The term “anime” encompasses all types of sin. Just think of the word, maybe you remember the human crisis and depressive episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, or something at the very other end of the entertainment spectrum like Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? Tales of Arise feels like it draws from almost every point on the sprawling anime face.
Bandai Namco’s latest anime aesthetic adventure begins in the “serious” section of the anime universe. Tales of Arise is a story about an enslaved race of people who slowly learn to take up arms and fight back against the oppressors who held a vise-like grip around their throats for over three centuries. The Dahnans had to endure unimaginable horrors under the Renan rule, coming from a technologically advanced world and stopping at nothing to deplete the resources of this planet and its people for all they are worth, and the action RPG is not They do not shy away from examining the exploitation and loss of self that reign in slavery.
As the 17th entry in the Tales franchise, Bandai Namco’s series has seen more releases in less time than Square Enix’s Final Fantasy saga. Still, Tales has never peaked like this anywhere in the world and has a more iconic following compared to the blockbuster hits of the aforementioned series. However, despite the rampant release schedule, Tales of Arise is the first addition since the 2016 Berseria and is widely viewed as a gentle reboot for the series as a whole, trying to gain a foothold with a larger audience than ever, especially in the West.
Arise is still tapping into some recognizable anime storytelling trends that you’ve no doubt seen across countless media outlets. Like a friend reluctantly dragged into a night, some long-standing anime concepts raise their heads to offset the darker nature of Arise’s storytelling. “A woman with an insatiable appetite, but it is very embarrassing” appears, for example, with the enigmatic Renan warrior Shionne, and the idiosyncratic Danan youth Law wants to break through everything in sight and at some point literally offers his punching services Concrete floor.
So it’s a little disappointing that Tales of Arise doesn’t quite manage to uphold its commentary and portrayal of slavery without resorting to a few clichÃ©s to tarnish the waters. It’s also a huge adventure that effectively combines two games, each with their own animated title sequences, into one package. The first focuses on breaking the shackles of slavery and thinking about how an enslaved people can build their own society when freed from their oppressors, while the second game in Kingdom Hearts Territory of intergalactic adventure and lengthy monologues about the spirit and the willpower that is in all of us.
In this second part the adventure gets a little thin. The strength of Arise lies in its characters, who unite from all walks of life to break free from the chains that bind them. The wrinkled Dohalim is a seductive companion and a pleasant surprise as he is a colored person who has plenty of time to develop over the 30 hours of this JRPG. However, the back half of Arise is overshadowed by fairly monotonous dungeon crawling, with wall-to-wall action opted for in favor of character development. Arise’s squad is really special, different reasons are given for each, but it’s a shame that the vast majority of character formation takes place in the first half of the game.
One constant is Arise’s combat system, and it’s fantastic. The basic starting point is the protagonist Alphen, who as a fiery swordsman ducks and evades fights. Arise lets you watch out for the enemies you are fighting, forcing you to learn their movesets to perform risky last-minute evasions, but also with the player to decipher which skills will throw off which enemies. For example, the stoic Kisara’s shield strike prevents an angry enemy from storming the battlefield and lays it out on the ground for your team to dig into.
What is really surprising is how much Tales of Arise rejects the excellent Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. A lot of Sekiro’s battles weren’t really about lowering the enemy’s health, but rather building a separate meter of parries and well-placed attacks to “stun” your enemies for the title shinobi to execute in a decisive attack can. Arise takes this formula and inserts it into a hectic, party-based combat system that allows the player to build up an enemy’s staggering gauge so they can deliver an early fatal blow with one exceedingly powerful movement while incorporating special allied abilities to help To get hits and that meter goes up. It plays out almost like a chaotic puzzle game in which you’ll find out which allies are available to lay into an enemy and keep the staggering gauge up while Alphen pulls back and recharges one of his abilities, ready to step in and take over.
Perhaps with such a great combat system, it’s not really that surprising that Tales of Arise relies quite heavily on dungeon crawling. These aren’t “dungeons” in and of themselves because they don’t really have a puzzle aspect, but rather like a towering glove in which you run from room to room and knock people out of the dust like an angry bull, all of it beforehand final, story-centric boss showdown. However, once you’ve figured out which Allied attacks are working, where to displace which enemies, the dungeons are a breeze and well worth the promise to advance the plot and stories of your raffled comrades.
Tales of Arise rides at the height of a brilliant combat system and a charismatic supporting cast. It’s not always the smoothest ride, especially when the back half of Bandai Namco’s game stumbles into interplanetary affairs and storytelling, which is a little more terrific, but the combination of compelling characters and a plot that really makes you feel comfortable for all of you, too to inspire is a sublime game.