For ten years, publisher Bandai Namco has been bringing quality role-playing games in the form of the Tales series. Even though its one of the longest running role-playing series ever created, it has never gotten the critical acclaim it deserves in North America. This year however, highlighting the 10th anniversary of the legendary Tales role-playing series, Tales of Vesperia is bursting onto the role-playing scene by entering the wonderful high-definition universe for the first time exclusively on the Xbox 360 console. This year’s Tales finally break it into the mainstream, or it might be forgotten like a bad Anime episodic series.
Don’t fix what is not broken should be the overwriting mark here. In the transition to current generation consoles, Namco Tales Studio stuck to the roots of the series and added some new elements to enhance and create a much more evoking and memorable experience. Long-time fans of the Tales game’s will instantly be familiar with Tales of Vesperia, and newcomers will get will get a solid introduction to unique, and gratifying experience that Tales has always been a reconnaissance. The moment you start Tales of Vesperia, you’re going to notice how beautiful its cell-shaded graphics are. For a second I thought I was watching a cut scene or a feature length anime film, but fantastically the entire game is styled like your favorite anime film or manga. Vibrant and warm colors create a beautiful atmosphere that clings anyone to the TV to hug it. Early in the game you visit a forest that can be described as a pastel painting turned into a game, a style that gives a very serene look to the environments. You can really tell the benefit of owning a HD console, the improved resolution brings crisp graphics and Vesperia really takes advantage of this to further the anime air that makes HDTV’s look like valiant saviors in this case.
Throughout most of the game you will be playing Yuri Lowell, an empathetic young man who doesn’t give a second thought about helping those in need. He once worked as a Knight, however, he retired and took up working as a bodyguard due to his distain for nobility and the government. Along the path, he meets Estellise Sidos Heurassein (Estelle for short) , notable for the ability to heal and her ravaging pink hair that leaves them joined together as they embark on a journey to discover their destiny. Vesperia has a great distinction of cast. The lands are filled with a wonderful cast of characters who must save the world and discover who they really are in the process and their relationship to blastia. Obviously, Tales story isn’t breaking new untouched ground, but once the story truly takes off several hours in the game, the entire journey begins to reach to you so much that you wont be able to stop yourself from exploring the world of Terca Lumireis and it is themes of betrayal, honor, and virtue. While the storyline doesn’t do anything really “new”, it does everything that is standard and then some wonderfully.
Like its ancestors, Tales of Vesperia opts to use a real time battle system with no random encounters. Finally, the days of Pokemon random timed systems is over. I can finally scale an environment in the form of knowing when a specific battle system is imminent. Each movement, sword swing, and decision is up to you, winning or losing a fight lays in your hands. For the most part your given the choice to fight or flee, but sometimes the path is being blocked by an object or monster or otherwise random ambush. It is a great thing to see that Namco Bandai took Tales of Vesperia’s battle critique to another level. It is all smooth and does not pull off a turn based approach. So if you’re fighting and need to fury off into another direction, you can. But do not looks so happy because there might be monsters hurling to you from the corner of your left eye, or right. Whatever you like. Once a battle ensues its fierce and action packed.
Unlike some role-playing games that battles require more strategy, Tales of Vesperia is more about knowing your enemies moves to chaining combos and special attacks together in dealing excessive amounts of damage. The pain comes through blows with such new features as: Fatal Strikes, Burst Artes and a multi-stage Over Limit that provide more tactical depth to each encounter, given an ample amount of time each character will learn new attacks and skills throughout the tale. In addition to standard melee, ranged and magic attacks, there are also specialized Artes, powerful attacks performed while in Over Limit and using an Arcane Arte each of which can work separately or together. As you level up you’ll be given access to more artes specific to each character to deal even more devastating damage. With blocking and jumping added to the mix, Vesperia has the balance of something with a more refined fighting system. Surely just because other games require more strategy, does not mean this does not have strategy in of itself.
Tales in our world are usually filled with one character, on a journey, in the same boring old drab as always until some sequence. Throw that out of a window and onto a car with Vesperia. Each character in your party can be outfitted to your liking. You can make your own or your one of the four presets which is really up to you. In keeping with the Tales tradition and a rather nice touch, Vesperia also introduces characters the ability to change costumes that they’ve obtained along the way. The changes you make to you characters, show up in cut scenes and other moments, including the weapons you equip, this is a nice small touch but some costumes grant effects and it also adds a level of interactivity with your characters that’s credited and appreciated.
Tales isn’t just easy on the eyes but it is easy on the ears as well. The sound design in Tales of Vesperia is very imposing from the moment you witness the opening theme to the ending credits, the music is strong and appealing, which adds a extra layer of emotional depth to the tale. As the music goes on, the similarily good amount of characters have distinct voicesthat sound unique and realistic to the character: a benisson in scale with sound effects that are top notch. Things echo, whisper, splash, and crack when they should which gives life to the atmosphere. Bandai Namco really didn’t get lazy on any category when it comes to sound everything is top notch.
Tales of Vesperia does a great job of exposing itself to this generation of gaming. The graphics are spellbinding, that characters are moving and interesting and the game is just fun to play. As a strong anime-style Japanese Role Playing Game with a engaging but somewhat cliche story, intense real time battle system that keeps your reflexes in check. You really need to give this Tales a shot, there is never been a better time to experience this role playing series. By the end of the journey, Tales of Vesperia is the result of concrete game mechanics and steps towards progress that pays off, creating a memorable RPG with a plethora of intense action, a wonderful cast that is interesting and unforgettable, and rich character driven story full of humor and drama, one cant argue with.