Tales of Graces f (PS3)
+ Stronger, improved combat system
+ Interesting story and character development
+ Pretty visuals, effects and environments
+ Absorbing amount of side quests and longevity
- Long and monotonous prologue
Where on the PS2, it was JRPG all you can see, Japan have fallen behind and modern American/European RPGs have taken center stage such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. While there were some attempts like the critically panned Hyperdimension Neptunia, the unsuccessful crossover Cross Edge, and the unrecognized tactical role-playing Record of Agarest Zero, Tales of Graces f, a new title in the long running Tales series finally brings a worthy JRPG on the now aging console.
The story takes place in the world of Ephinea, where three children of Lhant: Asbel and Hubert Lhant, along with Cheria Barnes meet an amnesiac girl in a flower field. They name her Sophie, for Sopheria, for the flower they found her at. In a fated day, the prince of the Windor Kingdom, Richard befriends the group before setting up a chain of events that leads to the death of Sophie, saving the others from an attack from an unknown creature. Seven years pass after the prologue, and we see a tough, mature Asbel, contrary to his young and stubborn self. His travel leads him to help his old friend, prince, now King Richard and later Cheria, and now his long-forgotten brother Hubert and a certain important character along with new characters in a tale that will have them travel the world in a quest to preventing the Valkines’ cryas from being drained. The story of Tales of Graces f is fascinating, though there is a long and monotonous prologue that simply lasts too long. Though it feels necessary for the story, its length and victim of cliché makes the first few hours dull until the game finally starts seven years later. The characters are interesting, especially Pascal and her personality. It contains the theme of friendship and takes it up a notch, and the progress is a bit predictable by JRPG standard. But it is still an absorbing and entertaining 60+ hour quest for any JRPG lover.
Following in the footsteps of PS2’s unforgettable Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Graces f nails those basics but revamps the combat system a bit. It still uses an open 3D area for combat and up to 4 characters, each character can move freely around. Like before, character’s combat style varies. Asbel and Sophie use a direct approach, Cheria uses spells and healing, while Pascal and Captain Malik use strong Artes (Spells in the game) that are a direct replacement for character styles found in previous Tales. But unlike previous installments, there is no SP meter this time around, meaning that characters don’t have a Magic Meter. Instead Tales of Graces f uses CC, limited points gained in battles when guarding, well-timed dodges and successful attacks that if you have enough CC, you can dish out as much as you B-Artes as you want. In such a fashion, you can utilize a wide range of B-Artes consisting of flashy magic attacks in combos. And the game puts a lot of focus on using B-Artes, and in later battles, magic-type B-Artes will literally fill the screen for some awesome effects. The amount of CC also determines which A-Artes you will use in that moment (A-Artes are regular attacks). Combat is heavily diverse whether you are using Asbel, a straightforward fighter, and Pascal, a magic, long-ranged character.
Forget leveling up too (though not quite completely), this RPG decides to use another system. Whereas previous installments used titles mainly for the mere sake of titles, this time around Titles are extremely important to unlock new skills. With this, it is entirely up to you which title you will equip and skills you’d want to learn, offering an extremely non-linear progression in obtaining skills. With SP (used as experience for titles), and an equipped title, you can gained and upgrade skills. With up to five skills and add boasts in each title, you can unlock whichever you want, whenever you want. The CC and Title system may take a while to get accustomed to, but the game greatly benefits from this innovations. You don’t simply earn skills from leveling up, which leaves leveling up solely for the sake of leveling up and getting a new number since it is not actually useful in this game. In battle you will earn EXP, and SP. EXP is used for leveling up, while the SP is transferred to the titles. You have to closely monitor each character’s title progression, since once a title reaches level 5, and eventually mastered, it will serve no purpose. Going up to this point is entirely optional, and the game freely lets you jump from title to title whenever you want, so there is no restriction if you only want the second skill in a title and not the rest.
The strange and mysterious Turtlez serve as merchants to sell you items like the ever-lasting and favorite gels, equipment, weapons and other items. The new addition is the ability to dualize. By gaining items from battles, you can combine items to create new items. There is a small fee to dualize, but the item created is generally a good deal, so it is a money boosting system. There are a lot of item quests and other side-quests scattered around the kingdoms of Windor, Fendel, and Strahta if you have time. Quests uses grant a good deal of SP that can easily skyrocket your title up to full.
You will be visiting plenty of dungeons in the story, most of which are straightforward will mostly linear passages but a few side roads and rooms. Some dungeons contain light and simple puzzle solving, though there is an admittedly challenging but intriguing puzzle in the Unchartered Desert Area. Finding a save in a dungeon is a stereotypical reminder that a boss is abound. There are some tough human bosses but with control over difficulty, nothing remains too hard. Though obviously you will gain something less on easier difficulty, and that is less SP. Something new is the damage point system. Performing a combat increases your attack damage, as hit-points keep rising until the combo ends. The Eleth Mixer allows you to set ingredients or objects in it, and it will randomly grant healing and other boasts in battle, which is incredibly essential since it can even prevent deaths and kills. The last part of the combat is the Eleth Gauge, a meter on the left side of the screen. This meter allows both you and the enemy (in different time, one or the other) enter a state of almost invincible, unable to be hit back, but still damage is inflicted, but there is no limit to how much B-Artes you can spam. And in this limited time, you, or rather everyone present in the four-man party can unleash their super move. There are 3 stages different moves for each character, which can be unlocked through titles. Characters can unleash their own, sometimes frustrating you when you might have been trying to increase the meter in those few seconds to perform a stronger move. Two super moves are possible, though the time is limited. You can easily play with up to four friends in co-op offline, but inevitably that leads to serious camera problems, especially if one character is an Artes User, and the other is a frontal attacker. Also with emphasis of timed-dodging, this could be diabolically frustrating.
Tales of Graces f is a marvel to look it. Its animated visuals and colorful world, and special attacks give a really good sense of immersion in the fictional magical world. There are definitely some problems, like how Cheria looks occasionally, especially her mouth, compared to other characters. There are some anime cutscenes, which manage to depict some major moments dramatically, but their visual quality and inconsistency might make you beg for that cutscene to be redone using the game’s graphic engine. The soundtrack is pretty good, though falls the pitfall of repetitively, especially the battle theme one, though it changes in the course of the game. The prologue’s version voice acting is flat, but it gradually improves with the older versions of the characters, like the rest of the game thank god. Japanese voice acting would have been appreciated considering the English voice acting isn’t the best around.
Tales of Graces is a beautiful Japanese RPG, once it truly starts. There are incredibly good moments in the game, even if sometimes it doesn’t really tap its full potential with occasional melodrama and cliché. Still with more than 60 hours’ worth playing, including an extra chapter after the main story, and even an extra dungeon, multiple quests, and titles to obtain, Tales of Graces is a long, memorable and a love letter to RPG fans on the PS3.
Graphics = 8.5
Looks pretty good and colorful.
Sound = 8.1
Voice acting is good, while it can be better, it’s a saving grace compared the younger versions. Soundtrack is fitting and acceptable
Presentation = 8.4
Good flowing dialogue and character interactions. Anime cutscenes seriously need to be spiced up a bit.
Gameplay = 9.0
An improved combat system upon previous installments. The addition of CC, and exclusion of magic, relies heavily on use of titles, but that is what makes it a powerful and engaging combat system. Characters are varied and fun to use. And Malik’s and Pascal’s magic is wonderful. Challenging but fulfilling boss fights
Story = 8.3
An interesting story despite its cliché and predictability. Plenty of entertaining and worthwhile side quests and characters. 60+ hours to see the whole story including its final chapter.
Recommendation Level = Medium High
Tales of Graces f is a highly entertaining and mildly memorable JRPG. I haven’t found too many JRPGs worth owning on the PS3, but apart from the only other RPG I played on the console (The Last Hope), Graces is a much better one.
Level of difficulty = Medium
Golden rule: Level up to make things simpler. Some bosses are tough but nothing extraordinary hard; I never grinded on medium difficulty. I did fight every battle I came across, but only a few bosses where a hindrance. There are tough enemies, dealing massive damage, and the sometimes useless healer’s AI can be a huge annoyance, but it is quite balanced in the end.
Tales of Graces f is a supreme must-have for JRPG fans that own a PS3, and quite an entertaining game on its own.
+ Endless creation possibilities in your hands
+ A family friendly game, though attractive to all audiences
+ Witty missions and levels
- Strange and illogical answers occasionally work
There is simply something really charming in unleashing your creativity and imagination in what appears to be a children-only aimed game at first. Scribblenauts: Unlimited is a fantastic example that imaginative and innovative are still fun, bustling with content and impeccable ideas. It won’t challenge the most sophisticated and wicked players, but it is simply a great options for younger audience, but that shouldn’t scare anyone older away.
Great power comes with great responsibility. That is something protagonist Max and his sister Lily don’t know. After pranking a wizard, he punishes them by turning poor Lily to stone, and the only way to free her is to perform good tasks and helping people to obtain Starites. Max will travel around the world solving people’s problems in order to save his sister. This kid-friendly game use a picture book format as cutscenes which is very well done in its simplicity.
Power up your brain (or maybe not so much), and unleash your fantasy and creativity, since that’s the best way to enjoy Scribblenauts. With the help of his magical notebook, Max can create seamlessly anything you can think of! Want a laser gun? Here you go. Want to summon Satan and God together? Why not? Want to become a samurai ninja ghost? Sure thing! You can create anything that only excludes Proper names, vulgar and sexual related terms and copyright materials. The use of adjectives allows you to edit yourself and any item in the game world as you wish, or required.
Scribblenauts: Unlimited is a puzzle game; a crafty one that throughout succeeds in appealing both to the younger audience and any gamer. In an open 2D world with different levels, you will meet plenty of people (and something creatures and objects) in need for you to use your power to summon something in their aid. These puzzles are simplistic, sometimes accepting weird, and rarely even banal answers. There is no way to lose in these one-task puzzles, but Max can be hurt and eventually ‘killed’. It ultimately only restarts the level, nothing is lost. Creatures can be hostile depending on what they are, or their assigned adjectives. A ferocious animal will obviously attack everyone, but if you use adjectives such as ‘tame’, it changes its behaviour. Using the adjective ‘sleeping’ will naturally put them to sleep, so it is a matter of finding the right item or adjective using your creativity in order to solve the puzzle.
Aiding people earns you a shard of a starite. Then there are some few puzzles that earn you an entire starite. These once offer slightly more intensive challenges in multiple stages. Some are really creative and interesting, while a rare few are dead boring. You are required to complete every single task asked to advance, and losing your 4 lives in it will dreadfully force you to repeat the stage from the beginning, making the trial-and-error approach kind of frustrating since you can’t just repeat the task you lost your life in.
You can help people, or you can always just run a mayhem or create anything that pops in your head! The open-ended approach of the game allows you to infinitely create whatever you desire without restrictions (unless you are in a starite puzzle). The notebook is a powerful and ideal tool if you can truly unleash it. If you can’t keep an open mind and experiment, it is a game that will dull you otherwise.
Formerly a DS series, the PC in HD looks marvellous and runs really smoothly. Simple looking, but highly colourful characters populate the varied and imaginative world you will be exploring in order to save Lily. Presented cutscenes only appear in the prologue and epilogue, and the voiceless cutscenes using the game engine, are quite neat nonetheless. Character interaction with each other, and items, will no doubt seem weird, but this kind of unusualness is quite charming, retaining a humorous tone throughout the game.
Scribblenauts: Unlimited is a fabulous game that may charm the hearts of most cold-hearted gamers. It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s original and offers a good reason to smile and occasionally laugh to how ridiculous it can be.
Graphics = 8.5
Sound = 7.5
Presentation = 8.0
Gameplay = 8.8
Story/Missions = 8.0
Recommendation Level = High
Simple, charming and exciting in its own way. Recommended to kids and adults alike.
Level of Difficult = Very Easy
There might be a few tougher than average puzzles, but it’s no rocket science
OVERALL = 82 / 100
Scribblenauts Unlimited is a charming, neatly imaginative puzzle game that appeals to everyone.
+ Bloody, violent and refreshingly gruesome combat
+ Black-and-white comic style visuals shine
+ Soundtrack and running commentary are fantastic
- Camera can render view frustrating
Madworld is a one-of-a-kind game. Like Madworld’s protagonist Jack describes the game he is playing, “Like Polo, with Chainsaws”, this terribly savage and shocking black-and-white feast of style and gore makes good use of its unique approach. Madworld is violent, satisfying and a breath of fresh air into the Wii console and a worthy addition to anyone who can handle its mature content.
The fictional Varrigan City has been transformed in a killing game (as later would be explained in the game) and you play as Jack, just a fellow named Jack. In a killing game where killing your enemy as brutally as you can in order to earn points in order to fight against the bosses, so you can savagely skewer them. But there is an underlying objective to badass Jack’s appearance in the game, and through the short and entertaining blood fest of a story, you will find out the mystery and the terror that had befallen this city.
Madworld is black-and-white graphically that is never seen in video games. So as you cut your way through each enemy, blood, and RED vivid colored blood will splatter on your screen as you do so. Blood is the only thing that has a color in this game, and you will be seeing a substantial amount of it. The game is divided in levels where you need to meet the amount of points needed to fight against the boss. What Madworld is more than other beat-‘em-ups is that you don’t just fight your enemies, you brutalize them, in more ways that a few ways. You can simply punch your enemies with Jack’s massive hard-hitting fists, or his dashing and terrifying saw to slice foes in half, or to rack more points (the more brutal, the more points) you can use the items you find in the levels. For example, using a tire nets you a few thousand points, sticking a pole in their neck a few more thousand points, and as you finish them off in a deadly trap, you net even more points. Deadly traps are set anywhere in the level, and generally will vary in each stage, like the ‘rose bush’, a deadly train, spike closing trash can and other sorts of heinous traps to massacre your foes.
Controls are fairly simple. Punch with A and hold B for chainsaw. There are a ton of quick-time events that require you to aggressively shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. And there are ton of these against bosses. In some awesome looking quick-time events, successfully performing the quick-time event allows you to do a lot of damage, because frankly the only efficient way to damage a boss is with a chainsaw, and only using the slow chainsaw to do damage isn’t exactly fun. Bosses are huge and varied and the ending sequence to witness against each boss is fantastic, making you witness more brutality, of course with extra style. Some quick-time events are too fast though, and the game doesn’t completely recognize some vertical and horizontal slashes perfectly as it could have done.
How do you rack up millions of points in a level? Time limit is 30 minutes for each stage, so if you run of out of time, or lives in each level you have to restart from the beginning which can be a frustrating ordeal. Getting enough points can be a ten minute thing easily if you can effectively brutalize your enemy, but it might take long if you dispatch of your enemy in more humanized ways. You also have limited lives (like in an arcade) and when you die you are prompted whether you want to continue or not. There are instant deaths as well, like when you are hit by a train or sliced by deadly later enemies. There is no forgiveness in losing your last life to the boss, which can be diabolically frustrating to repeat a whole level again, especially since enemies get plentifully hard and deadlier. Camera isn’t much help since you can’t turn it as you will, and can pose troubles, but Jack’s quick back-dodge can be quite effective to counter it, although the camera remains an issue nonetheless, but the lock-on system can at least make focusing on boss fights more bearable.
The most effective to get those needed points is through the Bloodbath challenges. These hilarious, over-the-top challenges are comically presented by the Black Baron which ironically and unwillingly gets to be the demonstration for these deadly traps where you get to put enemies in these traps as time passes quickly. These are fun, quick laughs and quite a highlight for a game that does little more than enlightening violence.
As stated, Madworld is a comic/manga visualized beat-‘em-up that can quite tire the eyes. Blood splatters as you kill, pierce, or use your chainsaw to cut them in half and gives life to Madworld. Though it isn’t whole black-and-white. The white seems yellowish, and the black isn’t completely darkness black, but that’s little issue. Its style is ‘charming’ and the character designs, and especially the large and terrific bosses are varied and unique. There are some unique events as well, such as a deadly race and a sumo match. And which each finish, spectacular cutscenes ensures. I haven’t mentioned the music yet, but rest assured it’s fantastic. Filled with hip-hop soundtrack and an aggravatingly awesome constant running competition, it really makes you feel right in the middle of the action.
It may run out of spark with its combat near the end, even though it’s quite short unfortunately but even on the Wii, very few games can match Madworld. Its unique visual and risk prowess and highly entertaining and over-the-top combat and enemies make Madworld a Wii-exclusive wonder. Forget your surroundings (and make sure there are no kids around) and engulf yourself in this madness of a beat-‘em-up because too few games can be like it.
Graphics = 8.2
Striking black-and-white visuals and blood effects. It may be a bit difficult to identify enemies in this game but once you do, blood will splatter.
Music = 8.8
The commentary is awesome and lively, and sarcastic and keeps things running widely. The multiple soundtracks are pretty impressive as well.
Presentation = 7.6
The camera can be an ordeal but the load times are pretty reasonable.
Gameplay = 8.0
Brutal, savage combat that increases your points the more violent you can be. Quick-time events are plenty and sometimes feel unneeded. Great boss fights with terrific finishes.
Story = 7.5
Entertaining but short and there is more to it than simply murdering everyone you see.
Recommendation Level = Medium
You probably never played a game like Madworld.
Level of Difficulty = Medium
Later levels are tougher and contain frustrating one-hit kill enemies, and the bosses aren’t pushovers
OVERALL SCORE = 79 / 100
Madworld is savage, gruesome and is unlike any other beat-‘em-up.