Tales of Graces f
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: 31st August, 2012
Price: $57.60 – Available Here
The Tales series is a long and enduring one. It has over the course of more than 15 years, the Tales franchise has went through many stages of evolution but it has never forgotten what made it Tales. So here we are now with Tales of Graces f, a Playstation 3 port of the Wii Tales of Graces game, the next evolution of Tales. The question is though, is it a mistake or does it evolve gracefully?
As has come to be known as a staple of the series, the game features a fantasy setting with a very anime-esque plot that plays out over the course of many many hours. Tales of Graces f follows Asbel Lhant a noble’s son as he forges a friendship with a prince and a mysterious girl, one that they swear shall last forever. But of course being that this is an RPG game things get in the way of that.
Without going into too much detail I must say that Tales of Graces f features one of the series’ finest story-telling efforts, with a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way. The world of Graces is vast and well concieved much like it’s characters that inhabit it. I found the character of Asbel to be the most well defined and easily relatable. He has a very likable personality and it is easy to want him to succeed. Much like other entries in the Tales series there is a of course many emotional moments to be seen and some are truly powerful moments at that. Without a doubt this is one of the most interesting stories the series has pulled off in years.
Tales of Graces f does feature a decidedly different gameplay style to previous Tales games, most specifically with it’s combat system. Previously Tales games implemented a much more chaotic combat system, comparatively Tales of Graces f features much more refined and simplified combat mechanics.
In combat players are locked in a line with enemies with the ability to switch to another enemy at the tap of a button. You move backwards and forwards and also dodge side-ways. It’s simple and while a little restricting compared to previous Tales games, it gives a feel much similar to Tales of Phantasia but in a 3-dimensional plane.
Interestingly enough the new combat system which arguably is just a variation of previous systems, does allow for some interesting strategy with the ability to set party actions prior to battles. They are of course controlled in combat by AI but the player themselves can determine how they will fight, defensively, offensively, be the teams healer etc. It works great and adds a greater level of depth to how your team plays without having the worry about controlling them in combat.
Of course like other RPG games, Tales of Graces f features a leveling system and there is a bit of a necessity for grinding at times usually in order to take on strong opponents and bosses that are almost impossible unless you are a certain level. Thankfully though the leveling is done in a way that is far from obtrusive and works incredibly well in providing the player with a simple and effective way to track their party’s progress without becoming a game about numbers like a lot of RPGs tend to do.
Characters can earn Titles and level that by 5 variations throughout the story as they progress and on top of that upgrade their attributes and gain new skills.
All in all there is a distinctive old-school RPG vibe to Tales of Graces f in terms of gameplay, it hearkens back the feeling of classic RPGs such as Guardian’s Crusade and of course the timeless Tales of Phantasia, the game that began it all for Tales. Despite that though there is enough freshness that it stands well in the modern gaming environment.
Visuals and Audio:
Aesthetically Tales of Graces f continues on with the anime-esque art style that the series has become known for. Much like previous iterations of the franchise it is brightly coloured and looks simply gorgeous because of it. The vibrant and lively landscapes are incredibly memorable and make for a world worth exploring. Character designs are also well done with a vast array of unique looking characters within the game of all shapes, sizes and styles.
The game’s soundtrack is pretty much your standard fantasy RPG score but it does the job effectively enough although it doesn’t make any major strides to do anything new or innovative. The game’s theme song is quite good though and rather noteworthy. I found myself looking it up afterwards just to listen to it again. It’s a shame that the rest of the game’s soundtrack is rather bog-standard. In terms of voice acting however the English voice actors and actresses have done an excellent job at portraying these characters and making for memorable performances. Asbel in particular was performed phenomenally by Bryce Papenbrooke in his adult form, a tour de force of voice acting to say the very least.
Tales of Graces f is another solid entry into the long list of game’s in the Tales series. It may not do a whole lot different to it’s predecessors but it doesn’t need to. The formula is solid and the story takes the foreground in RPGs such as this and I must say this is one of the best stories Namco have told with Tales in years even rivaling the legendary Tales of Symphonia.
There is enough on offer here to please any Tales fan as well as those new to the series. In fact it makes for an excellent entry point for those unfamiliar with the series. Asbel is an admirable hero and the story of Graces will surely engage even the most wayward RPG fans. Tales of Graces f is a classy game that lives up to it’s title, this is a game made of pure grace.