|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sonic Powered||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Aksys Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 26, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
There's nothing written in stone that says unoriginal games can't be entertaining quality works in their own right. It's certainly not unheard of. There are plenty of titles out there that have taken completely uninspiring designs and pulled them off without a hitch.
In other instances, borrowing a few ideas from one title and a few ideas from another can sometimes result in a substantially stronger game, though this isn't always the case.
From the Abyss, developed by Sonic Powered, falls under the latter category; it's entirely generic, formulaic, and there's nothing particularly special that stands out about the game. Conceptually, it borrows slightly from Etrian Odyssey, and the gameplay and visual style is extremely similar to the action found in the Mana series. The game is a basic hack-and-slash dungeon crawling RPG with a strong anime vibe and limited depth. Despite all this - and one's better judgment - it still manages to provide a relatively entertaining play experience. As a random adventurer, you wind up in the peaceful and prosperous country of Rubenhaut, where generations of queens have ruled the wooded realm with a kind hand. The true secret of the kingdom's tranquility lies in the dimensional abyss created long ago to confine all the world's evil in a parallel dimension. Unbeknownst to the region's residents, the country was formed as a measure to keep watch over the magical gate to the dark abyss. When demons inevitably break the seal and attack the land, the peaceful soldiers are ill equipped to make a proper stand, and your fortuitous arrival coincides with the queen's decision to mount a resistance against the encroaching beasts.
With the town surrounding the queen's castle serving as a home base, you must venture forth into the innermost recesses of the dark dimensional abyss to combat its monstrous denizens in an effort to spare the country from annihilation. Each area of the abyss features a unique visual theme and a handful of stages you must navigate, before reaching the boss at the end. You'll essentially warp in, navigate the 2D landscape (which fortunately generates an auto map grid as you progress), and pummel the tar out of all manner of malevolent creatures you'll encounter. Then its time for one of many slick boss battles, and the process repeats itself. Though the levels will not change once you start the game, they're generated randomly from the moment you fire up the cartridge in your DS, and each player's experience will be different.
Dying while in the abyss results in an immediate game over, but you can pick up items that allow you to teleport back to civilization to save your game and re-equip before warping back to the last level you completed. This is particularly handy if you've spent a lot of time leveling up and don't want to eat it while battling the dangerous creatures in the abyss. In between excursions, it's also important to buy new equipment, chat with the locals, and rest up for your next perilous jaunt. Like many RPGs before it, the difficulty in From the Abyss is pretty steep and unforgiving. You'll be forced into the requisite level grinding in order to gain experience and boost your stats for the impending boss battles waiting for you towards the conclusion of each new area.
Combat is extremely straightforward; running around and hacking away at foes until they drop - and trying to avoid getting mauled to bits at the same time - is essentially the order of the day. The D-pad and buttons handle all movement and attacking. The A button serves as your default attack, and special attacks and powers can be assigned to the X, Y, and B buttons respectively. Weapon-wise, you can equip an assortment of swords, spears, axes, rods, and missile weapons, and upping your arsenal plays a big part in how effective your attacks are. Other items like armor, potions, and special accessories provide a helpful boost as well. Additionally, the coolest twist in battle is the ability to steal the souls of weakened foes to gain new power to use. Each enemy type has its own power, so collecting tons of new abilities from them quickly becomes an addictive side-quest. When you start sucking their souls, a button mashing minigame initiates; victory earns you some sweet skills.