Learning new skills doesn't depend on leveling up, but rather which title you equip. Each title consists of five potential skills for your character to learn and the SP you earn in battle goes towards unlocking skills within said title. Warning: the game bombards you with titles -- sometimes it's a little overwhelming, since it gives mixed motivations for what to learn. On the one hand, the game tells you to learn as many skills as possible, so learning the first three skills in a title and then moving on to the next seems ideal. In the next breath, though, equipping a fully mastered title will boost its effects. Thankfully, there's a lot of legroom to play how you want.
Graces also offers a way to customize weapons: enemies will often drop shards, which can then be used to enhance weapons via the dualizing system. The more you combine different levels of shard, the more you amp up your weapon … you can even create entirely new weapons by dualizing. It's fun and addictive – we couldn't wait to see what badass weapon we'd alter next. Another nifty addition is the Mixer, in which you place an item you wish to replicate, and while you travel, there's a chance to recreate it. The Mixer definitely takes some of the financial pressure off as you can easily create items that you need for survival, such as life bottles, elixirs, and gels.
While the battle system is certainly engaging, it can get monotonous: visit a town, enter a dungeon, defeat a boss, rinse, repeat. The other major issue is a dependency on repeated backtracking to the same locations. For instance, you'll go from one location to another to hear a minor plot point, only to return exactly where you came from. The dungeons themselves aren't awful, but they are far from groundbreaking. Each dungeon is also accompanied with puzzles, though the solutions are incredibly obvious; there's nothing that you'd ever need a guide to solve.
Aesthetically, Graces is far from perfect, but is at least competent. The childhood voices are a little grating, but thankfully, it's only for the first few hours of the game. After that, the voice actors fit the characters they're portraying quite well. Unfortunately, the score really fails to create an emotional impact. As for the graphics, this is obviously an enhanced port of a Wii game, but Graces is extremely crisp and clear. The cel shading adds a hint of detail, but unfortunately, the environments won't really pop out at you much.
Tales of Graces f is just what JRPG fans need right now. It's got a handful of shortcomings, but they're diminished by the fact that this title captures the classic RPG spirit so well. It's the first console RPG in a long time where we've been engrossed enough to explore every nook and cranny, talk to every villager, search everyone's houses, and find all the paths possible in a dungeon. And for many, that's all they could want at this point – a portal back to the fun and wonderment that many of us felt during the PS2 era of RPGs. That's what Tales of Graces f completely embodies.