Upon first glance, From The Abyss looks like a Secret of Mana clone for the Nintendo DS. You have the 16 bit style graphics and similar character models Secret of Mana was known for, and even the combat and locations look similar. While the game does sport such similarities, From The Abyss is actually more of a dungeon crawler with interesting combat mechanics and a virtually nonexistent plot. That's not bad, of course, because From The Abyss is a somewhat interesting game; but for a game that gives you the option to choose between four different heroes and four different colors per hero, you'd think they'd have their own strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully they each have their own set of stats, but its easy for each of the heroes to become just as strong as one another.
One of the things that I found very interesting about From The Abyss was exactly how your hero goes about learning spells and skills. In a traditional RPG sense, characters would normally learn new spells and skills by increasing their levels. However, in From The Abyss, your hero or heroine already comes with a skill that latches on and allows you to absorb an enemy and learn a new skill or spell from it. Enemies themselves are fairly easy to absorb; once you've used the skill, you have to continuously tap the face button you've set that skill to (X, Y, or B) and, based on how much damage you've dealt on the enemy, completely deplete the bar that appears to ensure absorption!
Each of the different kinds of weapons (sword, axe, spear, staff, bow & arrow) all have their own unique skills that can be learned by absorbing enemies. As for spells, they too are learned by absorbing enemies and come with a level set to them. At first you'd think that absorbing more of the same enemy would increase the spell's level, but all that really does is heal your HP. It isn't until later parts of the game that you come across enemies who, after absorbing them, teach you a different level of that same spell. Each and every skill and spell you've learned are all stored in the Skill portion of the menu; and with the simple use of the stylus, you can place and replace skills on each face button. Equipment, too, has its own storage place with three pages worth of slots for you to have ready to use!
Combat itself is very action RPG oriented, and movement itself is done with the d-pad and not the stylus. Each hero can perform a three hit combo with his or her weapon of choice and continue to button mash away or use a skill after an attack. There is no charge meter that you have to wait to be charged in order to attack again. Simply button mashing away will allow you to keep a steady flow of combos, and you can also use a skill after or before a combo to ensure maximum damage! Each abyss floor is complete with its own portal that allows you to return to a previous floor (or town if you're on the first floor) and a portal to the next floor; and the game features a nifty map on the bottom screen to let you know exactly where you're going.
The most interesting thing about From The Abyss is how much it reminds me of Shining Soul. Every time your character gains a level, extra stat points are given to you to add to whatever you feel your character needs. Call it a nice touch of minimal character customization or lack of effort for stats to raise themselves, but stat points come in handy when you realize your character isn't dealing enough damage or taking less damage. The more levels you gain, the more points you accumulate to use at your disposal; and since each of the abyss' you traverse through in the game have their fair share of somewhat difficult enemies, accumulating stat points turns out to be a smart investment.
What hurts From The Abyss a little isn't so much its gameplay or nonexistent plot but its lack of WiFi play. Though two friends can traverse through the game's dungeons together, From The Abyss could easily have been a title that anyone with a WiFi connection can enjoy. Going through each of the dungeons alone is an adventure in itself, and what better way to enjoy an adventure by playing with someone else?
Even if its a fairly basic title with somewhat interesting mechanics and fairly easy to finish, From The Abyss is a pretty enjoyable game that anyone can benefit from playing. Though its short in length, the game does offer a few interesting boss battles here and there that kind of do put your skills to the test.