"Tales of Graces F" Video Game Review (PS3)
Tales of Graces F
Developer:Namco Tales Studio
- A brand new battle system is introduced that takes fighting into a new interesting experience.
- For the first time in the series you can now explore the world on foot without the use of a classic JRPG overworld
- After completing the main story you can now play the PS3 exclusive final arc called “Lineage and Legacies”.
- There is more than fifty side quest scenarios available to tackle!
- Play as up to seven different characters with their own unique fighting styles.
Tales of Graces F takes us into a world called Ephienawhere three kingdoms are conflicted in a struggle of war. We are then introduced to the game’s main protagonist: Asbel Lhant, a young boy who is destined to become the lord of his family. After sneaking out of the family manor with his younger brother Hubert, he soon discovers a mysterious girl with purple hair and pig tails resting on the flowers of Lhant Hill. After this encounter, a series of events occur that drive Asbel to become stronger in order to protect the people he cares for dearly.
The plot itself is separated into three main story arcs.
- The Child Arc – The prologue of the game that revolves around Asbel when he was a young boy.
- The Adult Arc – The main story of the game.
- F Arc/Lineage and Legacies – The ps3 exclusive final arc that
resolves the remaining mysteries of the story and ends everything with a
The story of Tales of Graces is best described as a plot that’s all about the power of friendship. If you have a strong distaste for the themes of love and bonds, then you will most likely strongly dislike the story material. In my opinion though, the game’s basic plot is easily fixed by the great cast of characters involved. At first, they seem completely generic: you have the hero who wants to become strong, the girl who likes the main character but can’t admit it, a mysterious young girl with crazy powers, the mature and knowledgeable adult of the group, the whimsical genius, the royal prince, and the sarcastic glasses-wearing male male. If you’ve played most games in the Tales of series, then you’ve seen these personality traits before. Surprisingly, Tales of Graces F takes interesting routes with each of these characters to the point that their roles on the plot are not exactly what you would expect.
It’s very well worth noting as well that Graces is one of the few titles in the series that does not leave behind any bothersome loose ends. I actually feel sorry for the people who bought the Japanese Wii version, because the exclusive F arc given to this port completely fixes everything that I originally found to be disappointing near the end of the adult story arc. By the end of the game, I’d become very attached to the characters and learned a lesson that a basic story doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
The gameplay of Graces F is rather unique compared to other titles such as Tales of Vesperia, which followed the steps of its previous predecessors. The biggest difference is that Graces uses a system called the “Style Shift Linear Motion Battle System”; a battle system that allows the playable characters to side step in a 360 degrees angle while fighting with a variety of unique skills that are called “A artes” (a set of attacks you use by using the X button with your analog stick) and “B artes”. This system also involves a unique “CC bar” instead of having MP; this tells you how many moves you can make when it comes to slashing and side stepping. The CC bar increases as you gain stronger equipment, level up, and process farther into the game’s storyline. In the beginning, the CC bar feels more like a giant weight that is hard to get use to if you liked the fighting styles in the previous titles. But, what makes this completely fun is that you’re allowed to heal as much as you want and fight as fiercely as you wish without the limitation of MP dragging you down. By the time you get through a quarter of the game, the CC bar has grown so much that it’s no longer much of a bother. This change leads to many of the enemies that you will encounter being incredibly spiked up in difficulty; it was a bit of surprise to me that even the adorable foes in the game are capable of slaughtering you without much effort on normal mode.
Thankfully, the tough boss fights can be turned around by having your “Eleth Gauge” filled up; a blue and red bar that is on the left side of your screen during battle. If you get hit by massive damage then the red part begins to grow, while if you block, dodge, and fight back the blue part will slowly go up. When the blue area reaches its max you will then enter a “Eleth Burst”, a mode that powers up your characters for a limited time and allows you to completely overpower your enemies without the restriction of the CC bar stopping you. Later on in the game you will unlock “Mystic Artes”, which are ultimate attacks that can be unlocked and used during Eleth Bursts. If the red part of the gauge completely fills up, then your enemy gets the advantage and sometimes bosses will have their own Mystic Artes as well. Like in other games of the series, during battles you can use up to four party members and your friends can get in on the action by plugging in another controller.
Tales of Graces F introduces another upgrade to the battle system during the F arc called “Accel Mode”. Accel Mode is automatically unlocked for Asbel during a certain part of the story, while other characters have to gain it from side quest scenarios. When used, Accel Mode will give the character using it their own special ability that will help in battle for a brief ten to thirty seconds. For example one particular character can freeze time until the gauge runs out, while another goes into a furious rage and performs a special attack.
Outside of combat, a second big change to the gameplay is how you go about exploring the world. You won’t be walking around a classic RPG overworld map, randomly encountering enemies that pop out of nowhere and finding small models of towns and dungeons to enter. Instead, Graces throws you into a Legend of Zelda type of experience by literally having you explore all the roads and locations ahead of you in order to reach your next destination. The best part of this is the incentive given to explore in order to find treasure chests, trading cards, items, secret dungeons, and “discoveries”. “Discoveries” are landmarks that exist in nearly every area of the game that can take the form of ponds, certain machines and even a cow. Usually after finding one you will then see a “skit”, side conversations between the characters that either involve loads of comedy or serious discussions about what’s happening in the story. Skits are meant to flesh out the personalities of your party and help you become much more attached to each character.
When you find all the discoveries in the game, you can unlock a “title” for a specific character. Tales of Graces F provides players with over one hundred different titles for each character; which can be expanded from such actions as using simple attacks to finishing specific side quests. You will have to earn “SP” from battles in order to master your titles, which can result on bonuses like unlocking great stat points, new attacks, and sometimes a new costume. Sadly most costumes are only downloadable content, which have to be unlocked by buying them for four dollars each. While this may seem like a rip off, the DLC costumes also come with their own battle music and they can allow your characters to dress up in such things as school uniforms or designs that previous Tales of characters have worn.
One of the best aspects in Graces is what’s called “The Eleth Mixer”, which allows you to recreate normal items that you already gained during the game by walking around and using “Eleth Points” that you can recharge at local town shops. The mixer is also involved in giving you food during battles, which grant effects that can help you turn around a rough fight.
In order to make food though you’re going to have to use the “Dualize system”, a system that allows you to fuse items into new materials like food, weapons, and rare goods that will help you finish sidequests. You can find rare gems that will power up your weapons and dualize them together into a fantastic result of equipment.
The graphics in Graces F take a bit of a step back from what we’ve seen out of Tales of Vesperia. The art style itself is still impressive and the character designs are wacky enough to fit with the personalities of each character. My favorite part about the art is that all the environments presented have so much beauty behind them; there were times where I just wanted to stop and appreciate what I was exploring.
The Tales of series seems to always find a way to include refreshing, fun music that fits well with the towns, dungeons, battles, and fields that you experience, and the battle music reaches some great heights later on in the story. I’m not sure if I would go as far to say it is one of the best soundtracks in the series, but it gets the job done. On the other hand, the voice acting is excellent; I was thoroughly impressed by much effort was put into so many of the lines in the game.
Tales of Graces F is a love letter to all of the fans of the Tales of series who have enjoyed the games up till now. The changes create a set of new experiences full of big battles that provide plenty of challenge and fun. I can’t express how much I love the side quests in this game because of how well hidden they are and how much development they give for the characters. The world in Graces itself seems incredibly small if you look at the map, but deep down it holds so many areas that you won’t even come across by following the story strictly. To just rush through this game without paying attention to the extras is to miss a huge portion of what makes this title great. Graces holds a basic plot, yet at the same time it’s powered tremendously by a cast of characters full of so much life and fun. This title is definitely not for everybody, as there are different tastes when it comes to how one judges a JRPG. If you want a fun adventure without worrying so much about the story being a masterpiece, then Graces will give you that and much more than what you would expect.