Although Final Fantasy is perhaps one of the best–known JRPGs in English-speaking territories, many other, lesser known ones have been slowly migrating out of the Land of the Rising Sun (notable among them being the Monster Hunter series). One of the latest in this bunch of games is Tales of Graces f (or as my wife loves to call it: Tales of GrFaces—seriously…look at the logo!), part of the Tales series of games. Like Final Fantasy, the games in the Tales series have very little to do with each other, other than the name. Of course, this piqued my interested. Since I have a genuine love of and passion for JRPG games, I decided to see the sights in this game and see if it’s worth the price of admission.
Regular readers will know how much I love video game history, so I was keenly interested to find out that Tales of Graces f is actually the twelfth core game in the series. The lack of numbering is intended to convey the non-interaction between titles. I’d heard tangentially about the Tales series, but had never actually forayed into the games, having been burned by terrible JRPGs before. And you know what? I was very very pleasantly surprised by what I found.
Let’s start at the start, though. Tales of Graces f—a PS3 remake of the Wii game of the same name, sans the “f”—tells the tale of Asbel Lhant, the son of a minor noble who finds an amnesia-riddled girl in a field near his town. As usual for these sorts of stories, things go to hell soon afterwards, and it’s your job as the main character to fix the planet and save it from The Big Bad. I really don’t want to mess up the plot for you more than this because some of the revelations that come through will have you saying “What in the names of all the rocks just happened??” and leave you wanting to play more. You know that when a major plot twist kicks in early enough, it’s either going to be a brilliant game, or a clunker. No spoilers for which this game is.
I’m going to spend a bit of time discussing the game’s aesthetic feel. True to many JRPG games, the artwork is simply beautiful to behold, and has a distinctly anime feel to it. In fact, many of the game’s cut scenes are full on, proper anime sequences, not CGI. It has none of the dreary browns and greys that are so much a feature of western RPGs, so the action on screen is eye-catching. The game’s music is appropriate to the setting as well, although I’ve not heard anything on the scale of Uematsu’s memorability. The game also features full voice acting with a surprisingly well-known cast. In fact, if you follow English ports of Japanese games, or English dubs of anime, you’ll recognize most, if not all, of the voices.
Gameplay takes place in one of two areas, a navigable world that you can run around, pick fights on, and pick things up from; and the town areas, where you do the same thing you do in every other JRPG—discover just how chatty people are, and find out what they’re hiding in their closets. Tales of GrFaces does away with the familiar JRPG trope of random battles, and shows you the creatures you could fight. You can avoid the battles if you want, but the grind is part and parcel of JRPG life. On top of that, the battles are actually a heck of a lot of fun, taking place in real-time on a special battle screen. The amount of tactics involved can actually get a bit overwhelming early in the game, but you pick it up quickly. Truly, fighting a battle skilfully can be pretty rewarding.
Overall, I was truly pleased by the game’s action, strategy, and humour. The story’s plot twists kept me playing long after I thought I would have been bored of the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I’m going to consider the Tales series the last nail in the coffin that was Final Fantasy. Sorry, old girl, but I’ve found a new love to play with.
Final score: 9.5 Kuruma ebi (that’s Japanese prawns to you) out of 10
Developer: Namco Tales Studio
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: PS3 exlusive
Age Rating: 10+