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Tales of Graces f Review (PS3)

Now Playing: Guild Wars 2, Borderlands 2, Final Fantasy X
Now Listening to: Tales of Graces f Opening/Ending, Pokémon Remixes
Now Watching: Naruto Shippuuden, Naruto SD, Okamiden Let's Play
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Name: Tales of Graces f
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Release Date: 31 August 2012
Platform: Playstation 3
Genre: JRPG
Multiplayer: Co-op multiplayer (1-4)

What it's about:
The story follows the protagonist Asbel Lhant throughout his quest to gain the power to protect his friends. It's a pretty cliché story but the varied cast of loveable characters more than makes up for it. It's actually told in three different time periods. The short child arc serves as an introduction to both story and gameplay, while the adult arc that takes place seven years later is the much larger portion of the game. Then there's also an added future arc for the PS3 version, which adds to and ultimately concludes this tale of friendship.

Gameplay: 10/10
The Gameplay is very similar to previous games in the series but vastly improves upon them. For starters, there is no longer any MP cost for using Artes. Instead, each character has a certain amount of CC (Chain Capacity) which are basically Action Points. Each Arte or Action like evading takes up a certain amount of CC which mostly depends on the equipped weapon. Unlike before, CC recharges in battle very quickly, ideally while simply blocking, which makes it possible to build the whole battle system around using Artes instead of mashing the Normal Attack button and using Artes every now and then before you'd run low on MP. This change makes every battle a lot more dynamic, different and most importantly fun. Quite honestly, it makes the systems used in Symphonia or Abyss look completely outdated, archaic and boring in comparison.

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In classic Tales fashion, you control one of the four characters in battle while the AI handles the rest. There is co-op multiplayer that allows up to 4 players to play and eliminate the need to rely on the AI, but unfortunately I wasn't able to try it. That said, you can quickly switch between characters with the d-pad if you need to. Each character has two different types of Artes, which make for two completely different playstyles. A-Artes are a chain of Artes you can unleash in quick succession and are tied to usually 3-4 trees of 4 Artes. Depending on which direction you tilt the analog stick while pressing the button, you can smoothly use Artes from every tree in one combo. B-Artes are more similar to the setup seen in previous Tales games and 4 of them can be mapped to your controlling character at a time. A-Artes are physical while B-Artes are magical and enemies tend to be weak or very weak to either type, found out by simply pressing R1 for a quick summary of the targeted enemy including their elemental weaknesses. Like I mentioned before, they also make for different playstyles. For example, Hubert uses his Dualblade for physical attacks when using A-Artes, but his B-Artes make him quickly change his weapon into two guns.

Titles return from previous games but this time they're made into a crucial mechanic. You can earn well over 100 titles for each character and each title comes with 5 skills, which can be learned with Skill Points obtained from battle. While there is the classic Level and Experience system, your main way of developing your characters is with titles. The skills you can obtain range from decent passive stat boosts, improvements for your current Artes and even learning all your new Artes, including powerful Mystic Artes. Some of these are extremely useful and make it well worth your time doing sidequests or fighting a lot of battles to obtain most of them.

A very cool difficulty option with a total of 6 difficulties lets players tailor the game to their skill level, making battles feel much more engaging and rewarding. Speaking of which, the game greatly rewards you for the tougher battles on higher difficulties with more Experience, Skill Points, more and rarer item drops etc. It can be changed at almost any given time in the option menu, letting you test your skills once you feel confident enough or lower it a bit once things get too tough. I've played the whole game on the harder difficulty settings and it made the battles much more fun to play, even with the AI of the other characters not being near as good defensively as I was and causing some frustrating moments every now and then.


 

Outside of battle, there is plenty for players to do as well. You can watch hundreds of skits, small scenes between the party members, which either talk about the current situation or completely unrelated and hilarious topics. They are all optional and provide backstory or comedic relief, so it's up to the player if they want to view them.

Materials found or obtained from enemies can be combined (or dualized, as the game likes to call it) into new items and in the same way you can dualize a weapon or piece of armour with special shards to upgrade them and give them special abilities. If you use these pieces of equipment in battle, they'll eventually temper which grants them a small offensive or defensive boost. However, you can extract the shard from two weapons or armour to make a gem with the respective abilities that can be equipped as an accessory. This process can be repeated over and over again to keep your old weapons useful and obtain more gems, which can also be dualized into new ones.

One very useful tool you're given at the start of the adult arc is the Eleth Mixer. This mixer automatically cooks dishes you previously dualized in or after battles for you. Fighting a hard boss battle? Put some curry into your mixer and it will automatically cook it once per battle when someone is KO'ed to revive them and put them right back into the action. That's only a fraction of what this handy tool can do though. It can also produce any previously obtained material at a certain percentage as time passes, making it crucial if you want to dualize as many items as possible. Finally, you can equip special books to it which give you really helpful perks, such as increased material or shard droprates or even double the amount of Experience/Skill Points at the cost of cutting your stats in half. Everything, including having books equipped, drains Eleth from the mixer. Its capacity and slots to utilise will increase as you use it but you'll still frequently have to refill it for a small fee at a merchant.

Graphics: 7/10
Tales of Graces f is on the PS3, but one shouldn't forget that despite being in HD it's still a Wii game at its core. It looks good, but doesn't come close to what the PS3 could do for the Tales series, like Tales of Xillia or its upcoming sequel. That said, some praise has to be given to the superb battle animations and effects as well as the Mystic Artes. The skits also feature full-body 2D animations of the characters instead of just portraits and look very good. Last but not least, about a dozen of short anime movies are in the game as well and they look stunning.

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Sound: 8/10
The soundtrack is once again composed by veteran Tales of composer Motoi Sakuraba and Hibiki Aoyama best known for his collaboration with Sakuraba on the soundtrack of Tales of Vesperia. While it is a very good soundtrack, only few of them were memorable and really stood out. The voice acting is great though. The voices fit the characters very well and a few awkward moments are caused by the script, rather than the voice actors.

Length: 10/10
Tales of Graces f is a very long game, even for the already meaty standards of the series. Unless you completely rush through it all, 50 hours for the main game is what you're looking at here. Then, there's the added future arc with 10 additional hours of story content and even a pretty hard optional dungeon for the PS3 version. If you really want to get the most out of it or even get the Platinum Trophy, you'll easily be busy for 150 hours or more. For this purpose, the New Game+ and the Grade Shop return and make a second playthrough a lot easier with very generous Experience and Skill Point multipliers, transferring many things such as titles from your old file and much more.

Outside of the main game, there are Trials of Graces which are specific challenges you can attempt with any of your savefiles. If you win, you can transfer the reward item to that savefile. There are only about 25 and they're nothing major, though later ones can get incredibly hard. There is DLC for the game but it's nothing story-related and only alternate costumes and other minor things. Some costumes can actually be obtained in-game via sidequests as well, which is very welcome for people who might want one or two costumes but don't want to spend extra money on them.

Final Score: 10/10

Going into this game, all I knew was that it supposedly has an amazing battle system, which it undoubtedly does. It's so much more than that though. It keeps and refines every element the series is known and loved for and gives it the brilliantly engaging battle system it always deserved. Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss were both already outstanding games but Tales of Graces f simply surpasses both of them in just about every way and is, quite simply, fantastic.

At last...a Gaming PC!!

Now Playing: Tales of Graces f, Guild Wars 2, Borderlands 2
Now Listening to: Tales of Graces f Opening/Ending
Now Watching: Naruto Shippuuden, Okamiden Let's Play

After like a year of waiting, I finally got myself a new PC to replace my 17 inch HP laptop I have for 3.5 years now. I spent all of my savings for it in the end, so for now my funds for games will be pretty limited. It was about damn time for a replacement though and before I get some okay mid-range PC, I decided to pay a little extra to get a good Gaming PC. Nothing amazing or totally future-proof but a pretty decent machine nonetheless.

The most important specs are:

INTEL Core i5-3450 Overclocked @ 4,0GHz, Quad-Core "Ivy Bridge"
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 (Factory Overclocked, which brings it very close to the performance of the GTX 560 Ti)
- 8GB Kingston HyperX DDR3 RAM, 1600 MHz
- HITACHI Deskstar,  500GB, SATA 6Gb/s, 7200RPM

I originally had a similar, cheaper model with the only difference being a AMD FX Quad-Core @ 4,2 GHz instead of the i5-3450 in mind but after some research I was really turned off by how bad AMD's "Bulldozer" CPU series is in comparison. I plan on emulating as well and most emulators only use 2 cores, making it with its lower performance per core a much worse choice than the i5-3450, which I gladly paid more for. In total the PC cost €800 with free shipping. Since I was using a laptop, I also had to get a new monitor, a 23 inch FUJITSU 1920x1080 for €120.

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I bought it from a small Austrian company called HI-TECH - Real Overclocked Gaming. They specialize in overclocked Gaming PC's, build each one as the order rolls in, test it for 24-hours on maximum performance, install Windows 7 and the newest drivers for you and optimise everything else there is, for no extra fee. Their employees are also passionate gamers, which is one reason why their customer service is so great (see below for more). On top of great prices, they offer free shipping all around Europe, which is something I never expected for a product like a PC.

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Little interesting story about the case, I actually ordered it with a different one but they wrongly used a €24 more expensive case. I contacted their customer support immediately and they offered me a free Steam key for Borderlands 2 if I kept the more expensive case, without paying for the additional cost, of course. I haven't played much if it yet but I'm really liking it so far. Runs smoothly on maximum settings (haven't found a show FPS option though) and my PC is still as quiet as ever while running it. Loving the style too. Here's a screenshot I took:

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This is my new setup. Much like before, I still want to be able to have both screens in my view at the same time, so this is perfect for me.

Needless to say, I'm very happy with my PC so far. How happy exactly? Well, I'll let you guess based on the comic below. In what phase are you guys right now?

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PS: Contrary to how this might look, I'll still be primarily a console gamer because of Nintendo, exclusives and my favourite genre being JRPG's, which is certainly not very widespread on PC's. It's really nice to have all these options with another giant library of games available to me now though.

Anybody want some snow?

Now Playing: Zack & Wiki, Rayman Origins
Now Listening to: FFVII OST, FFVIII OST, FFIX OST
Now Watching: Naruto Shippuuden, FFVII Let's Play

As some of you may know, I live in Austria and winters are always fun around here. We didn't have much snow the past few years but this year it's getting out of control. It's been snowing all day for three days and there's no sign of it stopping any time soon. I didn't have anything better to do, so I took some pictures with my 1337 digital camera aka Nintendo 3DS. Basically, imagine some guy running around in that mess with his 3DS only wearing shorts, a T-shirt and shoes while all neighbours are busy shovelling snow. Too bad nobody saw me, I would have loved to see the looks on their faces. XD


There's about 1 meter (or more) of snow everywhere you look, thankfully not on the streets though. Even with a reasonably cleared street, it's still hell to drive up this hillside I live on. If anything is in your way and you're forced to slow down, you're basically screwed. Same problem if you're driving downwards, since you can cause someone to get stuck just by being on the street too and if one car gets stuck you're automatically stuck too as the street is usually only half as wide during a snowy winter. So yeah, driving a car around here is a lot of fun right now.

Thankfully, this massive amount of snow also has a positive aspect for me. With so much snow (that isn't already rock solid) in our garden, I can go apeshit with my katana on that huge hill of snow you can see in the above picture. XD Last time I did that I lasted about 15 minutes outside, again only wearing shorts, a T-shirt and shoes. Took a while to recover from that though, so I might want to wear some winter clothing this time around.

So, anybody want some of this snow? I'll give you a nice discount. Smilie Seriously though, how are things where you guys live? No snow but you want some? Satisfied with how things are? I'd like to know. Smilie

Swords, swords and...some other stuff!

Now Playing: The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
Now Listening to: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance OST
Now Watching: A Majora's Mask Let's Play, Naruto as usual

So I recently decided that I need one or two hobbies aside from videogames, anime, listening to music etc. and I started by buying this...

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I've been practising some swordfighting for a while now but I didn't really have a proper practice weapon so far. Just a juggling knife I've had for years that has surprisingly good handling and durability. Smilie

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I have a 7yrs old self-made wooden Master Sword replica (though it's not that accurate as I changed it up a bit Smilie) as well but it's too valueable to me to actually train with, though I use it from time to time with a self-made wooden shield (made out of the seat of an old chair lol) just for the fun of it. Smilie

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If you're wondering why in the world I painted the shield green..err I don't know anymore either. All I know is that painting the Hylian Shield pattern was way above my skill at the time (and likely still is), so I probably ditched the colour blue along with that.

When you have a good look around Ebay, the prices at which you can get decent sharp weapons on there are just totally insane. Not even €10 for a badass-looking sharp Machete? Daamn. I would have ordered one of those as well but I don't need it...yet. It's actually much more of a challenge to find nice and authentic looking unsharpened practice weapons because they seem to be much less common and a bit more expensive as well.

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But yeah, I can't wait till this one arrives. If the product description is to be believed, it should perfectly replicate the feel of a real Katana and be ideal for training. It's going to take a while till it's going to arrive though, as it's shipped from the US. I should get it just before Skyward Sword comes out though, so that's gonna be perfect. Smilie

By now you probably noticed my obsession with swordfighting and can also imagine why I'm so excited about Skyward Sword. Smilie I'll probably perform every sword slash like I mean it and see how I long I can last. At the very least my stamina shouldn't go down as quickly as Link's Smilie...though I won't recover as fast as him once I'm exhausted. xD Is anyone going to do that as well or am I just weird like that? Smilie Anyway, just a bit more than 3 weeks till it's finally out and I still haven't given in and read or watched anything about the game since E3 this year, so I'm set! Smilie

I already have a good idea of what the other hobby is going to be but I'm not going to say what it is just yet. Smilie It too has something to do with a certain franchise I love though, so feel free to take a guess. SmilieSmilieSmilie for the first person (except Azuardo because he would know for sure) who gets it right. Smilie

I've been feeling really nostalgic lately and really want to replay some games I grew up with, like Pokémon Firered or Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean. Such a shame that there's barely any time for that with all the new games coming out. I have a ton of games I've yet to play too, so I sadly can't be 'wasting' any time replaying games I know inside out just for nostalgia's sake. I wish I could just stop time for a while and replay all those games I want to experience again. Is anybody else here feeling like that every now and then too?

I recently finished Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and I totally loved it. I really regret that I didn't pick it up any earlier than I did. Just what the hell was wrong with my younger self? Smilie Well anyway, I also wrote a reader review for it, which you can check out here if you feel like it.

Oh yeah, quick shout-out to Azuardo who should be coming back later today. Even though you've only been away for a few days, something's missing on C3 when you're not around. Smilie Hope you had a good time!

PS: I'm kind of getting sick of the feeling when I see new posts and they're all in the Skyward Sword topic...Smilie

It's been a year...

Now Playing: Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon, Donkey Kong Country
Now Listening to: Xenoblade OST
Now Watching: Naruto Shippuuden and some Let's Play's on Youtube

since I joined this awesome site that is known as Cubed3, or C3 for lazy people like me (and you). Smilie

I was following some videogame news before I stumbled upon this site but I never actually properly signed up somewhere before. I did join some sites but I never really cared much. I forgot the exact reason for signing up here because my memory tends to be a complete mess at times but there must be something special here that made me stay. Now what in the world could that be?...

That's right, it's you who are reading this right now. This site has a great and friendly, albeit small, community. Since I joined a year ago, I had some really interesting discussions with some of you guys and generally a lot of fun. Smilie I'm still wishing that I would have found this site earlier because I saw many people on here talking about how much fun they had playing some games online together. However, that can still change when games such as Mario Kart 7 or hopefully Monster Hunter Tri G are coming around. I'm really, really looking forward to that. Smilie

Now, what would a blog like this be without some mentions of fellow, awesome members? Completely boring and pointless. So here you go and enjoy, hopefully, seeing your name in there* for that extra ego boost**. Smilie
*

**

Azuardo - I didn't really chat much with you until recent months but I had some great conversations with you via PMs and you've helped/encouraged me to broaden my gaming horizont a bit as well. Thanks a lot for that! Smilie

Marzy - I think you were the first person on here who gave me a star and motivated me to keep on posting with more stars throughout the first couple months and further. Like you would always say...Much appreciated. Smilie

Mush123 - The fact that you have a Link avatar alone got you a mention here...nah, I'm just kidding. Smilie A fellow Zelda fan is always awesome, though you still owe me some SSBB matches, remember? Smilie

Phoenixus - You always got some funny lines or pictures/gifs ready to make my day. Smilie When are you going to make another sequel of your Random Thoughts Blog? Smilie

Kafei2006 - Thanks a lot for getting me into using Backloggery! I like it a lot now! Smilie

There are many more great people on here such as Stulaw, L, Mason, jesusraz, jb, Echoes221, Squidboy and Ifrit XXII. There are probably some more members I'd like to mention but, for some unknown reason, can't think of their names right now.

All that said, here's to another awesome year on C3 with many great games for us to play! Smilie

What's this? My first blog? Could it be?

Now Playing: Final Fantasy VII, soon Pikmin
Now Listening to: Music from Zelda, Okami, Baten Kaitos and Super Mario Galaxy
Now Watching: Does Naruto Shippuuden once a week count? Other than that, I watch an Okami Let's Play.
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Hey there guys! Smilie This is my first blog here (or anywhere, actually) but don't expect more in the future because I'm not that good in finding ideas for a blog.

Anyway, as some of you might know I'm from Austria (if you didn't know yet, well..you know it now Smilie) which is that little unimportant country south of Germany. I received my school report last week and I got the best possible grade in English. I expressed it like that because mentioning the grade itself would only confuse the hell out of everyone here because the Austrian grading system apparently doesn't make any sense for pretty much anyone else. Smilie

To spice the incoming wall of text (no, not really) up, I'm going to throw some funny pictures in here because we all know that's the reason why people actually read these blogs. Smilie

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I got the idea for this blog when I asked myself whether my English is really that good or if my English teacher just loves me that much because I'm pretty much the only student in my class who knows some shit. Smilie What better way to find out than to simply ask some native English speakers (most of you anyway)! Smilie

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Truth to be told, I actually totally sucked in English when I was younger. I had absolutely horrendous pronunciation combined with very crappy vocabulary (even for that age) and almost failed a year because of that subject. When a friend got me into MMORPG's when I was 13/14, I had a really hard time because I had no idea what many people were saying. Since I didn't want to stop playing I started looking up every word I didn't know immediately and eventually accumulated a very decent vocabulary. A combination of hearing voice samples of words and chilling out on Teamspeak/Ventrilo slowly fixed my pronunciation as well. Once I started following English gaming websites like 2 years ago, I got even better. Never thought I'd say that but I actually owe all my English skills to my love for gaming. Smilie

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Make sure you read the small part at the bottom (in the picture, not this). Smilie

So, if you have a little of your precious gaming (or whatever the hell you're doing) time to spare, I'd like to know how you guys find my English. If you didn't know my home country, would you think that English is my mother tongue? Are there any things I could improve or mistakes I do over and over again?

If you don't have time or feel like giving me a little feedback, then I hope that you at least got a little laugh out of the pictures I threw in here (you probably just checked the pictures anyway Smilie). Have a nice day and thanks in advance for any replies. Smilie

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