PS3 Reviews: Tales of Graces f Review

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Tales of Graces f Review

More Game Info (Print This Article)

Graphics:

 

7.6

Gameplay:

 

8.2

Sound:

 

7.7

Control:

 

8.1

Replay Value:

 

8.0

Overall Rating:       8.0

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Namco Bandai

Developer:

Namco Bandai

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

RPG

The last time US gamers saw a Tales title? 2004. It was Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World for the GameCube. We had heard rumors that the well-received Tales of Vesperia for the PS3 would eventually find its way over here, but that never happened. So now we finally get another entry in the long-running Japanese role-playing franchise, and you know what? It’s exactly what you think it is: fantastic for the die-hard fans of the sub-genre and for everyone else, well…

As this is essentially an upgraded version of the 2009 Wii title, you shouldn’t expect too much in the way of impressive detail and breathtaking special effects. However, while it doesn’t quite have the colorful pizzazz of last year’s Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland, this one has an almost indefinable charm. Rather than richness and vibrancy, there’s a distinct softness, which lends the entire presentation an alluring, calming tone. Even the flashiest special moves aren’t exactly feasts for the eyes but the graphics should please JRPG followers.

The sound hinges on several great music selections and a few moderately well-voiced characters. Once again, the effects aren’t going to blow anyone away, but they’re sufficient for the style. As for the voice performances, I actually think they get better with time, although you’re never fooled into thinking the cast is loaded with accomplished professionals. This is one of the downfalls of Japanese productions this generation and it hasn’t really changed. Still, I did enjoy quite a few of the well-drawn characters, and that soundtrack is excellent.

No, it isn’t turn-based. I start my gameplay explanation with that clarification, simply because I know it’s an answer to an always-burning question. Therefore, if you’re seeking some good old-fashioned turn-based JRPG fun, make sure to try the aforementioned Atelier Totori. However, if you’re okay with the slightly more “modern” combat layout and are interested in a dynamic, appropriately deep fighting mechanic, you should continue to pay attention. And remember, don’t pass judgment in the first hour— There’s more to this mechanic than meets the eye.

First of all, let’s address the overall structure. It’s a linear adventure, as you might expect, but in my eyes, it’s actually a little too linear…and considering my love of old-school RPGs, that’s saying something. Most all areas are connected by a simple road, which you can at least explore (in contrast to the simple select-location-and-go design in Atelier Totori), but you’re really limited. You can sometimes run off the beaten path but you can never go far and for the most part, there’s not much to see. On the plus side, the trek is usually quite pleasant.

You encounter enemies as you did in Final Fantasy XIII; the enemies are seen roving the landscape and if you touch them, you’re brought to a separate battle screen. Combat begins instantly and you can choose Auto, Semi-Auto, or Manual (a mode that actually has to be enabled by purchasing or finding the “Manual Manual”). Obviously, your selection dictates how much direct control you have over your character’s actions. In general, you use the left analog to move and the X button to attack, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

You can hold Square to block and while holding block, you can use the left analog stick to quickly dodge around the enemy. Also, holding the Square button longer will cause different auras to surround your character; blue, green and eventually red. I won’t give everything away (gotta play to learn more), but let’s just say this adds strategy to the tougher fights, and simply using the left analog during battle is easy enough. Outside combat, you can assign Titles to each character; each Title has a set of skills you can learn by earning SP from battles.

It’s deep but it’s a straightforward kind of deep, if that makes any sense. For the most part, all your battles are very fast; many only last a matter of seconds, especially if you’ve worked to build up a little. The game adds another twist by encouraging you to meet optional goals: a goal will be given at the start of battle (“Don’t get hit,” “Defeat an enemy with a 4-hit combo,” etc.). If you’re successful, the spoils are better and the next battle will have another optional goal. String successes together through multiple encounters, and the spoilers get better and better.

There’s also a relatively simple synthesis mechanic called “Dualization,” which lets you combine items and even equipment to create new stuff. There are a variety of towns and other locations around the world, which encourages you to locate all the Discoveries (environmental points of interest you record and save). Lastly, there are optional pieces of story that can be revealed by pressing the Select button when the prompt arises. It can happen in certain locations; when you activate it, the characters will interact with one another, giving you a better look at their personalities.

The story really isn’t anything too special and takes a little too long to develop, as your first hours don’t involve anything overly dramatic. The characters are only mildly interesting and too clichéd at the start: You’ve got the cocky little boy as a protagonist, for example, and it’s a character type that we’ve just seen far too often. Still, Asbel is likeable, as are his companions. You will likely develop a soft spot for the adorable red-haired Cheria, who was born with a sickness that makes her cough pitifully when she tries to keep up with Asbel.

It’s just that with some stilted dialogue and only average voice acting, along with questionable pacing, the story only rewards those who keep pushing forward. But the good news is that it does get a lot better, and I’m a big fan of the gameplay. I didn’t think I would be – when it comes to old-school JRPGs, I really just want turn-based; I can find a bunch of other mechanics elsewhere – but I really took to the combat system, which is extremely well designed, I think. It’s accessible but deep and it encourages strategy, planning, micromanagement, and timing.

Plus, you really have to appreciate the nod to traditional structures, what with the layout of the map. Sure, it’s a little too linear, but at least it’s an obvious throwback to a time when exploration involved towns, talking to NPCs, and attractive natural locales. So when you combine the characters and plot that get better with time, the entertaining battle system, and a style and design that is bound to cater to the long-time JRPG fans, you’ve got a winning formula. I mean, it’s not for everyone but as I’ve often said, it’s not supposed to be.

Tales of Graces f is a solid RPG with a compelling, fun battle system, a mostly traditional setup, a few appealing characters, and a story that gets better with time. It’s dragged down by some pacing issues, occasionally mediocre voice acting, and a slow start, but that shouldn’t deter the hardcore fans. For the most apt summary of this game, I refer you to the EGM review, where their Good and Bad read respectively: “JRPG conventions at their finest” and “JRPG conventions at their ‘finest.’” That pretty much says it all about this particular game and indeed, most any JRPG these days.

The Good: Pleasant visual presentation. Good soundtrack. Interesting, enjoyable combat mechanic. Likeable characters. Story gets rolling if you give it time. Traditional style is catnip to lovers of the genre.

The Bad: Some mediocre voice performances. Everything starts slow. Not enough exploration when wandering about.

The Ugly: “Too colorful and charming…tough to find any ‘ugly’ here.”

3/19/2012 Ben Dutka

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Comments (35 posts)

bentl78
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 9:50:21 PM
Reply

This is something I am still debating to get or not... hum..
depending on the other games i guess.
Ben, are u going to do reviews for Ninja Gaiden 3, Racoon City, and Silent Hill? The overall review for NG3 and Silent Hill have been so mixed... i am so indecisive..

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 10:07:13 PM
Reply

Sounds fantastic to me, but I'm swamped with JRPGs at the moment so I'll wait on a lower price. Thanks for reviewing this one Ben, I can never trust those other sites on JRPGs.

BTW Ben, got a review copy of Silent Hill Downpour waiting for your attention?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 5:34:31 PM

Apparently.

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cLoudou
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 10:30:48 PM
Reply

Enjoying this at the moment. My JRPG fix until Ni No Kuni. Shame it does not have the Japanese audio.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 10:59:54 PM

Maybe there will be a play-asia version.

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ZenChichiri
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 10:40:35 PM
Reply

Can't wait to get this. I've played almost all Tales games and the character interaction alone makes me look forward to this. I always see Xillia on the shelves here in Korea, but I wouldn't be able to understand it because it's in Japanese.

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cLoudou
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 11:39:29 PM

Xillia's western localization depends on the sales of this. Hopefully it gets done, can't have enough JRpgs.

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dmiitrie
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 11:49:21 PM
Reply

What is it with JRPGs this gen that's sees letting people control their entire party as a bad thing? At least this one will eventually give you that option, unlike either FF or WKC. Admittedly, I have gotten around to the Atelier games, so hopefully some game can give me the micromanaging fix that I crave.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Monday, March 19, 2012 @ 11:52:52 PM

I think that sort of thing is too long and tedious for the current generation of twitterers. It burns me up, I played those games because they used to allow me to control everyone in my party. It's part of how you establish a bond with the character. Why does nobody see that?

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Beamboom
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 3:13:07 AM

Well, in both Mass Effect and Dragon Age you can.
I just .... uhm... Wanted to state that. You know. Fanboy and all.
Not that they are jrpgs, of course. So it's a pretty irrelevant post, this.

I'll STFU now. :)


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/20/2012 3:13:20 AM

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Clamedeus
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 5:20:46 AM

You can control the party members in WKC. If I remember correctly you have to hit Select and go to change member.

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cLoudou
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 7:30:26 AM

yeah, you can switch and control other party members but its pointless because the combat isn't turn based and battles only last around 20 seconds or less sometimes. It does support multi player so if you're playing with someone you can tell them what to do.

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Highlander
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 9:36:22 AM

You can switch characters in WKC2, you can also give each NPC specific tactics to follow, and tell them to back off, focus on one target or spread out and attack. Battle is active time/turn based. So you wait your turn while the turn circle spins, but since everyone's turn circle spins concurrently, everyone takes their turn as soon as they are able. In WKC1, the turn circle was slower and you had more opportunity to switch characters, but it's never been the full turn based system where enemies and allies line up against each other and take turn attacking, waiting between attacks.

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dmiitrie
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 10:10:47 AM

There are times in WKC where you can only control your avatar, unless I'm doing something wrong (totally possible). And yes, technically you can change party members at other times, but in practice, I found that function to work about as well as it does in FFXIII-2: by the time it happens, it's usually too late to matter.

It's really a shame, because there's an awful lit I like about WKC, but I just get so frustrated when my party members do stupid stuff that I couldn't keep playing. (yes, I tried the gambit system, despite my usual abhorrence for such things, and it just wasn't detailed enough to feel like I could trust the other characters to be even halfway effective)

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Highlander
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 10:26:10 AM

The only time you can only use the avatar is quests. During story mode or the bounties, you can always switch. As long as you set up the command bars and tactics of the AI characters you should be fine. remember that you can issue directives during battle and also 'nudge' them into action during battle. Switching isn't as bad as it would seem, but you're unlikely to be continually switching between the characters. You might switch because against a particular boss an particular NPC has better skills than the Avatar. But typically you;re playing the avatar...

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SnipeySnake
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 1:05:12 PM

@cLoudou
Try Chaos Difficulty

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 4:04:11 PM

Being able to control another person in your party is a long way from having control over what everyone does directly.

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Highlander
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 9:37:32 AM
Reply

I still have to get my copy of Graces F.

BTW I saw a news snippet yesterday. Gust is making another Atelier game, not part of the Arland series, so that series will end with Meruru later this year. It will be a new Atelier game.

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Nagi
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 10:15:37 AM
Reply

There is an error in your review, we did get Vesperia for the 360 in the US, its the PS3 version that was somewhat anticipated but never came. And I think that's not the last Tales game we received, I believe they just released Abyss for the 3DS.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 5:35:20 PM

Yes, I know.

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SnipeySnake
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 1:20:04 PM
Reply

Great review Ben! You explained everything about this game perfectly and listed all the flaws. Bought the game on release and am having a ton of fun. Definitely my favorite JRPG this gen, so far.

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th3_bLy
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 1:30:50 PM
Reply

Been playing the game for about 40 hours and my main complaint is that there's a lot of back and forth to complete aspects of the game.

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SnipeySnake
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 3:42:29 PM
Reply

Ben you should change the '2004' to '2008' and 'Xbox 360' to 'PS3'.

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Nagi
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 4:01:58 PM

That would still be wrong, Abyss just came out on Valentine's Day on the 3DS. Small nit pick yes, but it's important to get the information right.

Mistakes are human, he'll probably fix it in time.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 5:35:41 PM

I really don't count handheld games. Sorry. :)

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Nagi
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 7:29:30 PM

Regardless, your first sentence is still wrong, we received Vesperia for the Xbox 360 for 2008 and Abyss came out in October 2006 for the PS2, and Legendia (February 2006) months before that on the same platform.

Also, even if your loyal readers may know that you don't count handheld games, wouldn't this misinform people who haven't been here for quite as long, or are first time readers?

For the record, this is bigger then Tales here. Were talking about the facts, as a journalist, I know you know how important that is.

Another thing, haven't you made a article(s) defending portable gaming as a legitimate and relevant medium compared to mobile gaming, if you have, why not recognize Abyss for the 3DS, as one?

Its funny Abyss, was originally for the PS2, but now since its for the 3DS, its no longer relevant?

Sorry, but the first part of an otherwise thorough review is incorrect, you overlooked three installments, this should be revised, or your just going to misinform people otherwise.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 8:14:42 PM

Jesus effing Christ, calm down. I've been just a TAD busy lately.

Now I'm not going to revise it at all. Go lecture somewhere else.

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Nagi
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 8:54:23 PM

Hey i'm calm...still am, although I'm not sure about you, your previous post gave the impression that you had no intention to make the change, so I had to say my peace.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 8:57:51 PM

No, you really didn't.

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SnipeySnake
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 @ 3:02:07 PM

I sort of agree with Nagi here. Although even I wouldn't count Abyss 3DS, not because it's a handheld but because it's a port of the PS2 version which was already localized here. The latest non-port tales game to release in North America was indeed Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World for the 'Wii' but it was released on November 2008, while Vesperia 360 was released on August 2008. Ben, I don't know if it's possible to change 2004 to 2008 and 'Gamecube' to 'Wii' but if it is, I don't think it would take much effort.

Last edited by SnipeySnake on 3/21/2012 3:07:46 PM

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Underdog15
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 @ 6:38:21 PM

I knew there were tales of games on systems other than PS3, but I'm good at reading and knew what Ben meant and therefore didn't care since it's completely unimportant.

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Nagi
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 9:41:59 PM
Reply

Are we going to start a debate on that now, whether I had to say my peace or not? Look people before me have already pointed this out, but you can criticize people, but you can't take it. That's just...ironic. For future notice when someone proves you wrong, take a few minutes, breathe, then respectfully disagree or concede accordingly.

I wrote some solid questions and points, and you responded to none of them. Instead you go irate, and then tell me to calm down. The comment section is to promote discussion, but you can't handle anything that makes you look as if your wrong. But the truth is it happens to everybody at times, don't freak out about it.

But hey it seems you've had a rough day, so I do you a favor...I'll go somewhere else.

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th3_bLy
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 @ 11:44:42 PM

Not to start anything with you, but pointing out the errors in the article are a fair point. However, I don't believe it was fair that you assumed anything about Ben's journalistic integrity.

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Underdog15
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 @ 6:39:10 PM

Especially on a completely unimportant topic. Not only that, it could be argued that he meant "on PS3".

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Draguss
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 @ 4:10:02 PM
Reply

Good review. I'd say I would've given it a slightly higher score, but I'm insanely biased towards this series so instead I'll only say that my only complaint so far is no overworld map.

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