Tales of Graces f

Tales of Graces f
Tales of Graces f Cover
Platforms PlayStation 3
Genre What the f?
MtAMinutes to Action 2
Keep Playing? Doubtful
Buy from Amazon

The long-awaited localization of two high profile JRPGs has delighted the dwindling Wii fanbase. After years of holding out, Nintendo was finally convinced to bring potential hits Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story to the new world by distribution partners GameStop and XSEED, respectively. The orchestrators of last year's Operation Rainfall fan campaign deserve a pat on the back (though I was doing it before it was cool).

But another Wii JRPG topped my personal wishlist, then and now: Tales of Graces. The Tales series' claim to fame is its thrilling real-time battles, and Tales of Graces looked like the next evolution of that combat system. Months turned into years as I waited for a localization announcement, eventually accepting the improbability of my playing the game.

Fortunately, Namco Bandai's love for milking the Tales series eventually prevailed; late last year, the PlayStation 3 port of Tales of Graces was confirmed for release here in North America. I've built up some expectations, no doubt aggravated by the years of waiting. For me, these first sixty minutes of Tales of Graces F weigh more heavily than a JRPG intro should. Does it crack under the pressure?

- I'm the oldest son of a minor lord. My little brother's a coward. In the middle of a flower bed, we found a sleeping girl with purple hair in knee-length pigtails. She has amnesia. We brought her back to our sleepy little village, where we were greeted by my not-so-secret admirer. The four kids tried to find out more about Amnesia Girl in town, to no avail. Sometimes we hit bugs with sticks. Yep, that's the first hour of a JRPG alright.

- I was really looking forward to the combat. It has potential, I guess, but for now all I can really do is mash the attack button. Or, I could, if I didn't have an attack limit to worry about. It seems every attack in the game, even regular old sword swings, drains a character's Chain Capacity (CC). When at zero, attacks are unavailable. It will refill quickly after a few seconds, but I'm not sure how I feel about this fundamental change to the battle system.

Tales of Graces f Chicken

- I'm not quite sure how the character upgrade system works, either. It seems that characters learn new skills and gain stat upgrades by equipping Titles and then acquiring skill points through battle. It reminds me of the Esper and Materia systems from Final Fantasy VI and VII. It's an interesting alternative to straight leveling up, but it's too early to see how it works in the long term.

- For a remake of a Wii game, Graces f looks pretty good. I always thought the cel-shaded style of the series would pop in HD, and it does have a strong resemblance to the anime cutscenes that occasionally play. Built on the limitations of the Wii, I don't expect to see any impressive draw distances or on-screen hordes, however.

- The series' trademark "skits" return, in which characters briefly chat among themselves about whatever minutiae is nearby. There seem to be quite a lot of them, too. Obviously they're none too interesting, but they're fully voiced and completely optional, at least.

Minutes to Action: 2

Would I keep playing? Doubtful. I'm not sure what it is with Japanese adventure games and slow starts, but I'm not exactly thrilled that I spent most of the hour searching for information and not finding any. That said, I've been waiting for the game too long to let a slow start keep me down. My character hasn't yet earned the Elvis look he's sporting on the cover art. Maybe that's when things pick up. I'll at least play until then.

Tales of Graces f Grandpa_0