Tales of Graces f, the latest entry in the long running “Tales of” franchise to make it’s way across the pond. Is it a wonderful reminder of how great JRPGs are, or a sign that peoples taste have faltered over the last generation?First and foremost I must bring it to the attention of all, that Tales of Graces f is an enhanced port of Tales of Graces for the Nintendo Wii (this version never made it out of Japan for various reasons). If you have ever played any of the other “Tales of” games that have come out than you should know what to expect from the series and how things typically work out.
The story is somewhat standard JRPG fare, with a group of unlikely heroes coming together to save their world from some sort of nasty evil super powerful being, but that is where the norm stops really. You follow the story of Asbel Lhant who is one son of the Lord of their town. His youthful adventures set in motion a series of events that ultimately ruins the nature of his family and causes his entire lifestyle thus far to come to a halt. After said events, your family and friends are scattered and everyone walks a seemingly different path from one another for the next seven years.
That’s right, the game pulls a time skip of sorts which encompasses your childhood as one story arc, your adulthood as another, and finally a future story arc. The future story arc itself is the reason for the “f” in the title and is the biggest change from the Wii version of the game (as in it is an all new story arc that was never present prior to this version). Soon enough you come in contact with all your old friends and come to realize everyone is drastically different from when they were kids, that is except for Asbel. As time goes on political issues arise around the world and countries go to war over a situation that was helped into motion by Asbel and friends during the childhood arc.
From here on out it is all about the mysterious force that is controlling the main “villain”, and the heroes’ battle to understand one another and work together and stop war from destroying everything. Be prepared for conflicting issues between each character, secret pasts to be revealed and a major psychological analyzation of what it means to be alive and have friends.
The gameplay in ToGf is standard 3D “Tales of” series fare with several changes that make things a bit more interesting. Instead to the standard Technique Points (TP) and usual 3-5 attack before you need to start the combo over, each character has a Chain Capacity (CC). Each time you use your A-Artes (standard attacks with X) or B-Artes (special attacks with O) you use up some of your CC. When CC reaches zero you need only wait a few short seconds for it to fully recharge and then go at it again. As you chain together A-Artes and B-Artes each continuous attack in your combo takes more CC to pull off, 1,2,3,4,etc… By pulling off bigger and better combos you stack on the damage from each individual character which combines into one total on screen until the combo ends.
You can increase your max and min CC that can be recovered in two real ways, one of which is by equipping weapons that have increases to CC attached to them. The other way is to master titles that have the stat bonus in their growth tree. As in all “Tales of” games, titles are present but unlike most, in Graces, titles provide the majority of stat increases that you will acquire throughout the game. From Physical Attack/Defense, Crysas Attack/Defense, Evasion, Accuracy, etc… Mastering titles is also the only way to learn new A-Artes and B-Artes as well as helpful bonuses like “block an attack to recover X amount of CC instantly). As you can tell by now, taking the time to learn and master the growth of titles is very important.
Now you may look at Tales of Graces f and scoff at the graphics because they are nothing amazing or ground breaking for the PS3, and to be honest that is completely to be expect but at the same time not accepted. The graphics were originally designed for the Nintendo Wii and only received a slight HD improvement but even for Wii standards the graphics aren’t the best out there. Don’t get me the graphics and locals are still very vibrant and are teaming with life and don’t take away from the game experience at all. You just can’t compare it to any other RPGs out on the system without it feeling like a cop out in some way. Although compared to most RPGs now a days that come out with full blown high quality HD graphics and textures it sure makes a definitive impression really. Something about Cel Shaded graphics just seems to work better during fast battles and speedy action. The gestures and movements are just so much more fluent than most CG games.
The music is nothing to scoff at either here, as the tracks are all beautiful and meaningful. Each track is nicely placed and executed at the appropriate times to give a sense of belonging and accomplishment. It never gets in the way and conveys emotion when needed. It’s subtle, yet dramatic, and ever so appropriate for each local. The voice acting is very well executed for a JRPG and fits each character wonderfully. The only voice that ever gave me an issue is Sophie’s for the beginning parts of the game. It does get much better as her personality picks up and she becomes someone you genuinely care about and want to see be happy.
All in all, Tales of Graces f is indeed a wonderful reminder of just how amazing JRPGs are and why they deserve our attention. For the past few years JRPGs have been a serious downward spiral and fans of them began to loose hope that things would ever pick up. Well Tales of Graces f helps to renew the notion that these types of games are most certainly welcome and need to be considered for a revival of sorts. Don’t let anything stop you from giving the game a try as I am convinced that if you enjoy old school JRPGs, that you will love Tales of Graces f.