Tales of Graces was originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2009, in the land of the rising sun. The RPG remained a Japanese exclusive for a couple years until Namco Bandai hinted of a localization release early last year on their official Facebook page. Buried within a puzzle image was a message stating that Tales of Graces f was coming to North America and after a timely wait, the game was finally released this month in the West.
You take charge of Asbel Lanht, a young lad on the planet Efinea caught between the wars of three kingdoms: Windor, Stratha and Fendel, vying for complete domination. With his brother, Hubert, they discover a young girl with amnesia named Sophie lying in the grass field while exploring the hillside one day. Along with Sophie, Asbel teams up with a group of ragtag pals as they fight to protect and save everyone from the atrocities of war. Events take place seven years later after a series of incidents that forces the kids to grow up and quickly learn the ways of the world.
In traditional Tales fashion, combat is comprised of real-time action as you attack, run, block and use special attacks on your enemies. You now have the ability to parry, side-step and dodge your enemies’ attacks while assigning battle tactics and strategies unique to each party member. The combat system is officially called Style Shift Linear Motion Battle System, with the option to choose one of two fighting styles: A-style, pre-set mode, or B-style, free-run artes. Critical hits are unleashed when your Chain Capacity gauge is filled after stringing together different attacks. Much of the game starts off with easy to moderate battles, with the difficulty curve spiking in the latter half of the adventure.
All monsters and enemies are visible on the field, giving you the chance to “back-attack” them or to be taken by surprise. A “!” appears when they see or take notice of your presence when you engage them or simply run by them in search of treasure chests. Hidden items are visible from a distance by radiating a shiny glimmer in the open world. You’ll be guided in the necessary direction as select roads or exit points will be blocked when deviating off the beaten path. Story criteria often must be fulfilled before Asbel can proceed any further with his friends. A ripple effect is visible at random points, which trigger a character dialogue highlighting recent events and the thoughts of your party members.
Depending on your actions, you can equip Asbel and the others with unique titles that give them special abilities and stat bonuses. They range from titles such as “Slayer” even to the comical “Groper” title for your party members throughout the game. Regarding item synthesis, you can use Eleth pots to heal, equip, customize and boost character stats for your respective allies. At the start, weapons and equipment are very limited with the arsenal of choices opening up as you progress further on your journey.
Visually, the game is decent but the character models and environments do betray the fact the game was made originally for the Wii. They are not bad by any means, but it fails to make use of any spectacular visuals the PlayStation 3 is truly capable of delivering. The soundtrack is fitting with the battle theme being one of the best in the game. Listening to your party talk, engage in victory fanfare, and spout random comments is a nice diversion from the typical stats on screen after each successful battle.
Tales of Graces f is one of the latest Japanese role-playing games filled with tons of nostalgia and charm for loyal fans of the series. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s certainly a welcome and refreshing change of pace from recent titles like Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2. The true gem is found in the gameplay as the story and voice acting is mediocre at best. Fans eager to sink their teeth into a whimsical and light-hearted JRPG will find much satisfaction and enjoyment in Tales of Graces f. Here’s to hoping Namco Bandai will bring the highly anticipated and demanded Tales of Xillia to North American shores as well.
This review is based on a retail copy of Tales of Graces f for the PlayStation 3 provided by Namco Bandai.