Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tales of Trolldom

I've been doing a few short posts here and there about Tales of Graces F.  I recently finished the game about a month ago, which considering standard RPG length, as well as..well, the nature of this blog, is a pretty remarkable feat.  While I do want to talk some of the games merits later in this post, the bulk of what I'll be writing about -- which to forewarn you, will be potentially spoiler-heavy in some parts -- deals with the title of this post:

Tales of Graces F has some of the biggest trolls in an RPG I have seen in quite some time.

Even better?  They all travel with you at some point.

If you haven't finished the game, or plan to play it and are adverse to spoilers, then be warned before you continue.  If you've finished it, or simply don't care, then read on:  If you're in the first category, I'm sure you'll be nodding along.

Case Study #1:  Captain Troll:  Malik Caesar

Trolling isn't anything new in the Tales series.  I mean look at this guy:

Fomicry isn't the only thing he's the father of.

Jade Curtiss is perhaps one of the best known trolls throughout the Tales universe.  In terms of pure trolling power and ability, I'd argue that he trumps most of the cast of Graces.  What distinguishes the two games is that in Abyss, it was limited to a mostly one-man affair with Jade poking at Luke's ineptitude, Guy's gynophobia, Tear's budding feelings, and tormenting the hell out of Dist (insert clip of Dist beating up Jade).  In Graces, it's a frequent affair, first starting from one source, who we'll cover next, then rapidly progressing from surprising sources.

If you've played JRPGs long enough, you've seen this guy before.  In some ways, Malik is actually a lot like Jade, but this isn't quite obvious from the start.  You initially  meet him during the game's prologue, where he turns a blind eye to a wayward Richard's antics.  Later, after the time skip, he seems to play the role of calm, wise old mentor to Asbel, not unlike Obi-Wan.  For many this might immediately spark the thought of him doing during a noble heroic sacrifice:  In fact things almost seem to go this way during your next meeting with him -- a boss fight during a kingdom's civil war against him.  Later, however, after the events, Malik rejoins your party after being spared.  He seems to once again take on the role of mentor to this party of young kids.

..That is, until you progress a bit in the game and see just how badly he likes to screw with everyone.

Throughout the game, Malik, being the "professor" (Note:  In the Japanese version, he was called "professor" instead of "Captain" to better represent his position at the academy), has taken it upon himself to educate Sophie, our resident super-powered-but-naive-to-the-world girl about various life lessons.  Admittedly, there are times where Malik imparts valuable wisdom to her.  There are other times where he gives her the most outlandish explanations with all seriousness:

Or gets her to pass that knowledge onto others:

There are other times where he destroys a child's perception of what a Fairy Tale should be:

The examples are too numerous to list, but this occurs quite frequently throughout the game.  It only starts here, though.  Malik, like practically everyone else in the cast, is quite aware of the budding romance between his student Asbel and his childhood friend Cheria.  He also delights in teasing about it, in both overt and subtle ways:

Hardly anyone is exempt from Malik's trolling skills:  At least, until you get a later addition to your party, bringing us to our next study:

Hail to the King (of trolls):  Case Study 2 - Richard



Richard only graces (..pun not intended) your party for a short while early in the game, then rejoins again during the bonus chapter.  It's because of this that you don't truly see how trolltastic he is until late in the game.  For one, his effort foil even Malik's: 

But other instances are shown in simple observations:

Or the potential to abuse his royal power:

But perhaps the best case is seen in his secret identity -- one such instance where your party may finally understand whose been leaving all those strange cards you find throughout the game around:

One of the best things about Richard is that he does it so effortlessly and nonchalantly, to the point where your hapless party members can tell if he's simply joking or being absolutely serious.  Pretty impressive, for a guy that spent most of the game being possessed by an ancient entity bent on world destruction.  Although perhaps he might have taken a few lessons there, which leads us to. .

The Millenium Troll - Case Study 3: Lambda


 Ah Lambda:  While he spends most of the game being the big bad, he is subdued by the end of the game by the Power of Friendship.  You don't see the depths of his troll power until the last arc of the game, but there's one instance that really makes me think:  The scene leading up to the death of one of the villains.  To give some background:  After you initially beat a possessed Richard, the character in question, who was supposedly on your side until then, suddenly allows Lambda to possess them, leading into one of the most annoying boss fights in the entire game.  Upon defeat, the character gives the defiant "you won, but really didn't win" speech before Lambda. . kind of makes them explode from the inside out.  Promptly after, he goes back to a smug looking Richard, who moments earlier, looked beaten and exhausted.

Something about that look has me suspecting that the two of them had this plotted all along to just give Richard a breather.  Ultimate contingency plan, or ultimate trolling?  You decide.

But really, we get a major case of it here:

If Malik calls it, you really are a certified troll.

Now, in many RPG's, there's the fateful "night before the big battle" skit, where the main characters goes to chat with each of his/her loyal companions.  Usually it's a time for a pep talk, a vow that everyone will return alive, or in some rare cases, an admission of love to his/her dearest.  Graces is no exception, although in the F arc, Lambda hijacks this opportunity from Asbel to essentially stop time, and speak directly into the mind of the person he's trying to talk to. You can see it start here and continue here  (around the 5:10 mark) if you're curious.  Most notably:

  • To Malik:  You talk big, but you're driven by fear.
  • To Pascal:  Knowledge doesn't equal power, and your technology will ruin society.
  • To Hubert:  Aw, how cute, you're threatening me.  Sure you want to do that, 4-eyes?
  • To Cheria:  Your boyfriend's an idiot who'll throw his life away despite that promise he just made you.
  • To Richard:  Sup goldilocks.  Remember that time we tried to be bros and kinda failed?

In his own weird, twisted way, Lambda does try to mix in some words of reassurance.  However, considering that he sounds a little bit like a Satan incarnate, that part is rather easy to miss.

Of course, there is more to this game than the troll train, believe it or not.

Closing Thoughts:  What about the actual game?


 If I've spent so much of the post talking about how well some characters troll within the party, then that speaks to a larger point:  The characters in Graces F are for the most part, rather likable, but more importantly, have a certain chemistry that works.  While admittedly, I like Abyss's cast by a slightly larger margin and the villains were handled better, the cast of Graces F gels well together.  This is especially notable with Richard, who seems to click immediately despite the point in the game where he joins your party.

Combat in Graces F was already discussed in my previous post, but it remained an enjoyable fare throughout, and if I have any regrets concerning it, it's that I didn't have a  second person to consistently play it with and enjoy.  It doesn't have the free-line battle system we've come to enjoy in Abyss and Vesperia, but I will say this:  It's one of the few Tales games where I actually liked controlling most of the other characters in combat aside from the main character. . and not just because they made it easier to do on the fly.

For some people, receiving Graces F was a bittersweet deal.  I get it:  We all want the PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia.  We got cheated.  While I'm certainly not opposed to Vesperia myself (it suffered a similar fate to Graces F -- I put it down because I was enjoying it too much), getting Graces F is hardly a bad deal:  Especially considering the significant extras added over its Wii incarnation, and the fact that we didn't get the horribly bugged version of the game.

If you want a better endorsement for it?  Both the Enabler and I finished it in less than half a year of purchase.  I imagine even my friend Nick will as well.  If this game has the power to jump to the front of backlogs that significant, then it's a game worthy of play.

So take it off your backlog, or go purchase it while you can.

And let's all hope together that the Mask of Barona makes an appearance in future games.

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