[Video Game Review]: Tales of Graces F

Tales of Graces

Developers – Namco Tales Studio

Publisher – Namco Bandai Games

Platforms – PS3, Wii

 After having played Tales of Vesperia a few years back I’ve been waiting with bated breath for a chance to review another Tales game on The Geek Clinic, and that time has finally come. The “Tales of” series has been running since 1995 over a number of consoles, with its 14 main titles generally standing separately from one another while maintaining a focus on storytelling, characterization and real time combat in a fantasy setting. After having experienced just two of them, I can quite confidently say that the series is a must-play for JRPG fans. I’d still love to recommend it to gamers who aren’t yet a fan of the genre, though, and this review is where I try and convince you all to give it a go with Tales of Graces F as an example. While it may not be perfect, it maintains the high quality “Tales of” games are known for and is a great entry point into the series.

As with anything, even friendships must pass. Having found a mysterious girl alone in a field of flowers during his childhood, Asbel soon came to care for her as a friend. Along with his brother, Hubert, their friend, Cheria and Richard, prince to the throne, he remembers the days they were together with Sophie fondly. After the girl’s tragic death 7 years ago, however, Asbel still struggles to find his place in the world, in isolation from the people he was once so close to. He’s a little surprised, then, when he finds Sophie looking not a day older in that same field as their first meeting. Though she doesn’t remember a thing about the past, she may yet be the catalyst for Asbel’s friendships, and his passion to do the right thing for his country and the world, to reignite. In the midst of civil war, strangely advanced technologies from the past and, of course, a threat to the world itself, those bonds might be the only things that can keep him going.

Tales of Graces 6

Tales of Graces follows that classic fictional formula of starting small and ramping up until everyone and their grandma, as well as her kitchen sink, are at stake. While it does come across as a little generic, and I’ll admit that there weren’t many points where I was dying to find out what was going to happen next, there are enough unique ingredients to make the experience feel fresh. For one, as with all Tales games, the setting in which the story occurs is highly developed and intricately woven into the series of events you’re shown. The level of integration between environment, human politics and emotions, and everything that displays on your screen is fantastic. While most of the individual plot threads have been done before they haven’t been done in Tales of Graces’ combinations or style and that keeps things interesting, even if it doesn’t quite keep you on the edge of your seat.

The real reason this series shines, however, is because of its characters. With a huge variety of cutscenes, unique sequences know as skits (more on those later) and even battle dialogue, every single facet of these characters is explored to a stupefying degree and I guarantee that you will care about them before the game is over (if only because it takes over fifty hours and Stockholm Syndrome is a thing – har har). Even within the overarching plot each one of them has their own interesting tale to tell and that’s great. As I’ve just mentioned, the Tales series has a special feature called skits that I haven’t really seen implemented elsewhere. Periodically (read: frequently), as you advance in the story, beat an optional monster, craft a new item or even just speak to a random NPC a small notification will pop up on the screen allowing you to view a skit. These visual-novel-esque affairs more or less consist of character sprites showing up on screen and having a conversation. They’ll change expressions, move around the screen, have unique art and generally give you a glimpse into the personality of each of the characters involved. Ranging from topical and serious to downright hilarious, these skits are what make the franchise so wonderful.

Tales of Graces 1

Onto the gameplay! The Tales games utilise a real time battle system, though each title has its own unique spin on things. In Tales of Graces you can control any of the characters in your party while the AI deals with the rest, and each party member has their own skill set and playstyle; it’s almost like an MMO class system, so if you ever get bored with one you can change to another and the entire experience is modified. You’ll fight using a combination of two different types of artes (abilities) arranged into combos and get various rewards depending on how skilled you are, and the number of artes is massive! After having finished the main game and epilogue, I still hadn’t learned them all! Rather than mana, you will have a resource known as chain capacity (CC) which limits how many abilities you can use in a row and will increase over the course of the game allowing for more elaborate combos and more powerful artes to be performed. It can take a while to get used to but once you’ve played with the system enough you can get some marvellous attack sequences going.

Tales of Graces 5

One of the things I think Graces does really well is its balance between extra content and the main game. You can get all the way through the story with only a basic understanding of the mechanics involved, but if you’re really into things then there’s a whole bunch extra for you to play around with as you make your way through. There’s a crafting system allowing you to improved your weapons, create accessories and cook meals that give you buffs during battle. Add onto that the depth that the combat system has to offer (which hasn’t been covered in full here), and you’ve got a huge range of complexity to suit just about any player. There’s no grinding required whatsoever (on normal difficulty, anyway) but if that’s your kind of thing then there’s plenty of extra stuff to do after and even during the main story. Unfortunately, the way in which this extra content is delivered forms one of my major complaints about the game. Forgetting the extra bosses and dungeons, since they’re not important to anyone that’s not going to specifically hunt them down, a huge number of the bonus skits you can find (and I mean at least a hundred of them) will most definitely not be found by the normal player. You would literally have to revisit every area after each new event in order to find them, and for a component of character development that’s ridiculous.

Tales of Graces 2

Graces has both strengths and weaknesses in its technical department. For one, the visual style the Tales games use suits their overall feeling perfectly. Environments and enemies look wonderful (with a fair amount of variety), combat movements and abilities are smooth and dazzling, and that same quality continues to just about everything in the game…as long as you don’t look too closely. When it comes to the large number of cutscenes scattered about, the character models – especially their facial expressions – look quite dated. Their movements don’t flow well either and that can have a sizeable negative effect on immersion. In the voice acting category much of the English dub is done very well; voices fit their characters and sound like you imagine they should in the context of the game. Unfortunately, some of the actors (though not many) fail to use the right inflection in their phrases and that can be off-putting in the middle of a skit or story sequence. Finally, I can say that the BGM does a good job of representing each area it’s used in while not being particularly memorable in itself (though the OP is great!).

Summary – Tales of Graces is a very solid JRPG experience. While the story doesn’t reach the highs I would like, it’s novel and different enough to keep you wanting to play and is more than made up for by expert characterization and overall personality. The gameplay is fun and offers a huge amount of variety for both casual players and completionists, and remains interesting despite the length of the game. The visual style used fits the Tales of Series well, and is very appealing for the most part, but could do with some work when it comes to cutscenes, especially considering how important those scenes are to the experience as a whole. All-in-all, JRPG lovers must play the Tales of games and Graces is as good a place as any to start.

 Score: 8.5/10 – Good

Tales of Graces 3

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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20 Responses to [Video Game Review]: Tales of Graces F

  1. Overlord-G says:

    Underestimated its difficulty. Many game overs. meaning grinding. It’s cool. I dared say Xillia was tougher. Oh how wrong I was.
    A simple story is unique for the Tales series.
    Much love for Sophie and Pascal. Cheria’s cool when she finally takes her chill pill.
    Actually Hubert is my least favorite character. I don’t hate him though.

    Now all I need to do is find the necessary incentive to get myself out of my “anime groove”, get back to my “gaming groove” and finish this bad boy. GOH my list of unfinished games is huge.

    • Silvachief says:

      Hang in there! I know exactly how you feel…my backlog may soon be classified as a new form of life.

      I generally just play on normal difficulty, since i’m more worried about the story than how hard a game might be (for RPGs, anyway), so my review is based on that. I haven’t played Xilia yet though I do own it, so i’ll probably post a review for that one as well before too long. In terms of favorite characters, i’d say Cheria, Sophie and Malik are my top 3 (not necessarily in that order), with the others still being enjoyable. Hubert did annoy me to begin with but he mellowed out as the series progressed and I liked him a lot more by the end.

      • Overlord-G says:

        I love the Tales series so I have yet to play one I did not like. Even Legendia had its merits.
        Oh yeah, respect.for Captain Malik.
        Funny how Cheria, Hubert and Malik (Sort of) started off being jerky after the prologue ended and then quickly became likable when they took the aforementioned chill pills, though Hubert took a bit longer than most.

  2. Probably more like a 7.0 for me. I like the characters and the storyline was alright (sans Asbel whining about trying to find the power to protect and friendship), but the difficulty felt really unbalanced. Like OG stated above, I received too many game overs midway through the main chapter from some of the minor enemies, yet did manage to complete it and the after story on Hard mode. The Eleth Mixer system was cool and very useful, however by the time I was using it to its fullest potential I completed the game.

    • Silvachief says:

      It’s interesting how the difficulty can affect opinions so much. On normal I had just enough trouble with enemies that fights were interesting but never felt that I was insurmountably outmatched. With no grinding being done, that makes for perfect balancing in my opinion.
      I’ll agree that Graces is a bit generic in terms of Asbel’s desires and personality…there’s not really anything about him that’s unique for a protagonist (unlike, say, Yuri from Vesperia). It’s how polished the overall experience was, with such a robust combat system and focus on character interaction, that earned Graces its score from me. If I was really pressed to lower its score, it certainly wouldn’t go below an 8, though that may be a scale difference.

      • I can agree with you there about having no need to grind, plus as stated, the Eleth Mixer was a huge help, especially if used them in combination with the tomes you can find or get from the INN request. Although, putting difficulty and the combat aside, I did neglect to mention that the story was bit too short for my liking (even with the after story/Legacy chapter) as the world to limited. One the reasons I like the series is because of the exploration you can do and sidequest, but the world in Graces F just seemed to confined. Yet elsewhere, like the character interactions you mentioned, it is typical Tales game and not a bad one. But yeah, just my opinion and the gripe was difficulty was just one miniscule part of it.

        • Silvachief says:

          Having done all of the extra stuff available during the main game, I thought it was massively long XD Took me 80 hours to do the main game and epilogue plus side quests.

          • Wow, that is lot. Pulling up my PS3 save, I had 54hrs for the main and about 20hrs for the extra chapter for a total of 78hrs. I know I did some side-quest (just can’t remember which), but most of that was spent on the Riot Peak coliseum and dualizing items.

  3. Rocco B says:

    Got the game, but like many JRPG’ I own, I never seem to finish it (Star Ocean: The last hope being an exception). My favourite characters were Hubert and Pascal (particular Pascal). The rest of the cast were likable enough.

    • Silvachief says:

      It’s pretty easy to put JRPGs down and just not pick them back up again, so I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve actually finished Star Ocean: The Last Hope as well, though the second playthrough I started last year never reached its conclusion >.<
      A lot of people really like Pascal for her wacky, zany personality, though it didn't really appeal to me. That's not to say I didn't like her, because I did!

  4. awesomecurry says:

    Pascal best girl.

    I played on moderate and later switched to hard. I remember getting my ass kicked in the Kurt fight though, and some of the later boss fights in the future arc. Graces has one of my favorite Tales of battle systems and probably the best skits and victory quotes.

    • Silvachief says:

      Cheria Best Girl >.> Maybe i’m just too mainstream XD

      Kurt’s one of the bosses that a lot of people have trouble with, from what i’ve heard, so it’s not too surprising that he was a stumbling block after switching to hard. Some of the skits and victory quotes are absolutely hilarious, though i’m sure I missed a lot of them since I tend to keep the same party for the entire game.

  5. Lazarinth says:

    Anything in particular change the score?

    • Silvachief says:

      I had a good think about how much I really enjoyed Tales of Graces and in the end decided it didn’t deserve a 9. I have a whole bunch of praise to throw at it but the “feeling” of a 9/10 just wasn’t there, if that makes any sense XD

  6. I love rpgs with a good story. Although reading the premise it sounds like something you’d see in an fantasy average anime. I thought this was a game series I had to play in order so thank you for clearing that up for me. Will definitely pick up a copy once I get my ps3 over here.

    • Silvachief says:

      It’s weird because, while i’ve never seen anything like Graces’ story before it does still come across as a little generic. What makes it different is the style in which it is presented and the character interactions. I probably preferred Vesperia over Graces, but they’re both worth playing!

  7. Kai says:

    I know this had nothing to do with the game itself (oh wait, maybe a little), but one thing which had led to me to avoid recent Tales games is because they just don’t feature dual voices (or just Jap voices). Instead of budget or stuffs, it seems like it’s a normal thing as far as Tales games go, lol. Because of that, even though I wanted to, I still haven’t play Tales of Graces F, and still haven’t pick up a copy of Xillia/Xillia 2, lol. How did you find the dubbing?

    • Silvachief says:

      I find the Tales dubbing to be better than in most localizations but still not perfect. There was one character in particular (who you don’t see very often) that got a whole bunch of inflection wrong, but for the most part it’s very well done and on par with Western releases. Thinking back on my experience with Vesperia, I don’t remember any poor voice acting at all.

      It’s a shame that they don’t include the Japanese track though. For people who don’t like dubs it can be a real lifesaver. I know I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as I did in Atelier Rorona or Time and Eternity without the Japanese voices, though that still wasn’t very far, admittedly =P

  8. Pingback: [Video Game Review]: Tales of Xillia | The Geek Clinic

  9. Pingback: [Video Game Review]: Tales of the Abyss | The Geek Clinic

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