Good RPGs aren’t as common as they were in the previous generation in comparison to now. However, Namco Bandai’s Tales of Vesperia steers us toward a better line-up of RPGs for this generation. Sporting a colorful cast of characters, witty scenes, and a princess who actually uses a sword, it’s easy not to pass up ‘Brave Vesperia’.
Yuri Lowell is an ex-member of the Imperial Knights, who’s left the group because he didn’t appreciate the way they treated the common man. After the aque blastia – an ancient technology providing water to the area – is stolen from the lower quarter of the Capital City and the Imperial Knights ignore the issue, Yuri heads out to find the thief. While searching, Yuri is thrown in prison, where a mysterious man helps him break free. As Yuri escapes the castle, he runs into a princess looking to find a friend of Yuri’s – an Imperial Knight named Flynn. So Princess Estelle joins Yuri and soon realizes she has much to see in the world and much to do. Together, Yuri, his dog Repede, Estelle, and their new companions come to learn what blastia is really capable of, and how they need to stop it from being used by the wrong people.
Tales of Vesperia is a great addition to the Xbox 360’s collection of role-playing games. The cast is full of colorful characters including the likes of our hero, Yuri Lowell, his canine companion Repede, the new-to-the-world princess Estelle, and the kid that everybody loves hanging around Karol Capel. There ends up being a cast of seven characters you can have in your party, but I don’t want to go revealing any names for those who’ve yet to purchase the title. Those looking for classes though, you get a good range with your swordsman (Yuri), canine fighter (Repede), healer (Estelle), heavy weapons man (Karol), archer, magician, and spear wielder. The character cast is memorable and each has a very unique, memorable personality in comparison to other RPGs out there. You won’t see any Makotos (creepy character from Enchanted Arms) in this game.
The battle system is what makes a Tales game a Tales game. It features all the real-time do-it-yourself combat that you’ve come to know and love. You have your basic attacks, which of course can be used at any time, then you have your Artes; these are your special attacks which will drain your TP and inflict a significantly higher amount of damage than your basic attack. Artes are only learned by leveling up your character (which you can do quite easily thanks to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace), but come in quite handy once learned.
Overlimit – from Tales of the Abyss – makes a return to the battle system, as well, allowing for a character to gain more power for a temporary amount of time depending on how high the Overlimit gauge is filled up. Finally, we see the introduction of Fatal Strikes, which gives players the ability to finish off a creature or enemy in one hit when their hit points are very low. If you get your button combination right, this is very useful for those stubborn encounters. Also works extremely well for bosses.
There’s a large variety of weaponry and armor to be equipped in Tales of Vesperia. What makes equipping weapons so great, other than increasing your attack power ans stats, is the new skills to be learned with that weapon. Most weapons have a set of skills equipped to them that the character equipped with the weapon will gradually learn as he/she uses that weapon. Many of these skills are extremely useful, adding an extra hit to a characters basic combo, or allowing a character to use an altered arte. Altered artes are differentiations of a regular arte that can be used if that newly learned skill is equipped. Using it enough times enables the character to use it without the skill being equipped. The skill system and new features like the altered arte just add to the expansiveness that Tales of Vesperia already brings.
When not in battle, you’ll likely be in a town, dungeon or on the world map. Towns are marvelously designed – you must see the Capital City and Dahngrest. There’s usually always an inn, weapon shop and item shop in each town so players can restock and refuel their party. The world map is large and contains enemy encounters, however – like in dungeons – they’re not random battles. Dungeons are usually where you head when you’re completing the main story in order to advance on with the game. They’re usually not bad in Vesperia, either. You get a lot of dungeons in RPGs that you don’t like, but Vesperia doesn’t really sport any of those for me… besides the desert, that one took a while.
The graphics in Vesperia are one of the major new aspects in this Tales game. Until now, we’ve only seen the Tales series titles in standard-definition with nice graphics, but for the previous generation. This is the first Tales game for a next-generation console, giving us crisp HD graphics in a beautiful cel-shaded fashion. The visuals are truly beautiful and very gentle on the eyes.
The game sports a great soundtrack as well, composed by Motoi Sakuraba and others, that fits each scene appropriately and enhances the feel of entering battle. You won’t be able to get the ‘Victory Cry’ out of your head. Voice acting is done great, as well, however, not all of the game’s dialogue is recorded. Most of it seems to be, though. While still in the sound department, you’ll sometimes hear voices during battle such as an ally telling you to be careful with your artes when your running low on TP or a small victory phrase at the end of the fight. Sometimes they get annoying (when you hear the same thing over and over), but they aren’t too unbearable.
Tales of Vesperia has certainly done a great job as the first Tales game for an HD console, as well as one of the few good RPGs this generation. We’d highly recommend it to any RPG fan or anybody who wants to start getting into the RPG genre. The game tells a great story and you’ll find yourself playing for hours once you pick up the controller. This is one you’re going to want to finish.
Tales of Vesperia was reviewed on an Xbox 360. The game was played to completion. Tales of Vesperia launches for Xbox 360 on August 26, 2008 for an MSRP of $59.99.