Lately, I’ve noticed Tales of Vesperia’s presence on lists of must-play Xbox360 RPGs, and now that it’s been officially announced for PS3, I thought I’d dig up my nearly one-year-old review for you to read at your leisure. Enjoy.
The Tales games are a brilliant series of RPGs that have steadily gained ground in the U.S. ever since the advent of Tales of Symphonia. While its sales pale in comparison to Final Fantasy, it is not a series that should be overlooked. The Tales games are notorious for providing an action-oriented RPG experience, and Vesperia is no exception. Gamers that are turned off by turn-based battle systems, or are just looking for new types of experiences may want to check out this RPG that has more in common with fighting games, gameplay-wise, than Final Fantasy. That is not to say that Tales of Vesperia lacks RPG conventions–it has HP, TP (Technical Points which allow you to use special moves/attacks), and a variety of equipment to outfit your characters with. The equipment system in Vesperia differs from past games in the series in that your equipment teaches you abilities such as a new dodge move or increases your strength by fifteen percent. The system is flexible, and great for those who love customization. All this character flexibility will come in handy, because this is one of the most difficult Tales games in recent years. I never found myself dying while playing Tales of Destiny through Tales of the Abyss, but I was humbled a few times by bosses in Tales of Vesperia. It encouraged me to revise my strategies, change characters, and sometimes level a bit more to learn new moves.
Tales of Vesperia does away with random battles like the previous two games in the series, but there are still numerous encounters to be had. You will have fought hundreds, if not thousands, of battles by the end of the game, since Tales has plenty of enemy-packed dungeons to explore. Luckily, you are always learning new moves, so the combat never really gets old. At first, it appears to be a simple fighting system where you mash on the B button, but soon you’ll learn that you need to use special attacks, blocks, and other evasive moves to survive. This Tales also includes many new abilities, such as fatal strikes where you can execute an enemy with one attack if timed properly. Unlike Tales of the Abyss, many of the additions to the combat system in Vesperia make sense, and are easy to execute.
Having a great combat system definitely makes an RPG more enjoyable, since monster battling is an RPG convention, but many gamers, at least for JRPGs are looking for a brilliant story, and a cast of characters they care about. Tales of Vesperia delivers an excellent tale with themes such as whether following the law is right even when it hurts others, human impact on the environment, whether you should work within the governmental system to improve the lives of others, or if you should change it from the outside, and other issues of justice and loyalty. Even though there are many themes and issues going on throughout this forty-hour adventure, the plot ends up feeling a little thin by the end of the game. The ending is one of the worst in Tales’ history, and it felt like there were too many unresolved or unexplained issues. By the conclusion, you are left wondering why the final boss is your enemy, and it felt like the villains of Vesperia didn’t have the amount of back story and motivations they had in the previous two Tales games. Those games had villains that you could sympathize with to a certain degree, but the main villain in Vesperia just feels like a brain dead megalomaniac.
One thing that keeps Tales fans coming back to this series is the typically great cast of characters. Few RPGs have the level of character development the Tales series has, and Vesperia is no exception. Initially, I was worried about the characters after the design of the main character, Yuri, was revealed, because he sported the infamous ‘effeminate look’ recent RPG characters are famous for, but my fears were immediately put to rest once I started playing the game. Yuri ended up being one of my favorite characters in the series, despite his ‘pretty boy’ look. Surprisingly, Vesperia even pokes fun at itself when an old man makes a joke about Yuri being a female towards the beginning of the game, and there are many other jokes like this throughout the adventure. It is good to see the creators mock typical JRPG conventions. Besides sporting an effeminate look, Yuri is a sarcastic adventurer who cares for the poor and has a good heart. He is the kind of person you can rely on in any situation, and will take the law into his own hands if villainous individuals are set free. Many of the other characters are likeable as well, and the dialog between them is one of the most memorable parts of the adventure. One odd character choice however, was including a dog named, Repede. Repede looks cool (I mean who doesn’t like a pipe-smoking dog brandishing a weapon), but I was disappointed that he lacked a back story, unlike the other characters. At least you can use him in battle if you’ve always dreamed of having a canine sidekick.
For the most part, I grew attached to the cast of Tales of Vesperia, but a few characters managed to get under my skin. With every Tales game, part of your enjoyment is dependent on whether or not you like the cast of characters, and Vesperia is no exception. In Vesperia, some of the younger characters may get on your nerves, but there are plenty of jokes within the game that should keep most gamers happy. Many of the scenes featuring your colorful cast characters are fully-voiced, like the previous two games. For the most part, the voice actors are excellent, and they bring plenty of emotion to the characters. Some video game voice actors feel wooden, and sometimes even sound like they’re talking underwater (Baten Katos, anyone?), but Vesperia features plausible voice actors that sound like they actually care about what is going on in the game.
Speaking of voices, Vesperia brought a series first to U.S. Tales fans–voiced skits. I loved reading the skits in previous Tales games, but I had one major qualm with them–you couldn’t speed up the text displayed during the skits. Later, I discovered that these skits were fully voiced in Japan, and we Americans had been missing out all this time. Thankfully, Namco decided to include voices for this Tales, which makes the skits much more enjoyable. The skits are great for providing the characters with additional back story. By the end of the adventure, you really feel like you know the characters, thanks in part to these skits.
If you have yet to play a Tales game, this is a good one to start with. The story falls a little short of the previous two games, but there is a great cast of characters, and the artwork is beautiful. The natural environments aren’t quite as detailed as Eternal Sonata, but they are still are a sight to behold. Tales of Vesperia is a long, action-packed adventure that fans of a variety of genres might enjoy. If you are willing to take a chance, and look past JRPG stereotypes, you will find a deep adventure that you can enjoy alone, or with three other friends. This is the best RPG on the Xbox360 since Lost Odyssey. Do yourself a favor and purchase it.
- Fast-paced four-player battles with fighting game-style moves
- Beautiful character artwork and scenery
- Features a main character that commands respect
- A forty-hour adventure
- Gorgeous cutscenes
- A plethora of sidequests
- Great character development and dialogue
- No technical issues
- Some of the child characters can be quite annoying
- A few bosses feel unbalanced
- Disappointing rewards from sidequests
- The final boss has an extremely difficult third form if you completed a certain sidequest
- The villains aren’t as fleshed out as in previous Tales games
- The story feels incomplete, and lacks the depth of recent entries in the series