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Tales of Graces f Review


See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 03/30/2012 at 03:45 PM by Jon Lewis

Tales of the Typical JRPG.
RECOMMENDATION:

For JRPG fans, or Anime fans.

Japanese RPGs haven't had the easiest time this generation. The good ones are few and far between and Japan has taken notice to the downshift in popularity. Many games, such as Tales of Graces f have a hard time being localized for English speaking audiences. Thankfully, after much fan demand, the game has finally seen a release on U.S. shores and while it doesn't stray far from the formula, it provides an experience that will satisfy many starving JRPG fans.

Tales of Graces f tells the story of Nobleman Asbel Lhant and his quest for redemption in the eyes of his friends and his home nation of Lhant. The tale begins seven years prior to the main story, wherein the player controls a 13 year old Asbel, his younger brother Hubert, and his close friends. This introduction serves the purpose of fleshing out the main characters and while it definitely succeeds in that goal, it does so at a cost.

The childhood story arc suffers from pacing issues and before long, the player will be dying for the story to pick up. Learning about Asbel's troubled relationship with his father is great, but enduring childhood antics such as exploring a mountain slows the pace. On top of that, playing as young versions of the protagonists is fun for a while, but becomes annoying after the first hour or so. The average gamer will probably not have the patience to endure three hours of buildup; however those that press on will be rewarded. Once players get into the meat of the story, they come to find that the earlier exposition was to establish a cast of likeable characters that you care about. From the hyperactive personality of a character like Pascal, to the serious, yet vulnerable Hubert, players will likely find themselves emotionally invested in at least a few of the game's unique and interesting characters.

The likability of the cast is enhanced by the great voice work. If anything, the game does suffer from some odd localization issues. That said, overall the sound design is done well. The game still features “skits,” which are small, voiced scenes that break up the gameplay in order to flesh out the characters. In battle, attack sounds pack a punch and the music is grand in scale. Overworlds are brought to life with pieces done by series composer Motoi Sakuraba. The soundtrack stands out and while it’s not the best in the series, it holds its own in the grand scheme of things.

Tales of Graces f takes the series in a few new directions, while at its core it remains familiar. The seamlessly traversable overworld is a welcome addition to the series, yet with this comes with some minor setbacks. Areas that you aren't supposed to go to yet are now blocked off by a “we can't go here yet” style of message. While this ensures that you stay on task, it may annoy some players looking to explore before they continue on the main journey. In addition to that, your objective is always readily available through the press of a button. This is a pretty handy addition, since in past games you had to rely on the synopsis if you happened to forget the immediate task at hand. While there are tons of different areas and locales to explore, the lack of freedom is a bit of a letdown, but during the later parts of the game, the world opens up letting you go where you please.

The Tales series has a traditional fighting system known as LMBS (Linear Motion Battle System). This means that characters are locked in line with a targeted enemy and can move toward, away and in the case of Graces, around enemies. The free-run mechanic that has been present in the latest few Tales iterations makes a return, but is best used in dire situations as opposed to the frequency that you use it in games like Tales of the Abyss or Vesperia. This is because free-run uses up Chain Capacity points.

Chain Capacity (CC) is how this game manages the actions you perform in battle. In past games, characters had TP that determined how many Artes (special moves) you could use in a fight. Now, CC determines this. A-Artes, which are the game’s basic attacks and are presented in a directional Arte tree, and B-Artes, which are mapped to the Circle button similar to Artes from the past games; come with a CC cost. Some actions like dashing, side-stepping and free-running also have a small CC cost attached to them.

Battles are a bit less about building massive combo's and more about being tactful. Now, you have to pay closer attention to weaknesses, auras, and attack patterns as you plan your attacks because enemies (and more specifically bosses) are very unforgiving. Fighting recklessly will likely lead to unsuccessful results. At first this threw me off, but when I started taking my time, guarding and managing my CC, battles became a lot more fun and efficient. The pace is still pretty fast and the battles end up being one of the best parts about the game.

The problems with Tales of Graces f lie in its tradition. While the game does change up the pace in some ways, it still suffers from the same things that past games in the JRPG genre suffer from. The story, while well done, is very anime-esque. Players who aren't fans of Japanese anime probably won't be too fond of the story and characters who embody the anime style that they are based off of. Players will constantly be slammed over the head with recurring themes of friendship and betrayal. Some will like it, and others won't. This niche is part of what makes the JRPG genre unique, but is also what alienates it to other gamers. That said, there is still plenty to love.

Tales of Graces f doesn't reinvent the wheel - it shines it up a little and adds a little flourish to it. Fans of JRPGs will fall in love with the battle system and characters. Others will probably pass on the title, which is unfortunate. Underneath the cliches of the genre is a great game full of themes that any player can relate to. I believe that anybody interested in the genre should give Tales of Graces f a shot. It provides a great wealth of value, with a campaign that will last about 60 hours, and call backs and references to past games in the series. In short, this is one Tale that you should take your time to enjoy.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Anonymous

03/30/2012 at 04:20 PM

"Japanese RPG's haven't had the easiest time of things this generation."

your right in terms of sales and releases its been smooth sailing

"The good ones are few and far between"

False opinion

"Japan has taken notice to the downshift in popularity. Many games, such as Tales of Graces f have a hard time being localized for English speaking audiences."

Oh, so the very first tales game got localized then when it launched? Really? So your going to tell me, that in this gen, tales has had trouble but in others it hasnt

This is why I hate generalizing false reviews.

Nick DiMola Director

03/30/2012 at 05:02 PM

"False opinion"

Interesting. I didn't know opinions could be false. You learn something new every day!

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

03/31/2012 at 12:47 AM

yeah man, who knew? Thing is, I love this game, so I dont quite get the issue...

Anonymous

04/01/2012 at 06:09 PM

the issue is a few gaming series coming out first and then being very anti-competitive and making the barriers to entry into the market extremely high by oceans of advertising.  maybe putting competitors out of business won't be such a great idea when the industry crashes again.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

03/31/2012 at 12:46 AM

You have to realize that Im speaking generally. First, as Nick said, you cant have a false opinion. I recognize the good JRPG's, like Xenoblade, Radiant Historia, Lost Oddessy, but compared to the last few console generations, it doesn't seem as often to see good JRPGs. Tales isnt the only JRPG that has to do with this, Its just the subject of conversation. Plus I personally love this game, so I dont see what the problem is...

Anonymous

03/31/2012 at 07:00 AM

Your generalizing falsely, what you see as the big picxture

Compared to last gen theres more, way more

Did you play both mario and luigis? Did you play both devil survivors? Did you play all 4 inazumas? did you play zhp? did you play all 8 legend of heroes? Did you play both suikodens?

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

03/31/2012 at 10:27 AM

No I havent played all of them. Ive played all 3 Mario and Luigis but none of the rest. In the grand scheme of JRPGs theres a lot that I haven't played, I dont have the time like I used to, but I still feel that the genre in general has suffered in terms of quality in the grand scope of things. Not saying that the games were bad, but it is plagued by repetition, and cliches. I dont mean that I dislike that, I am a JRPG fan, but its the sad truth. Maybe you dont feel that way, which is fine, but understand that my review is my own opinion, thats what reviews are. 

Our Take

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

04/02/2012 at 10:56 AM

I just wanted to comment on this.  I'm probably the other huge JRPG fan here.  I'm currently playing through Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier on my DS, having just finished Etrian Odyssey 3.  I completely understand where Jon is coming from here, specifically when it comes to Tales games.

Further nerd cred: My first Tales experience was on a hacked rom using DeJap's translation patch to play Tales of Phantasia on an emulator sometime around 2000, and I loved every second of it.  I would consider myself a fan of the franchise.

Frankly, I'm Talesd out.  I just finished playing Vesperia on my 360, and we JUST got Tales of the Abyss on 3ds, which I picked up.  The games are visually striking and constantly make me stop and just stare at the artwork.  The characters hold my interest.  The problem is that the actual gameplay feels very samey from release to release.  I want to play Tales games, and I do, but I personally need space between trips to Tales worlds.

I strongly feel that both the issues the reviewer makes, and his score are appropriate and match what I would score this game had I reviewed it.  His comments, both positive and negative are accurate, and his rating is flush with what our review policy dictates.  I have nothing more to say on the subject that hasn't already been said, except to point out that now two big JRPG fans have made the same observations and have parallel opinion on the game.  He and I both love the games, but can't award a super high score because there's a lack of innovation causing combat fatigue.  Being a fan does not justify bumping up a score.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

03/31/2012 at 01:47 PM

I still don't understand why the Wii version of this game wasn't localized after Tales of Symphonia on the GameCube became the best-selling Tales game. If there's a sign this series sells better to the Nintendo audience, why not pursue that and see if it's true?

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

03/31/2012 at 03:39 PM

yeah, i was confused about that too. In this case, we did get the better version because Graces f has a lot of extra content that wasnt in the Wii version, but i agree that Nintendo did pass on a new audience. That said, Symphonia 2 didnt sell anything when it came out on the Wii a few years back. That said, it wasnt that great in the grand spectrum of things (though i enjoyed it)

Julian Titus Senior Editor

03/31/2012 at 03:59 PM

It's a sad fact that JRPGs aren't getting localized as often as they used to. That's due to a lot of factors. With Japanese audiences moving more and more to portable platforms so too have the RPGs gone that route. The problem with that in the West is the rampant piracy on the PSP and DS. Higher dev costs attribute to this as well--it's harder to justify the cost of localization on a game that already didn't sell well in its native language. And another factor is just the fact that JRPGs follow the same template that they've been using for years and Western audiences have moved on in a large sense. I see the JRPG as a niche, much like it was back in the 16 bit era. It breaks my heart, but for me there are few RPGs coming out of Japan that get me excited anymore, and the ones that do tend to get pushed on the backburner to other games that capture my interest more.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

03/31/2012 at 04:19 PM

Yeah, its a sad reality. I cant wait to finally experience Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story, perhaps then we can get an idea of where the JRPG genre could potentially go, if done right.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

03/31/2012 at 08:23 PM

I don't think it has anything to do with JRPGs following the same template: North America goes crazy for new Call of Duty games, even though they are never anything new and are basically following the same template as DooM. The truth is, North America has never been into RPGs, not even during the PlayStation era when Final Fantasy VII mysteriously became a mega hit. Just look at every other RPG outside of the FF series, how many of them sold over a million copies in North America?

So what happened here? Everyone was gaga over the CGI scenes featured in Final Fantasy VII, and didn't really care what kind of game it actually was. People who enjoyed this game would later try out the new FF games like VIII and X, but they never migrated to other RPGs. They were just in it for the CGI, and once other, more action-oriented games started featuring CGI and FMV, North America no longer had a reason to play RPGs.

Now, you have western developers who have mixed the story elements of RPGs that North America liked with the action gameplay they crave. This isn't an evolution of the RPG, it's a whole other type of genre. That's why Western-developed RPGs became popular here, and Japanese-developed ones are back into obscurity, because they're just not a style of game that a majority of North America is into - and they never were actually into it.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

04/01/2012 at 01:28 AM

very good arguement. The remnants of that group are todays JRPG/RPG fans I suppose. Makes sence to me.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

04/02/2012 at 12:12 AM

Call of Duty and "modern" FPS games have followed the same template for about 10 years. And that's not a template that's been around since Doom. That game was all about resource management and level navigation, whereas shooters today are about scripted events and multiplayer.

RPGs were huge during the PSX and PS2 days, and it wasn't just the Final Fantasy franchise. Were these games all million sellers? No. But they were profitable. Even stinkers like Shadow Madness sold well enough in comparison to other games of the time, so it was a no brainer for JRPGs to get localized.

You could even say that RPGs are bigger now than they've ever been, but the shift has been towards Western games. Fallout 3, Skyrim, Mass Effect, and WoW are all games that have seen success outside of the normal RPG audience. I hope that there are some forward thinking Japanese developers out there that see what has been done with these games to move the genre forward while keeping the things that make JRPGs special. More player choice and customization coupled with Japanese polish and production values could make for some amazing games.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

04/02/2012 at 01:19 AM

If people think RPGs are still following the same template from the original Dragon Quest, then it is an apt comparison to compare Call of Duty to DooM. Kill all the enemies, make it to the end of the stage. This is the basic formula of first-person shooters. Shooters have changed and evolved since then, just as RPGs have evolved from Dragon Quest.

Profitability doesn't make a genre popular: niche games are profitable all the time. Companies like Atlus and XSeed sustain themselves on niche games that large publishers won't touch. When it comes to popularity and hype, sales dictate that, and show that little else beyond Final Fantasy became more than niche.

The problem is that western RPGs are not moving the RPG genre forward, they are creating a new genre. Action-based gameplay is not an evolution from turn-based gameplay, and I don't understand how anyone could think it is. JRPGs already have tons of customization; just look at Dragon Quest IX. Not sure about choice, but again, an open-ended world is not an evolution of RPGs, it's moving towards a different genre.

If people think JRPGs need to be more like WRPGs, that's like saying Mario games need to be more like Zelda games. I don't see a point in saying a game should be like another game that exists: just go play that game, and leave the other one to the people who already like it as it is.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

04/02/2012 at 01:31 AM

From a sheer story and thematical slant, JRPGs are totally following the same template. Young boy from a small town gets whisked into a struggle to save the world. He most likely has amnesia or meets a mysterious woman with amnesia that has untapped magical powers. There will likely be some sort of cute animal companion at some point, and a villain that's almost as much a pretty boy as the protagonist. And that's all fine. But I've played that game in different incarnations for years. Dragon Quest IX indeed has customization. You managed to name one of the only JRPGs to have that. 

What Western RPGs have done to move the genre forward is in characterization, world building, and player investment in progression. I have almost no say in how I spec Lightning, nor am I able to learn anything more about her beyond what's depicted in cutscenes. On the other hand, I can equip Morrigan from Dragon Age with gear that works best with the abilities that I've chosen for her to level up. I can find out all about her by talking to her and bringing her on my adventures. And I can learn more about where she comes from by simply exploring the world. I want these elements paired with the tight battle systems and amazing production values I've come to expect from Japan. That's not unreasonable.

Anonymous

04/06/2012 at 04:03 PM

dude can you stop generalizing?

 

"From a sheer story and thematical slant, JRPGs are totally following the same template. Young boy from a small town gets whisked into a struggle to save the world. He most likely has amnesia or meets a mysterious woman with amnesia that has untapped magical powers. There will likely be some sort of cute animal companion at some point, and a villain that's almost as much a pretty boy as the protagonist. And that's all fine. But I've played that game in different incarnations for years. Dragon Quest IX indeed has customization. You managed to name one of the only JRPGs to have that. "

mario and luigi, the world ends with you, and luminous arc break your generalization

"What Western RPGs have done to move the genre forward is in characterization, world building, and player investment in progression."

 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

Anonymous

04/06/2012 at 04:01 PM

"It's a sad fact that JRPGs aren't getting localized as often as they used to."

the fact is more are getting localized

":That's due to a lot of factors. With Japanese audiences moving more and more to portable platforms so too have the RPGs gone that route."

true and irrelevant

"The problem with that in the West is the rampant piracy on the PSP and DS. Higher dev costs attribute to this as well--it's harder to justify the cost of localization on a game that already didn't sell well in its native language."

oh so is this why more are localized than ever?

"And another factor is just the fact that JRPGs follow the same template that they've been using for years and Western audiences have moved on in a large sense. I see the JRPG as a niche, much like it was back in the 16 bit era. It breaks my heart, but for me there are few RPGs coming out of Japan that get me excited anymore, and the ones that do tend to get pushed on the backburner to other games that capture my interest more."

oh so is this why japanese rpgs are seeing there highest sales in the west?

Anonymous

04/06/2012 at 04:11 PM

This thread has become too unruley

 

I see so many generalizations and false statements I cant stand it

 

Julian Titus is out of his mind

Julian Titus Senior Editor

04/07/2012 at 12:00 PM

Unruly? I think this is a great discussion on the state of JRPGs, and the Japanese industry as a whole.

When you're talking about something as broad a genre as JRPGs (which can fall into more subsets than I care to list), you pretty much have to talk generally. Does every JRPG fall into the template that I mentioned? Of course not. But the faux story concept I listed has become so cliche by this point that it's become kind of a running joke. I love JRPGs, and I wish I had time to play more. But I've been playing them since Final Fantasy on NES, and the genre hasn't moved forward enough for me to get excited when a new one comes out. That's great if you do, but I no longer have the time to set aside 60-100 hours on an experience that is so much like other experiences I've had in the past. The last JRPG to hold my attention from start to finish was probably Eternal Sonata, thanks to its interesting battle system, gorgeous visuals, and touching story about loss and death.

Now, I'm an admitted BioWare fanboy, as any reader or listener of PixlTalk can vouch for, but I'll also be the first to admit that their games are very formulaic. The difference is that their formula is still "new" for me, since I came on board with Mass Effect in 2007. But it's wearing thin for me as well, and if their next games don't move things forward I'll probably be moving on.

I wonder though, at your repeated comments on more JRPGs getting localized than ever. I don't see that at all. During the PSX and PS2 days it seemed like major RPGs were coming out every week, and they were big events. Maybe it's because the games aren't marketed or the games press isn't as enthusiastic about them anymore, but I just don't see the output being as high, nor the excitement being there. Maybe part of that is my fault, because I'm so tired of anime character designs that my brain passes over most games that feature a plucky young protagonist with a blue or green-haired female companion. 1up did an interesting article last year about the state of the JRPG, and I feel that many of the statements ring true. Now, this was in response to the news that Xenoblade, Last Story, and Pandora's Tower wouldn't be making it stateside, and thankfully that's no longer the case.

Also, where are you getting your sales numbers from? When was the last time a JRPG broke the top ten in sales here? I'm not trolling, I'd really like to know. At least on the consoles, a lot of JRPGs this generation haven't performed well. Valkyria Chronicles was kind of a flop, and if memory serves, the Mistwalker games didn't do too well, either. I'd venture that, even if some of these games are selling more units than some of the bigger games last generation, the actual market share has shrunk in proportion to the industry as a whole. When you look at RPG coverage these days, the names that come up first are Fallout, Skyrim, and Mass Effect. That's not a comment on what is the "better" type of game, but an indication on where the market has shifted as a whole.

I still cheer for the JRPG, and I'm looking forward to Xenoblade, as I'm in the market for a new RPG. But for me, they don't excite me as much as they used to. I hope that changes one day, and most likely it will. But my tastes have changed as I've gotten older, while many JRPGs have continued to provide the same experiences I enjoyed as a young adult and a teenager. I look to different types of games now, and fire up a good JRPG these days more for nostalgia than anything else. Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous

04/08/2012 at 02:55 PM

jrpg isnt a genre.

1) That 1up article was ripped apart for its false hoods.

2) It is fact more are getting localized than ever

"when was the last time a JRPG broke the top ten in sales here?"

Last week with tales of graces F..........

Now, you typed too much for me to really address but I think I made my point

 

Sorry for saying your out of your mind you arent, Next time please respond in smaller text bites

Julian Titus Senior Editor

04/08/2012 at 04:54 PM

Whether we agree or not, the JRPG has become a genre this generation, if for no other reason than to differentiate it from the rise of Western made RPGs. Video game genres as a whole are busted, so you're really just arguing semantics at this point.

It's clear that this is a subject of great passion for you. Bully for you. Personally, I'd like to see you back up your statements with some factual examples, since you seem so adamant against "false opinions".

These days, I really don't care about championing a particular genre, company, or platform. I enjoy good games that hold my interest. For me, the majority of RPGs coming out these days don't hold or even spark my interest because they are so similar to games I've played in the past. And that's about all I have to say about that.

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