Ah, Japanese-style role-playing games – what started as a fad early on in the 16-bit-era and peaked midway through the PlayStation-era, JRPGs are a large part of what brought gaming to the mainstream market. It also plays a big part of my gaming childhood; however, I got into them a long ways before most of the guys I knew got into them. Starting with the original Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior games, JRPGs made up a lot of the games I poured a lot of time and dedication into.
Tales of Graces f is a game in a long line of beloved games from the Tales of… series. I originally got into the series playing Tales of Phantasia on an emulator back in the late 90s thanks to a DeJap fan translation after briefly renting Tales of Destiny. I was hooked into the system mostly for the action-oriented combat system that had everything happening on-screen, at once, but in an organized and menu-driven way, much like Kingdom Hearts came to do many years later. Phantasia, weirdly enough, caused friction between the team that developed the game and the publisher, Namco; a good number of the developers went on to form tri-Ace, who would later create and find success with the Star Ocean games.
A lot of you reading my blog don’t know much about my creative writing exploits but those that do will be familiar with the last name “Aileron” – the last name of the main character featured in Destiny. This game hooked me so strongly that my first foray into serious creative writing actually borrowed a lot from Stahn’s adventures with his “swordian.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that I have followed the series since then and I’ve really been a fair-weather fan, not really finding the same kind of exhilaration from combat the way the original games did. In the meantime, I was really getting into the Star Ocean games, as well, also finding more enjoyment from the Super Nintendo entries than the later entries.
Fast-forward to now and my eventual – a year after its release, almost – coming to Graces f, a PlayStation 3 port of the original Wii release, Graces, that never saw North American release. Having not played a Tales of game in many years, I’ve somewhat fallen out with the series – I find it extremely ironic and strange that this entry in the series plays, sounds and feels a whole lot more like the Star Ocean games than any previous Tales of title I’ve ever played. While it’s weird, that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Why does it earn my title of Game of the Day – which, I might add, is more of a suggestion than an award – in its first outing? It’s a definite throwback to old-school JRPGs while keeping with a lot of elements that keep it fairly modern. The story’s not very demanding and things are pretty typical for the medium but it doesn’t keep the game from being enjoyable – none of these things are done poorly, it just doesn’t do anything new for the series or the genre. I really enjoy JRPGs when it’s not overbearingly stereotypical and this is one of them – for that, these days, when a typical JRPG isn’t all that common on North American shores, I would strongly suggest it for fans of the genre.