The long awaited Tales of Graces f has made its way to European shores today, delivered with Namco Bandai Games’ now traditional flair and intended long tail packaging. A Day One edition with all manner of extra goodies included at no extra cost and the eventual support of more than sixty pieces of downloadable content (DLC) ensure that the PAL release isn’t arriving without a considerable fanfare; quite an achievement for a videogame that at one points was never intended to reach western store shelves.
Tales of Graces f is a remake of the critically acclaimed Wii exclusive Tales of Graces, which never saw release outside of Japan. Having originally arrived in the west with its North American release earlier this year, the lack of a PAL launch would’ve been heartbreaking for many gamers, but thankfully Namco Bandai Games heard their cries. ‘Thankfully’ because not only does it prevent some unnecessary publisher flaming across internet forums throughout European videogames centric websites, but also because Tales of Graces f provides a worthwhile role-playing game (RPG) experience.
The videogame tells the pastel coated tale of friendship and betrayal, of life and loss. The softness of the visual design provides a surreal shelter for a story which concentrates its efforts on some worldly themes. Bold at times and succinct at others, it’s clear that Tales of Graces f is a videogame with designs for more than mere titillation. A familiar set-up plays host to such ambition, with the player taking direct control of their party leader as they travel through towns and across a world map. The latter aspect of the videogame is actually rather limited – a simple network of roads for the most part, as opposed to a land worthy of exploration – and the acquisition of an airship almost makes it entirely ignorable. Instead, Tales of Graces f makes its biggest plays in its combat system.
Tales of Graces f uses the traditional formula of elemental attacks and weaknesses, as well as a return of the Artes attacks from previous Tales of videogames. However, here in Tales of Graces f, the Artes are used to form combo attacks, with the first strike presenting an opener which can be followed by four secondary Artes. These combo attacks can continued to be chained for as long as the player has the momentum to do so, within the limits of their earned CC total.
Introducing the Chain Capacity system, Tales of Graces f relies on a meter which diminishes with near every action committed; attacks, dash, special moves et al all deplete the CC contained within the meter. In order to replenish their CC players must defend successfully or evade attacks, or perform certain combinations of manoeuvres within incurring damage. It’s a revised version of the cooldown system that works well with the Tales of series’ real-time control, forcing players to consider their action and mix-up their strategies between battles. For example, fighting against quicker foes may have you on the backfoot for longer periods of time, and so perfect timing of your defensive manoeuvres will be more important than landing forceful blows.
Tales of Graces f paints the picture a very unique world, inviting to any gamer already involved in the traditional RPG scene. It delves into the realms of the ludicrous a little too often perhaps, with observes not always certain whether or not moments should be laughed at or approached with sincerity, though this could just as easily be the fault of poor localisation as it is the juxtaposition of art and thematic. The sound quality is notably less successful, with tired voice acting doing little to present characters that are anything other than over inflated stereotypes.
Having taken nearly two years to make its way to Europe, Tales of Graces f is a welcome addition to the PlayStation 3’s RPG line-up. More traditional than the likes of NIS America’s output though less rigid than Final Fantasy XIII’s heavily criticised opening, Tales of Graces f walks a tightrope of personal indulgence and finely crafted locations. The combat system bears the hallmark of the Tales of series by presenting a remarkably engrossing experience where the personal demand to improve your character becomes just as valuable here as the ‘one more go’ factor of classic puzzle and skill based videogames, and is clearly Tales of Graces f’s finest asset. As such, if it’s an inventive yet familiar RPG experience you’re looking for you’d be doing yourself an injustice to not consider picking up Tales of Graces f.