Tales of Vesperia Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Namco have been telling tales since 1995, didn’t their mothers ever tell them that doing this just isn’t right? But I’ll let it slide, as the latest Tales game tells a very nice tale, and has a superb cast of characters as well.

Blastia is something you’ll be hearing a lot of during your travels in Tales of Vesperia, the first Tales game in this shiny HD era of strikingly beautiful games. So, what is this blastia? The tale goes that blastia is used to protect the inhabitants of the world of Terca Lumireis (who thinks up these names?) and is used to cast magic, even the towns and cities are protected by blastia barriers to keep the monsters out. The world of Terca Lumireis is ruled by an oppressive empire, although separate guilds have an ambition to live free of the shackles of this controlling group.

Lead character Yuri Lowell is a former knight of the empire, whilst his friend Flynn remains honourable and loyal to this cause. Obviously, as the cool and calm Yuri (alongside Repede, his trusty mutt), you’re not under the safety of a barrier for long and head out into the dangerous unshielded world, meeting up with the likes of the very naïve, compassionate and pampered Estellise (Estelle for short), the hothead, blastia researcher that is Rita (she seems to enjoy hitting people over the head), the cowardly boy hunter that is Karol, the mysterious and comedy character that is Raven and finally Judith, a blue haired, scantily clad woman with her own agenda. Yuri himself is a very likeable lead, he can be very sarcastic, although he can be very serious as well, particularly in some of the bleaker scenes in the game.

The story is compelling stuff, and has much humour and light-hearted moments, although, as mentioned above, it also has some dark scenes as well, not really in keeping with those bright and cheerful cartoon visuals, is it? The characters are mostly clichéd, but are all very likeable and play off one another superbly, particularly in the returning skits, which are basically optional conversations (animated artwork of the characters appear in boxes) that are brought into play by pressing the back button when it appears on the screen.

For those who have played other Tales games, or any RPG for that matter, Tales of Vesperia is going to be familiar to you. There’s moments where interactivity is limited to pressing the A button to bring up the next speech bubble of story dialogue, you’ll be equipping your characters with better armour, weapons and accessories, and also battling through a never ending charge of enemies. All in all, it’s a typical Japanese RPG then, but also includes long-time Tales elements such as the earlier mentioned skits, as well as cooking and item synthesis.

When fighting, battles are in real-time and, for those who have taken a disliking to random battles, fights are mostly take or leave as well. True, sometimes there’s no other choice than to fight, but the blame must go to the narrow passages that you are sometimes forced to walk through. During battles, there’s none of that polite turn taking business here, battles allow you to go all out, with no need for any waiting around to see what the enemy is going to do next. You’ll also be joined by up to three other AI-controlled party members, who are independent enough to make their own decisions, although it’s also possible to change various areas of their behaviour.

You can get away with button mashing to win many of the battles, though the powerful Artes require stick movements, and can be combined with one another, as well as with the less flashy melee attacks, to build big combos. Fatal strikes, Burst Artes and Over Limits are new to the battles, giving you something else to think about if torturing and mashing the attack button isn’t really your thing.

Fatal Strikes are exactly as the name implies, a death blow that you can deal out when enemies are forced into vulnerable positions, in which pressing the right trigger will instantly kill them off. This is not like Final Fantasy X’s Yojimbo summon though, as, despite throwing a lot of damage their way, bosses can’t be dispatched in a single knockout blow. Moving onto the Over Limits, when a bar is filled to the brim, activating these allow for flurries of uninterrupted combos, which are particularly helpful against those big bosses, taking large amounts of their health with constant combination attacks. Finally, the Burst Artes (joining the Base and Arcane Artes) can be used during Over Limit, which is basically a more powerful version of the Arte. It may not be the greatest battle system ever seen in an RPG, though all of these elements added together still makes for some rather fun, frantic and fast paced battles.

Graphically, the game looks lovely with its cartoon styling, though it’s not quite up to the standard of the gorgeous and vividly stunning world of Eternal Sonata. As for sound, the music is mostly delightful and the voice acting isn’t too bad at all, in fact some of it’s actually very good.

Tales of Vesperia is one of those games that is absolutely full up to the brim with personality, everything from the entertaining dialogue exchanges between the characters to the colourful and inviting world, makes the game well worth sticking with for 40-50 hours. The game itself is also as fun as its charming cast of characters, thus if you’re an RPG fan, this is one that shouldn’t be missed.