Knowing how diverse our Ranter community is, it goes without saying that a good number of you import games from other regions. One highly anticipated title for fans of both the Tales of games and RPGs in general is Tales of Graces F. If you didn't know already, Tales of Graces F is a PS3-enhanced port of the Wii original. Much to the disdain of many worldwide Tales of fans, Namco Bandai is not be releasing this game outside of Japan.
Tales of Graces F takes place in the world of Efinea, where the people use Arles that allow the civilizations of the planet to prosper. The plot of the game starts seven years after a mysterious event occurs that is heavily related to the main character Asbel. I don't want to include too many spoilers, in case any of you have never played the original Graces.
The demo gives you control of seven characters who can all be switched in and out of your party as you see fit. Parties consist of four characters, and choosing your party wisely is the key to surviving every battle. The different characters available should offer a little something for everyone. Like with many standard JRPGs, the main character is a Swordsman, but in Asbel's case, he uses a sword-style that is focused on the 'art of drawing the sword,' very similar to the main character of Rurouni Kenshin. Other party members, like Sophie -- a girl who uses martial arts to devastate her opponents not only on the ground, but in the air as well -- can be really enjoyable to play with. If being a caster is more your thing, then you are in luck. There are casters that should stay focused on long-ranged magic attacks, and also casters that use weapons in combination with magic.
After starting the demo, an in-game cutscene starts showing the all the party members trying desperately to escape from some monsters in what is possibly one of the game's dungeons. After escaping, they land in a forest. Though they are a bit disoriented, they begin to make their way through the forest. The enhanced HD graphics of Graces are beautiful to say the least, but are still a bit less impressive than the insanely gorgeous Tales of Vesperia on Xbox 360. I didn't find the music in the demo to be anything spectacular, but it certainly isn't annoying.
Now to talk about the bread and butter of the demo: the battles! I found each battle to be quite challenging, possibly because Graces uses a battle system that has never been seen before in previous Tales of games. The battle system is called the "Style Shift Linear Motion Battle System" (SS-LMBS), which allows characters to switch between two different fighting styles. An additional new element in battles is the ability to side-step 360 degrees around your opponents. Battle elements from past Tales of games, like Blast Calibers the Chain Capacity point system from Tales of Destiny, make a welcomed return.
If you happen to have some friends with you when you're playing the game, get ready to pass them a controller, because up to four people can take full-control of a character in battle, which makes for a very fun and entertaining experience. There is the option to have the other three party members controlled by AI, but to really stand a chance in these battles, its wise to have people controlling them. After fighting through multiple enemies in the forest, you'll eventually come to the end-boss, which wasn't that difficult compared to the regular fights you fought on the way.
The main issue I have with this game is that the learning curve for the new battle system is a little high and will require some getting used to. You will not be able to just button-mash your way through the battles in this game, unless you want to be severely punished. Loading times were kept to a minimum and were only a couple of seconds, but that may be because the demo isn't playing off a Blu-Ray disc.
If you have never played the original Graces on the Wii or are new to the Tales of series, this game is definitely worth importing. For those wondering how they would play a game that is almost completely in Japanese, there are full-translation guides that gamers write up to help.
The Tales of Graces F demo is available for download right now on the Japanese PSN Store. Be on the lookout for the full Blu-Ray release of the game, which will be sold only in Japan, on December 2, 2010.
Note to Ranters: You can download the demo from the Japanese PSN Store if you create a free Japanese PSN account.