The Tales series is one of the most well-known among the classic JRPG franchises, and it’s finally time to take a good look at Tales of Arise.
Five years have passed since the release of Tales of Berseria, and it’s the longest time we have spent without a new mainline Tales game on consoles since the debut of the series in 1995.
Due to the long wait (partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic that caused a delay from the original 2020 release window) and to the jump to the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S generation, expectations are understandably high for Tales of Arise.
After playing a demo of the game, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that we may have a winner on our hands.
On the graphics side, Tales of Arise looks beautiful. The visuals are rendered with a very fetching painterly shader that summons Valkyria Chronicles memories. As a matter of fact, I’d define this game’s looks as “Valkyria Chronicles on steroids.”
This is not to say that it feels exactly the same. It’s similarly painterly, but slightly different. While Sega’s tale of war and love went for a watercolor-like feel, Tales of Arise is closer to an oil painting. I fell in love with this look from the very beginning and playing it on my own screen (even if it was via Parsec) certainly did not disappoint.
The Tales series has always been well-known for its top-notch character design that counted on masters like Mutsumi Inomata and Kosuke Fujishima, and this time around the role is covered by another veteran of the series, Minoru Iwamoto. His art certainly holds the comparison well with his perhaps more well-known predecessors, feeling both familiar and and fresh at the same time.
All the characters who have been introduced so far (at the moment we don’t know whether there will be more) look great, and I’m especially in love with the newly-introduced Kisara. Her design, combining beauty, full plate amor, and a massive shield, is certainly fetching in my eyes.
Animation was another strong point of the demo I tried, with fluid movements both on the field and in battle, and the flashy artes we’ve grown used to with the Tales series which have been made even flashier and more spectacular, both when they involve a single character or two in combination.
Cutscenes are another highlight, especially thanks to the fact that the characters are very expressive, beautifully underlining the dialogue. The Tales series has always felt very much like “anime” in this field, and today’s technology certainly helps to solidify that sensation further.
As you may have glimpsed from my description of Kisara, I really enjoy the design of the equipment in Tales of Arise. It does a great job at giving each character a unique silhouette while maintaining a good balance between practicality and that flashy fantasy/anime feel that you’d expect from a JRPG.
Weapons also look great and are visually displayed in each character’s hand. It’s worth mentioning that while other characters equip a variety of main-hand weapons, Kisara equips different shields, which feels absolutely appropriate.
Speaking of JRPGs, Tales of Arise doesn’t try to revolution the staples of the series too much in terms of gameplay, and you could say that it’s a classic action JRPGs in many ways. You can see monsters on the field (and they respawn after a while, so you can keep grinding as much or as little as you want) and you transition to instanced battles when you come in contact with them.
Battles are fast and furious, with four characters fighting at the same time on screen and two more that don’t actively fight, but can be summoned to deal considerable punishment when their artes are ready. They can be swapped in and out on the fly, and the controls feel intuitive and effective in giving you finer control of the party whenever you want it despite the fact that only one character is fully controlled by the player at any given time.
As a matter of fact, it can be slightly overwhelming if you’re used to slower-paced games. On the other hand, if you like to micromanage your characters and you’re quick and able to hold on to your situational awareness, especially with the cooldowns of the various artes, there’s certainly a lot of room for mastering the system and feeling like you’re making a big difference in your party’s performance.
If you prefer to focus primarily on the character you’re controlling, you can still assign strategies to your allies so that you don’t need to worry to much about micromanaging everything.
Speaking of battles, the banter between characters is spot-on both during fights and field exploration. While there wasn’t much to experience in terms of story, it was enough to glimpse the personality of all party members. From what I saw, I can’t wait to learn more.
While the demo area wasn’t exactly big, there was a lot to find off the beaten path, with the ability to swim opening up locations that you may miss if you don’t specifically look for them.
Scattered in the field there are campfires that you can use for resting and cooking, and plenty of resources to gather. In the build I tested, they periodically respawned exactly like monsters.
Ultimately, I came out of this demo impressed. Tales of Arise isn’t just a beautiful game, but it feels solid and polished, with a cast that has the potential to be as loved by the fans as some of its most popular predecessors.
While the demo did not show much of the story, what we saw so far gives me hope that we’re looking at an epic tale of conflict and romance, which is exactly what I enjoy in this kind of JRPGs. At least for now, this game definitely feels like it could be worthy of the franchise’s log and beloved legacy.
Tales of Arise is coming on September 10 (September 9 in Japan) for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
If you want to take another look at the game, you can enjoy the latest trailer and screenshots.
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