Test – Tales of Arise: the JRPG of excellence

After several years of waiting, the “Tales of” series returns with a brand new title that shakes up the great traditions of the license. This new episode has the heavy task of revitalizing a 25-year-old saga.

Born in 1995, the “Tales of” series is a Japanese Action-RPG saga from Bandai Namco that has made a lot of talk since its first episode on Super Famicom. Indeed, if the first games of the license remained exclusive to the land of the rising sun, it will make a breakthrough in the West with the famous Tales of Symphonia on Gamecube. Since then, the majority of games are available from us, despite fluctuating success. The saga is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the arrival of a brand new episode several years after the last game, the series having however accustomed us to a very sustained rate of release. Several years of development which proved necessary to put together the episode which wants to refresh the saga.

You don’t need to know anything before embarking on a new Tales of. Much like Final Fantasy, the episodes are generally disconnected from each other, sharing only certain traits and a universe of Heroic fantasy. Arise takes place in a world comprising two planets named Rena and Dahna. Following a war between the two peoples, the Renians invade and enslave the Dahnians thanks to their technological superiority.

300 years later, we play a young man named Alphen. The latter has amnesia, insensitive to pain, and his face is covered with an iron mask. Alphen is a slave on Dahna, forced to serve the local lord until he meets a young Renienne woman named Shionne. Their collaboration will lead them to join the resistance and embark on a quest across different regions of the planet to free Dahna and stop the Renian lords. During their adventure, the two protagonists will meet other fighters who will join the group, thus forming a small team of six united characters.

The game offers very nice panoramas.

The story Tales of Arise tells is very effective and fairly straightforward to follow. We follow a conflict that is not completely Manichean, we feel a certain maturity in the writing. The title still has a more complex universe and well-developed characters whose evolution we also feel. These aspects are mostly disseminated in the optional dialogues. Whether it’s the skits, side quests or more, Arise is filled with optional scenes that will strengthen our understanding of the world and the attachment we feel to our group of main characters. This scenario is carried by a very good soundtrack signed Motoi Sakuraba, the recurring composer of the series, but also the one to whom we owe the music of the Dark Souls games and that we have already heard this year on the melodies of Mario Golf: Super Rush.

Tales of Arise also shines with its nervous and comprehensive gameplay. Coming into contact with an enemy will start a fight in an arena where we control one of the four active characters. Like an action game, the gameplay takes place in real time and offers ground and air attacks, as well as a dodge that allows you to counterattack if used at the right time. What makes the salt of this combat system is all that there is around, and in particular the use of Artes. Artes are abilities that characters learn in battle and that can be chained together to achieve devastating combos. It is therefore up to you to try different combinations to find the chains that work best, while taking into account the different properties of these abilities (which can sometimes send enemies in the air for example) as well as your limit. . Indeed, the Artes cannot be used indefinitely since we have an “Artes gauge” which requires to wait a little once it is exhausted. This will evolve during the adventure, allowing you to make even longer sequences.

Chain combos is not difficult but requires some knowledge of our character’s Artes.

Each of the six main characters are playable and have their own unique Artes and abilities, which grants them small roles and advantages over certain enemies. Shionne and his rifle will be particularly effective against flying creatures, Law and his destructive punches will allow to break the defenses of armored opponents, while Rinwell will be able to interrupt the spells of enemies to seize them … It is also possible to trigger tandem actions, very powerful and awesome attacks to watch. Providing support during combat is a process that has been reviewed for this episode. The characters do not have magic points but the whole team has a quantity of “Healing Points” in which we will go to heal the members of the team or to perform certain actions outside of combat. These points are recharged by spending the night near campfires scattered around the world or by sleeping in an inn.

This may be a lot to grasp, especially if we want to master each of the playable characters, but the long life of this adventure allows us to gradually acclimatize to everything that this combat system offers. It does take some time to unlock all these possibilities and the clashes are less exciting during the first hours. But once a good part of the team has joined you, there is no holding back. However, we regret the absence of cooperative multiplayer during combat, something quite common in the series.

Tales of Arise is still a very pleasant title to browse, especially thanks to its sustained pace. The scenario progresses rather quickly and our progress is not interrupted by thousands of side quests without interest. The adventure is actually very linear, despite a few large areas to explore. There is also a whole bunch of recurring activities in the series such as cooking which allows you to grant yourself temporary benefits, benefits that change depending on the character who is going to cook. The series’ title system is undergoing a hell of a change as it becomes small skill trees for each character.

The duo attacks are staged by impressive cutscenes.

In an effort to appeal to a wider audience than ever before in the series, Tales of Arise does everything to be accessible. The game shows great practicality in its menus and in its approach to crossing the world. Previous episodes already offered several settings to assist the player during battles, or even to give total control to an artificial intelligence, and these are back in Arise. The title also offers several difficulty modes including a “story” mode that never poses a problem for the person holding the controller.

But this accessibility, we also feel it in the artistic direction of Tales of Arise which contrasts radically with the style of previous games. If it remains very inspired, the title seems to move away from its very “animated Japanese” dressing to offer something a little less niche and more detailed. We still keep cell-shading and a very colorful universe, but a certain touch of realism is added. The mixture works and is also felt in its decorations. These seem to be covered with a filter giving a rendering close to watercolor paintings.

The game is a real visual success. While it may not be up to par with many next-gen games, the artistic rendering and technical work done is above what is done in the genre (with the exception of some big productions like Square Enix JRPGs). The title marks a good evolution since the last Tales of which had a sacred technical delay, rather resembling Playstation 3 games. Arise is also convincing in its performance. Next-gen consoles have no trouble running the game at 60 frames per second. This is unfortunately not the case with Playstation 4 and Xbox One whose performance varies. The action of the fights remains very fluid all the same but it is a little less constant outside. Unfortunately, all versions of the game suffer from fairly frequent clipping.

The skits don’t look as good as the rest of the game.

Tales of Arise also has a very nice realization, albeit a roller coaster, with many dynamic and well animated cutscenes, very impressive attacks in combat and even sometimes 2D animation sequences. However, the title does not escape flatter scenes but also a total change of staging during the traditional “sketches”, optional dialogues that arise throughout the adventure. Real heart of the development of the relationship of the members of the team, these scenes are presented in sort of boxes of comics where the 3D models of the characters are little, if at all, animated. The result is passable, and the scenes themselves often interesting, but the presentation clashes a bit with the rest. Much of the game is dubbed in English or Japanese, with texts in French.

Bandai Namco has managed to make a Tales of familiar to fans and appealing to newcomers. The work on technique as well as the many changes made to the series open this Tales of Arise to a whole new audience. These efforts are already bearing fruit since the title has sold more than a million copies in less than a week of marketing, an impressive figure for the series. For many players, this Tales of Arise will perhaps be their first contact with the license, a first contact with many qualities.

Conclusion

For the 25th anniversary of the “Tales of” series, Bandai Namco delivers a brand new episode that shakes up the codes of the franchise. Tales of Arise takes place in a universe where the inhabitants of two planets, Rena and Dahna, have fought a war. 300 years later, the Dahnians are enslaved by the Renians. We then play a young Dahnian man named Alphen. Amnesiac and unresponsive to pain, he is forced to work for the local Lord Renien. His meeting with Shionne, a mysterious Renienne wanting to overthrow the lords, will change his fate. Tales of Arise is a very talkative RPG but with a controlled storyline and pace, accompanied by an epic soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba. The combat system is also a success. Entirely in real time, it offers a nervous action game with many possibilities. The use of Arts, skills with different properties that can be chained together, is essential for making combos. With no less than six playable characters each with different strengths, the system is complete and deep. There are many activities available outside of combat such as side quests, cooking or fishing, but much of our time is spent exploring outdoor environments and dungeons. Tales of Arise remains a linear adventure and offers many practical tools to navigate. The game goes to great lengths to be accessible. Despite not always perfect technique, the game is also a real visual success. So no reason to miss this little gem.

Tales of Arise

Tales of Arise

The +:

  • A mastered script and writing
  • The dynamic and deep combat system
  • A real visual success
  • A very good epic soundtrack
  • More accessible and practical than other RPGs

The – :

  • The combat system takes a few hours to reveal its full potential
  • Clipping problems, regardless of the console / PC
  • Uneven presentation


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