Tales of Graces originally released on the Wii, in Japan only, about a year ago. But, recently Namco-Bandai announced that a remade, HD version of the title, with lots of fancy extras, would be making its way to the PS3. It releases in December, but the demo went up on the Japanese PSN just a few days ago. I downloaded it and took it for a test drive.
First off, let me just say that this demo was so much better than the last Tales demo I played, Tales of Vesperia. Yes, that is the demo that completely turned me off from playing the game (which turned out to be one of my favorite JRPGs this generation) for a long time after release. However, this demo wasn’t nearly as difficult and actually allowed you to check out a wide array of the game’s cast – both on the battlefield and off.
The demo starts with a moderately long cut scene where your characters are running from some baddies, and are escaping a ship of some sort. The little vehicle you escape to eventually crashes near a forest, and your forced to explore. And, explore you will do, because this forest is a maze of small corridors and dead ends. However, at most dead ends you’ll find a fancy new weapon or piece of armor of some sort. I would venture to say all these weapons and such are just in there for the demo, because I have never played an RPG where I’ve found useful items in treasure chests in this large of quantity in this small of area.
Battles are plentiful, and you can’t avoid them all that well, unless you manage not to even trigger the enemy’s hero-detector. What I liked about these battles was that it seems you have more freedom of movement than in previous Tales games, even Vesperia. The party AI was set up by default in such a way that they would keep you healed up pretty well, even if you took a load of punishment.
Of course, this demo is in Japanese and I can’t read it, so I fumbled through the menus, learning how to swap weapons and use items. Unfortunately I can’t go into that great of detail for the reason I just mentioned, but it seems like your standard JRPG stuff. And that is awesome. The battles are smooth and are very Tales-like, although, as I mentioned, you do seem to have more freedom to move around as you please, which is great for an action-oriented battle system.
The visuals were pretty sweet, and the jump from SD to HD is a huge improvement. Of course, if you dislike anime-inspired games, you won’t find much to like here. I happen to love them, so it’s all good. The audio was pretty top-notch, as well. While I couldn’t get a good feel for the music in general, as there is hardly any to go on in the demo, the Japanese voice acting actually wasn’t grating and sounded pretty darn solid.
If you’re familiar with other Tales titles, this one doesn’t seem to hold any hidden surprises as far as the game play is concerned, and that’s just fine with me. After playing the demo, I’m wishing even more that Namco will see fit to bring this one (and other titles in this franchise) to North America. If you can’t wait that long, you can import Tales of Graces F starting December 2, 2010, when it comes out in Japan.