I started writing a review for this game about two days ago, but unfortunately it just wasn’t happening. Then I decided that a pondering was probably the best way to go, a more informal, and personal review style. That, and I probably don’t have time to write the review I really want to.
So at around 12:30 on Friday morning, I completed Tales of Graces f. It took me 35 hours, with a lot of anti-climaxes and a few rage quits towards the end but my God it was absolutely amazing. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I love Japan and their RPGs, and they will also know that I have been very disappointed in the JRPG market for quite some time (I’m looking at you Squeenix).
From the moment I started playing, I knew I was going to love it. I’ve loved the Tales series ever since I knew about their existence. The battle system had me sold with its fast pace (as much as I adore turn based combat and random encounters), and relative demand of skill. I was a bit confused initially when I had seen the characters on the game box, and they looked much older than who I was playing as. The time jump soon came though, and it worked quite well. Characters had been established, a sappy story had been put into place and some weird stuff had already occurred.
I suppose the story of Tales of Graces f isn’t really all that unique or imaginiative, but for some reason I was sucked into it. A mysterious girl appears, lacking any memory of her previous existence and generally being all, well, mysterious. Throw in some Japanese sap about friendship, a few evil monsters who want to destory the world and you have yourself a JRPG. The story isn’t what sold me though.
The titles became quite an addictive thing to keep track of. With every new title came a new arte to learn, more HP to gain and various other perks. Some titles came with alternative costumes, and that really appealed to my (very) inner fashionista. I never really got down to mastering many of them, but I can see in my New Game+ that I will become somewhat of a title collector. I really want to get them all, and even though I have no love at all for PS Trophies, I wouldn’t mind grabbing a few of the title based ones.
On the subject of titles, the artes that I gradually learnt as the game went on got increasingly more impressive. I like a JRPG that improves as times goes on. Some JRPGs just peak too soon, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. In the beginning I was faced with some rather pathetic looking artes, but as I neared the end of it, I was mesmerised to the point of forgetting which character I was using as ice spikes came flying across the screen, and the ground lifted from underneath me.
I only had to grind once or twice, which I’m not gonna lie, was nice. But I’ve always loved a good grind in games, so it didn’t really bother me. I think that’s probably when my love of the title system came into effect. Trying to increase my health and get new artes to defeat a boss became a kind of continued obsession. I hunted down the best new titles that had been bestowed upon me, seeking their new skills and increased HP so that I could really kick some monsters into the ground.
I also absolutely adored the little side quests, and the request system got me kind of hooked towards the end of the game when I eventually gained the ability to be able to travel instantly to wherever I wanted. Travelling to each town from start to finish and completing their requests, then going back again once I had obtained some new thing for other requests became a long addiction. Dualizing different recipes and items also became another addiction. I’ve always loved games where you can cook things and create new items, so this was onto a total win from the start. Boosting the powers of my weapons, and the defence of my armour was something I wanted to do more and more.
Even the little skits that could sometimes be annoying in other Tales games added something nice and comical to the story. I actually wanted to listen to them all arguing with each other over petty things, because for once it actually added value to what I was doing. The skits even initiated other cut scenes occasionally. On the subject of cut scenes, I would liked to have seen more anime cut scenes, but the ones that were there were simply beautiful. I don’t want my game to look real, I want it to look pretty in anime form.
All in all my time with Tales of Graces f was a magical one. It was so nice to sit down and genuinely enjoy a JRPG for the first time in, well, years. I’m not ashamed to admit that I nearly cried at the end of the game, mostly because I had such a great time with it that I didn’t want it to leave. I really hope that the next Tales game does this one justice.