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Almost a month ago, Tales of Graces f finally reached the American shores. Originally being released in December of 2009 for the Wii and again in December of 2010 on the PS3 abroad, it has been a very long-awaited release here. I was originally planning on reviewing this game before its release, but ultimately decided to wait until the English release to see if anything changed. In the end, not much has changed — it’s still amazing.
The story begins following an11-year old boy named Asbel Lhant and his younger brother, Hubert. Their father is the Lord of their town, and as Asbel is the older brother, he is next-in-line. Asbel and Hubert sneak out of town, and run into a young girl who appears to have amnesia. They eventually make the decision to look after her until she can recover her memory and find her family.
After some rather interesting and unfortunate chains of events which I will not go into, a time skip of 7 years happens, and you regain control of the now 18-year-old Asbel as he tries to regain control over his life and make sense of reality. And, as nearly all games turn out, you eventually need to save the world.
If the story sounds uninteresting just by the brief overview here, you’re right. I can’t even begin to describe anything more without ruining something. The story in this game is one of the best in the series. It really starts to pick up early on, and only continues to grow.
Moving on to the battle system (this is a JRPG after all), it is quite unique even among other Tales games. There is no concept of TP in this game, but rather a CC meter that governs all attacks. Each attack uses a certain amount of CC, and you can attack as long as you have enough available. You can recover CC by guarding, dodging, waiting, and/or striking weakpoints on your enemies. In short, it just works.
At first you may not like the battle system, as you probably don’t have enough CC to manage long chains. But once you start getting better equipment, you’ll also start getting higher CC minimum and maximum values.
There are two different modes of attacks. There are “A artes,” which are the basic attack artes; and “B artes,” which are the burst artes, which focus more on spells or elemental attacks. One thing you might notice here is the naming of the two artes — this was originally a Wii game, and the those were the buttons each arte was assigned to. Certain enemies are weak to certain arte types and attributes, so knowing what to use and when is absolutely vital.
Those familiar with the series will also like to note the Mystic Arte abilities (special attacks unique to each character) available in the game. Each character has access to three different Mystic Artes (four if you include Accel mode of the Future Arc) depending on the amount of Elith Charges available.
There are originally four game modes you can play on: Easy, Normal, Moderate, and Hard. As you would expect, playing the game in a harder difficulty yields greater rewards, but at a price. Changing the difficulty has no impact on your game or your trophies.
If you venture out into Hard Mode, and fight over 200 battles, you unlock an additional difficulty: Evil Mode. This mode is roughly 1.5x harder than Hard mode, but you’re greatly rewarded with a boost in the amount of SP you earn at the end of battles, higher quality items dropped, and overall drop rates improved.
If you then fight 300 battles in Evil Mode, you then unlock the other hidden difficulty: Chaos Mode. This mode is no joke. It is roughly 2x harder than Evil Mode, and if you’re not good at dodging attacks in battle, you could become very familiar with the Game Over screen. This mode yields the greatest rewards for playing, but it is not something to be taken lightly. Enemies that would normally have 13,000 HP now have 55,000 HP, almost 6x the strength and defense, and very smart AI.
As you can imagine, there is a trophy for killing the final boss in Chaos Mode.
The game plays great, and the story is fantastic. One thing I was very worried about when playing the English version of the game was their translation and voice actors. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The voice acting is top notch — especially Pascal, who I feared the English version would butcher most — and the translation is very well done. Sure, there are some parts that they could have done better, but if you haven’t played the original and aren’t fluent in Japanese, you will not really notice them.
There are a couple minor complaints that I have with the game though. The first I have lies in the Magic Carta card mini-game. In this game, you have a number of cards with pictures of previous Tales characters scattered randomly over a table. One person will start reading a line that was spoken by a character whose card is on the table, and your job is to select the correct card before the computer does.
The problem with this is, it was originally made for the Wii, and moving the cursor to the card in time can be quite difficult. Especially when the computer starts to cheat:
They never fixed this part of the game, but they did fix the infinite money glitch.
All in all, Tales of Graces is a very excellent game, and I highly recommend anyone who is a fan of JRPGs to to pick this title up.