And Now for Another Tale
Vesperia Is Best Of The Series
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RPGs are like diamonds: There are a lot out there, but it takes a close examination to find out which ones are worth buying. By their very nature, RPGs are games that require several hours of play to fully get into and begin to appreciate. They are not games that players can simply pick up and jump right in. Like novels, they build up before they reach the climax. Fortunately for fans of the genre, there are several series that are so tried and true, that it's almost a crime not to play them. The Tales series, from Namco, falls into this category. And Tales of Vesperia may be the best one yet.
As with any anime-style RPG, Tales of Vesperia features a slightly clichéd, almost childish story at times. You start off playing as Yuri Lowell, a seemingly apathetic anti-hero who just wants to be left alone. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that Yuri's seeming apathy is merely a guise to hide his true feelings of disgust at the injustices in the world.
Obviously this story has been told before. But for some reason, as the story progresses, the characters and the plot line seem to grow on you and become more charming.
This is one of the crowning achievements of Tales of Vesperia, and the Tales series as a whole: It has the ability to tell a long story without becoming tedious and boring. And long is precisely the adjective to describe this game. Without even attempting any side-quests, I easily logged 55 hours on one play-through. Given the fact that I also did not spend much time exploring, Tales of Vesperia could easily have lasted me over 70 hours.
On top of that, there's also a new game plus feature that every Tales game has, and higher difficulty levels. The simple fact of the matter is that Tales of Vesperia has incredible value for just one play-through; the fact that it also offers such high replay value is astonishing for a game of its size.
Beyond the incredible value of the game, any RPG fan will know that the Tales series features one of the most ingenious battle systems in any RPG. The battle system is deceptively simple at first, consisting of players running up and hitting enemies with basic attacks. In the midst of these, players are able to mix up attacks called artes, which are more advanced attacks unique to each character. As the game progresses and characters reach higher levels, more complex attacks become available when certain conditions are met. These require better coordination and more skill to pull off. The beauty of the battle system is that players can set the mindsets of their allies, leaving open a huge variety of strategies and tactics. The battle system can be as simple or as complex as you like it to be.
Adding to the great battle system is a unique art style that the Tales series has perfected. On the surface, you may be saying that this is just another anime-style RPG. But upon taking a closer look, players will see how the art style and the battle system mesh perfectly. When you first enter battle, the game plays like a 2-D side-scrolling fighter. When the player changes targets, the camera pans around to keep the 2D visual style. However, when you pull the left trigger on the controller, the camera sweeps up, allowing the player full range of motion in any directions. Again, the battle system goes from seeming simplicity, to a far more complex entity with the press of a simple button.
While the art style works perfectly with the battle system, it also serves another purpose: It fully immerses the player in the world. Tales of Vesperia is telling a story. As such, it requires an art style that does the same. Every inch of the world is covered in gorgeous, vibrant, lively color. Every different environment is brought to life with accentuated detail. The trees look sharp and vivid in forests, while the sand dunes in deserts appear to move with the wind.
The attention to detail does not stop with the environments, though. The character models are done to perfection, with each characters' clothing and appearance acting as a reflection of their personality. Yuri is withdrawn, but also seemingly carefree at times. To objectify his personality, he has long, black hair, and wears loose, dark clothing. On the other hand, Estelle is a proper lady, who has a pure heart. She has pink hair and wears a clean white dress. The detail of weapon design is also impressive, with no two weapons looking exactly alike. It truly is impressive how much time and attention was devoted to even the most minor details.
Complementing the visuals perfectly, the audio in the game is fantastic. Sometimes the music is fast-paced, in-your-face style, used for the more intense sequences. Other scenarios feature a quieter, more melancholy tone. Whatever the situation, the music never seems out of place and does an excellent job of fitting right in with the story.
In addition to great use of music, Tales of Vesperia also features some superb voice-acting. The characters actually feel like they have some personality and depth instead of just being typecasts. Add to that the fact that every scene features full voice-acting, and it becomes clear the Namco was doing its best to ensure that every detail, no matter how minor, was taken care of with the utmost care.
The long and short of it is, if you're an RPG fan and you have yet to play Tales of Vesperia, you're doing yourself a tremendous injustice. This is one of the best games on the system, and easily the best RPG in the next generation of consoles so far. It makes a fantastic addition to the Tales series, arguably being the best one yet. Tales of Vesperia gets 5 GiN Gems out of 5 for being as close to perfect as a game gets.
Matt Jones is an avid gamer and enjoys helping people solve all their gaming questions. : matthewJones10@hotmail.com.