Tales of Arise Review: Another Step into the Future of JRPGs
RRP $ 60.00
“Tales of Arise is a big step towards the development of the JRPG and a must for fans of the genre.”
Funny twists of the genre
So far, 2021 has been a great year for the Japanese RPG genre, and Tales of Arise only adds to a strong lineup. When I played a demo of it earlier this year, I wanted to learn more about the fight, the characters, and the story. The finished product keeps the promise of the game and a lot more.
Tales of Arise is the latest in Bandai Namco’s long-running JRPG franchise known as the “Tales of” franchise. However, Arise is a unique turning point, adopting an entirely new style of fighting and seemingly benefiting from a bigger budget (when it comes to the graphics). This fresh feeling was palpable throughout my playthrough and reminded me of classic blockbuster JRPGs from earlier days. While the story isn’t all that groundbreaking, the characters, gameplay, graphics, and themes of race and freedom have put me on a par with the game’s standout characters throughout my adventure.
This is one of those JRPGs that entertains from start to finish, and a title no fan of the genre wants to skip.
Tales of Arise puts players in control of the mysterious Iron Mask, later called Alphen, a member of the Dahnan race who wear an unusual mask on their head and lack pain receptors. He and the rest of his race are enslaved by the technologically advanced Renans, or “Bright Eyes,” as the Dahnan affectionately call them. These Renans are ruled by five lords from five regions, each of whom participates in a long-term game to find out who will become the most powerful lord of the lords. Alphen, a group of Dahnan rebels, and Shionne, their cryptic new ally Renan, team up to defeat these rulers.
Shionne and Alphen become a powerful duo and embark on an adventure that spans all five regions of the world to defeat the Lords one by one. In usual JRPG fashion, the two encounter more party members, the numbers growing as they comb the regions.
The party has always been one of the main draws of Tales of Games, as the series features “sketches”. These are little comic-style cutscenes in which the characters interact with each other in conversations that reveal their quirks. The Tales of Arise party members are so entertaining that I checked out every one of these chats I could.
The history of these races and the environments they share contribute to the spectacular world building in Tales of Arise.
As with other JRPGs, the game delves into political themes. Alphen questions what true freedom really is and wonders what his future will be when he accomplishes his mission to free his enslaved brothers and sisters. These issues, as well as the racial relations between the members of the Dahnan party and the only Renan in the group, really caught my eye because they are so well written. As a black player, the topics are very popular with me. I loved seeing Alphen’s range of emotions expressed in the face of his oppressors. For example, with some discomfort he approaches a partner who shares the same blood with his oppressors, but is also ready to show them forgiveness. He’s a protagonist that I can stand behind.
The history of these races and the world they share contributes to the spectacular world building in Tales of Arise. I enjoyed how much the history of this world is a driving force as the adventure progresses. Despite these great parts, I still found the game a bit generic in terms of the storyline. It follows the usual beats that a lot of JRPGs make and instead is carried by great characters and gameplay. The story is still fun, it just offers nothing too groundbreaking aside from its strong thematic undertones.
One step beyond Final Fantasy
The Tales of series has always been known for its fights. Players are constantly looking for new combos and techniques to use in the game, and I’m here to say that Tales of Arise won’t disappoint, whether you’re a casual gamer or a die-hard gamer like me.
The new Linear Motion Battle System is more or less what we got in the Final Fantasy 7 Remake with additional bells and whistles. Combos are even more important in this system as they give players a few more gadgets to play around with. For example, there are healing points, or CP, which limit how many healing spells players can use before resting in an inn or campsite, or before using an item to refill them.
The battles are close to FF7R’s hack-and-slash style, featuring launchers, juggling, and more classic stories of the staples fans will love to see again. Artes, i.e. spells and special attacks, also reappear in Tales of Arise with an additional rule. The more often they are used in a combination, the less effective they are. That, along with their need to regenerate after spending Artes Gauge (AG) points to use them, adds an extra strategy to the fight, which is a welcome challenge.
There are some super attacks that will be unlocked as the game progresses. including team attacks that can be used to inflict a ton of damage on an enemy and everyone around them once players reach a certain combo threshold. Boost attacks, which players can use as soon as a character’s boost meter fills up, can counter enemy shields and spells directly. You can also extend combos with additional damage and fill up the Artes gauge. And there are solo revenge super attacks that can be unleashed once a character takes a certain amount of damage without being knocked out.
This fight is so addicting that the usual RPG grind is not an issue. During my grind sessions, I experimented with how deep the combo system could go. During combat, players can perform character swap combos and fierce laser cannon juggling, use the menu to change their move list, or immediately launch an attack in the middle of the combo. I love the variety of options available. And yes, like the older Tales of Games, players can get their allies to do nothing that gives them full control over the group’s actions.
The visuals bring it all together
If the weighty story and complex battles don’t attract casual gamers, Tales of Arise’s graphics will. The game is absolutely great, to the point where it’s one of the first games in a long time that makes me think it’s absolutely worth playing on a next-gen console (should you afford one or find one). I’ve played on a PlayStation so I can definitely say that with both generations you will still get the most of it.
On my travels through this fantasy world, I got lost in the surroundings or even looked a little at the character models after changing their outfits. When you get to the water-filled caves and grasslands in particular, you’ll see exactly what I mean. It’s a game that looks like a beautiful painting at times.
All of these visuals are complemented by an amazingly orchestrated soundtrack that builds on every moment, whether the party is storming a castle to take on the next lord or taking a breather by the campfire.
Tales of Arise is a game I would recommend to anyone looking for the “future” of the JRPG genre. This game could easily be Bandai Namco’s Final Fantasy 7. It feels like it’s tailor-made for the era and pushes the boundaries of RPGs thanks to complex battles, weighty stories, and beautiful graphics.
How long it will take?
Tales of Arise takes about 60 hours, depending on how much a completer and combat addict you are. I’m both, so there is a good meaty game for you here.
Is there an alternative?
Scarlet Nexus and Final Fantasy 7 Remake are powerful action RPGs for anyone looking for alternatives. Both games feature similar solid battles, but stronger stories.
Should you buy it?
Yes sir. If you are looking for another JRPG to add to your collection, or if you are curious about the series and need an entry point, it is highly recommended that you jump in.