If you are familiar with JRPGs you might recognize Tales of… titles.
You may also remember Tales of Vesperia as one of the few RPGs released exclusively on the Xbox 360; worldwide anyway.
Namco Tales Studio released a PS3 port in 2009, but only in Japan. The port includes a lot of extras including two new party members, lots of additional side quests, and much more voice acting. So for anyone who wanted to play it outside Japan, you would have to import it and be able to have a pretty good grasp on Japanese knowledge…I don’t.
But luckily a translation team recently released an English patch, and a couple of online translations guides for the game and its extras. You can find both here: http://talesofvesperia.net
So for that reason, I thought it would be a good idea to give a review of the PS3 version that most people haven’t played. I’m not too interested in comparing the 360 and PS3 version. I would rather look at the PS3 version as a whole.
The story starts off with you in control as Yuri, a young man living in the slums of the capital. After breaking a few laws to chase down a thief, knights apprehend him and throw him in the castle jail. Yuri breaks out and meets Estellise, a girl who lives inside the castle.
She wants to go find Flynn, a royal knight and Yuri’s childhood friend. She wants to warn him about the danger that approaches him. Together the two leave the capital to find Flynn and catch the thief, but slowly get pulled into a catastrophe that neither could’ve imagined.
The gameplay is simplistic. You have a large 3D overworld map to travel across and it is to scale with the characters. Using this, you can travel to towns and dungeons to progress in the plot, visit shops, do side quests, etc. All encounters are visual, meaning the game doesn’t randomly toss you into battle. Enemies will appear and try to attack you. It gives you the ability to avoid combat easily if you’re not in the mood, made easier when you gain an item that stuns enemies in their tracks. However, if you avoid too many you’ll miss out on much-needed experience and future bosses will punish you.
In standard RPG fashion, you fight enemies and gain experience to level up and therefore become stronger. The combat is fun and fast paced. When you collide with an enemy you and the rest of your party are pulled into a confined place where you are able to run around and attack freely. The combat starts off pretty simple where mashing attack repeatedly will usually turn out pretty good. More features are added to combat, as you progress through the game. It adds levels of depth to the gameplay and eases you into it rather than overwhelming you with tons of information at once. After a while, you’ll be pulling off devastating combos and tactical maneuvers.
A returning feature in the series is multi-player. Not something you usually see in an RPG. Up to four people can play (one for every person in your party), and join in the fray by bashing enemies in the face. Unfortunately this is only limited to combat. Only one player can move outside of combat for progress and exploration. The multi-player is still a nice feature though.
The best part of any Tales game is the characters, and Tales of Vesperia gives some of the best characters to date. The main character Yuri has a strong sense of right and wrong. He will do anything to serve justice, which often gets him into trouble. He loves fighting and he is a badass without it feeling forced. Cool and collected, he won many polls as the best Tales character yet.
Rita is a genius mage who prefers working with technology rather than people. She is quick-tempered, smart, snarky, and her passion for science borders on insanity. Her character develops a lot too. She clearly puts up borders between herself and the other when she meets Yuri and the team, but slowly lowers her guard and begins to trust them as both comrades and friends.
Another character worth highlighting is Raven. He is the oldest member of the party and works for the guild Altosk, the most famous guild in Vesperia’s world. Raven is carefree, mysterious, and has a large network of information. He loves teasing the rest of the party and takes any opportunity to do so. He’s not just a jokester however, as the further you get in the story you see how deadly serious he can be. There are also a few twists concerning Raven that you will never see coming.
As much as I enjoy this game and would recommend it, it does have its flaws. One issue I have encountered with this game is the visuals. Sometimes when moving your character on the world maps or in dungeons the game will get a little blurry and doesn’t refocus until you stop moving. Not only is this jarring, but playing for an extended period of time has made my eyes sore and gave me a slight headache. I have to take breaks very often when playing this game when I’d prefer to keep playing.
The story is very good. One of their best plots yet. One of the themes of the story is that of morality and punishment. I was hoping that the story would mainly concentrate on that. Yuri doesn’t like playing by the rules and becomes frustrated with the limit of the law. Yuri decides to carve his own path to serve justice, which strains his relationship with his friends and companions. I expected the game would focus on right and wrong and go deeper with what that means. Unfortunately that story arc is completely abandoned halfway through, and becomes something totally different.
Not only does that part of the story feel unfinished, the other half is much weaker. Furthermore the story begins to mirror that of an earlier Tales title in the final act. It isn’t bad, it just lacks the momentum and consequence. Even so there are still high stakes and some amazing moments.
Finally there is a small issue with the combat. Combat itself is fine, and your party AI is pretty decent… sometimes. The main issue is that special moves cost an absurd amount of technical points (TP). It would be fine if you and your party start to run low on TP during an intense boss fight, but they will run out just fighting random weak enemies, and then try to use TP recovery items. You can only hold 15 of one item at a time, so before you know it you have to run back to a store to restock. It got to be so infuriating, that I turned off my party’s ability to use items, but that still doesn’t stop them from doing everything in their power to waste all of their TP.
Despite my minor gripes, I would say this is one of the best Tales games I’ve ever played. Perhaps just behind the cult classic Tales of Symphonia. I consider the issues minor for the most part. Maybe it’s just a good reason for me to whine. For everything the game does wrong, it does twice as much right, so I forgive it for the most part. I would recommend it to anyone into niche anime-esque JRPGs who like a good story with fun combat. If you own a PS3, or want copious extras in the game, go check out the fan translation. If this review made you want to buy the game, then go have a blast with it.