Well, I am a week away from finally moving to the other side of town. My 17 mile/45 minute afternoon commute will now be 3.9 miles and 11 minutes. I also have more space, more privacy, and less money... but what can ya do, right? Can't have it all. Some of the things I DO have are Tales of Vesperia and Rock Band 2, which I have been spending time with in between packing and paralyzing back pain CAUSED by said packing.
In case I don't write a full review, here is a synopsis of Tales of Vesperia. By far, this is the best Tales game since Symphonia for the GCN, the pinnacle of the series. The battle system has been perfected, and the ability tree is almost perfectly spread out across the game. In the past you could go several dungeons in between new abilities (looking at your Abyss...) but here you get new special moves right when you need them.
While the story here has been toned down about 5 notches, the characters develop very well. No flat folk here. The quest itself does not because "save the world" epic until about hour 30, but you always have a nice motivation to move forward. I am 47 hours in, about the enter the final dungeon with about 50% of the major side quests complete. I plan to complete the main mission within a week and get a chuck of the additional side quests complete within the month.
The rest of my month will likely be dedicated to Rock Band 2 which I picked up today. The biggest improvements are the ability to use any character in any mode for any instrument, hammer ons and pull offs are now more obvious and clearly indicated, and the challenge of each song has increased. The biggest negatives? Only 2 so far, and that is the aforementioned hammers and pull offs are a little more tricky to pull off, as you have to press the fret button AS they cross the line instead of being able to just have them held down before they play like normal notes, and unlocking songs.
You have two ways to unlock new songs, and both are in the career mode. You now play through a solo career, which is now like the previous band career mode, but it can be done as a single player game, which is a GREAT idea. No more list of songs that you complete one by one to open the next, you have to go from city to city, getting fans, money and stars, up to 5 stars per song. As new cities, and new gigs in those cities appear, you get more songs. After over 2 hours in the career mode, I had unlocked no new songs, only the original 20 that come unlocked with the game. Assuming that an average song is 5 minutes, that means I played every song at least twice and yet no new songs... Now 7 hours in, I have maybe 20 new songs, so roughly half of the disk is unlocked. I finally put down the guitar after playing Everlong, the reason I bout the game. My pinky has that little blister back, which I haven't had in months.
Alternately, you can play the new Challenge mode, which is series of different set lists. The issue in unlocking songs THIS way is that you need to play each instrument (guitar, bass, drums and mic) and also play as a band. While not a huge negative, this is an issue for solo players who want to just get new songs. There is an unlock code, the game even tells you so, but so far there is no word on what that code might be, and if it will effect your achievements and such. It shouldn't, considering I have seen what the achievements, but its a possibility.
So far, in career, I have 218 stars (got 4 stars on 2 songs), 394,400 fans and $5866, having already spent about $500 on new clothes. The game is a considerable improvement, with nearly EVERY complaint people had from last year being resolved. The quick play mode even lists the actual difficulty of each song and works like the music store, allowing you to quickly search through songs. With my 60 or so song downloads, the 80 I will have unlocked, that's about 150 songs for Rock Band 2. I plan on doing the Rock Band 1 export once the career mode is complete, so add in another 30-40 there that I actually play, as I will delete the rest. Check back for more details once I get the band back together.