A boy and his dog.
Tales of Vesperia is the newest edition in the “Tales of” JRPGs from Namco Bandai, but this marks my first delve into the series – and I must say it probably won’t be my last. Combining traditional plot elements with some good-looking graphics and a unique combat system, Vesperia makes for an enticing experience.
[image1]I had no idea what to expect when I first started playing. Would this be another trip through a turn-based game with a decidedly Japanese plot? Turns out I was half right.
The plot is nothing new to anyone who has bothered to play any JRPG that’s come out in the last 20 years. The world is sustained by a kind of magic called
espers mana chi lifestream mitochlorians “aer”. Aer is channeled through crystals called “blastia”, which is used for everything from making clean drinking water to protecting cities from monsters.
You start off as low-level cutthroat named Yuri Lowell, who happens to be very altruistic and has a dog called Repede who carries a dagger and smokes a pipe. Somehow you meet a princess, a monster hunter, and a mage, and end up going on a world-spanning quest. Meanwhile, the usual underlying elements of morals, ethics, and justice fuel the story forward.
All of the characters who you meet on your journey embody some sort of role-playing stereotype or another, but the dialogue gives them flair and a sense of humor that kept me snickering throughout the entire game. I can’t tell you which I found more hysterical: the flamboyant villain with the gay German accent or the kid in the cow suit who referred to two of my female companions as “Flatty McChesterson” and “Bouncy Bouncy”. Pervy Japanese jokes are everywhere and it breaks the dialogue up well.
[image2]And there is a lot of dialogue. There are even optional cut-scenes that have the characters chatting to each other through Brady Bunch-style squares. Oddly, the main plot scenes have voice-overs half the time and just word bubbles the other half. I don’t know if it’s dramatic imperative or if they just ran out of time during the translation phase. When the voice actors are present, though, they do a good job. No one sounds like a ditzy porn star who just ate a handful of barbiturates, like so many other voice-acted games.
While the plot is very, very Japanese, the combat is something new to me, at least as far as a game labeling itself an RPG is concerned. It all happens in real-time with a deceptively complex fighting system. Everything starts out easy enough to grasp with the basic light attack and the more devastating arcane arts, but the game gradually introduces more and more fighting techniques to the roster.
During combat, you’re also given the ability to call out commands to your allies, either through one-time orders or customized battle tactics that you preset. While you can choose to manually control whoever you want before combat occurs, you might feel most comfortable playing as Yuri and calling out tactics. Or you might be more into casting spells at the back of the battlefield while the scrapers take the frontline. Here, you really have the ability to manage fights in the way that you find most comfortable.
Another unique feature is the option to play your battles with three of your friends. It might sound like it’s novelty for novelty’s sake, but it works pretty well. I had some friends come over and play through a few chapters with me. A good time was had by all, and having a human mind in control of your allies can make things go a little faster.
Graphically, the game is unapologetically anime styled. Yes, giant eyeballs and blue hair abound in the character designs. The colors are vivid and bright, adding a great look to the cel-shaded character models. But what else would you expect from a JRPG?
[image3]Backgrounds and environments are detailed and varied. You’ll travel through lush forests and barren desserts on your quest to save the world. It really helps in giving the feeling that you are traveling a vast world on an epic journey.
Musically, everything sounds like a rehashing of Final Fantasy music, changed just enough to not land Namco Bandai in a copyright infringement lawsuit. As old and tired as those ambient keyboards with synth-harp arpeggios are, they do add some nostalgic familiarity.
While I enjoyed Tales of Vesperia more than any of my other recent JRPG experiences, there were a few features that seemed to be lost in translation. While I can see how some people may enjoy seeking out recipes for their characters to cook, more often than not I would forget about it while keeping track of learning skills and managing parties. While it can be useful in healing your crew and can provide a temporary bonus, you can also fail and get nothing out of it; at which point, you have to wait a while until you can try and cook again.
If you don’t enjoy JRPGs than you probably made the decision to avoid Tales of Vesperia anyway, but if you do enjoy this particular genre, then you’ll find it to be a shining example of what makes these games great. There is plenty of depth, and there’s no way you’ll see everything in one run-through. If you have a month or two to kill, check it out.