I've never played a "Tales of" game before, so I'm writing this review with no known history of the other games in the franchise. First of all the gameplay is really quite good, its an action rpg style with several different elements to creating combos, and being able to choose many different "titles" for your character, each title allowing for a somewhat different form of fighting. You may also choose to fully control your character, partial control your character, or just use the auto-battle feature. I mostly use the full control option, as its more fun, but thats not to say when i've gotten myself in a tough battle, I turned on auto-battle. Difficulty level in the game goes up as you fight more battles on each difficulty. For example defeat 200 enemies on hard to unlock the next hardest difficulty.
Let's move onto mulitplayer, having the option to allow up to three of your friends to join in on this amazing RPG adventure via the same system (local play only) is an added bonus. In co-op your friends can only control the characters in battle. Player 1 controls all other aspects of the story, which I have to say over the course of the game the story does tend to lose my attention a little, but keeps me interested enough to play through the rest of the game.
Now for some adventuring, I had hoped for more open world exploring, it seemed a bit too linear (FFXIII), but it works for how the story plays out. I felt during a few instances there was not enough direction as to where to go, or what to do next. I found this true mainly for side quests, also known as "inn requests". The main quest line tends to have you doing a lot of back and forth traveling, then again what RPG doesnt. As you progress through the game and end up in new towns, thats where purchasing of upgraded weapons and armor is done. Every new town has new equipment waiting for you. The more you buy from each vendor the higher starts you earn, which allow for purchasing of exclusive items, from those individual vendors.
There is a bit of creativity when "crafting" items or upgrading in this game. I happen to "dualize" my sword with another item, for my main character, and ended up with a Giraffe as my weapon. Dualizing weapons and armor will generate higher quality gems, that can be equipped or dualized again into your gear for higher stats. The more you dualize a weapon the more rare of quality items, you create.
In order to obtain all of the trophies for this game you will need to upgrade & level your characters by grinding quite often early on in the game, unless you plan on a second play through. Early boss fights may take several minutes longer than the allowed (kill boss in 60 seconds or less) trophy requirement.
Overall I would recommend this game to anyone who loves RPG's, I'm glad I gave it a try. I have since purchased more of the Tales games to try out in the future. Other reviews have intrigued me into trying "Tales of Vesperia" (Xbox 360 only), and I hope Namco Bandai brings "Tales of Xillia" to North America!