Tales of Vesperia is the latest entry to the famous Namco-Bandai RPG series. It follows up Tales of the Abyss, Symphonia, Legendia, etc but it’s not a sequel, in fact, it’s an entirely different game, with its own characters, environments, plots, etc. It’s exclusive to the Xbox 360 (although Japan already has a PS3 version with a few extras).
The game tells you the story of Yuri Lowell, a long-haired swordsman that lives in the city of Zaphias, the capital to an Empire that rules the entire world. Like in other Tales games, the human race depends on a power that helps them in their daily lives, it’s called Blastia and it powers up things like fountains, weapons, vehicles and even barriers that keep monsters at bay. Yuri starts his adventure when a thief steals the blastia that powers up the fountain in the lower quarter of the Capital, and he decides to chase him to recover the missing item. Suddenly he becomes involved in a problem with a pink-haired princess named Estellise who needs to find a knight called Flynn (Yuri’s childhood friend) to warn him about a group of assassins who want to kill him. As the story goes, Yuri and Estellise will become involved in a much bigger adventure that takes them all around the globe to save the world from a cataclysm. They, of course will meet a bunch of companions like the genius-mage Rita Mordio, the cowardly kid Karol and the gorgeous lancer Judith.
Like in most Japanese RPGs, you will control a character of your choice outside battles and will explore towns, caves, mountains, etc. You can interact with NPCs (Non-playable Characters) and other things with the “A” button, and you can fire a beam of light with the “X” button that powers up things like blocks, switches, etc.
From time to time, when the conditions are met, the game will allow you to watch a “skit”, which are dialogs between the party members where they will express their opinions on their current mission, talk about something that just happened or just develop their personalities a little more. They activate with the “back” button when the title of the skit appears in the lower-left corner of the screen. Skits have always been a really useful way the Tales games explain stuff, this time they are fully voiced and all of them are worth watching.
Inside battles the game allows you to control a single character while the AI (or some friends) take control of the other 3 party members you are currently using. You can move forwards and backwards with the left stick and if you hold the left trigger while moving you will be able to run freely around the battlefield. The “B” button are the normal attacks, all the characters have different combos. Example: Yuri uses a sword so he basically swings it around to damage his opponents. Rita (the mage) uses a belt but her combos are much weaker since she’s supposed to focus on spell-casting, and so on. The “A” button activates the “Artes” as the game calls them which are the character’s special techniques, like the spells for the mages and some stronger attacks for the melee fighters. During battle you can press the “Y” button to open up the menu and make a specific character use a technique, use items, change the equipment and even run away from the battle.
Tales of Vesperia adds a “skill” system that works amazingly well. Helping you customize all the characters in some unique ways. Almost every weapon in the game comes with some obvious stat boost like in all RPGs but in Vesperia they also add a skill to the character which after earning some “LP” from winning battles, the character will learn it permanently and you can equip or unequip this skill by spending points which of course are limited, avoiding you to just activate all of them and make a broken character. Some of this skills are for example with Yuri, you can raise his attack power when he equips an Axe, add one more hit to a normal combo, lower the damage he suffers when he is blocking with the “X” button, etc. With the mage Rita you can add a skill that allows you to press the “B” button repeatedly while casting a spell to use it faster, or make her recover TP (mana points) every time one of her attacks kill an enemy.
Like in most Tales games, Vesperia has a “cooking” system which allows you to make different kinds of foods if you have all the required ingredients. Some of these foods recover HP and TP while others raise some stats temporarily. You can find recipes in almost every town if you can manage to spot the chef which usually hides himself in the form of almost anything. You can also synthesize items and equipment if you have the required parts, just like with cooking but this can only be done in the stores. The game allows you to change strategies as well. A lot of things like the position of the characters at the start of the battles ands the behavior of them can be fully customized so they will always act as you want them to.
Overall, the game is truly amazing. Definitely one of the best RPGs available on the Xbox 360 and is really worth a try since the plot, characters, environments and battle systems are really good and they can appeal to almost anyone. Compared to other RPGs, Vesperia is a little shorter, taking around 40-50 hours to complete if you decide to explore a lot and use all characters in different ways like everyone should. The graphics are very good, nothing really special but they look good. The soundtrack is also very charming with different kinds of tunes that play depending on what’s happening on the game at that moment. The voices are really good as well and help you follow the story quite well. 100% recommended.
Graphics and Visuals: 7
Sound Effects and Music: 9
Replay Value: 9
Final score: 8.75 / 10