Tales of Link has been released outside of Japan and is currently among the many apps being hyped on both Google Play and iTunes. While it is a free-to-play game, and thus subject to the trap of spending money in the hopes of getting characters you love, there’s actually much more to it than that. Some have considered comparing it to Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, due to its presentation, but it’s actually a rather thoughtful RPG.
The misconception is understandable. Like Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, Tales of Link encourages people to collect a group of character they love. This is done via a random grab, once you’ve earned or purchased enough Hero Stones to get a character. You don’t know who you’ll get, but once you do, you’re encouraged to send them out into battles. The presentation is even similar, with your group of heroes on one side of the screen and the opponent on the other.
With Tales of Link, you have much more direct control and influence over the course of battle. That’s what makes it so appealing. With Final Fantasy: All the Bravest, it’s sending a crew off to fight, rubbing on the screen to send armies against opponents. Tales of Link is far more methodical. You’re matching characters based on the symbols underneath them. Honestly, it’s more akin to Puzzle & Dragons. Each symbol is tied to a certain element, indicated by the elemental wheel in the upper left corner. Hearts restore health. You also see which symbols will appear next on the field, to help you work out which matches might be better to make this turn, and which should be saved for a subsequent turn. You’re basically attempting to make the best of what you’re given by linking characters together to attack or heal, while also watching to see what element your foe is connected to, all so you can deal as much damage as possible against a specific number of enemies.
Also like Puzzle & Dragons, it’s possible to fuse characters in Tales of Link. And believe me, you’ll be doing a lot of it. Upon starting game and playing for about 15 minutes, you’re given a Cress character and acquired enough Hero Stones to try for a few heroes in one of the shop areas. I ended up getting a [Naive Great Spirit] Muzet, [Artemis Eyes] Chelsea, and two [Teacher] Raines. Since I had a double of Raine, I was able to fuse them together under Limit Break. This raised her maximum level from 40 to 45. No evolutions, as would happen in some other games, but still. It’s a nice means of improving a character nonetheless.
The various missions, quests, and arenas are structured similarly as well. Quests send you into a location, where you’ll need to complete a certain number areas to move forward to a new location. There are first-time clear bonuses for getting through areas, often Hero Stones to get more characters to fill your nine-person party. More likely equipment, to improve their gear. Missions take a certain amount of time, with a reward offered after checking back in. Arenas send you into a stronger-than-usual fight, in the hopes of rewards and success for completing it.
But really, while there are similarities to other free-to-play, mobile JRPGs with puzzle elements, Tales of Link is also quite nice when it does things that set it apart. Characters all have artes, for example. Even ones that are minor party members and aren’t based on an important and iconic character. These have a chance of triggering when they’re sent to attack an enemy as part of a linked group. Using them in battle causes them to level up, which increases their potency and chance of triggering. Your Leader and two Sub characters’ skills can also be triggered by building up attacks, allowing you to influence what symbols appear on the field and allow for improved standing in a fight. There are even Guardian support characters that increase attack, defense, or prevent status ailments.
The leveling system is handled well too. Rather than doling out experience to characters who were in that battle, you get a pool of experience points in Tales of Link. These can be distributed to any character you like, which is quite appreciated. It means you have a nice wealth of points to draw from when you get new characters, so they can immediately become useful members of an active party, rather than sitting unused in a box due to being underleveled.
Tales of Link is immediately available on Apple iOS and Android devices in Japan and North America.