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Like all Tales games for the Playstation 2 console, the story is a bit hard to explain because it has so many twists and turns. The main character is a boy named Luke fon Fabre. He was kidnapped as a child (and subsequently returned to his family), but his memories of life before the kidnapping are gone. After he was returned, he was kept confined in his family's manor and was not even allowed in the city beyond its gates.
However, all of that changes when a strange woman appears and tries to kill his mentor. In an attempt to stop her he uses a power he didn't even know he had to transport them halfway around the world. The journey back to his home is only the beginning of a much larger quest that eventually comes down to saving the world. I can't really say anymore without giving away some massive spoilers!
You are just going to have to trust me when I say the plot is good and the story is engaging. Luke really grows from an arrogant selfish brat into a commendable young man.
However, just following the story-line you may miss out on some vital plot information. It is best to do all the side quests as well if you want the whole story.
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The game play is very similar to Tales of Symphonia for the PS2 console. You control one character on the world map (you can select which character it is if you get a certain item) and one in battle. They need not be the same character either. The fighting system is the perfect blend of real time and turn based combat. You enter a fight by engaging an enemy (like in turn based), but all of the combat is actually in real time. There are some very powerful attacks you can accomplish with the Artes system, although they are confusing to learn at first. However, once you get the hang of it it is fairly simple.
My one problem is the game seems to be much easier than other Tales games. I didn't do any extra leveling up, yet I only died once in the entire game. Once! I would say it was due to my incredible gaming skills, but I'm really not that good. However, the extra bosses are so much harder than the regular ones some major grinding is needed to be able to beat them.
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Wow! The graphics are a huge step up from Tales of Symphonia for the PS2 console. They are clear and crisp. Even the characters on screen are beautifully animated. Plus, the detail in their expressions is incredible. Also, the anime cut scenes are very smooth and well integrated, and there are more of them than there were in Tales of Symphonia, which is always nice. This has to be one of the best looking Tales games to date for the Playstation 2 and I would recommend that anyone check it out when they get the chance.
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Images from Tales of the Abyss
I played this game almost everyday for a month and not once did I dread what I had to do when I held the Playstation 2 controller in my hands. Since there is virtually no grinding (unless you want to face the extra bosses) fighting never really gets old. Plus, the story (main and sub plots) are so interesting I didn't want to stop playing when I had to.
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Images from Tales of the Abyss
If you like Tales games or just RPGs in general (like I do) this is a must have. While the story is rather linear (most Japanese RPGs are) it is so interesting and exciting that it doesn't really matter in the end. What matters is immersing yourself in the awesome story. Without a doubt any RPG fan should own this game for their Playstation 2 console collection.