Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tales of Vesperia: A Review

I recently had one of those "I'm a grown-up now" moments when talking to some people about games. Looking back, I would pour hours upon hours into an RPG on the SNES Genesis, during the Saturn and PS1 days, and even with my PS2. However, for the past several years, I have had too much else going on in life to dedicate to these types of games more than once in a while. So when several RPGs come out, it is quite a tough decision to pick just one. When it comes to the Tales series, it's hard for me to not put in the time. In the case of Tales of Vesperia, I am glad I did.

Tales of Vesperia comes out a month short of the 10 year anniversary of the Tales games US premier. Tales of Destiny for the original PlayStation was a unique experience, especially for the time. You tour through towns and dungeons, make new friends and allies, and bring down a big evil. The difference in this RPG is that instead of turn based battle systems; you have direct control of your character, using standard combo attacks and special attacks. Tales of Vesperia continues this gameplay, and most of the Tales traditions. While there are very few new additions compared to the other games in the series, it refines and perfects almost everything the Tales series is known for.

Yuri lives in the slums of the world capital with his doggy pal Repede. He briefly joined the knights with his best friend, Flynn. The local blastia, a magic source that, in this form, controls the water in the slums, is stolen, and Yuri is arrested while trying to retrieve it. While escaping from prison, he runs into Estelle, a princess on the run, and together they escape. Along the way, they meet little Karol, a young monster hunter with no back bone, Rita, a genius mage who alienates everyone she meets, the voluptuous and mysterious Judy, and her dragon buddy Ba'ul, and Raven, a strange "old man" with a hidden past. They start their quest to retrieve the stolen blastia, and, well, things stick at that point for about half of the game.

The story doesn't get to the "world in peril" level, with the exception of wars and monsters, until about two thirds of the way through Vesperia. While this isn't a complaint, there were some points in the game where the characters had little motivation to move forward. The characters are also not as charming as in other games, but it’s great to see them mature. Yuri really shows his dark side by killing the corrupt, Rita turns a corner and becomes best buds with Estelle, and Karol becomes the group’s leader despite his age and inexperience. Again, the characters do blossom, but they are not as endearing as others from the genre. The ending is very short, with just a triumphant "WE BEAT THE BAD GUY" smile on everyone's face, and nothing else, which is disappointing, but fits with the rest of the story I suppose.

My complaints end there. Everything else, especially the combat, are as good as they have ever been. At hour 49, I was still enjoying every single fight I got into. The graphics are a solid anime style cell-shaded beauty, the voice over work is top notch, the loading times are non-existent, and the fighting engine is the best the series has delivered so far. It ended up taking me 50 hours to complete the main quest about about 90% of the side quests. Another 10 hours could be spent doing much more, like casinos and "find the missing guy" quests, but I am happy where things left off. Now I just need to find something to do with the next 50 hours....


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