Review by thirtyninesteps
With a Cut-scene here and a Cut-scene There
Let's get the negatives out of the way first since there are so few. The most obvious problem is that there are way too many cut-scenes and no way to skip them. Not all of them are interesting so they slow down the game drastically especially if you've already seen them more than once. The other thing I would have liked to see is a soft reset. Sometimes you might mess up while going for an achievement and in order to get a second chance, you either have to wait through an at-times long cut-scene at the end of a battle before being allowed to reload or just quit to your dashboard instead (yes, unfortunately in some cases reloading the entire game may actually be faster). A soft reset would have solved that, but if forced at gunpoint, I'd sooner have the scene skipper instead.
So with that out of the way, Vesperia is quite possibly as good an RPG as you can hope to find on any platform. The story revolves around one Yuri Lowell, your prototypical JRPG protagonist. Yuri begins his journey to retrieve his town's "blastia stone", your prototypical JRPG macguffin. He is joined early on by a young girl named Estellise, your prototypical JRPG wandering princess. After several plot twists and double crosses, Yuri and Estellise along with several other friends must team up to prevent the end of all humanity, your typical objective in most any game. And as with many games, the enjoyment came not from the content of the story but the telling of it. In Vesperia's case, the story is told in gorgeously drawn japanimation sequences with great voice work.
Just as Vesperia's story contained elements from previous RPGs, so too does its battle engine. It's a real-time battle system which I've been told is successor to its' predecessors Tales of Symphonia and Abyss which I unfortunately have not played. To me it felt like Star Ocean Til the End of Time, only better. Of course you've got standard attacks and magic spells, but that only scratches the surface. Vesperia boasts a versatile combat system that allows you to chain different type of arts together. You have your basic artes, intermediary artes and advance artes. Same with spells. They are earned by good old fashion leveling or from side-quests and skills. You also gain skills from weapons that you can permanently teach to a character. Skills range from offensive abilities like increasing your attack power to support skills like bringing you back to life. The skills you collect stack and before you know it, you're wielding a powerhouse. You may have four characters in a battle at a time. Of course you can only control one at a time, so you can also modify the AI so that the computer plays as you want it to. Honestly though, it's still quite stupid. If you have a second controller and a buddy, it's always better to let your friend take control of one of your other characters.
Graphically speaking, there are tons of people who will love the japanime character models and tons who won't. Thankfully I fall in the former category. Although your characters do not change appearance from wearing different pieces of armor, they do wield different weapons depending on what you've equipped. You also can earn costumes to customize what the armor couldn't. Musically speaking, it felt like ages since I've played an RPG that had music as good as what I heard in Vesperia. Even now I can remember the village of Dahngress's theme and the "hero" theme. As far as I'm concerned, that's proof enough to its enduring quality.
You'll be replaying Vesperia several times as well if you're as much a completionist (read OCD) as I am. The game challenges you to collect all titles, fulfill certain battle conditions while fighting bosses (these are called "Secret Missions"), and even rewards you for just flying a heck of a lot of miles. There's a hidden dungeon after beating the game and you are allowed to start a new game and carry over some or all of your progress from previous playthroughs. That's a great thing since there's really a ton of stuff that is permanently missable on a single playthrough. The only caveat is the problem I mentioned above, you'll have to sit through long dialogue sequences again. Well, you can at least skip the anime sequences and cgi rendered FMVs, but dang-it, those are some of the things you wouldn't mind watching again!
But enough with the negativity. To wrap up, I am definitely giving this puppy a big thumbs up and a high recommendation. Even if you overlook the fact that I am your basic RPG nut, you're sure to find a lot of things to enjoy on your own terms. And if you don't? Well let's just say you did anyway. Isn't it great ending things on a positive note?
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Tales of Vesperia (US, 08/26/08)
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