Tales of Graces f Review (PS3)

Tales of Graces f is the 12th main title in the Tales series (although some might not count Tales of Legendia and Tales of Innocence as part of them as they were not developed by the Tales Studio). Despite having such a long history, for some reason this JRPG series from Bandai Namco has never garnered the same level of attention in the West as the Final Fantasy series. Apart from Tales of Symphonia on Nintendo GameCube, the Tales series, despite picking up its own following along the way, has never become a mega franchise in the West. However, for me this is a blessing for the series as it stays true to what it is.Tales of Graces f 05

Tales of Graces f is an updated port from the original successful Nintendo Wii title bearing the same name. In the PS3 version the code name f was added to denote “future” and added a huge chunk of post game story content after the original main story was finished. The original Wii game never came out to the West, so it was great that Sony released the PS3 version so that we have a chance to get our hands on this extremely popular RPG in Japan.

As with Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Graces f’s story is far more complicated than its cutesy anime outlook. The story is littered with twists and turns about betrayal, political ambitions and exploitation of other people’s goodwill. The fact that the game begins with the childhood story and investigates how death and separation affects the personalities of most of the characters later in the game, shows that Tales of Graces f attempts to tread in territories beyond the normal young hero saving the day’s premise. Most of the characters were completely battered by fate by the time you meet them again later and they no longer show the same personalities you had once associated with them. This is what makes Tales of Graces f’s story unique and intriguing.

Nothing stays the same forever

Nothing stays the same forever

Back to the gameplay itself, Tales of Graces f continues with its unique active battle system called Style Shift Linear Motion Battle System (yeah I know it is a mouthful) where you would control one character and let the AI control the remaining parties. You can switch over to control another party member at any time you want. To provide a bit of flexibility, you can determine how the AI characters behave by setting their strategies ahead of time. This includes whether they are attack, defence or skill heavy. The actual battles require a bit of strategy and quick thinking instead of just abusing the X button. While you can use regular hack and slash attacks on enemies, it is how you guard and time your attacks that counts most. When you are guarding you build up your Chain Capacity (CC) points. The more points you have under your belt the more useful your Arte (skill) attacks are and the higher the chances of scoring a critical hit on your enemies. However you cannot just keep guarding as each attack received from the enemy takes out your CC points. So it is a matter of how long you guard and when to deploy your killing attacks. You can dodge and move around the battlefield while guarding but each move will also take out one CC point. So it is a matter of quick thinking in how you want to approach your battles. Using items in Tales of Graces f is another aspect you cannot abuse as each character has a cool down period after using an item, so you would need to balance out skills that could be deployed instead of just using items to achieve the same goals.

The character development system in Tales of Graces f is one of the most engaging systems you have seen in recent years. Apart from standard level ups, Bandai Namco has expanded the title system from Tales of Symphonia and now each title you earned provides you an additional set of attributes and skills for your characters. Some attributes and skills will stay with your characters for life once acquired, but each title comes with an additional attribute that only works if you equipped your character with that title. When a title is completely mastered, it would further boost the skills and attributes offered by that title. To master a title you would need Skill Points (SP) that you acquired from battles. You can also acquire SP from fulfilling requests for other people in the game’s world. Some requests provide great rewards but do require more work (e.g. beating certain option bosses to acquire an item), but at the end of the day, these requests provide a rewarding experience for the player.

I am elegant....and deadly!

I am elegant….and deadly!

Apart from skills and attributes that you can develop for your characters’ titles, you can further enhance your characters through mixing and dualising. Mixing is a way to acquire more rare items once you have acquired the initial one. Each mixing uses up Eleth, the energy source in Tales of Graces f’s world, and you would need to refill the Mixer to ensure you have sufficient Eleth for rare items. The Mixer levels up as you use it – providing more slots for more items, improve the mixing rate and can hold more unit of Eleth for items that require more Eleth to produce. The Mixer plays an important part, as some requests in the game require you to have multiple units of rare items to fill. Dualising is a process of combining two items into one to produce better items. This is where things get interesting. Apart from standard cooking and creating new ingredients, through Dualising, you can improve your current weapons by combining with shards. Once combined, the weapon will exhibit additional properties of the shards. When you take a Dualised equipment into battles you would eventually temper the Dualised equipment, which allows you to then extract a better shard through Dualising them with other tempered equipment. The advantage of this is that you produced better gems as equipment, which you otherwise could not obtain in shops, and also would permanently increase the base statistics of your tempered but re-Dualised equipment. The new Dualised gems can than be further combined with other Dualised gems and this goes on and on. It is because of the seemingly unlimited possibilities that you would want to spend hours just experimenting with different things in the game.

That said, Tales of Graces f is not without issues. One of the main issues I have with the game is the fixed camera angle on the field. I did wonder why Bandai Namco would fix the camera angle on the field and in the dungeons when they spent so much time to create such a lush and colourful cell shaded world in Tales of Graces f? This is beyond my comprehension. Also another issue I have is the lack of open world on the fields. When you are travelling on foot you are restricted to the paths the game provides, although the field looks like an open world. I would prefer to have an open playground like we did in Dragon Quest VIII in that you could visit virtually any area on the field instead of being limited to the designate paths.

Would there ever be a real friend in this world?

Would there ever be a real friend in this world?

However, despite these two issues, Tales of Graces f is still a very engaging game with an intriguing story and some extremely addictive gameplay. It is your standard JRPG, so you should expect cheesy elements and some extremely annoying characters. If you are not a big JRPG fan it may be because of these elements that you may not appreciate it. However, if you can look pass these aspects and just look at the story and gameplay themselves, it is an enjoyable game that can keep you playing for hours and hours.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

About the Author

Level up freak. Level 99 is a norm not a goal. Love my JRPGs and RPGs in general. Also love my platformers and puzzle games. Was addicted to Zoo Keeper, Magnetica, Animal Crossing, Disgaea DS, Dragon Quest IX and White Knight Chronicles. Prefer to spend my time away from gaming as an actor although do have a full time job that keeps my mortgage going. But generally love anything creative. And if anyone tells you gaming is a waste of time, tell them you have great eye, hand and brain coordinations that they will never have!