Review by Sui89
"Like action? Like fun? Buy this game."
Tales of Vesperia the first game in the Tales series to be released in the States at nearly the same time as it was released in Japan. It was clear that Namco wanted to treat the English fans of the Tales series with this game. Not only was the release almost simultaneous, but the game is also a full game. That is, skits are voiced, there is the original theme song instead of an instrumental substitute, and so on. What was all this for? The tenth anniversary of Tales in the US. Namco had high expectations from what they did with this game, and for good reason.
If you've never played a Tales game before, that's okay. Tales of Vesperia is a stand-alone title in the series, so you won't be missing anything in terms of story. If you're a long time fan of the Tales series, you'll be delighted that this game offers the best battle system to date. Whatever the case, you'll be sure to enjoy Tales of Vesperia. It is one of the most fun RPGs to date.
Unfortunately, the story of Tales of Vesperia is the weakest point of the game. Tales of Vesperia follows the adventures of a guy named Yuri Lowell, a citizen of the Lower Quarters of the Imperial Capital of Zaphias. The game gets with the action right off the get-go as a thief steals the aque blastia from the fountain of the city, causing it to flood. This is a problem, since it will result in a lack of water from the fountain if left alone for too long. Yuri sets off to find the thief, and the first part of the game will be spent in pursuit of him to recover the blastia. Through certain events, Yuri comes to meet a young woman named Estelle, and together with his dog Repede, the three depart the city and set off on an adventure.
That is the gist of the first part of the game anyway. Needless to say, the first part is fairly slow in terms of action and things happening, but it picks up about halfway through. Despite this, the game actually does a fairly good job with pacing, as there is never really a time when you're sitting doing nothing, and not really a time when you feel you're doing too much at once. This is the positive part.
However, the game is fairly lacking in plot twists. If you think something is going to happen, it probably is. They're not very subtle in terms of what is going to happen next, and the whole thing is very predictable. Even the one big plot twist in the game was basically given away by a scene earlier in the game, which you could easily pick up on if you sit down and think about what just happened for a minute.
Aside from the story, the party character development is decent. All of the party characters are quite enjoyable, and you'll probably come to enjoy Yuri especially. The villains, on the other hand, not only don't really have a huge significance on the story, but a lot of them don't even really get back-stories. They're just kind of there. It doesn't hurt the game as much as having poor party characters would, but I do like it when my villains are nicely developed.
Overall, all of these things make the story quite simply average. Not bad, not good. Don't expect much out of it. It doesn't break too much new ground.
Namco really seems to have worked out all the kinks in the Tales battle system with this game. Tales of Vesperia uses a refined version of Abyss' battle system. Basically, you're on a 2D plane between you and the enemy. If you hold LT, you can freely run off of this line anywhere in 3D. Normal attacks are done via B (though I prefer switching it to A, since this is what all previous Tales games have done), and techniques are done with A (again, I switch this to B to follow what was normal for the US). You perform combos by stringing together normal attacks with your techs while attacking the enemy. Eventually, you'll get different levels of techs, and you can string them all together to form one massive combo.
That is all standard since Abyss. What is new in Vesperia are a couple of things. First, Skills are now acquired through the use of weapons. Each weapon may have one or more skills attached to it, which you'll be able to use while the weapon is equipped. Through enough use, you'll learn the skill and will be able to use it without the weapon equipped, though doing so costs a certain capacity (varied for each skill). Certain Skills (such as Gale and Great Deluge), when equipped, will change some of your techs into a different tech (similar to Abyss' FoF system). With this skill equipped, every time you use that tech, the arte will change to the improved version. After 100 uses of a tech, you'll learn the tech and will be able to use it without the skill. Magic spells require 50 uses to learn them (due to the casting time required).
Fatal Strikes are another thing Vesperia has added. Basically, each tech has a colored arrow in its description. If an enemy is hit enough with techs of the same arrow, a colored glyph will appear on top of it. If you press RT and hold the direction of the arrow, you'll perform a Fatal Strike, which will instantly kill most normal enemies and do improved damage to bosses.
The last thing Vesperia added (or changed, rather) is the overlimit system. Instead of each character having their own overlimit bar, you have one overlimit bar for everyone. Level 1 allows you to continue attacking without ending your chain until overlimit runs out and also allows casters to cast without casting time. This is best for comboing. Level 2 adds damage to fallen enemies. Level 3 allows the use of techs and spells without the use of TP. Level 4 makes you invincible to enemies. You can save up all the bars for use with one character, or you can use littler amounts and spread it throughout the party. It's really quite nice. In any level of overlimit, your character can perform strong techs (called Burst) by holding B at the end of an Arcane tech or higher. Later in the game, when you get weapons with the Special skill, you'll be able to perform the strongest of all the techs, which are known as Mystic. While the Burst level can be performed at any level of overlimit, the Mystic level can only be performed in levels 3 or 4.
Add all of this together, and you get the best battle system in the series. The moves are smoothly integrated and the battles will all flow very well. The battles take place in real time, so with so much to do in the battles, and with everything integrated so nicely, it'll be strange if you ever get tired of battling. This is honestly the first Tales game ever where I haven't minded when I needed to level grind for a little bit. The battles are fun, so you don't care. I kept battling, and it was fun.
One thing to note is that this is also easily the most difficult Tales game in the series. I had to redo a fair number of bosses (like, probably almost all of them, or at least a majority) because they were too strong for me. And the AI is very good in this game. This isn't negative, if you ask me, however. I liked that the game actually offered me a good challenge for some of the battles. However, if things are too difficult for you, you can turn the difficulty level down to easy. Or, if normal is too easy for you, there's a hard mode available right from the start, and an unknown mode available for your next game.
Honestly, I really like the graphics in this game. Granted, they're cel shaded and not CG or anything resembling Final Fantasy or the like, but they're bright and colorful and really nicely done for the most part. The battles in the game are what you'll be looking at the most, and they all have beautiful and flashy spell attacks and other things that are full of detail and fun to look at. So at the very least, you won't mind those.
The towns and dungeons were also excellently done. Granted, while they don't have nitpicky details like Eternal Sonata did, they were still very nice. Colorful. Bright. Plus they had a good variety in the design. You probably won't get sick of looking at the towns and dungeons either. They were all pretty nice.
The one place the graphics are noticeably not as good is the overworld map. The overworld map generally lacks detail. It's not bad or anything, it's just pretty obvious that they didn't put as much effort into making the graphics for it. This is pretty standard for a Tales game. Overall, the graphics are pretty good though.
The soundtrack for this game is probably one of Sakuraba's better works for the Tales series. There are a number of tracks that are really enjoyable and you'll probably want to listen to for a while. This said, most of these tracks don't come in until late in the game, and a lot of the music played in the backgrounds before this is fairly not noticeable. It's not bad. It's just not really good either. It's just kind of there, giving you something to listen to. You can turn it off if you want to. But like I said, later in the game, there are a fair number of songs that I do like a lot.
Aside from the main songs, we also get the theme song Ring a Bell by Bonnie Pink. It's one of the more enjoyable Tales themes in the series, if you ask me, and this is the first time we actually get one in the English version of a game. You'll definitely enjoy it and all of the variations of it in the game.
Aside from songs, there's the voice acting. I thought the voice acting was really pretty good in this game. Yuri Lowell, who was voiced by Troy Baker, was especially notable as being superb. The main character having such good voice acting really adds to the experience. Rita, voiced by Michelle Ruff, is another one of the more enjoyable ones. Most of the voices are good, and there aren't really any that I would classify as bad for this game. Some are more notable than others, but that's about it. Really good job overall.
Personally, I don't get why some people say that there's not a reason to play a Tales game again, and Vesperia especially. Vesperia offers the most 2nd time and on only sidequests in a Tales game to date. But aside from the stuff you can do on your second playthrough, there's also a TON of sidequests you probably won't know about or discover on your first playthrough. There's so much extra stuff to do in this game that you'll need more than one playthrough to discover it all. And if you want to go through it again (which, if you're like me, you definitely will), there's the GRADE shop once you complete the game. In it, you can spend all the GRADE you earned from battles in order to transfer things like techs, Gald, skills, and so on to enhance your second playthrough. So there's quite a bit to keep you occupied for more than one game of Vesperia.
Tales of Vesperia is the longest Tales game to date, so you'll definitely get your money's worth. You can expect the main quest to take anywhere from 50 to 60 hours or more, depending on how fast you play (personally, it took me 55), and that is, quite literally, not doing any sidequests at all. I spent an additional 26 hours after the main game was done doing sidequests, getting more skills, and things like that. And I didn't come anywhere close to getting them all done. So there's quite a bit to do.
Load times in Vesperia are quite good. If you're worried it might be like Abyss, where load times were forever for anything, there's no need to be. Loading is pretty much instant. The first time you get in a battle after you turn on the system, it will be kind of slow. But it is pretty much instant after that.
Final Rating: 8/10
I was going to give this game a 9 because the gameplay is so good, but the story is rather average, so I decided to be on the safer side with a lower score. There's so much to do in this game and so much value you can get out of it, you'll want to keep playing for a very long time. Whether you like the story or not, there are definitely things that you're bound to enjoy for Tales of Vesperia. It's definitely a buy not a rent title. Pick it up as soon as you can from your local retailer. There's no telling how long you'll be able to find it, so pick it up while you know you can!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/05/08
Game Release: Tales of Vesperia (US, 08/26/08)
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