Tales of a long, desperate wait
© 2009 Noel Schneider
Tales of Vesperia was released back in the middle of 2008 for all regions apart from Australia and Europe. Yet after constant delays, it has finally made it to our shores to a quiet reception.
So it’s with great relief to say that Tales of Vesperia (the tenth title in the series and first to appear on the Xbox 360 console) is an impressive game and a long time coming for JRPG fans around Australia.
• Tales Of Vesperia trailer
Starting from the game’s opening cut scene, the first thing you will notice about the game is its ultra impressive art direction. The game obviously takes ideas from popular anime and manga material from Japan and expands upon it to produce a living, breathing 3D world.
The results are breathtaking to say the least and the developers within Namco need to be commended on choosing to go with something different from a design perspective.
Landing on Terca Lumireis
The game takes place on Terca Lumireis, a fictional planet which is infested with a large range of monsters all of which aren’t particularly of the friendly kind. Each town within the world requires ancient blastias which provide necessities such as power, protection in the form of barriers and water to the people.
Long story short, an aque blastia core is stolen from the hometown of our main protagonist, Yuri, which then leads him to a chase across the game world to find this thief and return the blastia core to its rightful place, along with other nasty situations on the way.
A lot of the dialogue is told in “Brady Bunch” sequences which require you to press ‘back’ at times, similar to what’s seen in Prince of Persia. I was not a big fan of this and I think it would’ve been better to dynamically blend this in during walking around.
Originality . . what’s that?
Whilst the story is not the worst around, it really lacks originality and seemingly just serves the player an excuse to travel around the world and pick up new friends (and create new foes). Regrettably, unoriginality has plagued the JRPG genre for a few years and Tales does not change that in the story point of view.
Fortunately for JRPG fans, story is not the be all and end all of Tales of Vesperia and its gameplay mechanics more than make up for it. Tales boasts a real time battle system which lets you play the way you want to play.
You can choose to control as many characters as you want to in battle. For example, if you aren’t very coordinated, you can set one character to semi-auto and the rest to automatic which lets you control just that character in battle.
This is the default battle technique and it’s the way I used to play the game (well so far anyway).
For the more hardcore player, you can choose to play as many characters as you wish. Manual or semi-auto, the choice is yours. This feature is a fantastic way so as not to branch out and isolate people who are not as skilled in management and organisation (like myself LOL).
Namco Tales Studio have also added in the option for local multiplayer within the battles, so you can take arms alongside your friends given they’re in the same room as you.
This is perhaps an opportunity missed as they really could have done something special here in the form of online co-op, but alas not to be. Maybe next time round hey Namco?
The art of Artes
As you become accustomed to the system which suits you, you’ll learn about the use of artes and basic attacks. Artes, which require the use of magic and vary between characters, are the strongest attacks. The ultimate strategy and determinant of the battle system is to use tactics to make sure you use the best artes in the best given situations.
The more you level up, the more artes you unlock and the better your character becomes. There are also other skills to master such as the limit gauge and the new battle techniques blast artes and fatal attacks.
As you can see, the scope of the battle system is quite simple, but it’s deep enough to feel fresh and exciting in what many would consider to have become a stagnant genre.
These battles are coupled in between exploration elements whether in a new area or in the field map. The field map is something to behold, from the colour of the sky over the horizon, to the vibrance of the forests. There is always something to see or something to do.
You’re in total control
The lack of random encounters inside these plains mean that you as the player feels totally in control, rather than the often aggravating style seen within Lost Odyssey or Enchanted Arms of forcing the player into engaging battles.
It doesn’t , however, excuse you from having to grind through some levels, often in order to gain an important arte. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you and your patience levels.
I know many may take this for granted but it seems like such a breath of fresh air to finally have an Xbox 360 JRPG which runs to perfection. Tales of Vesperia runs like a dream. The load times are slim, there are no slowdown issues whatsoever, no incidences of texture popping and all the while running on a measly solitary disc.
You want data, you’ve got data by the bucket load
It seems a lot of Japanese game developers need to take a leaf out of Namco’s book and start producing such impeccable technical quality.
It is clear that Namco Tales studio knew what they wanted to achieve with Tales of Vesperia and the results are first-class, launching it into the upper echelons of JRPGs on the 360.
It’s not a game which is going to win many major awards from a Western gaming audience. It’s not a game which is going to bring you to your knees begging for buttermilk because of its story. It’s not a game which is going to have you crying with laughter at its sometimes quirky sense of humour.
Where the game does really shine is in its gameplay and exploration. These are at a level which are almost perfect at what they attempt to do, and that’s the ultimate compliment you can pay Tales of Vesperia.
© 2009 Noel Schneider
Filed under: 3rd Party Games, Console gaming, Game Impressions, Microsoft Games, Xbox 360, Xbox 360 3rd Party Games, Xbox 360 Game Reviews, Xbox 360 News Tagged: | 360, 3D world, ancient blastias, Artes, Brady Bunch, enchanted arms, Game Review, JRPG, Lost Odyssey, Namco, Namco Tales Studio, Prince of persia, Tales of Vesperia, Terca Lumireis, Xbox, Xbox 360, Yuri