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Tales of Graces f review
Tales of Graces F:riendship Is Magic!

The good:

- Great storyline.
- Great character development.
- Great graphics.
- Great music.
- Great and improved gameplay, in and out of battles.
- Lots of surprises and easter eggs.

The bad:

- Despite the great graphics, the game doesn't run at a full 1080p resolution.
- Sidequests are essential to get a better understanding of the characters. They are not needed, but it's not ideal for the casual gamer looking for a great storyline without having to play much.

Summary:

Another GREAT Tales game! Namco-Bandai return to deliver us a great game with a different yet touching storyline and deep characters. After Vesperia's poor effort in delivering a beautiful storyline, Tales of Graces F has saved the Tales Of series with it's epic storyline. Although the theme of the game is simplistic, don't expect any less! The creators did a great job to ensure the topic in hand is something that affects us in many ways, so don't expect to be disappointed after playing it.

The story of the game is beautiful. If you have played some previous Tales games, specially the most popular ones (Symphonia and Abyss), then let me tell you Graces is at the same level of the aforementioned games: Maybe even more. The game is composed of arcs: The Childhood Arc, the Adulthood Arc, and an optional Future Arc. At first you may think, what's the point of having a childhood arc in a game and use the main characters as kids? Well, if you like games with deep storyline development, then trust me the childhood arc is very important. The game is strongly focused in childhood and friendship, which sounds very cheesy at first, but anyone can identify with the characters and how they felt at any given point. The childhood arc sets the main stone for the rest of the development of the storyline. The Adulthood Arc makes constant references to the two themes from the Childhood Arc, and adds a new theme, which is a feeling everyone has felt at some point in their lives: Nostalgia. One can't help it but sympathize with the characters regarding all these three themes. I won't talk about the Future Arc since it is optional, but let me tell you that if you have played and loved the previous two arcs, this one is unmissable. The game is also full of plot twists, and while you don't know your ultimate objective at the beginning of the game, everything and every event starts taking shape as the game progresses, and you don't need to know what the game is about early anyways, because you will be busy understanding the characters and the meaning of the events that may not be directly related to the characters' final objective. Even when you are nearing the end of the game, when everything makes sense, you feel connected to each character, and you just don't want the game to end. The storyline of the game is simply beautiful, and it does what only a few games can do: relate the player with the characters.

The character development is one of the best I have seen. Not as great as Abyss' character development, but very great nonetheless and very powerful on it's own. It really helps a lot that you get to experience the characters first hand when they are children, because you can identify with them easier, and understand the meaning of their actions later in the game. How each character is related to each other since childhood really gives the character development a huge boost (with the exception of two characters, more on that in a few sentences). The twist of events regarding the characters' friends and their feelings towards them create an essence that can't be compared to anything else, they make you think... "Yeah, been there, and it sucked". The characters make you think about your childhood and your friends, and how you reacted towards your friends when they did something you didn't like (and how you could have reacted, maybe for a better outcome). There are two main characters that are not related to the other four (they aren’t childhood friends, and don't have much focus at all in the Childhood Arc), but luckily that didn't ruin their own character development in the least, because their personal stories are told as the game progresses, so while you don't get to obtain information in-game about them in the Childhood Arc, you see flashbacks of their pasts, and their feelings in certain situations are a dead giveaway of important traits of their personalities. One little thing I didn't like is that in order to learn a lot more about the characters, you have to do sidequests, which is not ideal for casual gamers looking for a great RPG with a wonderful storyline. Luckily, the important aspects of the characters are unveiled in the main storyline, but if you want to know them fully, you will have no other option but to do sidequests (the sidequests are actually great - more on that later). Character development in Tales of Graces F is one of the best and goes hand in hand with the main storyline of the game; completely wonderful and touching.

The graphics are wonderful and colorful. Admittedly, I have never seen so many colorful graphics in a videogame before. The moment you turn the game on, you are greeted with a huge screen full of colors that is pleasant to watch (yeah, the start screen is THAT good). The graphics in the world map are very nice too. The characters are very well designed, and each town and dungeon is full of details. Even the simplest objects, like beds in houses, are fully detailed. The graphics really give this game a beautiful touch; it goes very well with the game's themes of childhood, friendship, and nostalgia, not to mention it creates beautiful landscapes that are easy to appreciate by anyone. The only small gotcha I noticed is that the game doesn't run at a 1080p resolution, perhaps because it was ported from the Wii which can't handle bigger resolutions than 720p. But this isn't an issue, because at least personally, I didn't notice the resolution wasn't maxed out until I checked the resolution on my TV. All in all, if you are into eye candy and wonderful graphics, Tales of Graces F won't disappoint you in that aspect.

As a matter of tradition, the music in Tales of Graces F is wonderful as well. In the hands of Motoi Sakuraba, the music of the game has managed to improve the games' general feeling. The music has the same formula as previous Tales games (and even to other unrelated games, like Baten Kaitos), so you can hear and notice that all Tales games have a very same "aura" to them. Motoi Sakuraba has always done a great job making the music for videogames, and this one is no exception: the music is very fitting to any mood or event going on in the game. The music carries the mood from scene to scene, and it sets the general feeling for the rest of a given scene. In Battle, the music does it's job. It becomes energetic and doesn't lose the quality that makes it pleasurable to listen to. My only complaint is that the opening theme in English isn't very nice when compared to the Japanese opening. Although the English opening grows on you (because you really end up liking it), the Japenese openings will be better as they don't have to be modified before being released. The music in Tales games holds the magic of Motoi Sakuraba, and that is usually a sign the soundtrack is going to be great: If you dig music and are into soundtracks, this soundtrack is not going to disappoint you one bit.


English Opening
The English opening of the game, despite it being a bit boring and "soul-ish" at first, is actually very nice, even if the vocals don't go very well. The music is nice, but the animation is outstanding.


Japanese Opening
The Japanese opening of the game. Same song as the English one, except well, in Japanese, and the lyrical content has actually being changed. The theme of the English theme is about "love", whereas the Japanese one is about "Protecting". The song is more fitting since it doesn't sound like it was forced into the background music.


The gameplay is simply great and it has been greatly improved. First, when walking around towns and dungeons, things have been simplified. You use the control stick normally of course, but you no longer have an annoying ring that you need to use to burn things down or move on. This was a huge problem in Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss because just having the ring around didn't allow you to move freely, since you always worried about hidden treasures you weren't seeing and similar occasions. Now, in the World Map, you can explore freely without hitting every wall with the ring to see if it would open: the gameplay in the world map has been simplified too: Walk around, push X when prompted, and find treasures without any problems, occasionally pushing items on your way where you see evident cracks that tell you something is hiding there.

The gameplay in battle has been improved a lot too, and with the changes they did, it will be hard to play old Tales games now. If you played any previous Tales games, you must remember TP points. They no longer exist. All the Artes and attacks in general consume a new gauge called CC, and it's the first game to use this system. Let me explain how it works in a nutshell: Everything you do in battle, including attacking, using Artes, or free running, consumes CC. Okay, so it looks like it sucks so far, right? Hold your horses right there, be because your CC also increases very frequently when you guard, even you are standing still, when you do critical hits, and when you hit an enemy's weak point in a combo. So if you run out of CC, just wait a second or two until it is restored. The max amount of CC you can have at a given time is increased depending on your equipment and certain skills from titles (more on that on the next paragraph). There's also a minimum CC amount, and it tells you the amount of CC you will have when a battle starts. The max amount of CC is the biggest amount you can hold in battle. Artes have been improved too: there are now A-Artes and B-Artes. A-Artes have a "tree of execution", which dictates what Arte will he executed after another one, depending on where you hold the control stick while moving through the tree, and also, each Arte is in a different "branch" that consumes a different amount of CC. B-Artes are "Artes with a bit of Magic", Artes that have elemental attacks. B-Artes don't have a Tree, and you can use any B-Arte anytime (as long as you have the required CC). CC makes things better and once you get used to it it's hard to play previous Tales games that will use the old TP system.


The A-Artes Tree
First, apologies for using a Wii Screenshot - Couldn't find a PS3 screenshot, but they are essentially the same thing (everything's similar except the buttons that appear at the bottom). Anyways, This is the Arte tree, and basically it tells you that, when you first press X, the character will execute the A-Arte called "Smash", regardless of where you are directing the joystick to, and this attack consumes 1 CC. When you link your next attack, it will consume 2 CC, and depending on where you are holding the joystick to, the Arte executed will be either "AltFang", "Hidden Kick", "Seal Blast", or "Aqua Fade", and you will move through the tree that way as you execute attacks. Also, when you first start the game the tree will be mostly empty, and you will have to gain the rest of the Artes through Titles.


The game also counts with a very interesting Titles system. If you have played previous Tales games, then I you will be surprised to know how important they are now. Titles are essential because they allow you to unlock Artes and skills that aid you in battle. Each character can unlock over 100 titles and each title provides the character with 5 different goodies (Skills, Artes, little increase in max HP, etc), but you don't get all this goodies the moment you equip a title: You have to unlock the title's goodies by earning SP (skill points). Each goodie requires a different amount of SP and SP can be earned by doing battles and fulfilling requests at the different inns in the game. When you learn all the goodies from a given title, you can either keep using that title until you Master it, which will increase the goodies' impact in battle, or equip a different title to get even more goodies. You are not forced to use all the titles: you can equip and and remove them any time. Unlike previous Tales games, using titles is the only way to learn new Artes in the game, and mastering titles is the equivalent of leveling up in a way. Yes, Tales of Graces F grinding for titles is just as important as leveling up, because some skills (increase max HP) cannot be earned in any other way. There are also many different ways to earn titles, so the game hardly gets old when you want to get as many titles as possible. Titles really provide an important advantage in fights and you should aim to get them all.

There are many sidequests you can do. Like said before, sidequests help you earn SP for your titles, and some sidequests can get you new titles. You can also do the sidequests if you simply want to take a break from the storyline. Some sidequests also reward you with helpful items. You are not forced to do sidequests, but keep in mind doing them will not only give you an advantage, but also gives the game more replay value.

The game counts with an interesting skits system. If you are a Tales veteran you may remember skits as little chats between the characters inside little boxed with no audio. The skits now are full chats between characters, they are all voice acted, and you see "real size" characters talking instead of faces in boxes moving their lips. Skits are short and optional to watch, but watching them can reveal things like sidequests, or just random facts of the characters. It is important to mention that skits are not always "serious talks". Many times skits are more comic relief to the game and can be very fun to watch. The improved skits system has made skits easier to enjoy, thanks to the fact they are voice acted and the characters do more than just moving their lips.


Old Skit System
This is an old skit from Tales of Symphonia. You can see how the characters are inside green boxes. Skits weren't voice acted and they could be very dull at times. All Tales games had this format before, except they were voice acted in Tales of Vesperia.


Modern Skit System
The modern skit system doesn't "box" characters, are fully voice acted, and more dynamic. They are more entertaining to watch.


And a Little Bonus...
Many skits add a lot of comical relief and no better way to use Chibi characters to help with the situation!


Easter Eggs? I hope you like chocolate because this game is full of them! It is a tradition of Namco to put Easter Eggs in Tales games, but this one has a big amount of them. Some titles can give your characters costumes of characters from previous Tales games. For example, if you have played Tales of Vesperia, you can dress Asbel (the main character) as Yuri Lowel and Cheria (one of Asbel's best friend) as Rita Mordio. Costumes don't provide you with any advantage, but it can be fun to dress your characters up as your favorite characters from previous Tales games. There's also a new item called Magic Carta, which are literal cards with the figure of the main characters from previous Tales games. Magic Carta are collectible items, and they can be used to get items throughout the progress of the game and even new titles with costumes. I would love to tell you more about the different Easter Eggs, but I would be giving you a spoiler. Easter Eggs are really abundant in this game.

Endline---

If you are looking for a great game with a great storyline, don't wait any longer and go get this game. If you are a casual gamer looking for a great storyline, get this game, but you won't get the most out of it unless you do some sidequests. Tales games are generally great, and Tales of Graces F won't let you down.

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