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Jeremy Jastrzab
01 Jul, 2009

Tales of Vesperia Review

360 Review | Well, that took a while.
While there has been a marked improvement from most companies when it comes to PAL delays, there are still some titles that inexplicably long to get to our shores. The most recent entry in Namco’s long running Tales series of action-RPGs, Tales of Vesperia is the latest victim of the PAL localisation process. Still, it’s a case of better late than never, as until the 2004 GameCube release of Tales of Symphonia, PAL territories didn’t see much of the acclaimed series. That, and it’s a quality addition to the ever burgeoning Xbox 360 JRPG library.

After some reluctance from developers to move on from the PS2, JRPGs have become much more common place in this generation, with a healthy spread over the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3. Some of the Wii releases are looking to be either kid-friendly or innovative (with mixed success). The Xbox 360 and PS3 releases seem to be sticking to the familiar formula, albeit with a fresh coat of paint. In a continuation of this trend, Tales of Vesperia comes from a long line of action JRPGs, all with similar characteristics and stories that can create a sense of déjà vu.

You play as Yuri Lowell, a youthful vigilante who was once lined up to be part of the Royal Knights, along with his much more virtuous childhood friend, Flynn Scifo. He's much darker and incisive than your usual JRPG protagonist. These shades of grey are a good change from your usual vanilla androgens. Hailing from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’, Yuri finds himself stuck with the naïve noble, Estellise, while he investigates (in his own way) the disruption caused by a thieving mage in his less-privileged district. And so the journey started with the intention to save the district eventually and predictably enough turns into one to save the world. We don’t want to give too much away, as it’s quite enjoyable to see the cataclysmic events unfold for yourself, even if they are on the tried and true path.

Yuri is in for some pain.

Yuri is in for some pain.
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Sticking to the tried and true works quite well for Vesperia, though it would have been nice if some of archaic elements were updated. The worst part being the story sometimes going around in circles, with current objective repetition that can become incessant. Despite this and a number of clichés, the story rises above this with several layers, compelling and deep characters, emotion that can be felt and a few great twists that have become a series staple, through out the minimum of 40 hours that you’ll put into the game. In particular, the relationships that blossom between the seven main characters, one which includes Yuri’s dog, Repede, is one of the most compelling aspects of the game. So compelling that we wanted to find out more about them, long after the story had finished.

Tales of Vesperia plays much like other games in the series, with the battle system using an evolved version of the system in Tales of the Abyss, which never saw the light of day on PAL shores. The general setup plays like any typical JRPG. You advance the story from town, to field, to dungeon, meeting people, finding new weapons and taking on enemies. Admittedly, this is standard fare, but a nicely crafted world, compelling story and conveniences such as a synopsis to help remind you make up for this. The one fault to this, is that the game suffers from Metal Gear Solid 2 syndrome. That is, a lengthy cut-scene (and there are a fair few of them) will be followed by a few footsteps, then another cut-scene. Lengthy cut-scenes are fine, but gaming flow suffers under such design.

Exploration is another key aspect to most JRPGs and Vesperia provides plenty of things for you to find. All you need to do is look. There are plenty of bizarre characters, odd situations, hidden items and intricacies to be found. As with all Tales titles, exploring on foot eventually becomes tiresome and restrictive, so you’ll eventually earn a boat, as well as some sort of flying mechanism. This helps encourage players to revisit numerous townships, as several extra events will only occur after certain parts of the story have been completed. And some will yield rewards such as extra insights into the characters, or even new artes and items.

Don't just stand there while I do all the work!

Don't just stand there while I do all the work!
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The battle system is key to distinguishing the Tales games from other JRPGs. There are no random battles in the game, as all enemies are visible on screen, though at times they have a nasty habit of popping up under your feet. Using the Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System (descendent of the original Linear Motion Battle System), all battles are action based. Best of all, most are unlikely to last more than 30 seconds, with this creeping up to a minute in the latter stages of the game. The battle system is one of the highlights of the game, due to its fast nature and need to think of solid tactics on the spot.

Within the system, all seven characters are playable (yes, you can play as the dog) and highly varied, though most are likely to spend the game playing as the more dexterous Yuri. Each has a physical attack button for simple combos, a block button that will combine with evades and counters later on and the artes button. Artes are the special attacks, where you can have up to four assigned at once. Physical artes for characters such as Yuri, Repede and Karol are performed on command, while magical artes for characters such as Estellise and Rita need time to charge. Vesperia also does a good job of introducing more advanced battle system elements as you gradually play through.

You have up to four characters in one battle, and any that you don’t control are governed by highly customisable AI. While solid, the AI can be hit-and-miss, as sometimes they’ll ignore your commands or setups, or do something totally stupid, such as heal a character over reviving one. While not playable online, you can get up to three friends to with you in some handy co-op on the fly. Despite being able to perform the more advanced moves much more easily, the battle system in Vesperia takes a little time to get used to, particularly if you’re coming off the more fluid and responsive system in Tales of Symphonia. However, the pause that comes between attacks and the change in tactics for the boss battles becomes second nature after the early hours and exchanges. Speaking of the boss battles, they seem to be very difficult early on, though the difficulty eventually plateaus to a manageable level to bring back some enjoyment and thorough satisfaction.

Pft, is that all?

Pft, is that all?
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What Tales of Vesperia brings to the table will be greatly appreciated by some. It’s really good to see that JRPGs are still being made, though there is an ominous feeling that the lack of genre progress across the board will lead the future frustrations. As mentioned, sticking to the tried and true works for Vesperia, though there are some aspects that could be improved upon. In particular, there are some save points that are followed by lengthy cut-scenes and a boss. Failing the boss battle is frustrating as you can’t skip the cut-scene and some are quite far from the save point. This is something really simple that could and should be done much better by now. Along with some of the other issues mentioned above, both sides of the AI aren’t any better than on the GameCube or PS2 and the attention to detail and interactivity isn’t as deep or as dynamic as western RPGs have displayed. There are probably a few other issues that long time players will find over time.

The visual aesthetics of Tales of Vesperia both tantalise and repel. The anime inspired style is quite refreshing, and both in town and in the heat of battle, hold up remarkably fluidly. At the same time though, there is enough flair to distinguish between the characters and locales, so that the game is not just another anime-esque title. However, it’s a little disappointing that the attention to detail is not as sharp as other HD gen efforts, such as Namco’s own Eternal Sonata, and the overworld is typically underdone and ugly. A distinct improvement over past Tales efforts, but still ugly enough to be off-putting. Thankfully though, there is nothing ugly about the audio aesthetics. As with most Tales games, there is a superb audio track and English-voices that are actually worth listening to. The dialogue and translation is quite solid as, apart from the aforementioned repetition in story objectives.

As maintained through out, Tales of Vesperia is an enjoyable action JRPG with a frantic though tactically laid battle system as well as plenty of little bits and pieces to be found through exploration. Admittedly, the game raises questions about genre conventions and clichés, and just how long can we continue to put up with them before some advances and innovations are made. Both Vesperia and other recent JRPGs have made minor advances, but none have put them altogether in the one game. At the end of the day though, fans of the genre will appreciate what Tales of Vesperia has to offer and will almost definitely have a blast playing through it.
The Score
Tales of Vesperia succeeds in providing a great and enjoyable action JRPG experience for the Xbox 360, but could have shaken off a few of the older, peskier genre conventions. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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8 Comments
4 years ago
Calling all JRPG fans who own Xbox 360.


BUY THIS GAME! BUY THIS GAME! BUY THIS GAME! BUY THIS GAME!
4 years ago
After the massive frustration of playing Eternal Sonata I gave up and started on Tales of Symphonia again.

So I've been wondering, do the skits from symphonia return? Cause I thought they were brilliant?
4 years ago
^Yes, and they're voiced now as well icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
Damn it, there are far too many games to play and now I'm wanting this game even more!
4 years ago
Benza wrote
After the massive frustration of playing Eternal Sonata I gave up and started on Tales of Symphonia again.

So I've been wondering, do the skits from symphonia return? Cause I thought they were brilliant?
What caused your frustration in Eternal Sonata?
4 years ago
Se7en wrote
Benza wrote
After the massive frustration of playing Eternal Sonata I gave up and started on Tales of Symphonia again.

So I've been wondering, do the skits from symphonia return? Cause I thought they were brilliant?
What caused your frustration in Eternal Sonata?
Page 290 in the what game are you playing section. Benza did a big write up about it.

http://palgn.com.au/viewtopic.php?t=6261&start=7225
4 years ago
Tales games are always conventional, but I don't see how that's always a bad thing. When you get a game by the core Tales studio, you always know exactly what you're going to get. They're solid, very fun to play, and while they generally have reasonably conventional plots, what truly makes them shine is the characters. It's a great shame that Tales of the Abyss never got a PAL release as I think it was slightly stronger in this aspect than Vesperia, though Vesperia is a slightly better game overall.

I also disagree that Tales of Symphonia was 'more fluid'. That's actually not the case at all. It had terrible AI, for one thing. Mainly though, you're confusing fluidity with the fact that Lloyd is stupidly overpowered and has a move set that requires nothing but mashing to build insane combos together. This was something they fixed in subsequent Tales games, and Vesperia reflects that. It's not that it's less fluid, it's that Yuri's moves require a bit of thought to be able to really string things together.

It's also a bit unfair to mark it down for not being as detailed as Eternal Sonata. ES is certainly a prettier game, but that came at a tremendous cost. Far less variation in enemies, more linear, the environments are pretty but tiny, the load times are longer, and there is no ability to customise the appearance of the characters as they gain new weapons etc. The tradeoffs that Vesperia makes allow for a game with much greater freedom and scope.

I really hope that more games take notice of how consistent Vesperia's anime-style visuals are. Very coherent artistic direction and so on. Nothing really looks out of place or odd. Not to mention that their engine will scale well for subsequent games, and the games will probably age much more gracefully too. Compare that to the stupidly high-definition look that Star Ocean 4 tried, where the detail combined with the same anime-style aesthetics ends up having the exact opposite effect, making the visuals often seem odd or even slightly creepy. Given the audience for these sorts of games, going the realistic detail route doesn't seem to give much of a benefit unless you're commanding the sort of obscene budgets that a core Final Fantasy game enjoys.
4 years ago
NegativeZero wrote
It's also a bit unfair to mark it down for not being as detailed as Eternal Sonata. ES is certainly a prettier game, but that came at a tremendous cost. Far less variation in enemies, more linear, the environments are pretty but tiny, the load times are longer, and there is no ability to customise the appearance of the characters as they gain new weapons etc. The tradeoffs that Vesperia makes allow for a game with much greater freedom and scope.
On the other hand though, people have always liked eye candy, so the comparisons will always be made.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  30/6/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Atari
Genre:
  RPG
Year Made:
  2008

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