Release date: September 10, 2021
Composer: Motoi Sakuraba
Mode: Single-player video game
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Developers: BANDAI NAMCO, BANDAI NAMCO Studios
Publishers: BANDAI NAMCO, Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Genres: Fighting game, Action role-playing game
The Tales series has been a staple in gaming since the mid 1990’s with the first entry being Tales of Phantasia back in 1995. It stood as one of the most original games in how its battle system played out as well as it’s story which was one of the more fleshed out plots in JRPGs outside of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Phantasy Star. Where the Tales franchise differed was in making the game action based like Secret of Mana and not Turn Based which proved to be a hit in Japan at the time. As the franchise has grown over the years; the gameplay, storytelling, character depth, OSTs, and graphics/art style have massively grown in scope and popularity in the franchises 25+ years.
The Tales series saw massive popularity with Tales of Symphonia, Tales of The Abyss, Tales of Vesperia, and Tales of Xillia duology (which many consider the greatest entry). These entries while exceptional and popular, failed to garner the mainstream appeal that the series rightfully deserved. With Tales of Arise, Bandai Namco looks to bring the franchise to new heights with what they are claiming to be one of the best entries in the franchise that pay homage to the series. The question now is will this latest entry in the Tales franchise enough to bring in new fans and put it up there with the likes of Final Fantasy in the West? Let’s find out!
The story centers around a man named Alphen who is initially a slave to a group of individuals known as the Renans that hail from another planet. The Renans conquered Alphen’s home world of Dahna 300 years ago and have been cultivating and siphoning out the elemental energy from both the inhabitants of Dahna and the planet itself. Upon meeting the mysterious woman known as Shionne; Alphen is given the opportunity to liberate Dahna and the various oppressed regions of the world from the clutches of the Renans.
If you’ve been wanting a seriously deep and dark Tales story that hits on some social commentary, then this is the game for you as it fires on all cylinders and never lets up especially when you get to the end and it delivers what may be one of the greatest twist in not only the Tales franchise but in JRPGs as a whole.
So how does this game play? Well if you’re familiar with the combat in the last few entries (Graces F, Xillia 1&2, Zesteria, and Berseria) then you’ll have somewhat of an idea of how this game operates as the battle layout is most similar to those yet is refreshingly different in how it plays with you being able to free roam without the need of holding a button and the method of attacking is mapped to the shoulder buttons instead of the face buttons. You’re able to chain together different attacks with artes and call in your allies both in the active party and on the sidelines to jump in and do a devastating attack.
Along with moving about freely, you’re also able to utilize evasive maneuvers such as the dodge roll and quick stepping put of the way of attacks allowing you to control the pacing and flow of combat. As with any Tales game, combos are your bread and butter and thus you should always experiment with different ways to attack and different pairing of characters to suit the situations that you’ll end up in.
Speaking of different characters, you’re able to not only use Alphen but also his 5 other companions that you can switch between at any time. They make up a wide variety of character classes from your ranged gunslinger, fisticuffs brawler, mage, dragoon, paladin and more. Each of these characters plays significantly different from one another and each one is a lot of fun to learn and figure out their differing mechanics and how they can be applied to the various types of enemies that you will encounter.
You’ll need to get used to the way artes and attacking works as for every attack you do, you’ll drain your arte/skills meter and must wait till it replenishes in a cooldown kind of way. While in battle and outside of it, you can pull up a menu to use your items such as Apple and Pineapple gels to restore your health and TP (magic/arte gauge) or use items such as All Divide that halves all damage done and received to you and your enemies.
There aren’t any random battles as all enemies are viewable on the field and battles can be initiated by running into them or them running into you allowing for normal battles, first encounters where you surprise the enemy, and also where they approach you from behind and surprise you.
There are tons of mini-games to dive into just like any Tales game with one of my favorite being fishing. I have no clue why I enjoy it as much as I do but I do; fishing minigames and JRPGs just go hand in hand. There are a lot of side quests that are both interconnected with the main plot and interconnected with several other side quests that will ultimately yield a lot of insanely rewarding high end equipment, especially in late game.
There’s also cooking which is a franchise staple that gives you various stat buffs and bonuses such as gaining more Gald (this game’s currency) or experience etc.
Skits are back and are properly done this time unlike how they were done in Berseria where they were a longer than most animated cutscenes. Skits here are short and to the point and reveal what they need to. The way skits look in this game is almost the same as how some cutscenes look in Scarlet Nexus in that it has a comic book style cut in stills showcasing various emotions and animations of the characters.
If you’re playing this on the PS5; then you’ll experience the way this game implements the Haptic Feedback capabilities of the Dual Sense controllers. It won’t wow you on the level of Astrobot or other games, but it is pretty neat none the less.
All in all, you’re going to have a lot of fun diving into this incredibly meaty 60 hour+ title.
This is the most beautiful of all the Tales games with an amazing level of detail given to the main characters and the environments that encompass the worlds that they are in. The character models are a substantial step up from anything we’ve see in the series including the incredibly impressive Tales of Berseria with its mixture of realistic proportions of the more recent titles and the cell shaded outlined look of Symphonia. The environments are amazingly well made, and some are just down right breath taking which makes me wonder why this game doesn’t have a photo mode as it truly would benefit from one.
Like every other entry in this franchise, Tales of Arise has an animated opening and cutscenes, however, I wasn’t prepared for the incredible amount of cutscenes that are in the game for key moments as it really goes a long way in showcasing this game’s amazing world, characters, and story.
The other great part of this game is the performance of the game as it runs at a butter smooth 60fps unless you want to prioritize resolution of which will cut the frame rate down to 30fps. If you play this on STEAM then you wont have to worry about that at all.
The voice acting in Tales games is either hit or miss and in the case of this game it’s most definitely a hit with some of the best voice acting in the series yet. Every character has a voice actor that perfectly meshes with them, and their performances are some of the absolute best and really draw you into the situations that they are in.
The game’s musical score is simply MAJESTIC and really goes to great lengths to fit each and every scene and environment. The music has an grand orchestral sound that when it hits, it HITS!
All in all, this game has amazing voice acting and OST.
The game for some odd reason suffers from a lot of texture pop-in and occasional instances where character models and environmental details don’t load in fully. It isn’t a constant occurrence, but it is annoying none the less even if you play this on a beefed up PC.
There isn’t a lot of enemy variety either so if you see any enemies in the first 10 hours of playing then don’t expect a lot more than that as you’ll get primarily color variants of enemies along with some additional details in the enemies as you progress through the game. This is commonplace in the franchise so series fans won’t be bothered by this, however, newer players might be irked by it.
The Tales series has always been an up and down experience with some games being phenomenal while others are perfectly serviceable and others being downright mediocre at best. The last few Tales games have been a mixed bag with the Xillia duology being the series’ high point and Zesteria being a huge let down for fans (even thought I kinda enjoyed it) and Berseria being great minus the insanely long skits and finicky battle system. Tales of Arise sits right up there at the top as one of the best entries in the franchise delivering one of the most fresh and complex and deeply rewarding battle systems along with an incredibly rich plot and life like characters that you will come to love. Hands down, Tales of Arise is the JRPG of the year with honestly no other game touching it in this genre and will go down as a modern classic in not only the series but the genre as a whole.