I just beat Tales of Arise this month, and it is the first Tales game I’ve beaten since the original Tales of Destiny when it was released on the Sony PlayStation way back in 1998. Sure I’ve played others—I own quite a few of them—but I never really played all the way through. While Arise served as a great reintroduction to the series, a few things held it back from being truly exceptional in my book.
Let’s start with the good. Overall, the visuals were terrific. It looked like you were watching a fully rendered anime movie. So much so that I don’t know why they wasted their time making the few traditional anime cut scenes they sprinkled throughout the game. Any cinematic in the game engine was way better, in my opinion. The gameplay was also great, and the battles were fun and dynamic. Building combos, switching between characters mid-battle, and the arte system allowed you to customize everything to suit how you wanted to play.
These things were all minor inconveniences, though nothing that on their own could ruin a game. A Tales mainstay at this point is that you can only carry 15 of any healing items. Annoying because so many other in-game items allowed you to carry way more. It seemed arbitrary to limit only healing items to 15.
Money, or in the Tales universe, gald, was also pretty hard to come by. You didn’t earn any from battles; instead, you would occasionally come across chests with money. Otherwise, you had to sell crafting materials that you did get from battles—crafting materials that you sometimes needed to make new weapons.
In Tales of Arise, the party had a shared pool of Cure Points instead of each character having their own magic points or skill points. CP was only used for curative magic, but weirdly also was necessary for field actions like breaking boulders or cutting down thorn walls. Having it shared across these actions meant you were constantly running out. You’d always be fast traveling back to a campsite or inn to rest. And as noted above, the items to restore CP in the field were limited to 15 and were very expensive. So this only served to emphasize the other two issues.
The story was interesting, but the way it was presented is what I didn’t like. The major plot points were only revealed in the last few hours of a game that took me nearly 50 to complete. And the way they did that was with literal tons of dialogue. It was probably about 35 hours of gameplay with a very minimal story, then a false ending, and then another 12 or so hours of mostly dialogue. All finished up with maybe three more hours of gameplay before the actual conclusion. It would have been much better if some of the deeper story elements were revealed earlier on, with time for the characters to come to terms with them. Instead, the more compelling parts of the story felt rushed even though the dialogue droned on and on. I nearly gave up after the false ending, as reading the dialogue felt like a chore. One that I wasn’t sure was going to pay off at all. The amount of dialogue and exposition reminded me a lot of Xenogears in a way. I actually remember falling asleep a few times while reading all the text in that game when I was a kid.
Tales of Arise was a good game, though not a great one. I enjoyed it and kept coming back to it, so that says something. I would have loved to see some of the minor annoyances worked out, though. It is definitely worth a playthrough if you’re a fan of the series or just a fan of JRPGs in general. If nothing else, it has made me want to dive into the Tales back catalog and play some of the ones I have missed over the years.
Do you have a favorite Tales game? Let me know with a comment. I’ve been thinking of starting back up with Tales of Symphonia on GameCube.