Tales of Graces f Review

A Story Of Friendship And JRPG Clichés
by Kyle Hilliard on Mar 12, 2012 at 08:18 AM
Reviewed on PlayStation 3
Publisher Namco Bandai Games
Developer Namco Tales Studio

Tales of Graces f follows the story of Asbel, his childhood friends, and a mysterious amnesiac girl he found on a hill near his hometown. You begin the game as a child, and after a terrible incident which will remain vague in the interest of avoiding spoilers, Asbel jumps forward seven years to pick up the story as a young adult, living with his choices. It’s this jump forward in time where the story begins to get interesting, but it takes about eight monotonous hours of gameplay to get to.

Thankfully, the story never becomes a journey to collect seven parts of a crystal to defeat an evil monster or anything like that. Later in the game it even begins to dip heavily into science fiction. I wasn’t expecting this, but I happily accepted it.

The world feels small compared to other RPGs, which is both a blessing and a burden. On one hand, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and appreciate the world and its fictional cultures. On the other hand, you are visiting the same locations frequently to perform simple tasks that involve no more than talking to specific people.

The combat feels similar to other Tales titles with its lock-on mechanic that limits 3D movement. You have your standard base attack, but mostly you will use special attacks that are activated by holding the left stick in a certain direction and pressing a face button. Graces is all about identifying enemy weaknesses and exploiting them. You can easily check what enemies are weakest against, and even change your special attacks mid-battle to compensate if needed. You do have some limited options in controlling your partners – for example, the ability to set a character to focus exclusively on healing abilities – but for the most part they work on their own.

Along with the standard equipment and weapon collection RPG tropes, you can also gather hundreds of titles for all of the characters. These titles offer assorted bonuses and sometimes even new attacks that can be unlocked over time as they are equipped. You can deal with the titles manually or, thankfully, have the game intermittently change them out for you.

Like many Japanese RPGs, Tales of Grace f takes 10-15 hours before it starts getting good. It moves slowly and never reaches a level of pacing beyond walking from point A to B. I found myself snapping my fingers at the screen telling these people to move it along while they explained the meaning of friendship and how much they care about each other with melodramatic dialogue. I like these characters, and I can sympathize with their plight, but there is never a sense of urgency in their mission.

There is something here for you if you’re willing to stick it out, but you have to commit without rolling your eyes at all the melodrama to truly appreciate it.

An expansive story that takes place over many years that is full of anime and JRPG clichés
The character designs and locations are sharp and colorful, but are almost indistinguishable from other Japanese RPGs
There are only a few tracks that stick out musically. The voice acting falls in line with what you would expect to see from a well-produced anime
The combat doesn’t allow for much creativity, but it stays reasonably fun throughout the game
The story is what will pull you through to the end, but the combat is interesting enough to keep you entertained along the way

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Tales of Graces fcover

Tales of Graces f

PlayStation 3
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