I’m 20 hours in, and this game is damn FUN. I still prefer Graces’ battle system because CC >>>>>>> TP and there’s no side-stepping here, but there’s a lot of fun new mechanics that make me WANT to go into random battles. You know a game is doing it right when you actually LIKE fighting normal enemies. Boss fights, however, are rather frustrating. I’m playing on hard, and damn these bosses are annoying. The first boss was alright, but I ran out of all healing items by the end and Milla was dead (and you don’t have a proper healer at this time yet). The second boss I managed to knock him down to low HP before he started summoning mooks like crazy and I ran out of TP recovery items. I said “fuck this shit” and lowered the difficulty. The fact that it takes place in a dark area makes it more frustrating to dodge. Third boss was fine until I ran out of items when it was at very low HP, then it proceeded to murder me because none of my allies can dodge. Fourth boss was fine, since it was a one-on-one fight with Jude with no crappy ally AI, so I just had to learn the boss’ attack patterns.
I have a feeling this is gonna turn out like Abyss. Frustrating at first because you keep running out of TP, but much better later on when you can afford Pineapple Gels. Unfortunately, I still can’t buy Pineapple Gels in bulk without murdering my wallet. Jude is also extremely fun to play as, because of his awesome ability where if he backsteps an enemy attack at the right moment, he will teleport to behind the enemy. His attacks are also fast, which makes him very enjoyable to control. For a doctor, he sure is good at beating people up. Alvin plays more like your standard Tales hero with the sword and all, but he has a charge ability that increases attack power and changes some of his artes. Then there’s Milla, who I really, really want to marry.
Those delicious thighs…She has a bunch of elemental spells, but her ability makes it so that if you hold X, she casts, but mashing X will cause her to do close-range elemental artes that have no casting time. She is my favorite to use because I can hit enemy weak points like crazy, but she’s out of commission right now so I had to get used to Jude. Elise is the healer, which means I’ll never play as her for the first playthrough because I will forget to heal my allies. Rowen is a standard caster with lots of spells, but fragile defenses. I just got Leia, who seems to be a thief character with healing artes better than Jude, magic, and physical artes? Seems to be a jack of all trades.
Aside from each character having a unique ability, there’s also the partnering system. Basically you can link yourself to another character, and they will have a useful support skill. You can also perform a powerful combined Arte with your partner. Jude’s skill is Recover, which basically heals you when you are knocked down (and brings you back up). Milla can bind enemies (even bosses), Alvin can guard break, Rowen will give you and him and anyone close-by auto-magic guard (VERY useful), Elise drain enemy HP I think (never paid much attention to what it does exactly), and I haven’t used Leia enough to know what she does. I think she steals.
Plot is taking off decently, but it has slowed down a bit where I’m at. I think I like world design better than Graces, but it’s less interesting than Abyss (so far). I like all the party members, so that’s a plus. The fact that there’s at least 3 characters that are fun to play as even on first playthrough is great.
tl;dr: Fun game is fun.
I realized that once I enjoy a game, I will immediately seek out as many games in the same series as possible. After Xillia I might even look into some of the older Tales games (although I’m iffy about Tales without either Free Run or side-stepping), or the PS3 version of Vesperia since I heard it’s getting a The Best edition which will make it cost like $50 instead of $80+ to import. Thank Sony the PS3 is region-free.