Tales of Vesperia Review Rewind
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On 07/28/2011 at 11:39 AM by Jon Lewis
In anticipation of Tales of Graces f and Tales of the Abyss 3D, JD reviews his favorite game in the Tales series.
For anyone starving for a quality JRPG, and definitely for people who enjoy a robust combat engine.
This console generation hasn’t been very kind to people who love console JRPGs. There have been very few released, and hardly any of those were actually good. Tales of Vesperia is an exception. Though the game isn’t as popular as its predecessor, Tales of Symphonia, Vesperia makes its mark as one of the best in the series.
The game centers on the protagonist Yuri Lowell, who I must admit is one of the coolest main characters in a Tales RPG so far. He has many strong, heroic aspects, but keeps up an anti-hero persona at the same time, which gives his character dimension and makes him interesting. Yuri lives in the lower quarter of a city called Zaphias in the world of Terca Lumireis. Yuri learns that a blastia (a source of energy and protection for the cities of Terca Lumireis) has been stolen, and immediately goes on a quest to recover it. On his journey, he comes across your typical princess in disguise, named Estellese, or Estelle for short. Over time you meet up with numerous other characters and embark on the usual quest to save the world. Like other entries in the series, the game features an extremely likable cast. On the down side, the overall plot fails to ever take center stage. It picks up in the final moments, but at that point it feels more like an afterthought, rather than the driving force behind the game it should have been.
In an RPG, and especially a JRPG, story is usually key. It is disappointing that the story isn't as well told and crafted as its predecessors’, but the game’s other strengths largely make up for it. In the Tales series, there is usually an overall theme that ties in with the plot to create a cohesive and interesting story. In this case the theme (which is roughly “To Fight for One's Justice”) is very strong, while the overall plot that holds it together is weak and forgettable. Tales of Vesperia simply chose to focus on its characters and this underlying idea. Personally, the dynamics between Yuri and the supporting cast were enough for me to enjoy the game, but other players will be turned off by the lackluster storyline.
The music, in my opinion, is one of the weaker parts of the game. I’m usually impressed by the work of Motoi Sakuraba, the Tales series’ composer, but I felt Vesperia’s soundtrack was lacking compared to other entries in the series. A lot of the arrangements are well done, but for the most part, the music could have been better. On the other hand, the voice acting is very well done, with an exceptional performance by Troy Baker as Yuri. He truly helps the character become one of the most interesting Tales protagonists. There isn’t much to be said as far as graphics are concerned. The art style is very good, using an anime-style look that is quite appealing, yet lacking in detail. But it's not much of a gripe. The anime and CG cutscenes are all really well done, and go a long way to help immerse the player in the game. The effects for the special moves are absolutely stunning, and are some of the best I've seen in the series so far.
The gameplay is by far my favorite part. The battle system is phenomenal. While very similar to its predecessors, the slight additions to the battle system put the game over the top. It’s just so much fun to execute combos on all the different monsters you encounter. Each character plays very differently, so you always have a fresh experience using someone new, and it adds to the game’s replay value if you want to master each one (especially Judith, one of the trickier characters to use).
A nice feature included in this game is the skill system, which adds a lot of customizable options for each character. As you level up and find new weapons, players gain a certain number of points to be spent on skills. These skills are all worth a certain amount of points and you allot the points you earn toward the skills that you feel will help you most in battle. For example, you may have twenty skill points to spend on about seven different skills. Some skills may be worth three points while other, more advanced skills will be worth ten, or even twenty. Thankfully, you can equip and unequip skills as you wish, so if you need to change your skill set to fight a certain boss, you always have the option. Your points increase with respect to the amount of skills you have, which are learned from equipping weapons that come embedded with new skills. I spent hours upon hours buying new weapons to learn new skills, which only enhances the gameplay experience.
As for the battles themselves, Tales of Vesperia uses the wordy “Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System” (EFR-LMBS), an advanced version of the FR-LMBS featured in Tales of the Abyss. Traditionally in the Tales RPG's, characters are locked in a 2D plane with the enemy. However, Tales of the Abyss introduced the Flex-Range system which allows characters to move around freely in 3D. Vesperia expands upon that by adding more movement options using special skills. Thank to the power of the 360’s hardware, Vesperia also allows a massive amount of enemies to be on screen at once. This gives battles a more exciting and hectic feel compared to past Tales games. Some new features such as burst artes, fatal strikes, and the overlimit gauge spice up that experience even more. There are so many combat options that the game almost seems broken. 100 hit combos can be pulled off easily with no real effort at all, and infinites become simple to execute. Some would say the game is too easy, and there is some truth to that, but players only really get the power to do these things after sinking tons of extra hours into the game. On a standard playthrough, the game is actually pretty difficult in comparison to past Tales titles. Even with a lot of the best power-ups some of the games bosses can be very unforgiving. That said, the reward that comes with mastering the skills and artes that make the player “broken” is astonishing. It becomes easier, but it’s still fun. I doubt anyone can dispute that the gameplay is fantastic.
Tales of Vesperia does well on most levels and excels in others. Not only do you get a lengthy 60+/-hour quest, but there are also secret dungeons and weapons, a new game plus option, and many collectibles to obtain. This is by far my favorite entry in the series and definitely one of my favorite JRPGs of all time. If you like RPGs and especially if you like the Tales series, you will love this game.