Reviewed: October 7, 2008
Released: August 26, 2008
August is home for two major RPGs this year. The first is Disgaea 3 from NIS and the other is the Namcoís Tales of Vesperia, which is the subject of the following review. This year also marks two major achievements for the guys over at Namco Tales Studio. The first achievement is that I think that hell actually froze over as people lined up in Japan to buy Xbox 360s. The second is that Tales of Vesperia marks the 10th Anniversary of the Tales series.
This story takes place on the planet Terca Lumireis, in a time when the peace and security its inhabitants have come to count on is in dire straits. The kingdom has been without an Emperor for a while since the death of their previous one. The Imperial Knights and the Council, two political rivals argue it out leaving the citizens of Terca Lumireis to fend off monsters and unscrupulous magistrates.
This story starts off with you meeting this adventureís protagonist Yuri Lowell, an ex-Imperial Knight, with a bit of a rebellious nature against superiors. Not that he is without his own reasons and personal code. He soon finds Estellise, or Estelle, in trouble and rushes to her aid. From there everything goes south super quick as the two rushes off to find their mutual friend Flynn Shifo for a reason only Estelle knows.
Tales of Vesperia features the same navigation system that is seen in Tales of Abyss only it looks a lot better. Players navigate the vibrant world of Terca Lumireis on a 3D map that is both gorgeous and well designed. But the world outside only a small part in the grand scheme of things as each town or location is awe inspiring and intricately designed. Sure it is not as detailed as say Eternal Sonata, but itís still one of the best looking RPGs that Iíve seen in recent times.
Tales of Vesperia features the basic groundwork of any great RPG with its character building, skills and crafting. For those of us familiar with the Tales series features Artes, youíre basic magic abilities that will both help you put some major pain on your enemies and depending on the character also aid you in battle.
The Tales series and Vesperia in particular continues to take a different path of character/world interaction. There are no random fights in Tales of Vesperia. The player is in complete control over how he or she plays through the adventure within reason of course. This has always been one of the major perks that has drawn me to the Tales series these last couple of years. I hate nothing more than getting blindsided in a dungeon or on a world map by some random enemy.
Since I am on the subject of fighting, Tales of Vesperia features an enhanced version of their well known battle system. The Evolved Flex-Range Linear Motion Battle System or (EFR-LMBS) allows for a more engaging fight in real-time. Turned-based battles are a thing of the past and Vesperia only drives that point home with its superb battle system. The developers at Namco have not only evolved the battle system, but also upped the ante when it comes to enemy encounters as well.
New to the Encounter system is the Encounter Link, which should be avoided if all possible. An Encounter Link happens when there are other enemies in close proximity to an enemy that you just came in contact with. This will effectively make you fight both groups simultaneously with a lot more enemies on the battle field. If you are not careful this could be disastrous, as I found out more than once.
Several new features and some fan favorites return in Vesperia, such as Overlimits, surprise encounters, Burst Artes, Fatal Strikes and even Secret Missions. The most lucrative of all these features is the Secret Missions as they award the player with the much coveted Achievement Points if executed. There is 125 points worth of Achievements to be had via secret Missions and if you do manage to get them all, pat yourself on the back as some of them are a pain to get.
Surprise Encounters are a wicked way of keeping the action intense at every corner. If you get attacked from behind in a dungeon or world map, a surprise encounter occurs. When this happens your teamís formation in reversed and often times some teammates are switched out with another. This is a pretty cool way of keeping a player on their toes as they have to constantly readjust their tactics if this occurs.
To counter the Surprise Encounters, Tales of Vesperia also features Advantage Encounters. The Sorcererís Ring makes its return to the series and is the main instrument in pulling off Advantage Encounters. The Sorcererís Ring for those not familiar with the Tales series is a blastia that can be charged with aer and then fired to activate switches or to stun an approaching enemy before a battle. Any enemies hit with a blast of aer will be stunned when you enter a battle with that enemy, thus giving a slight advantage for a short time.
Overlimits return in Tales of Vesperia and are even deadlier than before. By filling the Spirit Battle gauge and not using it you can raise the level of the Overlimit up to four times. Each level raises the effects of the Overlimit that ranges from the usage of Burst Artes to being total powerhouses on the battlefield. Burst Artes can be performed by holding the A button after pulling off any of your more powerful Artes.
Tales of Vesperia features a solid battle system, but its true glory is its epic story and memorable characters. This series has always been known for its awesome stories and cool characters, I for one am glad that Namco didnít disappoint once again. The skits are back in classic style, although many think that they show the series age, which I disagree with. I think that sticking with them in this high-def age takes a certain level of class and loyalty to the production of quality titles.
Tales of Vesperia is a gorgeous title from beginning to end starting with the awesome mood preparing opening video. Vesperiaís amazing characters are designed by Kosuke Fujishima, who has been the character designer for several of the Tales titles. The opening video is done by Production I.G., who has done the videos for several of the other Tales titles.
But the character designs are only a small part of its elegance. The locals that reside in the land of Terca Lumireis are gorgeous in this anime styled adventures. Each location is done in fantastic cel-shading and 3D backdrops. There was a certain wood that I thought was awesome in its look and design. While I made my way through the woods I was this wicked looking beast moving in the background.
The final thing that I will mention is that the animations, those of the cutscene variety and those that are seen during the battles, are simply amazing. I still canít get enough of the opening video and several of the other various cutscenes.
The Tales series has always been one my favorites over the years. Part of that reason is due to their memorable scores. Tales of Vesperia kicks off with Bonnie Pinkís phenomenal performance of ďRing a Bell.Ē It is the kind of performance that is both infectious to hear and energizing. Itís perfect for putting me in the mood to kick some major butt.
The voice actors for Tales of Vesperia do quite well in bringing their characters to life. One of the coolest aspect of this title is that is it received a simultaneous release overseas, each with their own separate voice tracks. While the translation road form Japanese or English did get a little bumpy in a few parts of Vesperia, the end result was still masterful. I think a large part of this is due to the two different voice crews working to make Tales of Vesperia one of the best RPGs of this year.
Tales of Vesperia has a whole lot more to offer besides the main story. There are numerous other side-quests to be do done if you so choose. A few of the things you can do in Vesperia are playing Poker, Dragon Racing, collecting the Fell Arms, playing an arcade game( with LIVE Leaderboards}, to even running a restaurant.
Tales of Vesperia also hides a nice little surprise during battles. You and 3 other people can fight enemies during battles all you need is four controllers and a special hub if playing with wired controllers. I will say it makes the battles a little easier at times if you do have a couple real people by your side as some of the battles in Vesperia are brutal.
Plus there are several events within Vesperia that require multiple plays through to find. I wonít tell you what they are as that would spoil all the fun. Filling up your Monsterís Book as well as the Collectorís Book are worth some decent Achievement points. Long story short, Tales of Vesperia has a lot to off the overachiever in all of us.
Tales of Vesperia is without a doubt my favorite Tales title to date. It has a great story, memorable characters and more stuff to do that I can shake a sword at. 10 years is a long time for a series to survive in this ever changing industry, but somehow Namco has managed to keep making amazing games all these years.
Tales of Vesperia may not be a perfect title or receive a perfect score, but itís fun, engaging and everything I really want in an RPG. I seriously recommend picking up this title as soon as possible. Tales of Vesperia retails for around $60 dollars at most retailers. So suit up and behold the world of Tales of Vesperia, you wonít be disappointed.