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October 19, 2012

Tales of the Abyss: The Rundown (Part 3)

Whew.  It sure has been a while, hasn’t it?  I hope I remember enough from the game to even start talking about it; I like it, but I really don’t want to do another playthrough just to review.

--Poor communication starts wars and nearly dooms the planet!

--Nobody can shut up about fonons and junk I could care less about!

--This is one of the only times when I care about politics!

--A sensible, well-organized religion?  Not in THIS JRPG!

All right.  Let’s give this thing another go.

(Spoiler alert involving several important details about the story -- which, as you know, is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside-down and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there I’ll tell you how I became a prince of a town called Bel-Air.

Anyone know where I can get one of those spinning throne things?  I could stand to spruce up my room.)

The third act’s replica situation is one of the more interesting points of discussion.
A long time ago, I remember hearing once on the news that the population had reached six billion people.  At the time, it seemed like an unfathomable amount…and even though that was when I was significantly younger, that’s still a mind-boggling number.  And it’s a number that’s only grown since then, as have the problems associated with them.  How do you accommodate everyone?  How do you divide specialization of skills and abilities easily?  How do you provide even the basic necessities like food, and water, and shelter?  The likely answer is that you can’t.  It’s a somber fact, but a true one nonetheless; even so, at least it’s a truth learned over the course of years and years.

Auldrant doesn’t have that leisure.  Thanks to the efforts of baddies like Van and Mohs, replicas are created en masse -- worse yet, many of them are left to their devices, and roam the land nigh-aimlessly.  It’s a problem that’s not only compounded by their numbers, and compounded even further by their mere existence causing the deaths of their originals (and wrecking the landscape), but because the replicas -- at least those that haven’t received training to be soldiers -- are as smart as the average newborn.  They’re nothing more than wastes of space that terrify the townsfolk, consume resources, and disrupt both society and world stability.  Everyone tries to come up with a good answer to the solution, and it’s admirable that the developers would try to tackle such an idea.

It’s also more than a little jarring, considering a major answer to the problem: ten thousand replicas are sacrificed at once to power some world-saving magic.  It’s a poignant, if grim, solution and event.  There are likely other replicas still wandering around, but efforts are made to try and welcome them into society…and yet, I still can’t help but think back to those ten thousand lives.

…I also just realized that I should typing REPLICAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS instead of replicas, but…well, I think that just this once a little decorum is in order.

This game is full of “and then you realize” situations.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I think part of the reason Guy is so popular is because of his fear of women.  If ever there was an endearing character trait, something like that would be it -- seeing him shiver and leap out of the way of the fairer sex is always a pleasure.  Lots of people give him trouble for it, up to and including a certain haughty princess looking to make Guy one of his servants when she marries Luke.  Guy freaking out is always good for a laugh or two.

And then you realize that the reason he freaks out is because his sister and his female servants die on top of him, forcing him to stay under a pile of dead bodies for who knows how long.  And then, suddenly, it’s not quite as funny anymore.

That’s probably one of the biggest reveals in Abyss, but certainly not the only one.  Whether it’s directly or indirectly told, the game has plenty of reasoning behind most of the characters’ actions, thoughts, and even quirks.  Anise constantly reveals herself to be a gold-digging tween who’s always trying to find ways to make a quick buck off the party’s adventures, or otherwise just marry into wealth…and then you realize that she’s so obsessed with money because she’s the only thing standing between her parents’ well-being and financial destitution (or worse), and her mature cynicism is a knee-jerk reaction to her father’s naiveté that landed them in the doghouse in the first place.  Luke acts as a viewpoint character that allows more knowledgeable characters to ease both of us into the way the world works…and then you realize that Luke -- by virtue of just being born seven years ago -- knows absolutely nothing about his world, never had that knowledge, had to be reintroduced to the people that would have given birth to him, and was wholly insulated because he was nothing short of a baby…and in many respects, still is. 

But the lifetime achievement award has to go to Jade.  He’s a jolly joker who regularly engages in threats, torture, and general trolling, and much of it is played for laughs…and then you realize that the reason why he’s such a douche is because he has no comprehension of empathy or human decency.  He’s Jade the Necromancer through and through; the people around him are little more than experiments and test subjects to be poked and prodded, and offer nothing of worth to him than data.  He spends a good ninety-five percent of the game with all the answers in his pocket, but all that confidence and control he exudes masks the fact that -- whether he was a child that played with life on a whim, or a colonel feared for his mastery of murder -- he’s a person with deeply-buried self-loathing, and it’s likely that he lashes out at others because he sees them as worthless and harmful as he sees himself.  Thankfully Luke and the others show him the potential humanity holds, but I think my interpretation still holds…depressing as it may be.

How the hell do you get “light of the sacred flame” from a name like “Luke”?
So apparently in the Abyss world, Luke means “light of the sacred flame.”  How exactly, I have yet to reason.

Names like Vandesdelca and Mystearica I can buy having long, alternative meanings -- they’re full of syllables and such.  If Ancient Ispanian even begins to follow Japanese character conventions (mirroring hiragana or katakana), then I can buy certain letter or syllable combinations being stand-ins for different words, especially in light of the fonic hymns that seem to work on the same short-word principle.  But Luke?  Just Luke, and nothing else?  Not even Lukeadukea?  Come on…Luke is only one syllable and four letters!  What, does L by itself mean “light” in Ancient Ispanian?  If each letter in his name corresponds to a symbol, then what does that mean for a name like Van’s?  If the L in itself DOES stand for a symbol -- and by extension all the other letters in Luke’s name -- how do they differentiate between them easily?  Are the symbols actually like kanji?  Are there just a lot of different characters to use and learn?

I guess if the developers didn’t feel like explaining everything, I shouldn’t care too much.

Astor reminds me of Waluigi.
I swear to God I can’t look at this guy without thinking of Waluigi. 

I’ll admit there are key differences (DAT LAUGH), but still…it’s always Waluigi time whenever Astor is onscreen.

The battle system is as fun as it’s always been.
After playing Tales of Graces f, it’s hard for me to even think about the combat systems in titles prior to it.  The muscle memory I have from dodging and switching styles and comboing with my CC in mind made transitioning from that to Abyss (and vice-versa) surprisingly difficult.  That said, even playing a game six years older than the most recent doesn’t automatically make it inferior.  I’d like to think that the Tales series operates on a different axis than the Final Fantasy series; while the latter effectively starts over with each new release and builds a system from virtually scratch (for better or worse), the former -- based on what I’ve seen -- is content with evolving and refining its combat system to perfection.  On a side note, maybe this is why Legendia has such a strange response from fans; rather than continuing that evolutionary line upward, it was more of a step to the side and existed in its own microcosm.

Postulations aside, Abyss may have been around for a while, but it still holds up remarkably well.  This was the game that allowed free-running in the middle of battles, allowing you to move at leisure across a full 3D plane and sneak around enemy defenses for a pincer strike.  Likewise, this game lets you manually activate Over Limit, rather than the crapshoot random activation of Symphonia -- and this time around, it lets you use your Mystic Arte without any obscure hoop-jumping (at least in the case of a character’s first Mystic Arte).  One noticeable change from Symphonia is that you can only go from your basic attack string to a base arte to an arcane arte, while the older game let you chain three artes together.  It’s an interesting choice, but one I approve of; the physical attackers could run out of TP extremely quickly, and you’d be missing large chunks of meter even after a low-cost combo.  You’ll still have to do meter management in Abyss, but it’s never a problem -- especially now that your party members can give themselves items if need be.

The FOF system promotes (and rewards) team synergy.
Probably the most notable feature of the battle system is the Field of Fonon system.  Here’s how it works: certain moves -- magic, primarily, but some physical attacks -- leave rings of element-charged energy on the field for a short time.  If enough same-element magic is cast, eventually that ring grows huge and colorful, and a character can use it in combination with a specific arte to create an even more powerful art.  So if Jade casts Thunder Blade, he’ll instantly leave a full-powered wind FOF on the field.  Guy can slip into the ring, use his Beast arte, and rather than use it as normal, he’ll automatically use the souped-up Thunder Beast instead.  It certainly creates an incentive to put spellcasters in the party; have your melee guys take to the front lines and give them time to cast, and they’ll reward you with stronger, uninterruptable special moves.  Of course, your spellcasters can use the FOFs too; one of my favorite strategies with Jade was to cast Thunder Blade, then use his Thunder Lance to instantly move a full-powered ring to the back lines.  That way I could have him cast a stronger spell without risk of counterattack, aiming a spell, or otherwise just not charging up in time.

It’s an interesting feature, but…well, sometimes it can be a bit too gimmicky.  Yes, you can create FOFs if you cast enough magic, but there are a lot of assumptions that need to be made.  You have to assume that Jade is going to cast the same-element spell over and over again to get what you need.  You have to assume that Tear is actually going to use one of her field-invoking spells (which she did about five times through seventy hours of gameplay).  You have to assume that Luke and Guy won’t finish the fight before a second spell can even be cast.  You have to assume that the enemies on-screen can’t -- or won’t -- use the FOF before you.  It’s not an awful system by any means, but it’s not flawless, either…but of course, its presence is always much-appreciated.  If nothing else, it shows effort and a push to be innovative.

Why do enemies have hyper armor for no reason?
Every damn time I knock these guys down, they get back up and go into I Don’t Feel Like Flinching Anymore Mode.  I guess it’s a way to prevent overzealous players from just rushing enemies down and killing them with zero effort, but it’s still kind of annoying.  What’s even more annoying is that damn near every boss in the game refuses to stagger from your attacks until you rack up enough hits -- which means that they’re free to bop you in the face while you’re trying to get them to stop bopping you in the face.  Thankfully I was playing as bow-brandishing Natalia for most of the game so I specifically wouldn’t have to deal with that (and I ended up making her a better melee character than Guy, if only by accident), but still, it’s annoying to watch Luke or Guy or Anise get knocked around.

This is actually a consistent problem with the Tales games, I think -- enemies just keep bopping you and bopping you until you bop them enough to make them stop bopping you.  Why?  I can understand if they had a little bit of super armor -- I use Hulk in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, so I know how useful/important it is -- or some fancy tricks to avoid or reverse your attacks, but punishing me for trying to play the game is not something I hold in high esteem.

Customization is pretty simple, but deep enough.
I remember shortly before Final Fantasy 13 came out, I told my brother that I’d turn white mage Vanille into the party’s dedicated tank.  Why?  Mostly for laughs, but I earnestly believed I could do it.  Given how I turned FF8’s Squall into a fighter who could simultaneously steal from enemies and put them to sleep, and how I discovered that Wakka made a better Auron than Auron, I figured it was possible.

But with FF13 being FF13, it…didn’t pan out.

Thankfully, Abyss gives you plenty of chances to build your dream team with all the stats and abilities you could ever ask for.  As soon as you can start shifting around Capacity Cores -- equipment that changes which stats get higher boosts when your characters level up -- you can start compensating for weaknesses, or building their strengths to absurd degrees.  Additionally, loading up some fon slot chambers into your artes gives them special bonuses -- higher damage, reduced TP cost, greater knockback -- so you can power up the moves you prioritize.  It’s a simple system that doesn’t require much work, but offers plenty of benefits the more you play with it and the longer you stick with them.  As such, by game’s end my Natalia was THE damage dealer of the party with a smiliarly-high defense stat.  What she lacked in DPS, she made up for it by being nigh-untouchable, stopping enemies dead in their tracks before they even got near her (if not outright killing them), and healing herself/casting buffs at a reduced cost or with enhanced effects.  And the Capacity Cores I used allowed her to gain plenty of useful abilities -- one that let her instantly cancel her back dash with an attack, extending her basic attack string from three shots to five, and gaining a power boost I could activate instantly at the start of a battle.

Needless to say, the game was very, very easy.

The game has some really nice locales.
In terms of raw graphical power, they’re not exactly eye-popping.  But you have to admire the scale and level of intricacy in virtually every area you visit.  Even if areas are united by virtue of being part of certain countries, each one has a distinct feel and spirit to it.  Just look at Baticul here.  It’s not just a town, it’s a capital city -- and that’s incredibly obvious every time you visit.  It’s a towering metropolis with its nobles practically sitting in the sky, and makes use of some hefty machinery just to navigate.

If I had to point to a failing of the game, it’s that sometimes it tries too hard to be big.  It’s all too apparent as you go through certain areas of the game in search of an NPC, and you start to realize that there’s a lot of empty space.  It’s even pointed out at one point when you visit a laboratory; one of the scientists says it’s easy to get lost because all the rooms look the same.  And that’s true -- they all look the same, and they all have jack-all to do with anything, even the experiments at hand.  So why are they there?

Well, it’s not enough to cause concern.  There is empty space, but there’s plenty of material to explore and enjoy.  However, as a result…

The game has a lot of loading.
It really does.  There’s no other way around it. 

It takes a while to load up when you start playing.  It takes a while to load up when you change scenes and enter a new area.  It takes a while to load up when you trigger a cutscene.  It takes a while to load up when you try to save.  Yes, somehow saving your game -- just saving -- ends up becoming a thirty-second affair.  I know that sounds kind of whiny, but I could save my game in Symphonia as fast as I could press the A button.  And I could do pretty much the same thing when I played the PC version of FF7 back in 1999, which in my experience was notoriously prone to crashing. (On the plus side, a glitch in the game allowed Cid to learn his Level 2 Limit Break before he’d even learned his second Level 1; on the minus side, using it immediately crashed the game.)

There’s too much backtracking.
There is a long-ass stretch of the game where you don’t get to do anything besides travel across the globe and talk to people, or otherwise revisit areas you’ve already been to.  To say that it gets annoying would be like saying getting your leg stuck in a bear trap.  Things happen that are important to the plot, but it’s all just busywork until you can get to the next fight, or the next dungeon, or the next boss battle.  Especially the boss battles -- the Tales series is NOTORIOUS for suddenly making you fight random-ass monsters that can and will drop out of the sky, so why can’t I get one of those to break up the action?

It’s just you going to the same areas over and over again.  The towns and such are pretty fantastic, but keep visiting them for menial tasks and they start to lose their luster.  And the towns you visit extremely frequently, like Daath or Baticul or Yulia City, suddenly become less of a spectacle and more of an annoyance.  How am I supposed to love you if I don’t have a chance to miss you, immobile establishments of rather high political importance?

It all ties into a big problem with the game, one that I’ve addressed earlier: the game is too damn long.  The second and third acts should have been fused together, or even have the third act almost completely gutted.  You have to know when it’s time to end a story, especially when…

I feel like I have to watch the same cutscene multiple times…multiple times.
Another problem with the third act (and to a lesser extent, the game at large) is that for all the cutscenes, a huge percentage of them are too identical for comfort.  In any given cutscene, you can almost perfectly predict what the characters will say/think/do independently of whatever’s being revealed in the plot.  Here’s a sampler:

Luke: Uncertainty/remorse about being a replica, forcing everyone to try and comfort him or call him an idiot.  Alternatively, “Sh-shut up!”

Tear: Reciting technobabble/the mission objective.  Alternating between scolding and comforting Luke.  Tagging scenes with her trademark “But it’s so cute” for maximum endearment.

Jade: Refusing to tell anyone that he knows almost exactly what will happen at any given moment.  Also, trolling.

Guy: Calling Luke out for saying something stupid (which becomes increasingly often).  Additionally, calling Jade out for his trolling, even though the scene’s pretty much already over.

Anise: Reminding people that she’s a gold digger.  Being more mature than Ion, but still tripping over herself to try and look after him (justifiably so).  Being underutilized.



I’m exaggerating, of course, but only a little bit.

There are some pretty heady themes at play throughout the story.
This should be obvious, since I already mentioned the replica/population control theme earlier.  But even with that aside, there are plenty of big ideas to latch onto.  The coming-of-age story is a given, but it’s taken up a few notches by Luke effectively having to go from a toddler to an adult; maybe the reason for all his uncertainty and confusion by the world is a way of subtly addressing that, yes, he is just a seven-year-old.  On that note, you could argue that childhood, adulthood, and even parenthood are all important parts of the story.  Anise is a child that, for the most part, acts like an adult.  Tear struggles to discard her childhood, but in embracing Luke -- almost in a motherly sense -- she ends up realizing that those parts of her aren’t something to be devalued just because she’s a soldier.  Jade and Guy both had messed-up childhoods, but while the latter ended up becoming a mature and well-adjusted adult (a certain quirk aside), the former ends up resenting every part of his time on Auldrant, past and present…though incidentally, he becomes a surrogate father in more ways than one during the journey.  Natalia consistently makes adult decisions on account of being a princess, but there’s a chance that everything she does is because of a decision she made as a child -- and indeed, is still heavily bound to the past.

There’s also the more obvious matter of fate and destiny, and rebelling against it and all that jazz.  I know I took issue with it last time, but for what it’s worth it’s not a deal-breaker; it’s just a means to explore ideas and make the story move forward, so in that respect I can’t say it’s an automatic failure.  Besides, it brings up a lot of questions that aren’t easily answered.  If your fate has not only been engraved into the planet and your future -- and can be accessed with almost no effort on your part -- what do you do then?  Do you decide to find out everything that’ll happen to you, for good and for ill?  Or do you just live your day-to-day life, unaware of the dangers lurking around the corner?  If you get a Score reading that says you’re going to be eaten by a hippopotamus next week, what do you do then?  Do you stay inside next week, hoping to avoid a deadly encounter?  Do you try to fight that fate, knowing it’s impossible -- knowing that potentially, a big bad pachyderm might bust into your house and chow down?  What do you do with the time you have left?  Do you realize that the Score is bogus and try and convince others?  Or wait in peace for blissful, water-beast-related death?

…This game is deep.

Those themes would be handled better if not for Luke’s waffling character arc.

“Here’s a scenario for you: you’ve just finished going on a bombastic journey across the world with your motley crew.  You’ve gone from being a noble’s son cooped up in a manor to (after discovering you’re a clone of the real noble’s son), in no particular order, an ambassador who’s effectively ended a war, a swordsman that can cleave through mechs, a symbol of hope for the people, a maintenance technician for the entire planet, a symbol of hope for the people, an ally of one of the highest authorities in the church, a symbol of hope for dozens, including politicians as well as townsfolk, a warrior capable of trumping your teacher (albeit with the typical four-on-one ganking common in RPGs), and the virtual savior of every living being on the planet from continental collapse and tumble into a poisonous underworld.  If I’d gone through all of that, I’d resign to a quiet life of mediation and humble instruction, passing on my knowledge and skill to future heroes -- though of course, I’d spring into action whenever needed, be it ambassador work or slice-and-dice diplomacy.

Stage 3 Luke has a different plan.  He just develops an inferiority complex, becomes resentful and ashamed to be alive, and wonders -- frequently -- why he’s alive and what he’s supposed to do.

Seriously, Luke?  I mean…fucking seriously?”

Sad to say that, in spite of this game being built around Luke, sometimes he’s the biggest problem.  He is a nexus of conflict; while he has issues and flaws that need tending to -- as any good character should -- his conflicts absorb some of the impact and meaning of all the other external conflicts.  I would bet that if you got a bunch of gamers who had cleared Abyss in one room and asked them what stuck out the most, it wouldn’t be the ideas and themes I mentioned, but just how often Luke led the story off-course.  (And I’d bet that they wouldn’t be nearly as forgiving as I am.)  After Van tumbled into the planet’s core, that should have been the end of Luke’s issues on the replica front.  He should have been a stronger, more confident, more capable character, and for a time it looked like he was.  

But inexplicably, he has to rediscover himself and his worth and where he belongs, and it’s just not a compelling story -- especially when apparently, everything that Luke (i.e. the player) had accomplished up to that point is now effectively pointless.  Did he just forget that he kinda sorta saved the world?  And what, you’re going to worry about taking the home of someone who had no intention of ever returning?  If it bothers you that much, Luke, then leave.  Go out and do some work as an ambassador.  Spread awareness about replicas.  Learn more about the world by going on a pilgrimage -- study up on religion in Daath, or improve PR with your family’s political rivals in Grand Chokmah.  Don’t lie in bed and moan about a problem that doesn’t need to exist if you just remember that you saved the world.

Why is character development for Jade part of a side quest you can miss and never have access to?
Really, why?  What is the purpose of putting scenes that develop characters outside the bounds of the main story?  Can you imagine what it would be like if novels started doing that?  Like if you wanted to figure out how Elizabeth Bennet evolved over the course of her story, you’d have to use a decoder ring and special ink?

There’s an animated cutscene that takes place at one of the most awkward times.
So here’s some setup for you.  You’ve been exploring an abandoned factory looking for a way out of the city.  You’ve just made your way through the dank, oil-filled interior and fought your way past a giant chemical-covered beast.  You get a cutscene where Natalia tells Guy to go down first and catch her if she falls (even though he can’t), Anise starts hugging Luke, Tear calls Luke despicable for…some reason, and Luke reveals to Jade and everyone else that he has absolutely no understanding of how sarcasm works.  And then you get this cutscene.

That is a pretty marked mood swing right there.

What the hell is a second-order hyperresonance?
Before I go any further, I have to give props to Eric Jackson (aka Dimanagul) for pointing out a major oversight -- apparently, I didn’t bother to mention how many times the phrase “fonic resonance” appeared in the game.  I’m a little ashamed to have made such a big slip-up -- what with me being the self-proclaimed Knight of Nitpicking -- but then again, that’s what I have sharp-witted readers for.

That all said, one thing that DID stick with me was the baffling inclusion of this “second-order hyperresonance” business in the last half-hour of the game.  According to Jade, it’s something that’s been theorized about (no), can do everything normal hyperresonance can plus neutralize any fonon (no), lets the gang escape from a trap (no), free Lorelei (NO), and can be controlled at will by Lu-

Second-order hyperresonance is bullshit.  Bull.  Shit.  Where did it come from?  How does it work?  Why is this the first time it’s ever been mentioned?  What’s the point when we’re just going to ram swords and hurricanes up and down Van’s ass until sunset?  What does it change?  What does it do that was so important, so weighty that first-order hyperresonance couldn’t do on its own in spite of being a perfectly capable and much more tolerable plot device?  How does Asch’s death make it so that Luke’s hyperresonance not only becomes stable and more controllable, but more powerful?  Shouldn’t one unstable power + another unstable power = an even more unstable power?  Did the developers realize how much it screws up Luke’s personal growth and development by making it so that his greatest weapon is only gained because his better half gave it to him?  Why couldn’t Luke just use his regular hyperresonance -- incomplete but competent as it was -- to save the day, overcoming his own weaknesses and harnessing his full potential to beat out Van?

I guess what I’m getting at here is Asch sucks.  Oh, and second-order hyperresonance.

…And Ion.  He sucks the most.     

The opening for this game is among my favorites for the whole series.
I’m tempted to watch this opening every time I turn on the game.  Every time.

…Though I’ve seen Xillia’s opening, and I think that’s slightly better.  Or at least tied.

The soundtrack is pretty good, as expected.
The Tales series and composer Motoi Sakuraba go together like hot dogs and ketchup…which is to say, really well.  Especially if there’s mustard, too.  And a nice, warmed-up bun.  Maybe a side of chips, or even some fries…or some baked beans and potato salad.  And you can’t forget the…

Uh…I feel like this topic has started getting away from me.  Look, I’d embed a video here, but there are so many applicable candidates that I’d be posting all day long.  So just go to YouTube and type in “tales of the abyss ost” and start listening.  I’d recommend The Arrow was Shot and Awkward Justice, for starters.

I like Tales of the Abyss.
Aaaaaaaaand in what should be a surprise to nobody, I have to admit that I still like the game.

I’ll be honest.  I’ll cry and I’ll moan and I’ll nitpick and I’ll complain and I’ll whine, but in the end it’s not enough to hamper my fun.  Nor should it hamper anyone else’s fun, should they decide to try the game.  Does it have its faults?  Yes, and it has a number of them.  But the good parts are more than potent enough to compensate, to the point where you could outright ignore the trouble areas.  It’s solid, rewarding, entertaining, thoughtful, and all-around fun.  It won’t be the best game you’ve ever played (presumably, at least), but it’s still a competent title worthy of the Tales moniker.

As I’ve said, I hold the series in high esteem -- more so than even Final Fantasy these days.  With one exception, I have yet to play any game with Tales in its title that hasn’t been a great game, and a great experience.  Abyss, in my opinion, is no exception…but the ingredients that comprise it might be too much to stomach for some.  That, I can understand.  I understand now more than ever how people can disapprove of Abyss (and -- get this -- have a different opinion from me).  I understand that Abyss isn’t as great as I thought it was back then; by extension, plenty of other games I’ve played, Tales series or otherwise, might fall apart if I put them under the microscope.  But you know what?  Even if it was just for this one game, I’m glad I gave it a second look.  Now I can put it to rest, knowing I had a few more hurrahs with it than I would have before, and knowing that I’m not so easily blinded by nostalgia that I can’t be a bit objective. 

So in a nutshell?  Not as good as I thought it was, but still plenty good enough.  If anybody out there is reading this and wondering if they should pick it up (in spite of my casual use of spoilers), then I say yes.  Get a cheap PS2 copy.  Get it on the 3DS.  If you’re out for an adventure, get it.  Hopefully, you can handle a little midriff action.

That’ll do for now.  See you guys around.   

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