I just beat the main arc, starting up on future arc, and damn, this is the best console RPG I’ve played in…quite a while. I don’t even remember the last time I enjoyed a console RPG this much, unless I think back all the way to Persona 4. Then again, I don’t even play console games that much and that’s why I have a backlog of PS2 games that I’ve yet to beat. My only other experience with a Tales game other than watching Legendia on Youtube (I have no hope of acquiring previous-gen Tales games, since they’re mostly rare and expensive) and the fan translation of Tales of Innocence which I never beat because my DS has unresponsive shoulder buttons and I was waaay crappier at video games back then than I am now. If you gave me an Ys game back then, I probably would’ve ragequit at the first boss. Even Ys Seven. Either way, screw the past because Tales of Graces is amazing. Go play it.
The battle system is fast-paced and action-packed, and your damage increases with your combo. You can guard, or side-step to evade attacks. It’s a battle system that certainly requires skill, especially on difficulties beyond moderate. In battle, you get two sets of Artes (fancy name for your skills), A-Artes and B-Artes. The former requires you to chain moves, whereas the latter is for those who like to spam skills repeatedly. I strongly prefer B-Artes, of course. Battles are usually over quickly, normal encounters last one minute or less for the majority of the game, and boss fights last several minutes. Dungeons are pretty straightforward and short, which is a good thing because I like to keep my action and dungeon-crawling separate. The battles are SO MUCH FUN.
I played most of the game on moderate and switched to hard for the final dungeon, and I was decently challenged for most of the part. There was one battle where I had to drop down to normal because the boss OHKO’ed me on moderate, but otherwise moderate/hard is perfect. The difficult is adjustable any time, so the game is very forgiving in that regard.
The story is about FABULOUS FRIENDSHIP which I have no problem with, and Tales games have these things called skits which are optional scenes that show character interactions and reactions toward whatever’s happening around them. Skits are awesome, and what I’ve always wanted in my RPGs. Optional scenes that show more of the characters goofing off, without cutting into plot-related cutscenes. Usually action-packed battle system and memorable characters/plot don’t go hand-in-hand, but I find that Tales of Graces has the perfect balance between fun gameplay and interesting scenes. It’s not the most original story, but it’s pretty well-executed and I like it.
So yeah, I definitely recommend Tales of Graces because it’s true quality, and it seems Bamco actually put a lot of effort into the localization. The script is hilarious, and nearly everything is voiced in English. Voice actors are alright, they sound awkward at times but I got used to them. Asbel sounds too prepubescent though. I imagined him with a deeper voice, seeing as how he is 18 and all. Everyone else has a pretty fitting voice, and ALL OF THE SKITS ARE VOICED, not to mention all cutscenes.
After playing Graces, I feel like checking out Abyss on the 3DS. Problem is the PS3 controller is too comfortable and I’m not sure if I can go back to playing ARPGs on the DS-shaped console without cramping up my hands. I love Sony’s controllers, they feel nice.