There are very few JRPGs that have a long-lasting history and are still prominent. The most obvious and well-known is final fantasy, but there is one just as deserving and that is the Tales Of franchise. And Last year they released their latest entry with Tales of Arise. Touting a story of rebellion does the Tales game actually Arise to the Challenge, or does it falter when it matters. Here is my full Tales or Arise review, as I break down the game for you! And honestly, there are many things I can’t wait to talk about.
SPOILER WARNING AHEAD: Please if you have not had a chance to play this game for yourself, you absolutely need to!
The story absolutely starts out with one of the hardest and darkest openings to swallow. As we first are made aware of the beauty of Dahna. How the people looked at is twin planet Rena as the domain of the gods. However, the Renans’ using Advanced Technology and beasts, completely took control and enslaved the planet without any resistance. All of this was 300 years before the game starts.
Upon enslaving the Dahnan People, the Renans’ split their continent up into five realms to be overseen by Lords. We are introduced to the land of Calaglia, the realm of fire, as we see Renan soldiers whipping and torturing Dahnans. Where the only true escape from the endless oppression is their death.
It is here where we meet our hero, Iron Mask. A man with no memories, no name, and no sense of pain. He protects a young boy from being beaten taking his place instead. This only goes to show the type of lead Character players will get to know. Shortly after, he is treated by Doc. After speaking with him briefly he is set to work to load a train with supplies. Upon assisting, he accidentally falls into an ambush by a rebel group, The Crimson Crows; and a Renan Girl on the run from Renan soldiers, Shionne.
The First Lord:
Upon joining the Crimson Crows to overthrow the lord of Calaglia, Shionne reveals she is wanted as she stole his treasure, The Fire Master Core. This core is able to contain and harness the power of the Astral energy stored inside. Able to be wielded as a weapon known as the Blazing Sword. However, the only person who can use it is Iron Mask, due to his lack of pain.
Here, they build an unlikely alliance, as Shionne wants to overthrow all the Renan Lords as well. However, it seems to be for personal and secretive reasons. But the pair fight their way to the castle of the Lord of the land of fire, alongside the Crimson Crows. Here, they fight Balseph, the Tyrant who oversees Calaglia. After a heart-pounding fight, they beat Balesph who, with the aid of a fire avatar, was burned to ashes and absorbed into the Blazing Sword. Only for Iron Mask to use the power to destroy the wall that enclosed Calaglia from the other regions.
It is at this moment that our hero remembers his name due to his mask being partially destroyed. His name was Alphen, and his journey to save Dahna had officially begun.
Not what it Seems:
Now a tale of an uprising and breaking the chains of slavery and oppression is a tale as old as time. And if not done well can come off as either unappealing or too pushy in its messaging. But Tales of Arise is done in such a way that it is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
I cannot count the number of times that I cried because of gut-wrenching moments and was left in shock. And other times, where I felt like I was truly on this journey to free the world of Dahna, alongside Alphen. But it isn’t just his story. But the story of his group. An unlikely cast of characters brought together to make a change in the world.
But what made it feel even better, was that you felt these characters grow. Their relationships deepen and truly come to understand one another. We have Shionne, a Renan outcast cursed with dangerous thorns; and Dohalim, a former Lord and noble of a respected Renan House. Then you have Rinwell, a young Dahnan mage, whose family has hidden from persecution for hundreds of years ago. Law, a former Lord’s spy and son of the leader of the Crimson Crows. And Lastly Kisara, a Dahnan Guard Captain and Dohalim’s former bodyguard.
The diversity is insane!
These characters all came from vast backgrounds and each one has a skewed view of the world. They continually butt heads trying to change their minds and understand one another. And it is this actual conflict between the team, that gradually grows into a friendship and makes it feel authentic.
But most notably for once, we have a solid romance that actually is fully realized. The feelings between Shionne and Alphen actually get a conclusion that is satisfactory, and not bittersweet or left unconfirmed. And it’s this growth from polar opposites thrust into this journey by chance, to growing into determined and dependant comrades, into caring and loving partners.
The story hits on so many notes and the pacing throughout is just so well done that there was very little I found wrong with it. It was emotional and heavy, but also comedic thanks to the skits between characters. The interactions with the world felt real and the constant challenging of perceptions and views blurred the lines of right and wrong; it was a deeply thought-provoking sense of self-actualization.
Now the sound quality in the game has to be some of the cleanest audio I’ve heard in awhile. From the very soothing and well-done OST and background music; to the very sounds of combat and the VA work. All of it is pure crisp and clean audio.
Let’s start with the audio first, as this is what players will be primarily hearing. And as with most JRPGs players can choose between English and Japanese dubbing. I played the game in Japanese and I cannot tell you how well done the VA work is! Honestly, the voices of every character match each character’s personality so well. You can hear the energy put into every line and the pure emotion in every word.
Each character in the main cast had a moment where they broke both emotionally and mentally and just hearing the tears and sobs of pain, to screams of pure rage and anger tore at me. I truly was feeling what they felt simply because of how good it sounded. With veteran voice talent from anime such as Toradora, Konosuba, Girls und Panzer, Jojo’s bizarre adventures, Demon Slayer, and more; it is easy to see why the voice work in Arise is so impactful.
Now I cannot gush enough about the OST enough. And it all starts with the Tales Of Arise opening song. The first time you play the game you are hit with one of the best openings with “Hibana” by J-rock group Kankaku Pierrot. They are known for their work on the first opening song for Black Clover! And you can feel similar stylings from the track! It’s such an uplifting and hard-hitting song to set a tone for the story!
And it works so well, and this is all set to a video animated by Ufotable, the team behind Demon Slayer, and you have pure magic! Plus this is just the opening song, which does not account for the background music for fights, and how each region has a distinct sound. I mean this as every region of the game has its own background matching its element and presentation. It all adds to the sheer beauty of the game.
Not to mention that after players hit a certain point in the game, the story changes in a good way. And they will be met with a second opening song that will replace “Hibana.” After the first half of the game players will see that there is a new opening song with “Blue Moon/Hello, Again.” And the beauty of this song is it’s more mellow and emotional and sets a different tone for the second half of the game.
Without a doubt, the team brought in a level of work to completely blow away everything. The audio absolutely hits on all parts. The sound work is beyond exceptional. There was so much care given from the music for each region and boss fights, to the powerful openings and cinematics. The sound is simply beautiful.
Now for a JRPG, the visuals are always a key factor, so how does Tales of Arise look. To be honest it looks stunning. It very much captures that very heavy cell-shaded anime style that the Tales Of games, and really Bandai games, are known for. But it isn’t just the fact that the art style is just very anime, but it is the designs themselves of each character. Also, the fact that Ufotable not only animated the openings. But, they also animated the in-game cutscenes that were traditional animation and not 3D rendered models.
Each character has a style that screams personality and looks. From Alphen’s distinct half mask, with his Sincleaver hero’s armor with is dark black color and long flowing tattered cape. Alphen’s look provides the sense of a hero almost out of a fairytale, finally, coming true. Now, Shionne’s Noble battle dress armor, fashioned in a way that’s not only noble In look; but also features distance armor pieces over her chest, shoulders, and feet. It also features a small tiara in her hair, with a pulled-back ponytail and braid. This gives her a sense of grace and elegance while maintaining that battle-ready look.
And that’s not even mentioning the rest of the cast, from laws martial artist style look; with sleeveless open side vest and a very distinct large iron wolf’s head on his shoulder. To Rinwell’s very large and oversized mages robes, and extra-large hood to fit her baby owl and traveling companion, Hootle.
Then you have Kisara’s very well-defined Guardsmen armor, to suit her well-defined and toned body. Not to mention her absolutely tower of a shield. And lastly, you have Dohalim a Lord whose very design is regal. From the distinct Jewelry, he wears on his hands and neck; to his very Egyptian styled garb adorned with his family’s hawk crest almost feeling like a Pharoah.
Each character’s design is so thoughtfully crafted, to much not just their personality, but also their style of play. And I mean that in the way that each character fights that you can see that there was so much care put into this cast.
Now the world is where the game truly shines. As previously mentioned previously, Dahna has several realms that were separated and become very distinct thanks to the Renan subjugation. And the realms have become home to very distinct astral energy and elements.
You have Calaglia, the realm of fire, a barren desert and wasteland of a realm. With fire never-ending and cliffs as far as one can see. With an intimidating castle at its center, truly looks like a hellscape. From there you have the ever frozen snowy plains of Cyslodia. A land of ever darkness, thanks to the light being stolen away and hidden by clouds.
Then, you have the ever wonderful Land of Green, Elde Menacia. This is home to the unique Capital of Viscint, where there is actual co-existence between Renans and Dahnans. A veritable bounty land of vegetation and mountains. From here players are met with the scarred lands of wind, Mahag Saar. The Lands are torn up by constant wind storms as well as a violent revolution.
And lastly, we have the marshlands and waterfalls of Pelegion. The land of water, is run by a Madman whose castle is as grand as his ego and hubris. Seriously the world is simply so vast and varied in its looks it can be pretty mind-boggling. And this is just on Dahna, not counting the areas in space. That’s right, you go to freaking SPACE! The world offers such beauty it is simply breathtaking.
All things come at a cost:
However, there are some major drawbacks with the art and visuals, while minor is notable. Now the Game offers next-gen enhancements, namely either a 4K mode or framerate mode. With frame rate prioritizing 60 fps, and graphics focusing on 4K resolution. Now the 4K resolution is beautiful for sure, but at less than 60 fps is not ideal; especially in an Action RPG where timing for special dodges needs certain timing. Sure it can be done but honestly, with Arise’s art style it is better to prioritize frame rate.
The stuttering or 30 fps becomes quite noticeable on graphics mode. And honestly, the smooth look in 60fps doesn’t diminish the beauty. I feel the game could’ve easily pushed for 4K60 on next-gen consoles. However, with the game being cross gen I feel they may have toned down certain particle effects or more to make it easily scalable.
Along with the fidelity modes, I have a complaint about the enemy variety. While the monsters are cool the first time you encounter them. You’re going to see them, a lot. And I mean that the enemy you fight at the beginning, such as armadillos, will appear later in the game. Just at a higher level, a new element, and maybe a trick or two. And this will be in all regions, there were a few surprises in the late/post-game content. But not much to surprise later. Even some early-level bosses, get field enemy versions. And while it’s understandable to reuse assets and change the visual. It makes those early bosses you were surprised about early feel, not as cool later.
Tales of Arise breaks its traditional roots in turn base combat as it embraces its more modern subgenre cousin as an Action RPG. But that doesn’t diminish in any way. Not quite contrary Arise truly feels like a great iteration and evolution, as more turn-based combat style games embrace a more modern action approach.
Now the world is a very large and expansive open world to a degree. And by that I mean you can freely run around the map, jump, and can reach hidden areas; heck as you add new party members, everyone has a skill that can be used in the overworld to open new areas.
But like most games, each area is a set met with boundaries. The edge of the map on your minimap is the edge. You can’t jump off it to your Doom, ala Dark Souls. Nor can you climb up every piece of geometry you see, ala Skyrim. But that’s not to say that the maps and areas themselves are not big. They are rather large. And with plenty of Treasure, and sometimes ambush fights, waiting. You’d be surprised you find just looking around.
Along with being able to freely run around a vast map, is that every enemy you see, you can fight. Even if you’re under-leveled and stubborn, like me. But the great thing is that the enemies you see are the actual enemies you will fight. So having trouble with a group. Try separating them by getting some to follow you and attacking away from the rest.
Above all the combat feels fluid, it feels responsive. But above all else, it looks stylish and flashy. All the moves you use and unlock just look bombastic and colorful. Not to mention each character has a Super move, called Mystic Artes, which they will occasionally use; when the right conditions are met in combat. On top of this, if you attack an enemy enough and fill their “break gauge” you will get the chance to use a Boost strike. These Are super finishers that two party members will perform together. And all 6 characters have a different one with each member, so it’s awesome to see the combos. plus these will instantly defeat an enemy hit by it.
Now in combat you have different skills to use, some martial or arcane being magic. And some require AG or action gauge points, which regenerate in combat, when not using other skills that use AG. And then you have actually spells that require a cast time and AG; as well as CP or cure points. CP acts as mana in the game, however, it is a universal shared pool. Which players will increase over time as they level up. Or defeat special unique Field boss monsters. These enemies will drop a special item that increases your CP. Along with the fact that CP is needed to perform certain world actions with the party’s world actions.
With that being said one of my biggest complaints with combat is locking on. While you can technically lock onto an enemy when using your basic attack. The game will tend to attack the nearest enemy. So if you at times push the enemy away and try to attack them to continue your combo; another enemy gets too close to you, then you will end up attacking them instead. It can be frustrating, especially in large fights where you wanna focus on the biggest threat.
When you first start, you control Alphen whose playstyle is rather standard. A traditional melee fighter boasting fast attacks and aerial strikes. He is a solid all-around character that will be the primary most players use. But besides using his base sword he also has access to the blazing sword. However, the unique thing is you can actually use each character. And they all have a very unique and diverse playstyle.
Shionne is a unique dedicated healer, with strong single and multi-heal spells and a revive. But that isn’t all she does. Her playstyle utilizes a gun, special bombs, and ammo; and with her special, she is able to drop aerial enemies. Her control over the elements and control is great for those wanting some long-distance play.
Law is a glass cannon, boasting high attack and low defense. He is focused heavily as a breaker, being able to destroy enemies’ defenses and shields he can help weaken enemies for the rest of the team. While also getting stronger and faster as he lands more hits uninterrupted. He is a fun and hard melee fighter to use.
Rinwell is the mage of the group. Focused purely on spell casting she is able to use Astral Artes of all affinities, except dark (for story reasons.) For those who want to let the AI be up in melee range and focus on spellcasting, she is a great choice. With the ability to also charge and boost spells, as well as steal enemy spells, her elemental output is devastating!
Dohalim, like Law, is another glass cannon melee character. Utilizing his staff he is able to nimbly move across the battlefield. However, he is able to extend his staff to be able to sweep across and hit multiple enemies. As well as increasing his critical damage when dodging at the last second. And with the ability to bind those fast-moving enemies, he is great for controlling the field and playing as a backup healer.
Lastly, Kisara is the team tank. With her trusty tower shield, she is great at being a sturdy defense. With being able to block as well attacks instead of dodging; as well as do increased damage with her arts while guarding. Her self-sustainment and damage with her mace are truly a great combo. Along with being able to stop any charging or stampeding enemies dead in their tracks with her shield boost. For those who like to be a tank for the team, she is your girl.
Skills in the game are rather time-consuming but interesting, as it acts almost like a job board, but based around titles. Unlocking new monikers for each character after a certain achievement, quest, or performance is completed. Sometimes these lead to new skits and more on the character and add a flavor to their personality, but its main focus is to provide more stats. This can be boosted to attack, defense, elemental, even their HP. More often than not it will be for the player, to increase the recharge rate of abilities; or for getting boosts when performing perfect dodges. Sometimes it even unlocks a One-time death defiance or new combat skills altogether. The title system is cool in the fact it gives more depth to the character. But, tying skills to these trees can be both time-consuming, and make it difficult as some may miss some requirements.
Along with combat, there is plenty of side content that adds to the overall game. As with any RPG crafting is the main point, and upgrading weapons and armor is key. So fighting enemies and grinding is the name of the game, but it is so cool to see your weapon transform as you continually upgrade it. And even better when it actually reflects in the cutscenes and you see your weapons and outfits on the cast.
But not only is there weapon crafting but a very deep Equipment system where you are able to add a special accessory. At first, you can craft premade one of increasing rarity and skills. But later when you are able to skill transfer, it gives a whole new level of Min/Maxing for fans.
As with any RPG game, there are side quests aplenty, but they tend to be your typical fair of quests. Monsters threatening an area, slay them all. Or I need these items can you bring me so many. While the quests themselves can be average it’s the character interactions among the cast and NPCs that make them memorable. There is one, where you have to find a Renan soldier undercover in another realm sent to attack by his lord. However, he doesn’t want to be there nor return due to his Lord’s orders. Come to find out he has been dating a Dahnan woman and wishes to only be by her side. Dohalim ever the romantic, tells him, he is the new Sovereign and relieves him of his duties to be with his beloved.
When they return they find them happy as can be and planning a wedding, and ask Dohalim to officiate. And if you return later, you actually will find the next part of their quest where there is indeed a wedding; with Dohalim officiating in his long-winded poetic way. And watching the girls all talk about weddings and the cast’s interaction only makes it better. It was the small moments like those that made the side missions fun, besides some of the big boss fights you may stumble upon.
Cooking & Fishing
And lastly, my favorite part was the cooking and fishing. Each character has a unique palette of tastes and food they wanna cook. And upon making some character’s favorites it unlocks skits, special scenes upon completion of certain actions or in certain places. But as you collect recipes it slowly unlocks higher tier food that can give stat boosts to aid in combat. And seeing how many of the characters pick on their food preferences and gush about their love is entertaining, as it all falls back on Kisara, the team mom.
And speaking of Kisara, upon unlocking her you unlock the ability to fish! Stating that it was the only way that they could survive for food due to rationing under the Renans before Dohalim; she came to love fishing as a way to conquer nature and relax. Her love for fishing knows no bounds as there are many quests where she will destroy monsters that threaten her fishing spots. And this all ties into a nice substory for her character.
With so much to offer and experience, it’s easy to see why Tales of Arise was so successful. In my opinion, this has absolutely been one of the best tales games in a while. I myself was a fan of Vesperia and Symphonia. But enjoyed Berseria just not as much. Arise truly blows everything awhile with its writing and presentation, and shows a very interesting change and future for the series.
Kenji Anabuki and the team truly hit their stride with this game and came out swinging for Bandai delivering very distinct and awesome RPGs in 2021. And for fans of the series, there are plenty of easter eggs to past games tied to the Devil arms weapons post games. You’ll know it when you see it! Truly Tales of Arise will be a testament and powerhouse in this long-running series as it recently its 25th anniversary back in 2020.
So here is to 25 more years of Tales games. I hoped you enjoyed my Tales of Arise review. Let us know what you thought about the game and if you got a chance to play it yourself. Would love to hear what y’all think about this long-standing series.
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