I finally got around to slapping Graces into my PS3 on Thursday. I had gotten it in an EB Games sale last month, along with FFXIII-2 and Arkham City GOTY. I saved it for last because I had a feeling it would end up being the longer game. I definitely made a good call there.
I'm 20 hours in and I've only visited 3 towns around a small portion of the world map. I consider myself to be a Tales fan, I love the combat system and I've beaten Symphonia and Vesperia. In all honesty, the gameplay of both those games is a complete mess when compared to Graces. There is so much more to Graces in every single way.
Titles are the biggest improvement. They play a MASSIVE role in your character development as they are how you will learn new moves, upgrade those moves, and learn passive skills. As well as having a unique perk from having a title equipped. They're still unlocked by attaining hidden requirements like getting in so many fights, using this Arte so many times, etc etc, but instead of giving you skills at certain levels you will solely improve your characters by Titles. Each Title has 6 levels to it and each level gives the character bonuses towards something related to that title. AND THERE ARE OVER 100 TITLES FORE EACH CHARACTER. Yeah. As I've said, Vesperia pales in comparison.
Combat has been massively updated. There is no more mana - instead you now have CC, which is like a limit of how many moves you can chain together. The higher your CC the more moves you can chain, as well as granting you access to stronger, more dazzling attacks.
Crafting has undergone an overhaul as well. Cooking, crafting weapons, fusing, basically everything that is done with items is now clumped under "Dualizing". You can create and enhance any type of item in dualizing and makes so much more sense than having all these separate creation systems.
It seems to me like the Tales studio knew they needed to change a lot in their next game and Graces f is a testament to that. With Vesperia, I had so much trouble with the combat. I found it too unresponsive, clunky, and static. Graces f is fluid, fast, constantly moving, engaging and rewarding. My characters are always leveling up their titles and in turn their perks, as well as gaining levels and finding new equipment to modify. I find it extremely hard to pull away from this game. I am playing on Evil (The highest difficulty I've unlocked so far) and the game is challenging, but in the best way possible. I find myself constantly rethinking how to go about fights in new areas, sub-bosses, event fights, and especially bosses. Playing on higher difficulties requires very precise dodging, a lot of smart strategies and quick reflexes.
My ONLY gripe with the game is it's graphics, but I can let that slide. Graces was originally a Wii game, now remastered for PS3. I'll give them credit for making it look as good as it does. There are a LOT of blurry and non-HD textures, and it doesn't look as crisp and clean as Vesperia did, but it's a minor gripe all things considered.