I’ll admit, my first time playing a Tales game was Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube. However, after my first encounter with the battle system, I was hooked. It’s not surprise people are clamoring for new Tales games to be localized and brought over to the United States, as they have one of the most unique battle systems for a jRPG. The mix between fighting and traditional RPG mechanics blends together to create a new experience that should be experienced at least once. Does Tales of Graces f expand and enhance this series to new heights, or does it merely prove to be a copy and paste of its predecessors?
When you first start the game, you begin as a young boy rebelling against his parents and a brother who constantly tells him “You’re going to get in TROUBLE!!1!” If you don’t feel the originality spilling out yet, just wait until they meet a girl who happens to have no memory of her past, the childhood friend who’s “secretly” in love with the main character, the mentor to the main character, and the airhead who somehow has the smarts of a genius. I’ll admit, the story takes as many cliches as it can grasp, and blindly places them into the story hoping it will have some relevance to the plot. I can’t tell you how many times I facepalmed at the sheer stupidity of the characters in the game, yet that same dialogue adds a charm to the game. While I cringed at the dialogues, I couldn’t help but laugh at how silly it was at the same time.
The main theme of the game is friendship, and while it plays on this theme the entire game, the cast makes some stupid decisions because of the underlying theme. I’m sorry, but if one of your friends from 7 years past goes on a rampage and threatens to destroy the entire world, including you, I don’t think your friendship is the only thing at stake here.
Of course, the gameplay proves to be the turning point in many Tales games and this one is no different. When I first heard of this game, I had assumed it would play similarly to Tales of Vesperia, Symphonia, or Abyss. What I got was something much more fast-paced, challenging, and fun. The battle system takes out many things I disliked in the other games and improved on the aspects I enjoyed. For one, instead of TP (Which are the Magic Points which enable you to use special moves), you have CC, which allows you to use any move in your arsenal. These points regenerate with defending, evading, or side-stepping at the right time to gain more points. You start off with few Chain Capacity in the beginning, limiting your ability to combo, but as you get more weapons and armor, you amass a larger Chain Capacity which allows you to get larger combos. There is also a special bonus called an Eleth Burst, which gives you unlimited Chain Capacity and the ability to use special moves, called Mystic Artes, which should be familiar to those who have played past Tales games. The Eleth Burst only lasts for a short amount of time, and the enemy can also gain this bonus, which calls for some plan on action as you play though the game.
Outside of battle, there are Titles, which enable characters to learn moves, gain stats, and upgrade existing moves. In addition, the game also has dualizing, which allows the player to combine food to cook, combine weapons and “shards” to strengthen the weapon, and crystals to create new weapons that are unable to be purchased from the shops in the game. Overall, there is so much to learn about dualizing that I still have yet to learn everything there is to know about it, which allows for good re playability.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that much of the music is memorable. Many town themes seem to fade away without any memory, and even the battle music proves to be a little bland. Of course, this isn’t to say the music is terrible, but the music doesn’t quite present itself to be memorable or of earworm quality. In fact, there’s a particular dungeon theme that is a 3 second loop, with minor changes in the loops. I find this inexcusable, and feel that the game could have had an amazing soundtrack, but fell short to be only okay.
As I played the English version of the game, I listened to the english voice cast for this game. I don’t understand the problem with English game dubs, as personally, I find game dubs much more bearable than anime dubs. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but for the Tales series, the English dub has always been at least decent. Tales of Graces f is no exception, and the only problem with the dub would be the terrible lines they have to say, but that’s not the actors fault. One particular English cast member was David Vincent, whom I felt gave a great performance as Richard, but all the others performed well, and yes, that means I also didn’t mind Laura Bailey (I really don’t understand everyone’s problem with her…). This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed an option to listen to the Japanese dub, as it had Kana Hanazawa, but hey, the English dub is great and I’m perfectly content with it.
Tales of Graces powered its way to the Wii back in 2009, which was then ported as Tales of Graces f for the PS3 in 2010. As a result, the game doesn’t have the greatest graphics for the PS3, in fact, the graphics are rather sub par. However, this takes nothing away from the experience, and the graphics work great for this game. Not once was I concerned with how the graphics looked, as the game isn’t meant to look ultra-realistic, and the graphics don’t detract from the great gameplay experience.
The anime cutscenes are also top-notch, which can be expected from Productions I.G. These cutscenes are spread out fair and far between, which means you won’t be bombarded with them all at the beginning or at the end. However, I felt there could have been one or two in the last arc of the game, but there were none, which led to disappointment. But that being said, there are plenty of top-notch anime cutscenes for the player to enjoy, if they so choose.
So, what do I think of Tales of Graces f? I feel the game has earned every bit of praise it receives, and proves to be a great addition to the series. I only hope that the success of Graces will bring more Tales games over to the US, and give us players hours of enjoyment to come. Although Graces had some problems, including dialogue, music, and to an extent, the story, Tales of Graces f proves itself as a worthy game to add to any jRPG fans collection.