I will start by saying I’ve had mixed feelings about this game. Even thought Tales of Graces is an enhanced port of a Wii game and it would be unfair to expect it to at least have the same quality of graphics as Tales of Vesperia, there are some things that I think are not excusable but before going about the bad, let’s start with the good part because what is good in it, is actually really good.
The battle system is amazingly fun. The characters are fully controlled by you, allowing you to perform lots of moves as you see fit, allowing the player’s skill to really help him in game without depending too much on the level of your characters or abilities you might have acquired. Considering you have six characters to choose for your party throughout most of the game and each of those have a somewhat unique style of play, there is certainly a bunch of play styles to choose from. If one is not familiar with the Tales of series I would compare the battle system to the Star Ocean series but better in my opinion.
The thing that enhances even more the battles is the progression of your characters. You’re not restricted to simply leveling and unlocking stuff as you level, quite the opposite as in this game you will barely remember to level up as there is something much more important and fun to pay attention: the titles.
Titles in this game, as opposed to previous Tales of games, come with 5 skills each, skills you will learn in time by acquiring SP in battle. They range from stats boosts, new skills, resistance to ailments and more. As you move along the story or complete some requirements you unlock new titles, which you will have a lot to choose from, probably more than you can manage until the end of the game, which gives you a lot of room to customize your characters to your will. Not only that, each title comes with a small automatic bonus that will be active if it is equipped, so you can even use an specific title you mastered just in a tough boss battle to create a better strategy.
In most encounters you will be able to go by pretty fast but still in some you will have to stay alert so you don’t die. On bosses on the other hand, pretty much all pose a challenge with some being way too difficult in my opinion. Maybe not too difficult but surely they have much more life than they should regarding their difficulty but still, you can change the game difficulty anytime if the game becomes too hard for you and higher difficulties give you better loot, XP and SP, so if anything you can grind in a higher difficulty than tackle that hard boss on an easier one.
There are even some stuff such as a cooking option, item creation and a way to customize weapons and armor which is called dualizing. I don’t think they are necessary to enjoy the game but I think it is good it’s there and it’s certainly a nice addition.
Now with the good stuff out of the way there comes the rest of the game. Weather or not these will affect your enjoyment are mostly personal but still they meant a lot of how much I enjoyed the game.
I will touch on the graphics subject quickly because Tales of Graces f is a Wii port so it is not fair to expect a presentation like other Namco games made for either the Ps3 or the Xbox 360 like Tales of Vesperia or Eternal Sonata but still, while some environments look nice, most are bland, lifeless and repetitive. The expressions on the characters, be either face, body or whatever are bad and that is comparing even with Tales games from the Ps2 let alone the Wii. Still, that didn’t bother me as much because the real character matters to me most than its presentation, so it’s all good, right? Unfortunately no because here comes another problem…
The characters… I’ve know this before going into the game as pretty much every review out there says how stereotypical the characters are but I had no idea they were this much. Pretty much everyone is bland, predictable, one sided, uninteresting and talk about protecting and friendship all the time. Save for on character, Pascal, the party is completely forgettable.
It came to the time I was not paying attention or even skipping the skits in the game (a nice way the series makes characters interact with one another without being in the middle of the plot). It is a shame because I watched all I could in Tales of Vesperia and Abyss and they were fun but here it just feels like padding.
The story doesn’t help a bit. Just like the characters it is a Japanese RPG stereotype. It starts in a childhood arc which takes about 3 hours, soon enough it is all about friendship, protecting and sooner than you realize, you have to save the planet. Sounds familiar ?
Not that there is anything wrong with these ideas but they are so badly told I would say you will not just like it, you will go out of your way to hate it. I will not try to explain much of the story because honestly there isn’t much to it, so if a plot or characters are an important aspect of a RPG to you as they are to me, keep it in mind.
The music is another disappointment. I do remember games where I felt bored during some parts but the good music helped me go through them and reach another good part of the game but in Tales of Graces f the music is just functional. I could not point to a single track in the game that is good, they are all okay at best but at least they don’t go into bad territory.
The world and the way you explore it is linear all the way through. Only in the very end of the game you have a real option to go where you want but as most of the places are repetitive and bland with pretty much nothing to explore, full of invisible walls. Most of the dungeons are good, but the ones that are bad are meant to give you a headache.
One nice touch that I believe should be mentioned is the ability to press L1 at anytime and your objective will show up on the corner of the screen. This is pretty nice if you took a long break from the game or simple forgot where to go. The best part is that it’s entirely optional so those that don’t want it will never have to use it. This would be great if it were to show up in more RPGs, especially Western RPGs where you usually have a lot of question to keep track on, and not having to open a menu to go into the quest section would be great.
Overall, Tales of Graces f is an okay game, maybe a little better than okay but not much. A great battle and customize mechanics and a lackluster everything else. In the end your enjoyment of this game comes on how much you can overlook the bad aspects and how much they weight on a game for you.
+Great combat system and customization
+ Pressing L1 to know where to go
– Forgettable music
– Bad story
– Uninteresting characters