Review by SolidFantasy

"This is my first Tales game, and it damn sure won't be my last"

Intro: First off, I have to be honest. I wasn't planning on buying this based on the fact that I have never played a Tales game before. Then I asked a good friend if she was buying it. She said yes and that she was a big Tales fan. So, I thought about it for 5 minutes and realized that I enjoyed the demo, have always wanted to get into the Tales series, and would like to experience this RPG with her. So I bit the bullet and bought it. I am blown away at how amazing this game is. It is a game of the year contender in my eyes.

Game-play: Tales is an action RPG, it is not turn-based(none of them are). Battles are kind of like playing a fighting game. Let's say I see an enemy on the world map. I can do a couple of things. I can either shoot him with my Sorceress ring and then simply run into him and engage in battle(shooting him with the Sorceress ring stuns the enemy causing the battle to be a preemptive strike on your party, which means you get to open up a can of whoop-ass on the enemy while he is momentarily stunned). I could always skip the Sorceress ring step and just enter battle though. Or an enemy may notice you, sneak up on you, and enter battle with you. That is a preemptive strike for the enemy(which shuffles up your party formation). Now let me actually explain how battle works. You can play as only one of your party members per battle, (the rest are AI controlled or can be played by a friend if you wish, the game features 4 player local co-op for battles only) in this example I will use the games protagonist Yuri. When playing as Yuri in battle(the game-play is relatively the same for all characters actually) you can lock on with the right trigger, and use basic attacks with the B button, and use stronger attacks with the A button. Stronger attacks consume your TP bar though. There are tons of different combos you can pull off and many different strong attacks to learn. In the equipment menu (available by pressing Y when not in battle) you can equip different strong attacks. The left joystick is used as a modifier to pull off different strong attacks. Here is an example:

I charge at the enemy and start off with a few basic attacks to get a combo going. Now I want to throw in a strong attack. Which one though. Pressing simply A will pull off an Azure Edge, or I can press A+left joystick down and do a Dragon Swarm. There are tons of different moves and combos by the way

Some characters aren't as physical and use magic as a primary attack. Pressing A+Down might shoot a fireball at an enemy. There are so many ways you can mix up battle. Also, the fact that the game plays very fast and frantic causing most battles to last around 10-30 seconds, makes battles a lot funner and makes grinding less of a chore and actually fun. You can also block attacks with X. Now to me, blocking attacks with X is annoying, but this game has a feature that is pretty much non-existent in gaming today. COMPLETE custom controls! Now I block with the left trigger and all is well. You also learn many battle techniques such as Over-Limit mode (allows you to use strong attacks/Artes, they are technically called Artes, anyway you can use them non-stop for a short period). Eventually, you can learn and set skills to your characters that will effect battle. Then you learn an ability called Fatal Strike which allows you to finish an enemy off in one hit by pressing the left bumper with precision timing after an Arte. Your partner AI is very useful by the way, and I actually can count on them. You can use the d-pad to give them specific battle instructions as well. Outside of battle, the game-play is very traditional to RPGs. You go to different cities, dungeons, break into random citizens houses and steal potions from their cabinets, fight secret bosses, etc.. You can also synthesize new items and weaponry by combining old weapons or enemy droppings (I knew bat skin would come in handy!). Of course creating things will cost you some Gald (that is not a typo SBallen). Gald is pretty easy to come by too. You also will find recipes to cook food which can heal you and much more( Take that Cooking Mama!) Overall, the game-play is amazing and addicting. I am also living proof that people can use this game to delve into the Tales series.

Story: It's pretty simple and traditional. Basically, someone is going around stealing Blastia (it basically protects each world from monsters with a barrier among other things). You play as Yuri, you meet some awesome loveable characters, and eventually you're gonna kick someones ass. The story really shines with its dialogue and great voice over work. Most of the character fleshing is done through the games skits. Sometimes you will be wandering around and you'll notice the Back button displayed at the bottom of the screen. Press Back and you'll witness one of the games 500 skits, which remind me of Metal Gear Solid codec calls. The skits are always hilarious and help you greatly connect to the characters. These skits are one of my favorite parts of the game. The game is humorous , but maintains to be a serious and an overall gripping story.

Graphics: Everything in the game is cel-shaded, and looks absolutely gorgeous. The games art direction is fantastic and some of the best around. It's like playing a Japanese Anime show. I don't really know what else to say other than it's beautiful and smooth.

Sound/Music: All the sound effects from attacking to voice over work to the actual soundtrack are pretty amazing. I highly recommend the Limited Edition (if you can find it) so you can have a copy of this amazing score. Overall, I am impressed

Length: This game will take around 40-50 hours to complete. Getting all the Achievements will require you to play the game a minimum of twice and 100's of hours of play time. There is a new game+ mode too. Let me put it this way, this game is worth $60.

Final Thoughts: If you like RPGs it is a must have and worth buying a 360 for. Even if you don't like RPGs, do yourself a favor and play the demo.

Buy or Rent: I say BUY

My final score is a 9.4/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/05/08, Updated 06/25/10

Game Release: Tales of Vesperia (US, 08/26/08)

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