Tales of Vesperia is the newest addition to the Tales series. As an action RPG that hasn’t changed the style of battle in over 10 years, Vesperia has moments that start to show the cracks of the sereis’ age. Some of the game mechanics seem to fall apart, while others hold it together, namely the enjoyable characters, plot, and fully voiced dialog.
One tell tale trademark of any Tales game has been mini, optional, character interactions that take place after most in game events. These interactions require that the player hit the select button to activate, and are small dialogs between the characters, or sometimes to themselves, about events in the game. Amazingly all five hundred plus of these asides are fully voiced acted, which seems peculiar taking into consideration that the coversations almost always take place between still images of the characters. While none of this is needed, and they can be simply skipped or ignored, it does add a great deal of depth to each of the characters while creating a feeling that they are thinking about what is actually taking place.
When Vesperia shines it does so as brightly as any RPG in my memory, such is the case with characters in the game. Each one of the characters seems to have their own motivation for joining the main character, Yuri, on his quest, and each one continues to act out in their own indivual way through the entirity of their stay. This makes it all the more shocking when one of the characters does something incredibly out of character or simply unexpected, but each character always has a reason for behaving in a manner that seems completely justified.
All of this combined with the amazingly well done anime cell shading graphical style used throughout the game gives the characters a sense of place. The game is animated tastefully enough that it looks as if the entire thing is taking place inside some exceptionally long and complicated anime. Several times throughout the game the enviroment does indeed feel sparse and seems rather confusing compared to the other areas lush landscape and deatiled surroundings and ends up giving these few areas a rather rushed feeling. Happily most of these undetailed areas are few and far between.
One of the many things that has remained similar from previous Tales is the similarity between the combat system used in series. While the action based combat can feel almost like a watered down fighting game at times it also conveys a sense of frustration instead of urgency when the A.I. controlling the other characters in the party is unable to focus on any one thing. It isn’t that the battle system in the game isn’t enjoyable at times, only that it is difficult to feel blame when a lost battle is the result of a computer controlled healer deciding to attack instead of heal or to cast an ineffective spell, repeatedly.
All of these factors make the game a very slow climb towards being enjoyable, which is not helped by the almost predictable plot laid out during the first dozen hours of the game. While helped along with a cast of ever more interesting characters, the game doesn’t manage anything more than predictable goals and developments until signifigent progress is made. The game manages to stay rather close to the heart of a true Japanese RPG but it probably isn’t going to win anyone over who can’t power through hours of gameplay before the game starts to become vigorously enjoyable and note worthy.
The kernals of enjoyment that the game doles out before it becomes rewarding will probably be enough to encourage those interested in the series to keep plugging away, the most noteable of which is the constant quality voice acting. While most Japanese RPG are released with snipetts of voiced conversation during important scenes, Tales makes it feel awkward and silent during the few instancense that aren’t voiced.
For those still weary of Tales of Vesperia it should be noted that it doesn’t ever manage to do anything wrong, the problem is that it takes its time proving that it does things right. For any fan of RPG’s, espically fans of Japanese RPGs, Tales is a must have. Although it is does have its share of pacing problems that only ever seem to resolve a sizeable chunk of the way through the game, Vesperia does manage to be one of the more enjoyable role playing expereiences in memory.