Lately, my gaming life has been controlled by the two Tales of -series rpgs, Graces f and Xillia. I played Graces f earlier this year and as I liked the gameplay and story, not forgetting the characters and the humorous post-battle banter, I decided to start playing its sister game Xillia right off the bat. While I've not yet completed the main story of Xillia due to some elusive sidequest content, I thought to write down some of my feelings regarding the similarity and differences of the two games as representatives of the same series. First off, though, here's my take on Tales of Graces f.
Graces f focuses around the life of Asbel, on the path of gaining enough strength to protect everyone he holds dear and to overcome his failures, and his closest friends. The game begins in the childhood of the central characters, which paves the way for their lives to-be. Life-changing decisions, new friends and hardships endured together fuse the five main characters together in a way that bonds them for life, despite their later differences. The group is later joined by two more characters, giving the player altogether seven party members and a choice of controlling one of them in battle. The seven characters are never all in the party at the same time, however, with one character especially being a short-lived joy in the post-battle animations.
The story evolves quickly from childhood to youth, as Asbel runs away from home to join the order of Knights in the capital. The central third of the game is devoted to repairing broken relationships of the childhood and for each of the characters, for finding their respective goals in life. And then the story takes a turn from being a narrative of growth and teenage angst to uniting all and everything against a common enemy aiming to destroy the world and everyone in it. So, no surprises there. Generally speaking, the plot is not all that surprising for anyone familiar with jrpgs, even though a few things always manage to creep up on you. If I'd have to say anything negative about this game, it's just that. And maybe Cheria, of whom I didn't like too much. A little more depth goes a long way in character design.
As mentioned earlier, I'm a fan of Graces f's gameplay, as well as the story. You develop the characters through choosing Titles for them - some of these you gain as you progress in the story and some as you complete certain goals either in the sub-events or in battle. Each Title has five different skills which require points, gained from battle, to unlock. The skills range from battle skills (or artes) to characteristics boosts and even after acquiring all of them it is possible for you to master the Title by assigning more points to it. As I'm not too familiar with the game mechanics, I'm not sure if the mastery of a Title gives you any special bonuses, but hey, at least you get a golden star!
In battle, you can select from an array of A- and B-artes to use, and later in the game, each character also acquires unique and powerful single-attacks, with animations to boot. In battle you are at the mercy of action points, which replenish after a short wait after they've all been used, so it is not possible to just barrage your enemies to the ground. You need to learn the best of defending, side- and back-stepping and the rather linear movement on the field of battle, too, to overcome your enemies. The player gets to control one of the characters, with three more on the field controlled by the A.I.. It's possible to assign certain strategies for these other characters from the menus, and it is also possible to change the controlled character anytime. For me, that usually happened by accident, since I prefered using Asbel all the time. At times I tried my hand with Sophie and Pascal, deemed them weird, and returned back to the company of our red-haired hero.
Apart from fighting enemies, the game also offers other content such as cooking, discussions between characters over various topics, sidequests obtainable at inns, landmark hunting and general running around the world. I like the graphics of the game, too, and I imagine the colourful scenery makes the game enjoyable for all ages.