Tales of Arise (Review)

If you like anime and JRPGs like me, then you’ve probably played Tales of Symphonia.  I then played every Tales game in the series since then, even though it did feel as if they couldn’t keep up with the times.  However, Tales of Arise just oozes much higher production values.  Has this game finally stepped up and entered the modern era as a top dog?


GAMEPLAY

…comes together joyously like an orchestra of combat.

As you know, JRPGs have long grown their combat systems to be more and more involved, and Arise decided it was time to take its active battles to the next level.  And boy is this a treat.  The smooth combo system, the move sets, the incredible intensity, it all comes together joyously like an orchestra of combat.  As the game continues on, the move set combos grow, and so does the flare for showing this off.  This is peak Tales action combat, if not peak JRPG combat overall, and is sure to also appeal more to people who want more modernization out of this genre.  Moving onto exploration, though, does show that some old habits die hard.  Exploration is a large factor in ensuring you find the good stuff, but this game sticks to the roots of the genre and map sections are all separate.  The bummer is that large portions of them are also hall running linear.  Granted, not every game needs to be open world, but other games have accomplished semi-open worlds, so it’s a bit disappointing to have loading screens behind simple things like doors.  From there, though, things are back on the route of leaving the old days behind.  There is no clunky inventory management: everything is streamlined so that I don’t spend hours just looking at menus; and crafting is simplified to just weapons.  In addition, conversations and getting to know your characters is streamlined as well, and I never feel like I’m getting inundated by conversation, but it’s always there for me like these characters are growing with the game.  And to close out gameplay on another positive note: I never had to grind unless I wanted to for certain materials.  In summary, they’ve eliminated just about anything that’s a slog on your time, and that keeps the game moving at a solid pace all the way through to the end, though I recommend taking your time to get familiar with every aspect of combat as the endgame puts all your skills to the test.


CONTENT

…a properly whole and complete game without filler.

Even though they’ve removed every ounce of the things that slow other JRPGs down, I still watched the credits roll around 43 hours later.  Imagine that: a properly whole and complete game without filler.  But it still has more side quests, plenty of silly ways to customize your characters for your new game plus, fishing, a ranch, and even optional endgame areas for you to really put your skills to the test.  Sure, this game isn’t a 100+ hours type, but that’s mostly because it’s eliminated all of the mundane.  Nothing but praise from me, here.


PRESENTATION

Well, you’re treated to one hell of an adventure…

It’s clear this game was designed for last gen hardware, and that’s most noticeable with some very short draw distances.  But that doesn’t stop this from being a massive step up from literally every JRPG except Final Fantasy (which has always pushed graphics tech).  This is basically the best-looking core anime-style JRPG there is, and it pays off with hugely diverse environments and places to see.  But it doesn’t stop there, cinematic animations are also a massive step up, if not sometimes better than actual anime thanks to being real time generated and not hand-drawn frames.  But wait, there’s more!  Combat “artes” take it another notch up and give you some of that anime fighting flare in glorious 60fps.  These combat artes really do steal the show, as they’re quick, intense, and full of life.  But you don’t care about none of that graphics stuff because you come for the characters and story in a JRPG, right?  Worry not: by shrinking the JRPG main cast to just 6, each one of these characters is developed so deeply and so fully that you’ll intimately understand each one by the end, and that’s also thanks to hundreds of optional skits I recommend watching all of.  And that story?  Well, you’re treated to one hell of an adventure ripe with all the necessary twists and turns you expect from a multi-season anime, and if some of the drama scenes don’t tell you all you need to know, you might just be a lost cause.  I’ll close here on one little minor spoiler to whet your appetite, though: spaceship.


CONCLUSION

Move over Final Fantasy

What this game does is take out all the things that were never fun and spends that time building a grand adventure full of intense combat, diverse locales, beautifully crafted worlds, a complex and intriguing story, incredibly deep character development, and peak animation values.  This is all wrapped up in that neat anime aesthetic lasting at least 40+ hours, and the only creases in the wrapping are its old-fashioned, segmented linearity and its last gen draw distances.  If you have even a passing interest in JRPGs, buy this game.  Move over Final Fantasy, there’s a new top dog in the genre.

I give Tales of Arise

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