Well, I've officially entered the 3DS generation of gaming. Last week, I bought Tales of the Abyss 3d. I got my Playstation 2 rather late in that system's cycle, so I missed out on many good games as I played catch-up. This will be my first mothership Tales title since Tales of Destiny. As it's a starter 3DS title, I'd have assumed it were US-bound even if it hadn't already been confirmed as such. In a way, this makes me relieved. If I write an impression, I am in no way obligated to be objective as I sing the game's praises while slagging off its protagonist.
Seriously, I've met some really annoying teenage boys in this country. My girlfriend is related to one. And Luke fonn Fabre is the distillation of everything I hate about the type. I apologize in advance for projecting quite a bit of ill-will onto him.
To go about this by the book, let's start with the graphics. The original TotA was for the PS2, but since I never played it on that console I'll just have to settle for mentally comparing it to other titles of about the same period. Anyway, this game looks nice. It's vivid, detailed, and populated with very expressive character models. The look on fonn Fabre's face when some guy casually threatens to decapitate him with a scythe? Priceless, and worth the two hours it took me to get to that point. It looked even better with the 3D on, as the illusion of depth really makes the difference with some backgrounds. My only complaint would be that, since this is still a flat-screen projection, it's not possible for me to pretend I'm reaching in to smack a certain red-headed bozo upside the head.
"My only complaint would be that ... it's not possible for me ... to smack a certain red-headed bozo upside the head."
The audio's been just as good so far. Not only is the music perfect over my earbuds, but the way it handles ambient game noises has had me checking every few minutes to make sure I wasn't hearing something for real. From the amount of voice acting so far, I have to assume that most or all of the original game's vocal tracks have survived the transition, and the Japanese actors were really on the ball. Chihiro Suzuki's characterization of Luke is spot-on as an overly privileged, snot-nosed, hyper-entitled teenage moron whose two remaining brain cells only occasionally come in contact. I know kids who sound like this character when they're acting snotty to their parents. The voice tones and speech patterns are pretty distinct in Japanese. Mr. Suzuki has made me want to strangle Luke on several occasions just from sheer force of acting, so he must be doing something right.
Of the five Tales games (two mothership, two escort, one amphibious) that I've played, four had 2D battles. The fifth was a tactical game, but that's a review for another day, maybe. TotA is my first foray into the 3D battlefield paradigm that characterizes many of the later games in the series, and here too the 3D effect does a lot to give it more depth. The new rolling thumb-pad makes the different attack and defense options easy to access, though I admit I don't use the latter as much as I should. I prefer to send Luke straight at the enemy, getting a visceral thrill each time he gets flung across the screen.
Okay. I'm kidding about that. Mostly. I doubt I could have survived the first battle without knowing how to time a backstep.
I'm not sure what else I can say about this one. It's been quite enjoyable so far, often in spite of its protagonist. I just hope Luke manages to learn something from his experiences, or I'll be tempted to see how much of the game I can play wih him dead.