Review by Unbridled9

"Second Star to the Right, and straight on towards AWESOME!"

Some games and game series are just great. Sometimes it's because of simply superb gameplay, a solid story, wonderful characters, or something else equally strong, the game leaves your jaw dropped and a good feeling inside. Tales games almost always (with a very few select exceptions) manage to do that, and Tales of Vesperia is no exception.

Tales of Vesperia is one of the more-recent installments of the Tales series, this one located on the Xbox 360 and PS3. Set on the world of Terca Lumireis it follows the story of one Yuri Lowell and Estellise (commonly called Estelle) as they journey through the world. Terca Lumireis is a world dominated by monsters. Out in the wild many different types, each very strong and dangerous, threaten any travelers who dare to leave the cities protected by magical barriers. The only protection from the monsters comes in the form of the Empire. However, many within the Empire have become corrupt, more interested in lining their own pockets than in keeping the civilians safe. One young knight by the name of Flynn, however, has managed to resist corruption and poses a serious threat to their interests, so they plan to kill him. A plan overheard by Estelle in the castle and, upon stumbling upon Yuri during an escape attempt from prison in which he was jailed for breaking and entering to retrieve a water blastia (don't worry, I'll explain later) for the lower quarter of the city from one of the nobles, he agrees to help him out. Thus the two set out to find Flynn.

As they journey, however, they find out that a new kind of Blastia, the things responsible for creating the barriers, enhancing soldiers to the point where they can fight off the monsters, and the like, is being made since they are running out of blastia that are being dug up. Except there is a dragon rider going around destroying it, massive up-wellings of aer (a precursor to mana), and much more. Along the way they are joined by a young man from the guilds, groups of people who have broken away from the Empire to live on their own as best they can, named Karol struggling with bravery issues. A young genius mage girl named Rita interested in hunting down the dragon rider and studying blastia, a guild member named Raven interested in the ladies, a Krytian woman (basically elves) named Judith interested in her own goals (and your loyal hound Repede as well. Joining you I mean).

The game utilizes a system known as the "Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System". Since this is a bit of a mouthful, I'll just call it the ‘Linear Battle System'. Simply put, battles happen in real time on a 3-D field, but you happen to be restricted to moving left and right away/towards your foe. However you can change targets easily as well as enable ‘free run' by holding down the left trigger which lets you move about in all directions at will on the battle-field. Additionally you get a ton of skills. Your own skills can be registered to the A button (with variations of neutral, up, down, and left/right A for different skills of your choosing) as well as more to your right thumbstick, including your allies allowing for immense control and setting up combos between various characters.

The result is great! Most battles are fast-paced and tense with a lot of careful control going on. Even without that, knowing how to handle and quickly put down each foe is key. But it manages this without being too difficult by any means and stays fresh and enjoyable.

To make it even better, each weapon has its own unique skills. Use the weapon long enough and you will become able to use the skills on it without having the weapon equipped. But this costs skill-points which are only gained on level-up and are limited, meaning you can only have a certain amount equipped at once. This can make a weapon with great stats worth less than a weapon with lesser stats, especially if the first has a poor skill while the second has a great skill that would normally cost a lot of skill-points to equip. THIS IS A VERY GOOD THING!

The story and characters themselves are also very well done and solid. Aside from a bit of fatigue (which is not surprising in a 40-60 hour game) the story is fairly strong and will keep you enjoyed… but the characters are easily the big stars. All of them are vivid and lively with multiple layers of depth and all interesting. Many of their simple interactions, be it in the riveting story or a short skit/scene of what happens when you try to cook curry in a desert will keep you interested well after the story is done. I'd rather not go into detail because so much happens that it would simply take too long for a normal review.

Lastly, there are a TON of sidequests! This is a really good thing, especially since some end up affecting the main story in various ways. Instead of simply having a generic and easily-run-through story with no deviation, or sidequests that are disjointed from the main quest, almost all of the sidequests hold some meaning and are interesting with only a VERY select few being truly pointless/useless.

However, not all is sunshine and rainbows, as you'll soon learn. The game has flaws, though only one is bad enough for me to want to cripple the games score.

Firstly, the story. While the story is strong throughout, it has a heavy tilt towards ‘vigilante justice is the only justice'. This might have been okay in Batman (though I don't think he would break the law so readily), but in here it comes off as pretty backhanded and a tad insulting to people who do try to follow the laws. While the game does try to even it out a bit with the guilds (who are also largely corrupt despite having comparatively few laws), it's simply not enough. I don't see this as being worthy of taking a point off though since the story still manages to be good and, while backhanded, the characters aren't bad enough nor the story ham-fisted enough to make it truly bad. Just elicit a small annoyed sigh every time it comes up.

Secondly, the sheer number of sidequests combined with time-limit cut-offs. This is a huge one. There are a ton of sidequests within the game, yet many of them can end up being lost forever if the player doesn't do them right away, or at least become much harder to complete. This wouldn't be an issue if the quests could either be notified to the player or had no cut-offs (heck, it would even make sense seeing as they form their own guild later on), but it is simply far too easy to end up running around, seeking out various side-quests, only to end up missing one just because you waited a dungeon too long. However, this isn't the big one either since, despite this, most of the quests are enjoyable and you can progress through the game without worried, plus plenty of them don't have said cut-off times and end up being quite manageable.

No. The real problem comes from a girl named Patty. Patty is a character released for the PS3 version of the game. She was not released for the Xbox version however. Not as a patch. Not as DLC. However it's clear she was meant to be in the game at some point through at least one clear sign (a pirate hat with her name). Even if she wasn't, not putting her out as DLC is simply very backhanded at best. Because of this and how hurt it makes me feel as a Tales fan, that I am missing out on an entire character simply because I bought a version without knowing in advance there was such a huge difference that cannot be corrected, I am knocking a full point off this game.

On the whole, despite some annoyances and a particularly back-handed choice, Tales of Vesperia is simply an amazing and engaging game. Its problems are relatively few and can be easily overlooked while its outstanding quality, well-developed and enjoyable characters (<3 Rita!), and many other shining points simply destroy all negative complaints. About the only reason to not like this game is if you don't like Tales games in general. If that is the case, Vesperia won't change your mind. Though, if that was the case, why are you reading a review for it in the first place?

My suggested price: $30.00. Plain and simple, it is a great and enjoyable game. While it might not be the outright *best* in the Tales series, not only is it an amazing entry but almost every Tales fan will enjoy it.

My final verdict: 9/10 changed to a 8/10 due to the Patty issue. Though the listed score is a 9/10 (which is where I feel it should be), due to the issue with Patty I'm knocking off a full point. If you are reading this for the PS3 version (despite it being on the Xbox 360 review bit…) or Patty has become DLC/part of the game in the future (which I doubt barring a rerelease) go with the 9.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/04/13

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

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