After years of receiving stagnation reviews and seeing sales plummet from game to game, Bandai Namco finally decided to give the Tales of series a new direction and used Arise for that purpose. After releasing 8 games in 10 years, the Tales of series began to show signs of wear, especially in its dated visuals and characters that won over or annoyed deeply. Berseria showed signs of improvement and boasted a very interesting quality, but there’s been something hanging over the Tales of series for a long time that didn’t seem to let it go any further, whether it was the visuals, the characters or simply the feel that changed little from game to game. In order to reevaluate and evolve the Tales series, the team received fresh blood and had more time to develop Arise, who arrives more than 5 years after Berseria.
The result more than rewarded this bet on a project with greater ambition. Eager to refresh the series’ image, Bandai Namco recognized the potential to place the Tales name alongside the most praised and even mainstream JRPGs. Conceived as a project of higher quality and with strong technological ambitions, together with the artistic ones, I can happily say that Tales of Arise is the game you’ve been waiting for. If many newcomers are being attracted to this game thanks to the visuals or combat system, veterans can smile because this is the game they wanted and it will give them a lot of encouragement for remaining faithful to the series. Especially because the ambition of the project and the longer time to develop it is noticeable.
Tales of Arise is an extremely polished, balanced and finely tuned game, something you can easily feel in gameplay. Bandai Namco cut a lot of the artificialities that seemed standard in JRPGs to make the experience much more dynamic. He also used Unreal Engine 4 for glorious visuals and worked on a cast that makes the narrative even more appealing. By gaining more time to develop Arise, betting on greater ambition and balancing the team with new blood, Bandai Namco may have found the formula to electrify the Tales of series.
A new era in the Tales series
Despite glowing with new splendor, Arise retains much of the Tales of series identity, but it is precisely this blending of classic elements with fresh streaks that elevates it above what has been done in the last decade, where the series has stagnated. The structure remains very linear and now you don’t even have a world map. The larger scale areas are very similar to what you saw in the demo, but that seems to have been the price to pay for great visuals, incredible fluidity of movement, exhilarating battles, and yet an easy-to-follow and interesting-to-follow story supported by good characters. It is truly a new era for Tales of. There is a before and after Arise.
Arise is basically a story about the pursuit of freedom, in which the enslaved Dahnans try to free their planet from the oppression of the Renans. It all starts with Alphen, a memoryless slave who works in the mines on Legalia, one of the five regions of the planet Dhana, where in his sky is the planet Rena. However, when one day he comes across Shionne, a Renan pursued by Renans, his life changes completely and he finds himself in the midst of rebellion against the five Renan Lords. Discovering Shionne’s intentions, Alphen’s memories and why the entire planet Dhana is being enslaved by the Renans – more technologically advanced – are constant forces that make you enjoy playing more, advancing in linear dungeons, and facing bosses to know more about the narrative.
Tales of Arise has removed many of the clichés from previous games and doesn’t bet on the bad habits that seem to haunt JRPGs of yesteryear. There are no child characters or goofy themes here, all characters have style and substance. In one way or another, they all suffered horrors from enslavement, and even Shionne, a Renan in the midst of a group of Dahnans rebels, has her own purposes against her own people. They are characters that make it a pleasure to discover and a plot that unfolds at a satisfying pace.
The quality of the characters and the narrative, together with the revamped visuals and electrifying combat system, already make the game soar above the overwhelming majority of what came before, but it’s the epic tone of all its quadrants at work. in unison that really impresses. The visuals are amazing, and when battles reach an almost anime quality, it’s impossible not to be impressed – especially in boss fights, with various specials taking place and the game engine allowing for spectacular cinematics.
However, I would say that it’s how refined you are that will really leave you feeling overwhelmed after hours and hours of gameplay. In the demo, you easily understood one of the main indicators of the team’s philosophy: boosting the pace and consequent pleasure you get from the game to the extreme. When the battle ends, you don’t have the usual victory pose pause and EXP gain, you leave that screen right away and the EXP is dynamically and unobtrusively revealed on the left side of the screen. These are examples of a refreshing new attitude that further solidify the enjoyment of this Arise. There aren’t the usual artificial or artificial barriers to progress that you’ll have to endure to prolong your longevity. Fast trips become available very early and, together with very fast loadings, make the task of completing side missions very fast.
A frantic combat system you can’t get enough of
If you’ve played the Arise demo, you know what awaits you here: an electrifying combat system that almost turns it into a fighting game with its combo hits and combos. Arise maintains the basic principles of the Linear Motion Battle System, but bets on greater dynamism and frantic switching between the controller buttons to make everything more exciting. There’s a strong focus on perfect dodges for buffs and fast attacks, elements that strongly profile this combat system, but I’d say it’s mechanics like Boost Strike and Combos that really form the most striking facet of these never-tiring combats.
During the 45+ hours it took to finish it, I didn’t get tired of the combat system and, although the grind was occasionally time-consuming, it was always fun to defeat more and more enemies. This is because you are encouraged to switch between normal attacks and special moves (it is also recommended not to repeat special attacks, so to speak, hitting the same button). If you manage to stun the opponent (Break state), an icon will appear in front of him and with your attacks you can enable the Boost Strike to be activated. These are attacks in which two characters join forces and trigger incredible moves, worthy of the best anime. These are incredibly explosive moments and they inject a lot of electricity into the experience. When activating Boost Strike, the damage doesn’t only apply to one opponent, but to everyone around and potentially you can use the strategy of breaking a certain target, reaching Boost Strike and dealing huge area damage to claim much or all the life of a stronger foe.
Tales of Arise really gave me the feeling of playing a Tales, but at the same time it manages to become something new and exciting. It is one of the greatest assets achieved by the development team. I never tired of fighting to experience the effect of new abilities, discovering a better chain of abilities to make the characters’ movements more fluid and saving on wasted gestures to maximize the possibilities of achieving the devastating Boost Strike. Tales of Arise can be passionate.
The power of the current generation, excellent graphics and a wonderful soundtrack
Tales of Arise was played on PlayStation 5, where loadings are incredibly fast (3-5 seconds to go from menu to gameplay, for example) and 60fps performance mode runs with incredible quality. Even using various special abilities with the four team members on screen and various enemies, the game doesn’t stop and remains deliciously fluid, like a kind of interactive anime. The visuals in performance mode suffer from some pop-in, but overall we have a game with a highly appealing visual quality that is far, far above what has been done previously in the series.
Part of the effort to energize the Tales of series and increase its worldwide popularity among the masses lies in the transition to the Unreal Engine and graphics far above the dated look of Berseria or Zestiria, which together with the artistic design and locations you travel through, results in a wonderful adventure across a world in which you want to stay. A big compliment also to Motoi Sakuraba, who has signed yet another stunning soundtrack and demonstrates that Bandai Namco did very well in keeping this bet.
A memorable JRPG
With Arise, Bandai Namco sees the Tales of series finally conquering the right to side with heavyweights like Dragon Quest 11 or Final Fantasy 7 Remake, JRPGs capable of conquering the masses. It’s an incredibly refined, polished and balanced game, with a fun fighting system, interesting cast and themes, beautiful places to meet, and eye-popping visuals that combine technology and artistic direction with great ability. Its linearity may bother some, but given the level of polish and how balanced all the elements of the experience are, it didn’t bother at all to go through areas of more restricted movement to enjoy such overall quality.