Finally released in the U.S., Tales of Link hit the android store and summoned up 300,000 players in just one week. Longtime fans are familiar with the Tales Series’ characters and their numerous composite games like Tales of the World, but this one brought us a brand new system made just for the mobile market–without all the pay to play nonsense.
Tales of Link is a matching game where you link the shapes and colors underneath your characters on a 3×3 grid to have them attack and simultaneously build up mana for special abilities. You can get all your favorite characters from levels 1 to 5 stars which indicate the tiers of their abilities to use in battle. The game runs on Hero Stones which are awarded at the end of every completed quest and they allow you to continue if you lose a match, buy new characters, or expand the limits on how many characters or materials you can hold. The materials are used in a very in-depth crafting system to create weapons and armor for your characters to use in battle. Most of this part is still unearthed in that there are no guides that really explain how most of the synthesis works, but some of it comes in the form of Events.
Weekly events pop up in the Notice box that allow you to test your skills in order to gain higher level characters or rare materials. Luckily, in the first week, one such event actually detailed the progression of a synthesis that created multiple new items if you gathered all the materials together. Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn’t explain or include any information on the progressions for any of the other weapons or materials, so it’s all just guessing from here.
The game follows a well thought out story that surprisingly features lots of dialogue and voice acting. Most of the game is in the form of the Tales Series’ well known skit features, so it’s really just anime stills talking to each other, but it’s clear there was a lot of work put into it since the game introduces over 75 new characters just for this game alone.
The difficulty increases as you go along and the whole story took maybe 3 weeks to complete off and on since you’re given a stamina meter and only so much play time per meter. You can use items to recover your stamina, but once you’re out you’ll have to purchase more with real money. You can even purchase more Hero Stones as well, but honestly the game practically throws them at you. And that’s what really kept me hooked—the game never forced you to buy in and never gave you a reason beyond your own fandom. Sure you can buy as many characters as you want, but once you reach the end of the game there’s no reason to. I finished with about 30 Hero Stones to spare and I was able to spend 150+ just getting characters without buying them.
The downside is that when you finish the game, there isn’t much to do other than replay levels or wait for weekly events. Replay value is really non-existent since you don’t need to get more Hero Stones and you don’t need to get new characters. As a pay-to-play model, I’m not sure Bandai-Namco really thought it through, but maybe that wasn’t their intention. Maybe they wanted you to play just to enjoy it and if you wanted more you could buy more. The best comparison I can make is to Pokemon Shuffle, where the puzzle play is limited to 5 an hour and if you want to play more you buy in. If you have a difficult time in the game you can buy items to help. This forces the player to purchase if they want to continue, which works for some, but mostly makes me play for a short time and then turn it off. For Tales of Link, I get the feeling they wanted you to play it and get as much enjoyment out of it at all times as you would one of their full length RPGs. Pay to play only if you have a hard time.
As a free game, Tales of Link is solid and mindless fun until you hit the higher levels. Then it becomes a game of timing and resources to make sure you survive. I still play it for fun and I still play the events, but I do wish there were more story missions or new levels. That’s one thing that mobile puzzle games have on this one—infinite play versus capped. But as a whole, Tales of Link is for the fans and it feels like it through and through. Pick your favorite characters and run a team of them against all odds for the hell of it.
My team: Reala, Philia, Cress, Leon, Sophie, Kohaku, Lloyd, Hubert, and Leia
You can pick up Tales of link on any Android device today.