19th Aug2021

RETRO-spective: ‘Tales of Graces F’ Review

by Xenia Grounds

With Tales of Arise coming out later this year, I thought it would be good to revisit some of the Tales games that I’ve gotten to experience in the lead-up to it. Even though I am a lifelong JRPG fan, I didn’t start my Tales journey until 2012 and the first one I ever played was Tales of Graces F on the PS3. This particular entry is a great starting point for newcomers but having played other games in the series, this is not the best game that the series has to offer.

Like any JRPG, I believe the story is the most important part and Graces story is a very simple one. In their youth, our main protagonist Asbel and his younger brother, Hubert, come across a mysterious purple-haired girl (who is later named Sophie) in a clearing but she has no idea who she is. Due to her amnesia, the two brothers take them back to their village and Sophie quickly becomes part of the group alongside the visiting future king, Richard. Eventually, this childhood prologue ends in tragedy as the group are all ultimately driven apart for one reason or another. The story then skips seven years and Asbel is gradually dragged back home and into a lot of political troubles which starts with rightfully wanting to return Richard to his throne but then things start to go awry when Richard starts to become more and more dangerous to the world at large and it’s up to his childhood friends to stop him before the worst happens.

Now while I do like that the story never really gets caught up in making things convoluted for the sake of drama, the flip side to this is that Tales of Graces F is incredibly predictable and the characters are all very one dimensional. Sophie’s amnesia should have been a huge red flag because that’s one of the most cliched tropes of all time and it really likes using the power of friendship which can be very eye-rolling. Every major plot twist in this game can be seen coming from a mile away especially if you are experienced enough with JRPGs and anime. While I won’t spoil anything in this review even if it’s obvious, chances are you might be a bit flabbergasted by how Tales of Graces F plays all of these cliches and tropes completely straight with nothing to try to make it their own.

It’s not just the story which is cliche. It’s seen with the characters as well. We have the emotional and do-gooder protagonist with Asbel, the love interest who can never seem to spit it out in Cheria, the worry wart and stick in the mud Hubert, the brooding prince Richard and later on the zany and weird Pascal and father figure of the pack, Captain Malik. None of them really change from these characteristics for the entire story and while cliches aren’t necessarily a bad thing if executed well but in Graces case, it feels like this lighthearted tone and comedic nature really takes away from the gravitas and stakes that Graces could’ve had. This could just be a matter of personal taste because I always prefer deeper stories and ones that are willing to dip its toes in darker, mature and emotional themes but if you’re looking for a feel-good time with likeable characters then this is perfect for you. I also highly recommend you play Lineage and Legacies upon completing the main story or you will be left with a lot of unanswered questions and unresolved subplots.

Now while I think Graces F does lack in the storytelling combat, I also believe that they make for it with the combat. You learn as you go. For example, you only learn about status ailments when they happen to you even if it’s over thirty hours in. It means the pacing isn’t hindered by the feeling that you need to be coached through everything in the beginning of the game. The Chain Capacity or CC system is the thing that drives combat. A Artes are physical attacks and B Artes are the magic attacks and the idea is to string the two together in order to unleash powerful combo attacks. As you’re fighting, you may notice a blue and red bar and if you take or deal damage then it’ll increase but the same applies to your enemy. You’ll have to get unbelievably good at dodging if you want your bar to fill out first. Depending on how full a certain bar is, you can unleash a Mystic Arte but enemies are capable of that too which can almost certainly lead to a game over if you aren’t prepared. As far as the other characters in your party go, you’re able to customise what they do in battle like what Artes they use, what you want them to focus on etc. Skill points are very important and as the game goes on, you’ll get titles and each title makes characters stronger by teaching them new Artes, buffs and gaining that master title can double effects of that title so that’s important to keep in mind especially since the future arc Lineage and Legacies is much more challenging than the main story.

The Eleth Mixer is another aspect of gameplay worth mentioning. This produces items in battle which can heal, raise stats and other effects. Keep using it because it provides more slots and gives it more Eleth to use. Stop by shops and it’s easy enough to fully charge. Dualizing shards gives weapons extra properties and filling out stamp cards means there’ll be more items to buy in stores.

As far as environments and graphics go, Tales of Graces F does show its age. This isn’t an open-world game per se but this is definitely something that happens quite frequently with the Tales games of the later 2000s and 2010s. The world can feel empty when you’re exploring and there’s very little to interact with outside of monster fights or watching skits. Revisiting areas can be encouraged from viewing certain skits which can give you new titles. Graphically, this game is pretty basic but keep in mind that this game was originally made for a Wii and the remaster for the PS3 is actually quite well done. The lighting and quality is a lot crisper and everyone looks very adorable. I don’t have much to say about the soundtrack because I think Tales of Graces F has a pretty unmemorable OST outside of its opening theme ‘White Wishes’ and the battle tracks.

Overall, Tales of Graces F is far from a perfect game. What you end up feeling about this game will largely depend on your personal taste. I personally have issues with its storytelling (I emphasise it’s not bad, just predictable) but some people may love its lighthearted approach. The combat is a strong point and is probably better handled than other games in the series so it’s worth playing for that alone if you like solid gameplay. In the past decade since this game was released, RPGs have gone from strength to strength and are more inclined to dig darker and deeper into their themes and stories so maybe the best way to play Tales of Graces F is by remembering it’s a refreshing change if you want a break from those gritter stories.


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