Reviews: Tales Of Graces

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The happiest JRPG I've ever played.
Let my just get this out of the way first: this game falls VERY heavily on the "Idealistic" sice of the sliding scale of idealism vs cynicism. If you are alergic to such things, you might not like this game. But in a world where bittersweet endings are the norm, I personally find it refreshing.

This might be spoiling things a bit, but I'll just say the ending is quite possibly THE most unambiguously happy one I've ever seen in a JRPG. The ending credits theme compounds this. If you want to feel really good at the conclusion of a game, I highly recommend this. It also stands as a perfect example of how Deconstruction does not equal "Darker and Edgier". Not to spoil too much, but the usual Tales series deconstruction is here applied to JRPG final boss cliches, in a way that makes the plot uplifting rather than tragic.

As for the plot itself, it's simpler than the usual Tales fare but makes up for it with great writing, good pacing and memorable characters. Really the characters are a huge strength of this game, though be warned: they're almost as eccentric as the cast of your average Ace Attorney game. And that's another strong point of this game: humor. I'll just say this: the translators clearly had a LOT of fun writing the item descriptions. And some of the skits, especially in the Playable Epilogue (I disagree with this term, it's more like an additional chapter set after a Time Skip) actually made me laugh out loud, something games rarely provoke out of me.

The main flaws would be in gameplay. Firstly, unlike Xillia, there are some characters here who are just too awkward to use (Pascal, Malik) or are much better left to the AI (Cheria) that I don't really feel the need to play as them. There's also an imbalance when it comes to party healers (namely Cheria >>>>>>>>>>>>>> eveyone else, to the point where there's never any reason not to have her in the party). My main issue though has to be the weakness system, which is incredibly convoluted. Basically, every single standard attack (each of the 7 characters has 20) has a unique set of weaknesses it hits, every enemy has a unique set of weaknesses, and the game expects you to memorise them all. You get bonues for hitting all an ememy's weaknesses in one combo, but in practice that rarely happens outside of random chance. Glad later games went with a standard elemental system.
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