Tales of Vesperia Review

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Tales of Vesperia Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games

Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Yuri Lowell, barely a man at 21, has already been kicked out of the Imperial Knights and spent the rest of his life helping the folk of the poor, lower quarter of the Imperial capital. His life, and that of many others, is powered by blastia, magical artifacts powered by the primeval mystical power of Aer. Unfortunately, a wicked mage who promised to fix the blastia that pumped all the water for the lower quarter stole that same blastia, leaving the impoverished lower quarter in dire trouble.

When Yuri heads off to reclaim the lower quarter's blastia from the thieving mage, he joins with a girl named Estellise, who happens to be looking for an old friend of Yuri's who's travelling in the same direction as the thief. They set off together and become entangled in a greater conspiracy. The plot involves the theft and destruction of blastia around the land and the very nature of the magical essence that powers the world, laying the foundations for a world that runs on mana.

Kyle Ackerman

Tales of Vesperia finally brings the long-running franchise of Tales games to the latest generation of consoles, and it is glorious. The Tales games have been a consistently solid group of console-style role-playing games, with extensive stories, plenty of characters and huge worlds to explore. I have a few quibbles with Tales of Vesperia, but the basic story offers literally 30 to 50 hours of play, and that's if you don't indulge in all the sidequests, optional skits and other activities that can double that number. (Some folks really speed through it in far less time, but that's nearly impossible on a first-play through). This is a game where, if you really play it out, it's not hard to get the achievement for 100 hours of play.

That time is roughly one-third exploration, one-third dialog or plot exposition, and one-third random monster encounters, with a smattering of boss battles and plenty of optional side-quest mini-games. Personally, I could do without the random monsters – these make areas of the game irritating, particularly when Tales of Vesperia throws a simple puzzle at you, with the puzzle elements scattered around a dungeon. Areas like the Heracles puzzle were simple to solve but long, because of all the monster encounters. But as much as I dislike the endless random monsters, any game that can give you 20, 40 or more hours of entertaining play in a world where five- to eight-hour games are becoming commonplace deserves a great rating.

HD, But Still a Tales Game

Tales of VesperiaIn truth, Tales of Vesperia is somewhere between the last generation of consoles and the current generation. The graphics are gorgeous, but the areas are still small and constrained, contained by the same invisible walls as past installments, such as that on the GameCube. Still, it's amazing to see Tales of Vesperia in high definition. The stylized landscapes are beautiful, and it's spectacular to see the fireworks bursting over a coliseum, a city floating inside a giant monster, or the luscious water effects. The graphics maintain a stylized anime look that is more engaging than the sepia-toned realism so many current console games strive for, and make Tales of Vesperia a pleasure to play and explore. Better yet, the Xbox 360 presentation puts character speech into dialog bubbles far cleaner than in past installments.

Primarily, I enjoy Tales of Vesperia because it's relaxing. Except for the boss battles, combat isn't stressful, and it's a chance to kick back, explore, mess about with side quests and work through the (overly complex) story. I particularly enjoy exploring the richly detailed landscapes and learning about the (again, overly complex) history of the game's world. There's enough activity and plot to keep me constantly engaged, and enough to do to keep me occupied for a few days of play.

Does Salad Require a Frying Pan?

The Tales games love cooking, and Tales of Vesperia is no exception. There are ingredients to be purchased or found all over the world, and these can be combined to create concoctions that can heal, cure or confer all sorts of status effects. To me, the Tales of Vesperia cooking system seems like an overly intricate potion system, but it certainly doesn't detract.

Of course, the game still has the Wonder Chef, a bizarre fellow who masquerades as out-of-place objects in a hide-and-seek-like scenario, and when discovered, confers on you new recipes and ingredients with which to practice those recipes. Again, while overly complex and largely unnecessary, the Wonder Chef isn't awful, he's just odd. It's as if I'm in a restaurant, and the waitress explains that she's going on break, and that another one of the staff will finish up the meal. Than a polar bear wearing a fruit-laden hat comes in to refill my water, and no one in the restaurant notices. That's how it feels in Tales of Vesperia when Yuri is being interrogated by Imperial Knights and takes a break to learn to fry fish from the Wonder Chef. Still, you'll need to meet him if you want to compete in the game's cooking stadium.

Combat Mandates A Revised Save System

The combat system in Tales of Vesperia keeps things active. As in past Tales games, not only can you set up formations for the four party members involved in combat and give them general directions, you can pause combat at any moment to give them more specific instructions such as casting a spell or using an item. You also maintain active control over one combatant, moving him or her around the battlefield, dodging, blocking attacks, and activating special abilities. The need for a modicum of coordination, in the spirit of past Tales games, keeps things interesting.

Tales of VesperiaThe problem with the combat system in Tales of Vesperia really has more to do with the game's save system than combat itself. Despite the fact that a Tales game is finally being presented on the latest generation of consoles, Tales of Vesperia doesn't take advantage of the new technology to reform its save system. Tales of Vesperia uses save points scattered around the world, exactly as in past games, and yet has still not learned the lesson of placing those points conveniently. Far too often, a lot of dialog, cut-scenes and patience lie between a save point and a boss battle, and that's where the save system and combat system conspire to create a serious problem.

Combats with the far too many random wandering monsters are easy, but boss battles can present an actual challenge. That means that if the boss combat is a surprise, and your characters aren't prepared (a little low on health or magical energy), you're going to have to replay seemingly endless dialog just to face that foe once again. That's irritating. Simply placing the save point immediately before the battle, or (gasp!) allowing players to save anywhere would completely fix the problem.

A final combat issue is that the game, for plot reasons, occasionally likes to make you fight with a specific character. I can understand that, even though I enjoy using characters of my own choice far more. But I really objected to losing the party's strong healer for a large chunk of the late game. The game was still playable, but it's like when a first-person shooter seizes all of your weapons and forces you to play with a club. I can make it through, but that's not why I'm playing the game.

Best for Fans Who Enjoy Indulging in Plot

My other complaint about Tales of Vesperia is that the plot is so extensive and sometimes convoluted that it often left me feeling unsure of how to move forward, but blocked all of the wrong courses of action. Typically, moving forward was as simple as spending the night in a local inn or simply trying to leave town, but that wasn't always clear. There are also a lot of puzzles and side quests that simply can't be completed without certain items or without having finished an earlier side quest, and that was frustrating when I discovered it at the bottom of a long dungeon filled with wandering monsters.

Tales of VesperiaThat said, the main draw of Tales of Vesperia is certainly the plot. But the game has the good sense to make so much of the banter between characters optional, in "skits" that the player can choose to watch. There are so many skits that rather than animating everything as a cut scene, the skits are presented as talking heads. Tales of Vesperia deserves a lot of credit, as I've never seen as much emotion and relationship conveyed by moving boxes.

Simply speaking, if you even remotely appreciate console-style RPGs, Tales of Vesperia offers a lot of play for the buck, including an interesting combat system and plenty of world to explore. It's hard to go wrong with this one, unless you're offended by the completely unnecessary use of long, invented words to make the plot seem more unique than it is.


madogmgd Author Profile Page said:

You can save ANYWHERE
push start go to settings and click save

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 29, 2008 7:14 PM.

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