89 of 104 people found the following review helpful
A Graceful Entry Into the Series,
This review is from: Tales of Graces f - Playstation 3 (Video Game)
+A very inventive battle system that has a focus on strategy
+A good story with great characters
+Lots of customization to do
+Lots of sidequests to do at some point
+A lengthy quest
-The voice acting could be better
-The story is very slow paced and has a tendency to get bogged down in too much exposition. It's a very enjoyable story but sometimes you really wish it would just move along rather than taking time to explain what we already know
Note: The Following Review is Long
The Tales series has had a shaky history in the states. Many of them haven't even seen release stateside. Case in point, Tales of Graces was first made available on the Wii in Japan in 2009. When Tales games do get a release outside of Japan there are small handful of fans who take note. The last major release in the United States was Tales of Vesperia on the XBOX360. Tales of Graces comes out amidst worry for some fans as it opts to try something new and different for the Tales series. The results are actually great. It may take a bit of time to learn, but Tales of Graces is certainly a welcome addition. It has a few things that keep it from being nearly as good as previous entries in the series however.
Our story centers on Asbel. A rebellious youth who doesn't desire to follow in his fathers footsteps. Instead of becoming ruler of the Lhant he'd rather be a knight and protect his friends. As a boy he has gotten into trouble and gotten into heated arguments with his father. When he and his brother Hubert go to Lhant Hill (against his father's wishes, of course) they stumble across a mysterious girl who doesn't seem to know anything. There is also their friend Cheria who has a mysterious illness no one can cure. Asbel wants adventure and excitement, and upon meeting another young boy named Richard, they all form a friendship that they hope will last a life time. Unfortunately, due to Asbel's reckless nature tragedy strikes... and that eventually leads to him leaving home to become a knight to better himself. Seven years later, amidst tragedy, he returns to Lhant and discovers that his father may not have been as terrible a man as he thought and that as a child things happened that he simply couldn't understand.
Tales of Graces, like so many other games in the series, has a relatively simple premise that eventually unfolds into an epic tales. Nothing you see at the beginning of the game is any indication of what you're in for. But more importantly than that, the characters are what make the story so worthwhile. We begin the game seeing them as annoying children, but once they mature we can take note of their changes. And the story still develops them as they go. It's a likable cast and you'll find a lot about them as the game progresses. The story is also filled with twists and turns. Some you'll see coming and some you'll be amazed at. One could accuse Tales of Graces of using overdone plot points (the mysterious girl with memory problems is a favorite, it seems) but it's the execution that works here and not the idea itself. The only issue with the story is that of all the Tales games to precede it, Tales of Graces certainly takes the slowest the develop. The prologue alone might take four or five hours, and beyond that you'll feel restricted as it builds up to what's really going on. It is definitely a game you have to be patient with. Once it gets going, however, the characters become endearing enough that it can be hard to put down. The themes presented here can be a little heavy handed (particularly the theme of friendship) but Tales of Graces spends less time preaching to the audience and more time trying to illustrate the importance of the themes it's trying to showcase. What you get, in the end, is a dramatic tale that is more about characters than it is the situation they find themselves involved in. This is what makes the story worth playing through.
While the formula for storytelling has remained consistent with the Tales series, the gameplay has not. There are changes. The feeling of a Tales game is certainly still there, but the complexity of the battle system will take even veterans of the series a moment to learn and establish. Every character has a chain capacity (CC) and each attack will drain your CC. Some attacks will use one CC while others might use two, three or even four. You can string them together so long as you have the CC for it, but it's certainly more than just a hack and slash game in this regard. Depending on which directional button you press as your attacking, you'll pull off different moves and combos. These are called Assault Artes. At first this seems limiting, but it gives Tales of Graces a layer of strategy that no Tales game has had before it. And you can easily restore your CC by guarding in battle. Later in the game, however, players will gain a second stance and perform Bursts Artes, which can also be chained together, but they're stronger attacks. They also consume CC. It can take a few moments to really let this sink in, especially because there's a lot to swallow with the battle system. Luckily, after each fight the game will offer you tips to consistently help you out. It's a little strange at first, given the lack of Tech Points found in other tales games. As I said, the strategy here is much more in depth than you may realize.
Enemies also have weak points. Each assault arte and burst arte has its own attributes and some of your enemies are going to be weak to them. This means that you can't always string together the same attacks for the same result on every enemy. If you want to succeed in Tales of Graces, you're going to have to try several different mix-ups when attacking your enemies. At first the whole battle system seems confusing and overwhelming, but after only a couple of hours it becomes second nature. If you're having trouble with the battle system or can't learn it at first, you can always adjust the difficulty level of the game any time you wish.
Sometimes when you get into battles you'll be challenged to certain tasks such as completing a battle in fifteen seconds, chain together four artes, don't get hit or something else along those lines. The reward for doing so is often more lucrative rewards. Complete the challenges consistently and you'll start getting better items. There's a bit more here to entice you to battle. The biggest addition, however, is the Eleth gauge. A gauge that continues to increase as you do battle. Perform well by dodging attacks or striking enemies and you'll gain an Eleth Burst which will temporarily let you perform all of your attacks without consuming CC. In boss battles this is a very useful tool.
Before in Tales games learning new artes usually entailed reaching a certain level, learning them from certain NPCs (or advancements in the story) or using some artes a certain number of times until it lead to learning a new arte. Here it's entirely different. Abilities are now learned through the title bestowed upon a character. As you battle you'll gain skill points, which will go toward learning certain abilities a title has. Once you've learned them all you can switch titles and learn more abilities. It's a bit deeper than other tales games, but it's relatively simple to grasp.
The battle system isn't the only thing that has changed. So have some of the other aspects of the game. You can combine items to make better ones. You can also combine certain items with your weapons and armor and make them stronger and change their attributes. But most important of all is the introduction of the Eleth Mixer. Place an item in it and the mixer will continue to duplicate them as time goes on. Put two ingredients in it and it'll cook food for you (that'll get used automatically in battle). Of all the additions to Tales, the Eleth mixer is certainly the most amusing of the batch.
That's not to say everything about Tales has changed. The game still has lots of skits. All of them are voiced this time, however, and they often add more development to characters. They don't just add to the characters. Some of the time they add to the overall story. Characters will speculate about events that just happened or comment on other characters as well. They're all optional, but if you want the most out of the story and characters, it's a good idea to take a look at all of them.
Tales of Graces isn't without any faults, however. The pacing of the story is incredibly slow, and in real Tales fashion the story can get bogged down in exposition and drama. The game will explain lots of things to you... several times. You'll also find yourself running from Point A to Point B and back to Point A with only hearing exposition and seeing events explained out to you. The Tales series has always done this, but it's particularly noticeable here as the first few hours of the game have you constantly running between the same places over and over again with slow progression across the overworld. It is by far the most restrictive the Tales series has ever been in terms of exploration. Story is the focus here as the game doesn't even want to let you stray from the main path for too long. Other times Asbel simply won't go certain places, instead informing you that there's no need to go there. Most of the characters are interesting enough at least, but you won't find them to nearly as memorable as characters you found in previous outings such as Tales of the Abyss or Tales of Symphonia.
Seeing as how Tales of Graces was originally on the Wii, one might be tempted to think the presentation would look the same as well. It actually doesn't. If there was one game to show off the difference between HD and standard definition this is it. The PS3 version of the game has crisper and smoother looking graphics. Not to mention there are more details added to the game itself. The character models, in particular, look a lot better than they did on the Wii. The cel-shaded graphics give a cartoon like quality to the game. That's not to say the game is gorgeous all around. It's easy on the eyes, but you'll wish there was more detail to the game itself. Towns are strangely underpopulated and environments feel scarce. Character models are nice, but the portraits in their skits look much more detailed than the models themselves. It's a mixed bag. You'll appreciate the upscaling, but Tales of Graces f certainly doesn't have as much life in it as other Tales games before it.
The games actual soundtrack is pretty good, however. Some tunes sound better than others. What won't always bode well is the voice acting. Once again we have a case of a game that has found the right voices for the characters, but isn't very good at expressing them emotionally. In instances where characters should be mad, they don't actually sound mad... just slightly louder. And this is a shame considering Tales of Graces has some pretty dramatic moments that, had the voice acting been better, would've made some of Tales of Graces best moments even better.
For Tales fans, Tales of Graces F is a pretty good game. It is not the best in the Tales series by far. But it continues to do some of the things the Tales series has done so well for so long. A great story with endearing characters and plenty to do along the way. If you're a fan of the Tales series then Tales of Graces F is a game worth trying.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 14, 2012 5:21:11 AM PDT
Thanks for taking the time to write an actual "well written" review. Some people get a little too wrapped up in all the hype and that tends to cloud their thought process making their reviews pretty much useless.
Posted on Mar 14, 2012 9:15:32 AM PDT
Thank you for a very comprehensive breakdown of the battle system. So does this mean that battles take longer than before? Is there a trade off like more average EXP per battle?
Posted on Mar 14, 2012 12:52:07 PM PDT
Kristin Docken says:
so what in your opinion is the best in the tales series?
Posted on Mar 14, 2012 11:58:00 PM PDT
A. F. Otayde says:
Great review! Do you think the other tales game will come out in the US? Also, do you think this will be ported on the 360?
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2012 8:10:49 AM PDT
Considering that NAMCO is localizing this as a test, and based on the amount of attention it's gotten over the last 3 days, I doubt it (for both of those questions). That was the reason Vesperia never got ported over to the PS3. It did well, but not well enough for NAMCO to put the resources and money into a port. Even when you have small releases, the big gaming websites have reviews within a day or two; example being I Am Alive. So far there are only 4 reviews on metacritic. I have yet to see any word from IGN (they are usually the most frequently updated) or Gamespot. Also, there are only 2 reviews up on Amazon, which is usually the place with the most user reviews. The JRPG genre has a limited following here in North America, and an even smaller one for the Tales franchise. It's a shame because these are great games and it will mean no Xillia or future titles.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2012 10:05:49 AM PDT
Tales of Xillia will more than likely come out, but there is a slim to zero percent chance this will see an Xbox port.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2012 10:10:21 AM PDT
Tales of Xillia hands down is graphically, story, and battle wise the best Tales. If it doesn't come out for you all to play that'd be a shame because I love the game. Milla Maxwell and Jude Mathis are the most likable characters in the series history.
Posted on Mar 16, 2012 7:22:56 AM PDT
W. Lee says:
Did they include Japanese VO option?
Posted on Mar 19, 2012 9:31:49 AM PDT