG. Luke is an anti-hero not so much in the sense that he is not good, but that he is the last person anyone would nominate. And the game doesn’t promote his idiocy either. His change of heart is as amusing as it is fascinating, and by the end of it he had become someone worthy of respect.

Of course, the beginning of the game would’ve been intolerable without the supporting cast. Playing a spoiled brat can only go so far. Of course Jade is my favorite of the lot. His evil sense of humor is a large part of what makes the game so funny (Luke’s abrasive comments being much of the rest of it…. particularly his diary entries and his habit of calling the mascot-character Mieu Thing). Natalia rubbed me the wrong way the majority of the game, and I doubt I will ever like her, but at least by the end I could listen to her speak without wanting to throw something at her.

Battle dynamics are a lot more interesting in live fighting versus menu fighting, even when you’re at the beginning and have a handful of moves at your disposal. I think the next time around I’ll try to get more creative with party-based tactics. Jade is, of course, an entire party by himself (generate FOF, use FOF, smack the enemy senseless after that), but I am almost tempted to try playing the game as someone else next time just to get a better feel for one of the fighters. And yes, I did play through my first Tales game ever as a mage. It was the novelty of actually having a huge variety of spells at my disposal that I could actually use combined with the fact that I could still go up and poke things with the spear if I wanted to go head-to-head.

The music was mostly good, although a few themes wore on me rather fast, and I was not particularly impressed by the end credits song or the way the American release took the lyrics off the opening. That said, there were also some very beautiful themes, particularly in the last dungeon. And the option to hear some of them in music-box format was a nice treat (although I could also wish they had done some of my favorites that way).

Overall…. I think it’s a real shame Final Fantasy continues its uninterrupted dominance of the RPG field. Tales of the Abyss soundly thrashes it in storyline, character development, and just plain fun. Highly Recommended to anyone looking for a game, whether story-based or action-based.

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