Review by NettoSaito
"Tales of Vesperia - One of the best JRPGs out there!"
Tales of Vesperia is an action RPG and one of the few rpgs that have been released on the 360. If you have ever played a Tales of game before in the past, you will find this game plays very much like all of the others; however it is the first game to go HD and it does include quite a few new features. Although Tales of Vesperia is in fact a stand alone title, the game does offer quite a lot of fan service for long time series fans, so if you're new to the series, you may be missing out on quite a few things.
Once you start the game you'll find yourself watching an anime styled opening that's actually been dubbed in English! Now I know this could be a problem for some people, especially those who loved the Japanese version, but the song's actually pretty well done and it is still sung by the original group. Even though the opening doesn't really add anything to the game, I still felt it was nice to see, and I soon found myself watching it every single time I went to play the game. After you get past the opening and intro cutscene the game will finally start.
The story opens with a town in chaos. The water control system is busted, the streets are being flooded, and the town has completely ran out of clean water to use. As our main character Yuri Lowell is looking out his window one of the local kids shows up asking him to come help. So being the robin hood-like guy he is, Yuri then jumps out of the window and heads to the lower quarters square only to find out that the blastia core, the energy source of the fountain, had been stolen. Yuri then decides to head to the upper class district to search for the person who might have taken it, a man named Mordio, but ends up getting captured by guards and thrown in jail instead. It turns out Yuri had joined the knights years ago with his best friend Flynn, but after one major event, which is never shown in game, Yuri's views of the knights changed, and he took his leave. Although his best friend left, Flynn stayed a member of the knights with a goal to change the knights from within, and make the world a better place.
After Yuri breaks out of jail, the game truly starts and players enter the world of Tales of Vesperia. As he escapes from the castle, Yuri ends up meeting the princess (who has never left the castle in her life), and they both decide to escape the town together. With both being chased by castle guards, both Yuri and princess Estelle decide to set out into the world, each with their own goals in mind. While Yuri heads out to look for the man who had stolen the blastia core, Princess Estelle decides to search for Flynn to give him a warning message about someone wanting him dead.
ToV's story is actually a LOT different than most RPGs. For once the story does not focus on a "saving the world," but rather the adventure out in this new world. While the first part of the game follows the main characters as they search for the stolen blastia, soon the characters get involved with guilds that form up "nations" of their own, an ancient race of beings that seem to be after Estelle, and even the history of their world. Their world has always had blastia and barriors to protect their towns from monsters, but the characters soon learn that their world isn't quite what they thought it was, and they are faced with the challenge of changing it.
The game's story plays out a lot like an anime would. Characters travel to different towns, they get mixed up with some kind of event that's going on there, they make side trips to help out new friends, and they slowly make their way to completing their goals. As other people join up with Yuri and Estelle more stories are brought into the mix, as each character has their very own reasons for doing what they are doing. While Yuri and Estelle are working towards their original goals, Karol works to form a guild of his own, Rita continues her research, Raven becomes the mystery character who apparently has no real goals of his own, Judy works to destroy the blastia, and Yuri's dog Repede just goes along for the ride. Although each of these characters do in fact have their own goals, their lives become forever connected as they watch the world change around them.
Each character in the game is a lot different, and a lot of them are characters you wouldn't expect to be a main character. If I had to put it simple, Yuri is that cooler hero character who shows up as soon as they're needed (like characters such as Protoman), Flynn is the "normal main character" type of character (however he takes on the role a character like Yuri would normally have), Estelle knows nothing about the outside world expect for what she has read in books, Raven acts like an old perverted man (even though he's only 35), Rita is that teen girl who's an expert when it comes to blastia, Judith is a member of an ancient race who HATES blastia, Karol is the young kid who wants to be a strong guild leader one day, and Repede is an awesome dog who was a member of the Knights with Yuri.
Although the main story is the main focus, there are also a lot of skits that can be viewed at different times that really add to it as well. These skits are normally just small little chats where we get to learn more about the characters, or simply get to see them interact with each other, but sometimes skits will show up based on what you are doing in the game as well. Yuri will play jokes on his friends, Estelle will slowly learn about the world, Raven will show how much of a pervert he really is, and Rita will beat him up for it. Normally these skits are funny scenes, but there are some pretty touching moments as well so they're really a nice part to the story. They are extra, but I strongly recommend you watch as many as you can. Tales of Vesperia's story is a lot different than most RPGs, there's a lot of character development, there's a lot of twists, and there's three full story acrs that tie together in the end. To sum it up, the game's story is a lot like an anime or TV show with three seasons.
So I just explained the story, but what is the game actually like? Well the gameplay is a lot like a normal RPG. There's 3D towns and dungeons that you will visit, each with a fixed cam angle, there's side quests to take, there's a world map, and there's a lot of exploring. While on the world map monsters will randomly appear around you, but you will not actually enter a battle until you touch one of them. If you want to avoid a fight you can simply run around them, or you could run into them and fight them to gain EXP.
Once you're in a battle you will find you're already locked onto one of the monsters on the field and you'll only be able to run left/right, however by holding the R button you will be able to enter free run mode which will let you run around the 3D arena freely. In this mode you can switch what target you want to attack, or you can hit them with a powerful knock back attack. While you're locked onto an enemy and in your normal side scrolling type view, the game will then play out like a 2D fighter. By hitting the attack button/changing the direction you're pressing on the analog stick you'll be able to pull off different combo hits, and you'll also be able to use different special skills (which you will have to set to shot cuts). By using different hits/skills you'll be able to chain huge combos together in order to do massive damage.
Although you can only control one character at a time, later you will be able to freely switch between the active party members, you'll be able to give commands, and you'll even be able to program how each party member will act during the battle. These really aren't features you'll have to worry about too much earlier in the game, but they are a must for harder settings.
So it's an action RPG that plays like a fighter, but what about multiplayer modes? Well most RPGs don't have a multiplayer mode so....... I guess that's why this one has one! Yep just like the past Tales of games, if you connect a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th controller to the 360 you'll be able to set your party members to "human" which gives your friends full control. Now your friends can ONLY control these characters in battle so no running around the world map together, but it is better than nothing.
Just like in all RPGs, or at least most, you will gain EXP after each battle but you will also gain EXP for your weapons. You see each weapon in the game actually has skills attached to them. By using the weapon in battle these skills will start to level up, and finally you'll be able to learn the skill forever! It does take points to equip these skills, but weapon skills are active as long as you're holding the weapon so don't worry if you don't have enough points for your new skill that you just learned.
Tales of Vesperia really focuses on learning and you will have to teach your characters just about everything. You'll learn new attacks by trying different combos in battle, skills are learned from weapons, you get better at cooking the more you cook, and you will even have books to fill out which require you to learn everything about everything. Although there isn't really much of a point to these books, other than achievements, they can be nice to look at... It's just they're a HUGE pain. If you're looking to 100% this game, it will take quite a few playthroughs, a lot of magic lenses (items that allow you to see monster stats which also records them in your monster book), and a lot of time. It's just not that simple.
Boss battles in this game are also pretty big and they take a LOT of skill to actually beat. Although you can simply mash away and pull off 100 combos till the boss dies (if you're lucky you won't die), that really isn't something most people would recommend. Each boss battle actually has a hidden challenge to them, and by doing these challenges you'll unlock achievements and even a brand new costume for Yuri later in the game. These challenges can take a LOT of time (heck one time it took me over 50 tries to finish one because I kept killing the boss before I could actually do it), and they are NOT always easy. Also keep in mind that the game will NOT tell you about these hidden goals, so it's best to look up a guide online.
Tales of Vesperia really has a lot of missables, heck there's 100s of side quests and events that can be missed just by entering a wrong town, and it really has a lot to see. If you're the type who has to see everything a game has to offer, get ready to put 300 + hours into this game, and get ready to also start reading walkthroughs as well. There's so much to see on your first playthrough of this game, and you WILL miss a lot if you just play through this game on your own. So in other words, you WILL need a guide to 100% this one. (Heck you'll most likely need a guide if you want to avoid missing more than half of the story as well.)
This game was really a nice JRPG. I loved the story, the battle system was fun, there were a lot of extras, and I loved the cell shading. Really if you're a fan of RPGs, animes, mangas, or beat em ups, I recommend that you try this game. Not only is it packed full of content, and the game is also very well polished, and there are no true problems that hold it back. Sure you may not be a fan of the genera, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a very well made game, and well worth the time to play.
I give Tales of Vesperia for the Xbox 360 a 10/10
A Playstation 3 version was also released in Japan which included a new character, which changed parts of the story, new areas, new mini games, and it also has 75% more voice acting, but sadly it never made it to the west. Still if you're looking to add to the Tales of Vesperia story, the PS3 version may be worth checking out, and as well as the Anime prequel which tells the story of Yuri's time in the Knights and why he decided to leave.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/11/12
Game Release: Tales of Vesperia (US, 08/26/08)
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