Tales of Graces F is the last of the three games on the Tales of… PS3 compilation that I’ve got round to playing. I picked this up for £15 in June, for what I thought was an incredible bargain. I played Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube around 2004; recently, my girlfriend and I played through Tales of Xillia 1 & 2, and I wanted to introduce her to my first Tales game. Having Graces thrown in was just a bonus.

Well, having now played Symphonia and just started Graces, I can say: I am really excited about playing through this game which promises to be the highlight of the package.

First, you just have to comment on the graphics and presentation. This is a beautiful game. The use of colour is stunning, and the art design is coherent and very pleasing, falling somewhere between the more mature style of Xillia and Symphonia’s cartoonish appeal. It is a joy to behold. The menus and all-round presentation are very slick too. The same goes for the audio, and already I have the sense this is a soundtrack I will be listening to long after I finish the game.

We are about five hours in and can’t say too much about the story yet, as the game hasn’t really shown its cards. However as usual for a Tales game this is a crapsack world: it looks pretty but very bad things happen to innocent and defenseless people all the time. A young girl has a debilitating (potentially fatal?) respiratory condition. Adults die prematurely. Children are farmed off for adoption seemingly for no reason, breaking up friendships and even sibling relationships.

The combat system is intriguing, with a few steps away from other Tales games. It is heavily combo-based, and dispenses with mana (or TP) and instead uses combo points. Once you run out of combo points you can’t attack, but they replenish quickly on their own and various actions regenerate them as well. On the whole combat is very fast-paced, energetic, and fun, although it remains to be seen whether there is any role for casters in this game. Another point of interest is that skills are associated with particular titles, which need to be equipped in order to learn the skill through battle. I’ve always liked systems where you gain skills through equipping gear, and this is a variation on that, so I’m loving it so far.

One thing I would mention is that Tales is a series I play now in large part because of its co-operative multiplayer. There has been a lot of chopping and changing in the game so far with the ‘player two’ character, which is down to story imperatives, but it does mean that perhaps it can be less engaging for the second player. But there is still plenty of action and I expect this will improve as the game goes on.

Overall, I’m really excited about Graces and looking forward to cracking on with it. I’m surprised to see it was first released on the Wii in 2009, as it seems like a very fresh and up-to-date experience so far. They obviously took seriously the task of porting it to PS3.

I’m pleased to be finishing my 360/PS3-Tales experience on a high note, as before this we had tried playing Tales of Symphonia 2: Dawn of the New World, the third game on the PS3 compilation. The less said about Symphonia 2 the better, really. Suffice to say that from a story, character and gameplay point of view, it is the worst Tales game I have ever played. We stopped about 5 hours in when we had our asses handed to us in a boss fight that took place after sitting through 40 minutes of excruciating dialogue and no chance to save. No thanks.