Tales of Graces f (PlayStation 3) Review

By SirLink 05.11.2012

Review for Tales of Graces f on PlayStation 3

The story in Tales of Graces f 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 that wasn't in the Wii version, only being added for the PS3 update, which adds to, and ultimately concludes, this tale of friendship.

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) that is 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 running 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 Quite honestly, it makes the systems used in Tales of Symphonia or Tales of Abyss look completely outdated, archaic and boring in comparison.

In classic Tales fashion, players control one of the four characters in battle while the AI handles the rest. There is co-operative multiplayer that allows up to four to play and eliminate the need to rely on the AI. It is possible to quickly switch between characters with the D-pad if needs be. Each character has two different types of Artes, which make for two completely different play styles. A-Artes are a chain of Artes that can be unleashed in quick succession and are tied to usually three or four trees of four Artes. Depending on which direction the analogue stick is tilted while pressing the button, smoothly use Artes from every tree in one combo is a possibility. B-Artes are more similar to the setup seen in previous Tales games and four of them can be mapped to the character being controlled. 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 mentioned before, they also make for different play styles. 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.

Screenshot for Tales of Graces f on PlayStation 3

Titles return from previous games but this time they are a crucial mechanic. There are well over 100 titles for each character and each title comes with five skills that can be learned with Skill Points obtained from battle. While there is the classic Level and Experience system, the main way of developing characters is with titles. The skills obtained range from decent passive stat boosts, improvements for current Artes and even learning all new Artes, including powerful Mystic ones. Some of these are extremely useful and make it well worth the time to undertake side quests or fight a lot of battles to obtain most of them.

A very cool difficulty option with a total of six levels lets players tailor the game to their skill level, making battles feel much more engaging and rewarding. Speaking of which, the game greatly rewards the player for the tougher battles on higher difficulties with more Experience, Skill Points, more (and rarer) item drops, and so on. It can be changed at almost any given time in the option menu, allowing for skills to be tested once feeling confident enough or lower it a bit once things get too tough. Playing the whole game on the harder difficulty settings makes the battles much more fun to play, even with the AI of the other characters obviously not being near as good defensively as the main human player, thus causing some frustrating moments every now and then.

Outside of battle, there is plenty for players to do as well. Watching hundreds of skits, small scenes between the party members, which either talk about the current situation or completely unrelated and hilarious topics, is the order of the day. They are all optional and provide backstory or comedic relief, so it's up to the player if they want to view them. The game also offers dozens of side quests that reward with very useful titles and some backstory but also serve as nice distractions from the main game.

Screenshot for Tales of Graces f on PlayStation 3

Materials found or obtained from enemies can be combined (or dualised, as the game likes to call it) into new items and in the same way you can dualise a weapon or piece of armour with special shards to upgrade them and give them special abilities. If using these pieces of equipment in battle, they will 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 old weapons useful and obtain more gems, which can also be dualised into new ones.

One very useful tool given at the start of the adult arc is the Eleth Mixer. This mixer automatically cooks dishes previously dualised in or after battles. Fighting a hard boss battle? Put some curry into the mixer and it will automatically cook it once per battle when someone is KO'd 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 wanting to dualise as many items as possible. Finally, it is possible to equip special books to it that give really helpful perks, such as increased material or shard drop rates or even double the amount of Experience/Skill Points at the cost of cutting stats in half. Everything, including having books equipped, drains Eleth from the mixer. Its capacity and slots to utilise will increase as it is used but there will still be a need to frequently refill it for a small fee at a merchant.

Tales of Graces f is on the PlayStation 3, but one shouldn't forget that despite being in HD and it having received various graphical improvements, it's still a Wii game at its core. It looks good, but doesn't come close to what the PlayStation 3 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 short anime movies are in the game as well and they look stunning.

Screenshot for Tales of Graces f on PlayStation 3

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

Tales of Graces f is a very long game, even compared to the already meaty standards of the series. Unless completely rushing through it all, 50 hours for the main game is what is being looked at here. Then there is the added future arc with ten additional hours of story content and even a pretty hard optional dungeon for the PlayStation 3 version. If you really want to get the most out of it or even get the Platinum Trophy, the game will easily keep players busy for 150 hours or more. For this purpose, the New Game+ and the Grade Shop return and make a second play-through a lot easier with very generous Experience and Skill Point multipliers, transferring many things such as titles from the old file and much more.

Outside of the main game, there are Trials of Graces that are specific challenges that can be attempted with any of the save files. If beaten the reward item can be transferred to that save file. There are only about 25 and they are nothing major, although 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 side quests 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.

Screenshot for Tales of Graces f on PlayStation 3

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Tales of Graces f has an amazing battle system, yet it has so much more going for it than that. 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.

Developer

Namco Bandai

Publisher

Namco Bandai

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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