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Tales of Vesperia

Score: 98%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1, 2 - 4 (Co-Op)
Genre: RPG


Graphics & Sound:

Did you ever play one of those games where you just can't put the controller down, no matter what else you're supposed to be doing? Tales of Vesperia is the latest in the Tales of... games. This is the first one I've played, but I think I'm going to have to go find the rest now.

The graphics in Tales of Vesperia are just beautiful. I have seen very few games with better graphics. The characters look like your typical anime/RPG character, which means they are pretty. They don't suffer from the "I look too real, hence ugly" look. They even added little things like footprints in the sand where the characters have walked. Details like that really make a game more perfect graphically.

The voice acting is great on the cut scenes. They are a little long, but interesting. Unfortunately you can't skip intro or cut scenes, though. I mean they're beautiful to watch, but the second time around, sometimes you just want to play. Or if you've just watched them and had to reload because you died, you really don't want to see the same thing you just saw all over again. It's my one and only complaint about the game. Just a note of caution, the characters do say words like damn, crap, and hell, so I don't recommend it for any audience that would be offended or impressionable. The characters are continually joking with each other and making fun of each other. Their sense of humor made me laugh quite a few times.


Gameplay:

Like a lot of RPG's, Tales of Vesperia is about an unlikely hero fighting to make the world a better place. The game starts out with Yuri trying to recover an aqua blastia that was stolen from the lower quarter where he lives. As you can tell by the name, it's not the richest area of town. It is the poorest in fact, so they can't afford to replace the stolen blastia. The blastia in general protect the cities from the monsters that live in the wild. In this case, the aqua blastia is keeping the fountain going. Without the blastia, the lower quarter will be in bad shape. Yuri can't let this happen, so he starts out with his dog, Repede, for companionship to simply find the blastia and return it. Unfortunately this turns out to be a much longer journey than Yuri expected. But at least it is a very interesting journey full of new people and new direction for his life. Wow, it sounds like a movie now, huh?

Tales of Vesperia plays very much like Suikoden 5. There is a world map that connects all the cities and other various areas. While on the world map, you will run into random enemies everywhere. Once you're inside the cities, though, there are no random monster battles. From time to time, you will encounter story battles, however. In the other dungeon type areas, there are also monster battles. The monsters don't just pop up like they do on the world map, though. You can see them from a ways away. They will respawn eventually, so don't assume that once you've killed everything in the dungeon, you can just run around and around free.

The one thing that is really different from Suikoden 5 and most other RPG's is the battle system. Tales of Vesperia is not a turn-based battle system. You have up to 4 characters in your battle party, but you only control one of them. Instead of calculating each turn, the fighting is free-roaming, so you feel like you're playing more of a hack 'n slash game at that point. Really, though, it's more like a fighting game since you've got so many different moves you can choose from, and you will most probably have to block at times.

There's also little things added to the game like cooking. You can cook for your party pretty much any time you have the ingredients. Any party member can cook, and some of them are better at it than others. The effects of the food are temporary, but can be quite useful at times. I found that it was a great way to recover TP without wasting potions. You get more recipes throughout the game by finding the "famous cooking chef" in his random hiding places.


Difficulty:

Like most RPG's, the difficulty in Tales of Vesperia comes from how quickly you want to get through it. If you run straight through everything avoiding as many enemies as you can, you'll probably come across some very hard boss battles, especially in the beginning. For some reason, it seemed to me that the first few bosses were more difficult than the later ones, but that could be because I get lost easily, so I end up wandering around leveling up just because I can't figure out where to go. Anyway, the point is that if you run straight through, you're going to find some tough bosses.

In general, if you pay attention to the cut scenes, the characters will tell you where you need to go next. Even if you forget, it's usually not too hard to find the next area. There is a map in the top right corner when you're on the world map. It will be quite helpful at times. You'll notice, though, that areas you haven't been to before are grey, so you'll have to map it out yourself. Once you get a boat, however, it's a pretty easy job. There are no monsters that randomly attack when you're on the sea.

Another thing that makes the game easier is that party members who aren't in the battle still get experience too, almost as much as the battling characters get. This means that you don't have to continually swap out party members to keep their levels even. Also, I would venture to say that you don't have to buy any equipment from the shops. You can if you want to, but the majority of the time, you'll get the same thing or better in the chests lying around. Most of the chests are relatively easy to find too, so you can save you money for healing potions and such.


Game Mechanics:

Other than in the battles, Tales of Vesperia is very intuitive to control, and the battles aren't very hard. They just take a little getting used to. Like most games, the left stick will move your character around and the right stick will rotate the camera in areas that it can be rotated. In other areas, it will just turn your character around. For the most part, the camera can only be rotated on the world map. In a number of the dungeons, I wanted to be able to rotate it too, but oh well. It would have made finding some chests a lot easier if I could see them.

The game is very good about teaching you how to use the controls when you need to. It doesn't teach you everything all at once, so you can get used to one thing at a time. In battle, you'll learn that your main attack button is (B). Unlike a hack 'n slash though, you can't just continually slam the (B) button. Yuri will attack a few times, 2-4 depending on how you're attacking, then he'll regain his balance. It doesn't take too long to develop your own rhythm of regular attacking, special attacking, and blocking. You'll use the (X) button to block and the (A) button for the special attack, otherwise known as Artes. There are several other things you should know for battle, so I highly recommend reading through the manual or paying very close attention to the tutorials.

If you don't feel like fighting, you can put your character on Auto and let the computer fight for you. I don't really recommend it though, because where's the fun in that? If you want to play with more than one person, you can have up to four players during the battles. All you have to do is have them pick up a controller and play. Sometimes it's nice to be able to ask a friend for a little help on a hard boss. For the most part though, I found the computer A.I. to be quite intelligent. It will use items when they need healing, and it'll bring you back to life too. The healer of the group, Estelle, is quite good at keeping everyone healed as long as you protect her.

I can't tell you how highly I recommend Tales of Vesperia. The only complaint I have is with not being able to skip cut scenes and that's such a minor thing. Otherwise, the game is perfect. The story is engaging, and the A.I. is intelligent. The boss battles can be quite difficult, but not so much so that you get fed up with it. I think everyone should go and pick up Tales of Vesperia right now.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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