Tales of Graces f: Some Thoughts, Part One

First things first, I’ll just get this out of the way – this isn’t a full, proper review of Tales of Graces f, because I haven’t been able to finish the game yet! Not by choice, of course – if I had my way, I’d be living and breathing this game. But I’m (hopefully only temporarily) separated from my PS3, and thus my adventures on Ephinea have to be put on hold for a bit. Insert all my QQ ever right here, cause I am totally sad about this turn of events =(

This is a pretty accurate description of how I feel about the game right now. I NEED MY FIX!

I am extremely close to finishing the Main Arc, though – I’m just running through a bunch of sidequests before tackling the final dungeon. After that, it’s on to the Future Arc (the “f” part of the game) and then back to the Main Arc to tackle the delicious bonus dungeon. I hear that you get to fight butlers in there, which means that it’s going to be the best thing ever, basically.

Anyhow, on to some random ramblings about the game, since even if I can’t play it right now, it’s still totally devouring my brain.

I just felt like this was as good a place as any for an image of watermelon heads. #1 attachment fo life.

First of all, I make no secret that my favorite Tales Of game – and really, probably my favorite video game overall – is Tales of Legendia. This still stands, but I think it’s safe to say that Graces has edged out Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Destiny for my #2 favorite Tales spot. It’s just that excellent.

For me, the best part of the game is the newly tweaked combat system – given that I’ve always preferred running high agility characters in these games who can sweep in, unleash an attack, then be across the battlefield before the enemy can retaliate, it’s really no surprise that I’m absolutely in love with the system of dodges, guards, and quick-steps that Graces has introduced. Here’s a particularly Cheriawesome example of how useful those dodges can be:

Every time the game popped up a CC+whatever message, that meant that Cheria had successfully dodged a part of that rather OP attack. And given that many bosses have single artes that can easily nuke your entire party unless you’re quick with the dodge function, it’s a good thing that using it is so damned fun. I can’t even lie, I’d have battles where I’d waste so much time just evading every single attack and laughing at the poor little enemies trying to touch me because I found it so entertaining!

As for what exactly CC is, it’s basically the replacement for TP/MP. Instead of moves costing mana or tech points, the moves you use depend on how much CC you have stored up. Successfully dodging, guarding, and comboing can all restore CC; you can also increase your minimum or maximum CC by dualizing Rise and Exceed shards into your weapons and armor. At the very beginning of the game, you may find yourself constantly running out of CC, at least with some characters (for example, I found my beloved Pascal sort of weird to handle until I’d increased her CC range a bit more), but don’t worry – that problem takes care of itself very quickly, especially with the addition of the B arte tree once you clear the Childhood Arc and get control of adult Asbel and Malik in the Main Arc’s first dungeon.

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And if you don't make Malik and Asbel the unstoppable Box Brothers, you are doing it wrong.

The two arte trees are another fun addition, or at least I think so. The A arte tree is based on CC – depending on the amount of CC you’ve got in your tank, as well as which way you’re aiming the joystick, you’ll perform various artes that combo perfectly into each other. The B arte tree, on the other hand, is much more classic Tales – you map specific artes to various directions, and activate them by holding the joystick in the desired direction and pressing the B arte button. Most characters can swap between the two freely, with Asbel as the one exception. It’s okay, though – his “extra step” is a damaging sheathing/unsheathing, so it’s not like you’re leaving yourself open or breaking a combo. Also worth noting are that A artes are based off your physical, or P ATK stat, and B artes are based off your cryas, or C ATK stat. So it’s important to raise both stats on every character, unlike previous games where you could focus on either Physical or Magic stats.

At the end of this particular A-Arte combo, Sophie apparently joins Cruxis or something.

Speaking of skills, you don’t learn them via leveling up in Graces. Instead, you are constantly earning titles – not really a new thing – except that in this game, titles are used for far more than just a minor stat boost or costume change. Each title has a basic boost – for example, something like giving you a resistance to a certain status ailment as long as that title is equipped – as well as 5 ranks, and each rank will unlock some sort of boost – whether it’s a new arte, a status boost like increased CC or HP or ATK/DEF, or a costume. You rank up by earning SP, which is obtained after every battle and as a reward for doing sidequests. Once you’ve unlocked all five ranks, you can also make the decision to “master” the title, which will enhance the basic title boost. I personally found the title system both easy and engaging, but the game does offer an automated title management feature for those of you who don’t want to worry about it all. Congratulations, you have now earned the “Total Lazyass” title!

Cheria and Pascal demonstrate part of the title-leveling system. They're so helpful!

This is getting pretty long, so the last thing I’ll talk about today is the Mystic Artes/Eleth Gauge system, since places like YouTube and GameFAQs tend to get flooded by people wanting to know how to perform all the super-shiny cut-in mega-attacks. It’s pretty simple, though, so don’t worry. You unlock your Mystic Artes through titles, just like everything else (with the exception of Pascal – her 2nd and 3rd level MAs are unlocked via poking around the Sable Izole laboratory and fighting a fake treasure box on Mt. Zavhert, which enables her to have all three of her Main Arc specials way before the rest of the party – further proof that Pascal is just awesome). Then once you enter an Eleth Rise (basically what was previously known as overlimit – you’ve got a gauge that raises during battles or via using certain consumables), you have the ability to unleash your Mystic Artes (the particular MA that you activate depends on the level on the Eleth Gauge during the Rise – to use Pascal again as an example, 1 will activate her Emerald Strike, 2 will activate Sapphiring Squad, and 3 will trigger Ruby Inferno) and/or use all A and B artes without any CC cost. Basically, Eleth Rise means that you have a free pass to rain down a whole lotta hurt! Once again, here’s Pascal demonstrating – you can see her trigger Ruby Inferno, and then, since the Eleth Gauge went back up to 1 during her first MA, she’s able to instantly trigger Emerald Strike as well, before the timer runs out. Nice, right?

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The other side of the coin is Eleth Break. When this happens, the enemy gets the exact same abilities as you would during a Rise: the ability to use special and Mystic Artes if they have them, and the ability to freely combo the hell out of your face. My advice? If the screen turns yellow, run away from the enemy and get ready to dodge, because you’re probably about to get nuked if you don’t pay attention! Especially a certain mid-boss that loves to spam Killing Field. She’s got my favorite voice acting and design of the game thus far, but after a few of her Eleth Breaks, even I was ready to just let her die. With that said, the feeling you get when you first manage to dodge an entire Killing Field? Bad. Ass.

Hell yes, we're the best. TAKE THAT, KILLING FIELD.

Anyhow, that’s enough for now. Since I’ve gone over most of the basic combat mechanics in this post, I’ll bring this entry to a close. Expect more posts tackling other aspects of the game, because oh my goodness do I have a whole lotta feels about this amazing game. To finish this one up, here’s a pretty nice, spoiler-free sample of what combat looks like in Tales of Graces f. It’s a non-plot related cameo fight against Kohak from Tales of Hearts, brought to you by omegaevolution and Hubert the combo machine~

You can purchase Tales of Graces f for the PS3 here. Do it up!

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