This title is surprisingly self-explanatory

I recently finished a grueling and arduous and something else playthrough of Tales of Vesperia for the Xbox 360 after borrowing it from a friend for two years. This is notedly the incomplete version of the game, as compared to the Japanese-only PS3 version that was released with a crapload of new content. But before I devolve into a rant, let’s get on with it. As always is the case with RPGs, it took up a great deal of my time, and consumed my attention entirely while playing it. As a result, this means that the game was completely satisfying. No games have really left me feeling this fulfilled in a while.

grim satisfaction

Of course, nothing’s perfect. While there are things about this game that are superior to past Tales games, there are a few things I note as being inferior (though this would only matter for someone who has played both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of the Abyss). The battle system is vastly more polished than it was in Symphonia. EVERYTHING works like it’s supposed to. The graphics are fantastic, especially the spells. Areas are much bigger and require more exploration, but there are no “water temples”. The Sorcerer’s Ring isn’t nearly as goddamn complicated as the Symphonia incarnation. Difficulty scales to whatever you want it to be. Most importantly for gameplay, all the characters are useful-even by themselves. You will literally be able to competently play as any of the characters controllable in-game. This is a markable improvement over the specialized characters in past titles.

Misfit Menagerie

However, the game has on major flaw, perhaps even without having played previous Tales titles. Tales games (like any good RPG) have always been about amazing stories. While the characters in Vesperia are memorable and will be my favorites for a long time to come (Judith, darlin’), the story itself and the themes jsut aren’t as… EPIC as Symphonia and Abyss proved to be. It seems to me that it is a downward slope from Symphonia to Abyss on to Vesperia. The cheesy one-liners prevalent throughout the game don’t help matters.

I can taste the cheese

Symphonia was about racism, the respect of people’s individuality and their right to live by their own standards were the issues prevalent throughout the game, and ultimately were the goal that the heroes fought for. Similarly, Abyss was all about being in control of one’s own destiny and not leaving things up to Fate. It was about accountability for one’s actions through-and-through… something that all major characters in the game dealt with at some point, especially the main protagonist.

Racism and Accountability: One of them happened, one of them continues to happen

Vesperia is about respecting nature and making sacrifices for the greater good of those around us. A noble cause, but a bit too tree-huggey for my tastes. It was similar to FFVII, only without Shinra.

I'M anti-shinra, are you?

The saving grace of the story over-all is the main characters. Others in-game come and go, but the ones you control in battle ultimately carry the game through to the end. Again, watch out for Cheese, though….

Deep and Meaningful character? I haven't seen anything like this since Halo! 😉

The main character is a badass. Where most characters would go on a quest having to repeat a bossfight or go through annoying tasks due to their moral standards, Yuri just doesn’t give a shit. He throws rocks at guards and kills off villains at the first chance he gets. He’s sarcastic. His sword style is lackadasical yet super-effective. He has the goddamn Omnislash at his command. He’s a lampshading character if ever there was one. Unfortunately, by the time the plot gets serious and the world gets itself doomed, he becomes rather serious and outspoken about things… tragic.

Despite overwhelming manliness, his name lampshades just about everything about him

Other characters continue in a deep and meaningful way, while still retaining a humorous aspect. Repede is the loyal companion of canine nature who barks at oppertune moments and pisses on anything and everything in the game.. including Estelle’s self-esteem. Karol is the young enthusiastic kid who wants to start the strongest guild in the world. Rita is the antisocial Mage/Researcher/Mod with yuri tendencies. Estelle is the erstwhile princess/healer trope with a naive heart of gold who takes things completely seriously and with much love for everyone and everything. Raven is the laid-back old man with a dark past who despite what he says cares a lot about those around him (he’s also the obligatory perv). Judith (darlin’) is the vigilante out to save the world by herself (with help from her flying whale Ba’ul) using only mad polearm skills and a typical lack of proper clothing. As Estelle often says: “I wish I could bounce”.

Tales games are known for interaction between characters on both a story-driven level as well as a purely mundane one. The skits where characters talk amongst themselves are half the reason the game is so awesome. You don’t get this level of character depth in Final Fantasy. Even when it becomes horribly cheesy, you still can’t help but enjoy the interaction. The addition of voices in these scenes helps a great deal as well.

voice-acting makes these better than CG cutscenes

All in all I’d say that this is one of the best games on 360. Not only is it hilarious at times and fun to play, but the replay value is astronomically higher than anything in recent memory. It’s been half a decade since I’ve spent 90+ hours on a game. It was worth every minute. Give or take three, anyway.

Arguably, the author of this article/review has no life anyway

Now if only those Japanese pricks would release their special versions in the US and include a Japanese subtitled voice-track, I would be completely satisfied. At least they weren’t afraid to break the fourth wall.

A Japanese Highschool in a Fantasy-World setting? Why didn't I think of that!?

Overall I give this game a 9.5 out of 7. Take that as you will. Now- I’m off to go read shameless fanfiction of this game.

Not as improbable as you might think. And I'll defend it in a forum post, too! ;P