Tales of Arise Review (Xbox)
I’ve always enjoyed the Tales franchise, with Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia being two of my favourites in the series. Tales of Arise has quietly slotted itself in between those two games in my top 3 favourite Tales titles of all time! Tales of Arise takes a bit more modern of an approach to the franchise, which was a welcomed edition. But it is the characters and story that shines brightest here.
That isn’t to say the environments are bad, they just aren’t the best. They are standard JRP fair, and while some areas are much more engaging and beautiful than others, the overall feel is just that it is OK. And, for the sake of this franchise, and the focus on characters and stories, I’m ok with it. If more time could be spent on those aspects, while pulling a few resources from the areas I’m running through, that is an A-OK decision to me!
The combat is as close to perfection as I could ask for in a JRPG, and I love that the development team has focused on keeping players playing the game by pushing all your battle rewards and experience as an overlay to your adventure, as opposed to a seperate post-battle screen. It keeps the game flowing, which is a welcome change from most JRPG adventures.
Check out the first hour of the game:
But that combat – outstanding. Defeating monsters has never felt so fun in a Tales game. The use of a variety of artes, finishing moves, and other nifty attacks makes each battle feel outstanding. Even after 40+ hours trudging through the games many areas, the combat never felt old to me. In other games, unless I’m grinding for levels, I often bypass as many enemies as possible to keep the story moving; that wasn’t the case here, as I wanted to engage with these enemies because the combat felt so great.
But great combat is uselss without fantastic array of characters, and once again, Tales of Arise delivers. Of course, watching all the optional comic-book style cut scenes is a necessity to really flesh out each and every character. But doing so was not a chore, or even a checklist to complete in order to obtain various achievements. I WANTED to learn more about these characters, and what made them tick. While all the important character story arcs occurred naturally during the course of the main story, these side skits added so many minor bits of information, that together really flesh out the various characters backstories. And, watching them allowed me to understand a few inside jokes that were scatter throughout the main story itself! We won’t talk about the story in any detail, as it’s easily the best part of Tales of Arise.
Check out early commentary free gameplay:
Characters feel unique, which is important to the games overall feel. Swapping between party members in fights was something I really enjoyed. In past Tales games, and in other JRPG adventures, I generally choose one character and always play with them, unless forced to play with others. Here, however, I swapped between characters quite frequently, enjoying their different strengths and weaknesses, which helped keep fights feeling fresh.
There are a few kinks that Bandai Namco needs to work out, including grammatical errors in some of the subtitle text, and some spoken dialogue that doesn’t match what is printed. Other issues stem from character mouth movements not matching what they are saying, but this could be a result of animations being mapped to Japanese text, as opposed to the localized English. And that brings us to one of Tales other great features – the ability to play the entire game using English subtitles but Japanese voice acting. I’ve said it before, when the option to hear the original Japanese is available, take it. These games were built for that language, and they feel incredibly authentic when played that way. Earlier this year we reviewed Famicom Detective Club on Nintendo Switch, and found the Japanese voice acting to be a much more enjoyable experience. The same can be said here.
Character models are great, environments are just OK, but the story and characters are outstanding, creating one of the best Tales games ever made. Add in quality of life improvements over past games in the franchise – streamlined battles and menus, extensive fast travel system – and you have an experience that no JRPG fan should miss.