Review by Steve_JF
"It has been a long while since I have played a game this magnificent."
Tired of playing first-person shooters and games with mindless violence? Want to find something for the Xbox 360 to revive your interest in gaming again? This is your remedy! Sceptical about RPG's being too much effort and too much reading? Don't be- Tales of Vesperia' balances plot, strategy, interaction and action almost perfectly.
As many Role-playing games will know already, RPG's are incredibly overlooked and unfortunately, over-shadowed by other genres that, at face value are deemed easier to pick up and play. Moreover, games with the typical Japanese animation image such as TOV narrow the target audience even more so.
So as to not seem too biased I will present a small insight to myself. I am quite a casual gamer in general, am fairly open-minded and like almost every type of game- plat formers, racing, fighting simulations, first-person shooters, etc. I am by no means an RPG expert, and I have not played a vast array of RPG's to compare this title to. But I have a decent knowledge and experience from other great games of the RPG genre, including; most of the 'Final Fantasy' series, 'Tales of Symphonia', 'Dark Chronicle', the 'Pokemon' series, 'Disgaea', 'Fire Emblem', and a fair few more. Anyways, onto the main review!
This is the true acid test that makes a game either brilliant or boring. Fortunately, the game-play in this title is truly brilliant. My interest and addiction has continued to grow and grow. Tales of Vesperia' has a certain 'X factor' that keeps you thirsting for more, and manages to keep the game-play difficult and challenging, yet at the same time simple enough to grasp, and accessible for players new to RPG's. Novice Role-playing game fans can easily get by with minimal involvement in skills and strategies, but will probably find the play-through challenging (especially bosses).
The combat system is, to a degree, much like a 3D fighting game, only button-mashing won't get you anywhere. By default you control one character (of your choosing) and the Ai controls the other three to fight with you. Interestingly though, the game has a multi-player option, allowing up to four people to control the whole party. The Ai is surprisingly fairly competent, but if you want to tinker it to your needs, you can do so in great detail by changing AI strategies. You equip characters with different weapons, armour and accessories, and each character has a unique playing style, from different skills to different magic's that effect the heat of battle in infinite ways. Though some characters are easier to control than others, battles as a whole are very fast-paced and run incredibly smooth. Just when you think you've got to grips with basic combat however, you get a whole new bunch of toys to play with! As you progress you get new skills, new moves (Artes'), new types of moves (Basic Artes', Arcane Artes', Burst Artes' and Fatal strikes') to change the whole dimension of fighting.
I have two major criticisms in regards to game-play. The first is how found combat to be uncomfortably slow and basic at the beginning of the game, which is perhaps influenced by me playing 'Tales of Symphonia' beforehand. I was not too impressed at the start of the game and had my doubts, and this I believe could put many gamers off. My key advice is BE PATIENT! Give the game a few hours and it really does bear fruit. Also don't judge the game from the Demo as it is not a very good representation of the game itself. The second is that it can get very repetitive at times. Battles can get tedious at times, secret missions can be a pain, and side-quests can be ridiculously easy to miss, meaning another play-through is often required. Apart from those two drawbacks, the game-play is breath-taking.
Story is almost a pre-requisite for a good RPG, and to be blunt the story in my opinion is above par. Underneath all the fancy dressing, most story-lines and core plot in almost every RPG are pretty much the same. Good versus Evil, light versus dark, friendship and teamwork overcome the power-hungry, calamities that threaten the world etc....Expect nothing different from here. Having said that though, the flow of the games story is quite complex as there is more than one group/organisation which you come into conflict with- at some point you even battle against allies and rivals. Plot twists are frequent and often throw you off-course too. Furthermore the typical cheesiness is kept to a minimum in this game, which is aided by good voice-acting and a protagonist who is more mature than your average hero. Characters are distinctively original overall, conversations between characters (Skits') develop insight to your party members outside the main story, and the revolving use of technological barriers (Blastia') provides the story with a technological edge to it.
Negative points- the story is nothing ground-breaking and you've probably seen it all before in countless RPG's. If this title is your first experience of an RPG, then it'll more than satisfy you. Characters can be quite annoying (Rita and Estelle mainly), but as a whole are pretty solid. Be prepared for confusion and plot holes throughout as the story is far from full-proof. As with almost anything, don't take it too seriously or you'll spoil your own enjoyment.
Who doesn't like a pretty-looking game that is easy on the eyes? Graphics alone don't decide a games worth, but it is always a pleasure to play something that looks beautiful or flashy. It all looks gorgeous in Tales of Vesperia; the characters, the cities, the world map, the animations, the cut-scenes. The difference in graphics compared to 'Tales of Symphonia' is exceptional. I cannot give TOV a perfect rating because, simply, it could look better and contain more detail in certain areas.
As with Graphics, good sound isn't vital but a great boon .The voice-acting is actually very impressive. By no means is it perfect, but has some of the best voice acting in an RPG that I have ever heard. The sound effects are great too, from swinging swords to waterfalls. All of it is what you would expect, and possibly better. The music....not too brilliant though. It sets the mood and provides the apt atmosphere, but most of the music isn't all that memorable I've found, feeling a bit downgraded from 'Tales of Symphonia'. It could grow on me though. Still, the music in battle never tires.
In essence, I strongly advise you get this game. Even if you're not usually in to this genre of gaming this is a both an RPG and an Xbox 360 game at its finest with more than enough action and monster encounters to keep your adrenalin pumping. If you're tired of the same old routine of playing Call of Duty and Halo 3 then try this game to give you a breath of fresh air. Rent or buy? Buy without a doubt as renting won't fully satisfy, nor will you have time to play thoroughly or complete. This game is a rare gem.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/26/09
Game Release: Tales of Vesperia (EU, 06/26/09)
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