Tales of Vesperia Review (Xbox360)

The tenth flagship title in a series almost as long standing as Final Fantasy, Tales of Vesperia once again takes the player to a fantasy world filled with diverse characters, a variety of settings, and a plot to make Hollywood cry in its sleep. However, with JRPG’s finally starting to evolve out of their age old formula, is Vesperia one loading screen too far? Or can the plot gloss over the more antiquated game mechanics?

True to form, “Team Vesperia” & Namco Bandai have made a solid title, despite its minute kinks. Our American cousins have been able to enjoy this game for nearly a year now, however Europe only received this title just recently, and so this review will be written for you guys. Whilst the Tales titles may not be as widely accepted as the Final Fantasy series, they are no less as epic, and they also contain common threads throughout each of their games.

Special artes can be used to deal out massive damage.
The bad guys aren’t your typical ‘evil’ archetypes, which is refreshing.

Vesperia takes place in the fictional world of Terca Lumireis, a world not unlike the countless others you see in RPG’s. The staples of this universe is ‘Aer’, a magical substance that permeates everything, and ‘blastia’, ancient technology that is powered by Aer in order to perform various roles. The cities and towns of Lumireis use ‘barrier’ blastia to protect these settlements from the monsters outside, and individual people can use ‘bohdi’ blastia to enhance their skills in battles. Naturally, the plot revolves around these devices, as well being linked to the big bad(s) of the game. In short, the plot could be perceived as a lose euphemism for humanities reliance on technology – not exactly an original plot device, but the presentation is as good as any.

As with past Tales games, Vesperia adopts a more anime feel to it, with important scenes displayed in the style. Character development and side stories are also developed in the form of ‘skits’ – short dialogue pieces between characters that usually involve simple portraits. These little segments are both good and bad, depending on your point of view.

On the one hand, they are well written and can be quite cute and funny at times, and really help flesh out the characters. On the other hand, they break the flow of the game, and pop up fairly frequently. You can spend a couple of minutes walking around and a skit will show up, then, after another couple of minutes, another one will appear. Whilst they are optional, compulsion will make you want to listen to them, and this can sometimes make the game feel a bit stop-start.

The monsters are naturally as varied as they are killable.
Day and Night feature in this game, although nothing is really done with it.

This anime feel bleeds into the general graphical representation of the game. A more Windwaker style cell-shaded look is used for the game segments, and monsters have that typical exaggerated feel about them. Luckily though, in the majority of cases you can chose who you fight and where. Vesperia’s campaign map shows you what monsters are around, finally putting that random-encounter mechanic to rest. A chain-system not unlike Star Ocean’s ‘Ambush’ system allows you to fight multiple groups of enemies at once, provided they are close together.

The battle system itself follows a similar style to previous Tales games, and is more akin to the Tales of the Abyss system than anything else. The Tales series has long since broken away from the turn-based fighting system, however loading into battle areas are still a feature. It will probably take a while before JRPG’s truly break past this. However Vesperia is in no way hindered by this mode of play. Once in the battle arena, you and your party fight in real time to defeat your foes by using a combination of regular attacks and special ‘artes’ moves. In a style similar to Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Vesperia has you controlling one player at a time, with the others being controlled by an AI who follows any basic strategies you assign it. However, Vesperia lacks a certain finesse and diversity that Star Ocean had, and the battle system can sometimes feel a bit stiff and button mashy. It doesn’t help that you actually have to press a button to walk around freely; otherwise you simple walk along a straight line path to your chosen enemy.

Unfortunately, this can set a dangerous precedent, especially when you run into a boss. Like all games that have the potential for button mashing, you realise that as soon as you face anyone half decent, whether it be bosses or another human player, you remember that button mashing hardly ever works. Still, you can adapt, and in the grand scheme of things the system isn’t that bad. As with some of the previous games, Over Limits make a return, which can lead to the brand new ‘Burst Artes’ or even ‘Fatal Strikes’, which can be linked in various character combos, much like Star Ocean.

The story is split between anime segments, and rendered gameplay scenes like this one.
Despite being in real time, tactics still form a part of combat.

There are other Tales trademarks present in the game – cooking is included, and proves to be a rather fun distracting task that you can perform. As usual, you can get new recipes either by doing the same one over and over until it unlocks a more advanced version, or you can get them by tracking down the mysterious ‘Wonder Chef’. Other features include a ‘Synthesis’ item creation system, different costumes depending on items equipped and what ‘title’ you are currently using, a battle arena, side quests, and an abundance of items with a variety of uses.

At the end of the day, Tales of Vesperia isn’t going to be breaking any moulds. All in all though, Tales is another notch in the creator’s belts. There’s enough here for both fans and newcomer’s alike, and it proves to be a nice alternative to the Final Fantasy franchise. However, there is a danger that the mechanics are becoming slightly out-dated, and if the series doesn’t try to keep up with the latest developments in the genre, then there’s a danger the formula could become stale, even with a good plot. As another side note, the version reviewed was for the Xbox 360 – all you PS3 owners out there will get an ‘enhanced’ port version, with extra content and an extra playable character.

Top Game Moment:
The story is one of the better ones to come out of Japan in recent years, even with the sometimes dodgy English translation. It will definitely keep you going.

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By fredyzg (SI Core) on Aug 30, 2009
Only anima rpgs on xbox?
By melzerith (SI Core) on Sep 16, 2009