It’s time to talk about what might be 2021’s biggest release as far as anime games go, and that’s Tales of Arise. It’s been a pretty good year for Bandai Namco, what with Scarlet Nexus earlier this year; that was a decent game that was riddled with some serious issues, but it’s fair to say that expectations were very high for Tales of Arise.
You can call this piece a review if you like, but it’s more going to be me listing off specific elements of the game that I personally did enjoy and things that I didn’t enjoy so much, as opposed to going over each and every aspect of the game. You can check out our more comprehensive review of the game here.
Characters in Tales of Arise
So let’s kick things off with the characters, as you’re going to be spending 40+ hours with these guys, assuming you play to completion. Honestly, I really like the characters, but I will say that my opinions of them changed over the course of the game. My opinion of Law, for example, wasn’t the greatest upon first meeting him — but over time my feelings changed as I spent more time getting to know him.
It’s an anime game, so of course, the characters are going to have those distinctive traits that are essentially the foundation of their entire personality. The main man Alphen is incredibly optimistic — he has that many inspirational speeches that they have their own theme song — and he’s the classic main protagonist that manages to pull other amazing people into the group. The main lady Shionne, starts off as being quite possibly one of the most tsuntsun characters in existence. As a fan of these types of games though, I was entirely expecting this to be the case so it doesn’t really take away from the fun of the game.
The fun but repetitive combat
This is probably the meatiest part of the game for me, and one of the areas that I’m the most torn on. So let’s start with the actual combat mechanics themselves. Battles take place in a large circular arena and each character has a lot of unique mechanics to offer to these battles — Alphen is the classic swordsman, Shionne uses a gun, Rinwell is a mage, Kisara the tank, and so on.
Characters have access to basic combos as well as 6 artes abilities (12 later on), and these can be mixed into combos to create some really long attack strings; this comes more into play the further into the game you are. Enemies have a stagger bar that can be broken in order to deal more damage and create much longer combo strings. The enemy guard can be broken in a variety of ways, such as through normal attacks whittling it away, or specific conditions being met.
Those conditions often involve Boost Strikes — these are special moves that every character has access to through the simple press of a button on the D-pad. For example, Shionne’s Boost Strike has the perk of instantly breaking any flying enemies that are hit by it; Law, meanwhile, has the ability to instantly break any heavily armoured enemies or those using a shield. These moves are a great addition to the game’s battle system, as it means that there is a reason for every single character to be used.
While these do add some nice variety and combo structure to the game’s combat, it still feels fairly shallow when fighting wave after wave of standard enemies. This is even the case when playing characters like Rinwell, who has access to numerous different magical spells and the ability to mix them together for a variety of effects. I remember discovering this and thinking “holy shit, Rinwell is such an awesomely designed character” — and she is, but there is a very real limit on the creativity.
Boss fights do add a fresh feeling to the combat after battling through countless jobber enemies, and the feel of the game switches up from the typical Tales combat feel to something more akin to a Souls-like game, with plenty of dodging and carefully timed strikes rather than all-out hack-and-slash. All in all, I do quite like the combat, but there are just some limitations that I wish weren’t there.
Enemies and anime cutscenes
Let’s talk about the enemies first, as this isn’t a huge issue per se, but just something that is quite noticeable. It’s pretty normal for large RPGs to reuse enemy assets and change them slightly, whether it be aspects of their appearance such as base colour, or their abilities. This is totally fine, but I do think that it can be overdone — and that’s the case in Tales of Arise.
The lack of enemy variety is probably one of the biggest flaws of the game’s combat, as it not only means that you are seeing similar enemies all the time but the general enemy AI is all the same. One of the first enemies you meet in the game is present in a different colour all the way at the very end of the game. Thankfully, the bosses are all unique and the post-game bosses look incredibly interesting as well.
Last but certainly not least is the anime cutscenes — if you didn’t tell me that Ufotable, the guys responsible for beautiful works of animation like Demon Slayer and Unlimited Blade Works, were responsible for the anime scenes I simply wouldn’t believe it. I’m not sure whether it was a budget issue or if Ufotable just dropped the ball but these scenes took away from the game.
The engine being used for Tales of Arise has allowed for some of the most stunning characters and visuals in a Tales game, and the in-game cutscenes look fantastic! So, when the anime cutscene takes over for some of the game’s most pivotal and intense scenes, you can’t help but feel disappointed.
Overall, though, I am loving my time in Tales of Arise. The entire world is beautiful, the characters as I mentioned are fantastic, and the animations for team-up attacks and mystic artes never get old. It’s just not quite perfect.
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